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It turns out that my cousin has had a lump the size of a walnut sitting on the back of her knee for the past two years but was afraid to get it checked… and now it’s the size of a tennis ball and wrapped around her vascular system. She went in and got the official word - it’s cancer. She’ll be starting chemotherapy on Tuesday. Unfortunately, due to the way it’s wrapped around in there, they can’t operate on it. If the chemo doesn’t work, she may lose her leg.

The day just gets better and better.

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I scheduled my next test, MS 070-315: Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Microsoft Visual C#.NET and Microsoft Visual Studio.NET, for this coming Monday at 2:00p. It’s scheduled to run for two-and-a-half hours, but I’m hoping it doesn’t actually take that long. The last few have been like that - scheduled for a long time but only taking about an hour. Here’s hoping. I’ve been studying the practice test I have and it’s feeling pretty good. It covers pretty much everything that wasn’t in the training course, which figures. I think I should be able to muddle through reasonably well with my existing experience and some good old logic. Maybe.

Jenn’s birthday is coming up and I nearly had to beat her to death to get a list of things she’d like for gifts. She says she doesn’t know what she wants, but somehow expects me to come up with some surprise thing that she wants but doesn’t know it. Riiiiight. I basically laid out that I’m tired of being the critical thinking problem solver when I provide a HUGE list for people every holiday (like, over a hundred different things) and people still complain that I didn’t provide a big enough selection. Fuck that, man. No list = Sizzler gift certificate.

I was playing Amplitude again last night and the more I play it, the more I realize how true it is that you can’t think while you play, you just have to play. I mean, like, Jenn was trying to talk at me (more “at” than “to” at the time, methinks) while I was working on a particularly difficult song, and while she was talking there was no way I could do it because I was trying to concentrate on her words. Same goes for checking the score - I can’t be looking around, thinking about the score or anything - I just have to play the game. No explicit brain work involved; simple implicit functioning. And let me tell you how nice and relaxing that is. To not have to think, just to do.

I believe that’s what’s wearing me out at work. When I’m at work (which, seriously, anymore I totally dread), I’m wiped out. Why? Because I don’t just get to program stuff and exercise knowledge that I’ve learned; I only ever get to fight these difficult uphill battles of me vs. technology - work on undocumented product with no help and too much to do… you don’t realize how totally exhausting it is.

Plus, for the last few months I go home and I study to take the certification tests. So it’s not like I get a break when I get home. I don’t remember most of college being this stressful, but the parts that were… well, let’s just say that I took a break from studying over the Labor Day holiday last weekend and I didn’t miss it a bit.

All that, combined with stuff like “I don’t know what I want for my birthday but I won’t be happy with a gift certificate so you’d best figure something out” makes me either want to pass out or kill someone. I’m honestly not sure which.

I’ll survive. It would just be nice to not have to fight all day to get things to work. It would be nice if I could do something easy for a change. It’d be nice to work on something other than SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Somehow, I don’t see ever escaping this thing, though. Even after rollout, there’s user training and continued development and everything else on SPS 2003, so regardless of how optimistic my boss is about “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” I’m convinced it’s more a black hole than a tunnel. There’s no light, just endless dark.

I wonder what’s on Monster today…

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So the mayor of Portland forced the police chief to resign a week ago and then had a press conference to tell us why.

She said something about how there was a “rift in the community” and that she was trying to get people to come together.

This morning it clicked for me as to why this happened, and it looks like Marty sort of had it click, too.

See, back in May, this cop pulled over Kendra James, an African-American individual who had existing drug and escape charges against her and a warrant out for her arrest. They told her to get out of the car, she didn’t. They tried to pull her out of the car. She wouldn’t come out. Then she started driving away, so they shot at her. One shot hit her and ended up killing her.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if the cops tell me to get out of the car and I decide not to and try to drive away, I fully expect them to shoot at me. If I end up getting killed, it’s probably because I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing. I mean, you get fair warning, right? It’s not like you don’t know you’re in trouble.

Further, consider this - she’d been in and out of jail for other robbery, theft, and drug convictions. Four times she’d been in and out of jail for this stuff. Am I sorry they shot her? Well, I don’t like the unnecessary loss of human life in any event, but let’s just say it’s not hurting my feelings that my tax dollars don’t have to support her delinquent ass in jail. Again.

So, anyway, this got huge in the press around here. Holy shit, man, a white cop from a precinct headed by a white cop shooting a black lady? What is the world coming to? God forbid we try to stop the bad people in the world, but especially don’t try if they’re a minority

Back to the forced resignation of the police chief:

The mayor said she wanted to get the community back behind the police, and I didn’t understand why the resignation of the chief would do that… until I saw that she had appointed a black guy to be the new chief.

Huh. That’s an interesting thing. Everything’s going well, except for the media coverage… but everything else is fine - the chief’s doing a decent job and wants to continue doing so. The media goes south, and we’ve got a new police chief. Funny how things work.

