Sunday, December 11, 2011

From our Crazed Family to Yours...
Merry Christmas, and fervent prayers for a
Sane and Happy New Year!

It's been a good year, really!  I've been happy this first full year in my condo, with a very, very slow decorating approach – I just hung most of my pictures 18 months after moving in! I think the kitties have been reasonably content; as long as I will not attempt to pick them up & squeeze them (corporal cuddling), yet will make my lap available when they want some cuddle time, they appear satisfied with the arrangement. Daisy has become a big chunky fuzzball, while Bunny is a sleek little girl. They both are good cuddlers. Bunny has an obsession with dunking stuff in their water bowl that utterly mystifies me, though. I come home and find wads of yarn (the preferred plaything at present) in the bowl and water everywhere; I put all the loose yarn in the back room, and in less than an hour, it’s been dragged back to the bowl. The little freak!

The Young Adult historical fiction books by Gladys Malvern that I have been editing to reprint are all done.  We managed to get 12 of her public domain titles back into print, and I think the books are beautiful! Sales are tepid but steady, and we hope the homeschool community will discover them soon. They are available at all the big online book retailers...

Work ebbs and flows, as always… It's been six years now since I started House Calls, and started at the AEA/Vandy. I still love working at both places. The variety of both jobs and switching back and forth keeps me from getting burned out. I had my first (minor) surgery on my right tear duct this summer, but apparently I was one of the 5% whose heals up wrongly, and so I am going back in to have it redone 2 days after Christmas. *sigh* I’m still singing with the Parish Choir and Chamber Singers at St. Bartholomew’s in Nashville, and still love it.

Hoping you and yours are well! God bless and keep you!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

How Steve Jobs Made Me a Computer Geek

Well, HE didn't actually make me a geek... but his old beige toaster Macintosh did.

In 1987, I was a dyed-in-the-wool Luddite; a history/literature/musician/actress ARTISTE. I had managed to avoid computers all through high school (they were still in the punch-card phase and I saw absolutely no reason to bother with something so obviously dull). I was as right-brained as they come, and proud to be so.

Then I went to college at Belmont. Within my first month there, I realized that I was going to have to start typing papers, and I think my friend Suzy Life offered to show me where the computer lab was on campus. I have no memory of my first visit there, but I remember how the computers looked; so cozy, so simple and I approached them without any fear whatsoever. There were only 3 or 4 available for student use at that time.

This is the model they had - the operating system booted from a small 800K floppy. There was no hard drive yet! But I remember someone showing me the font choices they had like Times, Chicago and Venice, and I was all "ooh, pretty!" I started using it to write letters to pen pals and friends, and by the time I really did start using it to do papers, I was fairly comfortable with a Mac.

Of course, I was still under the illusion I was an artiste! I got my History degree with a minor in English. But as the years progressed I continued working with Macs, and by my senior year I was working as a lab monitor in the large, 20+ computer Mac lab across the hall from my mentor's office, the Dean of Humanities, Robert Simmons. He adored Macs, and typed up detailed critiques on student papers and essays, which he would print out on a noisy dot-matrix printer. It was he who decided the School of Humanities needed its own computer lab, and he established special freshman writing classes that were taught in the lab, so the students could get comfortable using computers for composition. He'd even let students in his classes go downstairs during a test to type their essays in the lab! I miss him terribly - he died a few years after I graduated.

I still didn't know that I liked computers. My use of them had been so organic, so thoughtless, that I had no notion that I had any particular affinity or skill. I've always said that things need to sneak up on me; I am so alert to potential scenarios that I can become crippled by expectations and behave quite stupidly. Well, computers snuck up on me! Almost every job I had from that point on, in various secretarial and office admin positions, had a Macintosh on hand, and I used all of them.

By the time I was working on my 2nd undergrad degree in Theater, I had gotten a student job working in sales for the campus "Computer Connection" store. They also took care of departmental support for the college; fixing, installing, and maintaining computers all over campus. But they were so short of tech guys, and the demand for user support was so great that one day I said "well, I could probably install RAM at least; why not show me how to do it?" I had never even looked inside a computer before. (My favorite anecdote is that memory was so vastly expensive at this time, that it was selling for $350 for an 8MB chip!)

The next thing I knew (really, I don't remember any learning curve) I was doing both jobs - support and sales. I was delivering computers (how I loved our delivery golf cart!) around campus and installing them, installing memory, making service calls, even giving tutorials to staff on software programs. Less than a year after I started at the Computer Connection, I was hired to work at the William Morris Agency, which was one of the rare businesses that primarily used Macs and they needed a Mac person. I'm still astonished that they hired me; I had no qualifications or education in computers!

But the Mac had taught me how to use itself, even in the days before the internet became really useful. Steve Jobs, Woz, and Apple Computer made a computer that I didn't need a college education in Computer Science to use and support. Since my years at WMA, I've moved on to Windows and PCs and that is what I primarily support now. But my affection and nostalgia for the Mac platform, for the beauty and ease and simplicity of the products made by Apple (with some notable exceptions, of course!) will always be with me, and I will always be grateful to the people who made a machine that took me out of my right brain, and eased me into using my left as well.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Moment of Insight

OK, I've figured out what this presidential campaign season is actually all about... it's about New Toys.