For the record, I hate racism. I think it’s a deplorable act to be prejudiced against someone based on the color of their skin (or, really, for any other reason - I’m totally in favor of tolerance and acceptance for all). And if you’re a criminal, you should get what’s coming to you. Regardless of your skin color. If you run from the cops, you’re taking that risk on yourself. It’s not the police’s fault you decided to resist arrest. And it’s not the color of your skin that’s making you rip off the local liquor store. Face up to your responsibilities and accept the consequences of your actions, people. Things would work a lot smoother around here if you would.

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So I decided to go to Burger King for one of their tasty under-three-dollar cheeseburger meals today for lunch. I’m sitting, getting ready to turn left, when I notice something happen that probably should not have happened.

See, the street I’m turning left from has two lanes going in each direction and a single left-hand turn lane down the center. Like a lot of streets around here. I’m sitting in the left hand turn lane when I see this lady in a minivan pull up next to me on my left-hand side.

For the folks not from the US or those not really paying attention, that means she pulled up and stopped in an oncoming traffic lane. And she’s just sitting there, not really paying any attention to anything. I turn and look at her, horrified, and she looks around like a dazed panda and then looks back at me and gives me that “whoopsie!” shrug that moronic drivers give you when they know they’ve done something wrong but are too stupid to do anything about it.

Still flabbergasted, I watch as four or five more cars line up behind her. Like lemmings, ready to file off the edge of the cliff, they line up in oncoming traffic.

Meanwhile, the oncoming traffic has seen that there are morons in the way, so the largest traffic jam in the history of traffic jams proceeds to set in. Especially not helpful in a place where the lights only let like four or five cars through before changing again.

My light finally changed, so I went, and eventually I see her run the red (because she made no motion to go while the light was green - no signal or anything) into the oncoming traffic.

Sometimes I wish they would genetically engineer some sort of plague to kill off all the stupid people. The people sitting in oncoming traffic? Yeah, those are the people who call me up asking for technical support. Society, the welfare system, and yours truly don’t need those people clogging up the earth like shit in a drainpipe, needing to be plunged.

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I think the list of what we didn’t do this weekend will be shorter than what we did do, but let’s go through the activities anyway. It was a really, really packed three-day weekend, let me tell you.

Friday night I went home and played a couple of hours’ worth of Soul Calibur II, which I continue to maintain is the best fighting game ever. It’s so totally accessible and easy to pick up… yet the challenge is configurable so that even the experienced players can make it fun. I like it because I can just start playing, generally figure out how a character works, and on the “normal” difficulty, I can run through an entire “arcade mode” series of levels with just enough challenge to make it hard, but not so much challenge that I get pissed off and turn off the game.

The controls are well done and are simple to remember but complex enough that you can do some pretty cool combos and things. Plus, the “Weapons Master” mode is awesome - like a story or something. I dig it.

Kia Spectra GSX (4k
image)Saturday I did my best to get the household chores done (vacuuming, etc.) in the morning because that afternoon we decided to go to the Kia dealership and get Jenn into a new car. Her old car, a Pontiac Sunfire convertible, was a piece of crap and she needed something a little more reliable. We got there at 1:00p or so (without eating lunch, stupid us), and after four-and-a-half hours of painful negotiation, we ended up getting Jenn a Kia Spectra GSX in the “pewter gray” color. It’s a manual transmission, which she’s not used to, so there’s a bit of learning being done, but it’s all good. She enjoys it a lot, and I’m glad she’s happy.

Let it be known, though, that when I stepped onto the Kia lot, it was definitely not the same experience as when I went to get my car at the Acura lot. It was almost a different culture. Not necessarily bad, just different.

Sunday we went boating with my friends Jason and Tracy. We got off to a sort of poor start because somehow the boat battery was dead, but we discovered that while we were still at their house so we were able to charge it up a bit before we left. Jason’s brother, Adam, decided he didn’t want to rely on the charging job we did, so he decided he didn’t want to go. Whatever, man, he missed out on a good time.

Put the boat in the Columbia River in Goble, OR, and then went to a beach a mile or two down the river to eat lunch (just drove the boat right up onto the beach, basically, and got out to eat).

After we ate, we drove around on the river. It was pretty choppy, so none of us got into the water, but driving around was fun. (I wouldn’t have gotten on an innertube behind the boat or anything anyway due to bad past experience, but I’ll get to that later.)

We alternated between driving around in the boat and hanging out on the beach for about three hours. A lot of fun was had by all. I noticed Jenn and I were pinking up a bit, even though we had sunscreen on, but I figured that’s the price you pay, right?

The plan after boating was to go to a local comedy club, but we got back to their place and found out that the club had overbooked by 200 people, so we cancelled that idea. Instead, we got a bunch of people together and watched the latest Robin Williams stand-up act on video, which was hilarious. Played a little pool after that and then went home.

Monday morning Jenn and I woke up and realized that “pink” didn’t nearly accurately describe the sunburn issues we had going on. We were red. Like, really red. No blisters or anything, but totally stiff, totally in pain. I [somehow] burned the tops of my feet, so wearing shoes and/or socks was unbearable. My neck was red and burning like fire. My face was just sore… Jenn had similar problems, except for the feet burn.

I ended up going to a sporting goods store to get some cheap sandals (the sandals I had on while boating were really crappy and had caused a nice hole to be worn in the side of my foot) so I can walk around with some semblance of shoes on. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find anywhere that carries sandals at the end of summer. We went like four different places before we found these, and at bargain prices, no less. No complaints here.

Went home after driving around to Jenn’s parents’ house to show them the new car and played a bit more Soul Calibur II. Also played some more Amplitude, then watched a Xena episode and turned in.

Speaking of Xena, when you buy the DVD box set of the episodes, you get a little coin. Each season has a coin that goes with it. You can order a “free” (with $5 shipping) coin display holder thing to put the coins in. You have the option of calling a toll-free number or sending your check in the mail. I wanted to make sure my info was received, so this morning I called.

Bad choice.

I got to talk to Shirley, an Asian lady with a mild grasp of English. I told her I wanted the free coin holder thing. She proceeded to hard-sell me on every Xena merchandise item they sell, from DVDs to replica swords, for the next 45 minutes. Seriously. Every time I told her no, or that I’d call her back later for stuff, she would make a last plea for that item to be bought and then move on to give me the “next special offer.” I got the Hercules coin holder just to shut her up (an additional whopping $5), but she was worse than a Kinney Shoes salesman. Fuckin’ vultures. Terrible. Next time I know to just mail the damn check and hope for the best.

So, a few follow-ups…

First, my friend Doug got the list of stages that history goes through (in reference to the political raving I was doing):

  • Bondage / Chains
  • Spiritual Faith
  • Courage
  • Liberty
  • Abundance
  • Selfishness
  • Complacency
  • Apathy
  • Dependency and Degeneracy
  • Bondage / Chains

Looks to me like we passed through Abundance and Selfishness in the 80’s, hit Complacency and Apathy in the 90’s, and we’re currently heading through Dependency and Degeneracy and into Bondage / Chains. Not the “good,” S&M kind, either. Bah.

The book this is from is Exploring American History by Michael McHugh. According to his book, “all recorded history proves that the rise and fall of every nation has followed the above pattern.” Interesting, eh?

Finally, why won’t I go waterskiing or on an innertube behind a boat? Well…

I tried to waterski once. I had a pair of skis that we were using to “train” the newbies on - the fronts and backs were tied together. Apparently the really hard part is keeping your legs together and in front of you long enough to get up. Seemed reasonable to me, right? So, I got in the water and was told that if anything goes wrong, let go of the rope and the boat will come around to get me. Cool.

The boat started going, I started getting pulled, and then I started losing my balance and wasn’t feeling comfortable, so I let go of the rope…

… which then wrapped itself around the rope holding the skis together and I got drug underwater for an undetermined amount of time that was altogether too long for me. Water up my nose, in my mouth, unable to breathe… the worst ever. No thank you.

On a separate occasion I thought I’d try going out on one of those rocket-shaped inflatable deals that get towed behind the boat. Fun, right? Everyone loves those things. Plus, no rope to wrap around your skis and drag you underwater.

I got out there with a cousin of mine who had been on them before. I had never, and said straight-up that to begin with I’d like to go pretty slow so I can get used to the feel of it. No problem, I was told. Just do a thumbs-up / thumbs-down to say faster or slower.

We got going, and we were doing okay, but this cousin of mine decides we needed to go faster, so he jerked his thumb up high. I wasn’t ready, so I started doing a thumbs-down, but this asshole in front still wanted faster, so was doing thumbs-up. Which took precedence? The thumbs-up, obviously, as we continued going faster. I leaned over to this guy and said, “Look, buddy. I’m not ready for this. We need to slow down so I can get used to it, or I’m dumping us both off this thing.” “No way,” came the reply, along with another thumbs-up sign to the boat.

Fine. Over we went.

Or how about this one? I’d never been on a jet-ski before. A friend of mine happened to be riding one and wanted to know if I wanted to go for a ride behind her. I said fine, but I’d like to go slow to get used to it. Sounding familiar? Guess who went really fucking fast and wouldn’t slow down for me until I was yelling and screaming at her.

Never again will I waterski or go on anything towed behind the boat. Never again will I be a passenger on a jet ski (there’s not a lot to hang onto, folks, and those stupid handles on the sides of the seat don’t fucking count). If I’m not directly in control of the speed or direction of the watercraft, I’m not having anything to do with being towed behind it. It taught me that, basically, I can’t trust anyone to drive in those situations because no one believes in letting a beginner get used to what’s going on. Never again.

Anyway, that’s the weekend. Long but fun, and not really relaxing. Sleep when you’re dead, right?