We have this set of 8 or so action figures, and some of them are the cool ones that we like from the movies like Han Solo or Princess Leia... but others are characters we don't really remember from the movies like General Taggi* or Chall Bekan*. Those would be the Jon Huntsmans and the Gary Johnsons. We tend to leave them in the box.

But you know, we've been playing with our Michelle Bachman and Mitt Romney for a while, and they're getting a little boring... what this make-believe needs is some new action figures! Can we have a Rick Perry? Pleeeeeeese? I don't wanna play with Newt; his head keeps falling off! So Mom gets us a Rick Perry but after a week or so the novelty's worn off him and we'd really like a Chris Christie or a Sarah Palin to make the game fun again (although we had a Sarah Palin a while back until our dog chewed it up so it wasn't any good and mom threw it away).

We're treating these men and women like toys for our entertainment. We delight in every misspoken sentence, every ill-thought idea, and let the media mock and shred them for our entertainment. Is it any wonder Palin and Christie are reluctant to announce candidacy? How can any of them have anything approaching a substantive conversation about their stand on the issues, when they're continually required to be defending every word that comes out of their mouth, or attacking the last stupid thing another candidate said? It really is a blood sport.

You know, now that I think about it, it's more like a cat who's caught a mouse or a baby rabbit, and batted it around and gnawed on it until it lies motionless and dead... it's not fun anymore. So the cat goes hunting for another critter.

*I had to look these names up on IMDb; I'm a geek, but a diversified geek!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lynching in Georgia

Troy Davis, a man convicted of murder in Georgia, is going to be executed tonight at 7pm. In the years since his initial conviction and sentence, the original case against him has fallen apart; multiple witnesses have recanted their testimony, one of the witnesses CONFESSED to the crime, etc. Any of this is sufficient to give an appeal legs... but four appeals have gone through and he is still slated for execution. WHY?

After lamenting the injustices of Nicaraguan "law"in regards to the wrongful arrests and convictions of my friend Eric Volz and now Jason Puracal, at least in their cases, I didn't have to worry that the state would have them put to death! Now a man is going to be killed under a dubious conviction in the democratic and supposedly "better" United States of America. I have always said that I would prefer for the guilty to go free than for the innocent to be locked up, which is why I wasn't too fussed about the Casey Anthony case.

Can you imagine how heavy the guilt of executing a potentially innocent man will lie on the heads of those who could have undone this injustice, and have not? Do they not think at all of the Golden Rule - treat others as you want to be treated? I don't know if this case is a result of discrimination, of laziness, of just plain bloody-mindedness... but it makes me feel about as safe with the American Justice System as a woman in 1690s Salem who has a lot of enemies in town!

God forgive those who are responsible for his incarceration and execution, and those who could undo it and yet have chosen not to err on the side of mercy.

Monday, August 29, 2011

So Sick, So Tired

Once again, Nicaraguan Injustice has prevailed.

I did so hope... although I don't know why I should have! The way they treated Eric Volz should have been lesson enough that reason, fairness, justice are absent from the Nicaraguan legal system. Now Jason Puracal, who has already spent almost 300 days in jail on no evidence, has been convicted of international drug trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime. This is despite the total lack of evidence, and with an illegal judge presiding.

Americans, leave Nicaragua. You've had 2 warnings now; the sweetness and light you think you are living in is all a facade. At any moment, you can be arrested, imprisoned and tortured on the flimsiest of pretexts. Hell, on no pretext at all! Maybe if you immediately bribe the officers who are arresting you... maybe then you will be able to escape with your life and your freedom. But trusting to the laws of that country (which may be just fine on paper) and your own innocence has been proven to be stupid and naive.

We think that because we have a reasonably fair legal system in the US that all legal systems are equally fair. THEY ARE NOT.
  • Shane, Josh and Sarah arrested in Iran for the mistake of hiking near the border; Shane and Josh convicted and condemned to 8 years in prison.
  • Amanda Knox, arrested and convicted of a murder she could not possibly have committed; 30 years in Italian prison
  • Eric Volz, arrested and convicted of murder in Nicaragua despite airtight alibi and complete lack of forensic evidence. 30 years in prison, miraculously overturned on appeal.
Now add Jason Puracal to the list. These are just the ones I know about and have been following; God only knows how many cases like this exist that haven't got strong social media on their side.

I don't want to have to fight through another one of these cases, because they won't fight fair. Reason and logic serve no purpose. Justice is a word they shit upon.

I'm holding on to this; a friend happened to post this (I don't know why) just as I heard the news about Jason:

13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.

14 Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Psalm 27 (28)

Monday, August 15, 2011

AVALANCHE Week to Free Jason Puracal!

Trial is scheduled to resume with Day Three this Tuesday, August 16. From the Court's rulings during the first two days of trial, it is clear the Judge is pushing for a conviction. He has crippled the defense case by throwing out the very evidence that proves Jason’s innocence, including a real estate expert, Jason’s accountant, and the letter from the DEA. The Judge has also prevented the defense from questioning the prosecution’s witnesses on key issues. It is time to make the State Department see the injustice in this case. They must step in and demand Jason’s release.

CALL to ACTION: This week is AVALANCHE Week. Senator Cantwell is the person that can force the State Department into action. We want to bombard her office with phone calls (not just letters and emails) to insist that she force the State Department to demand Jason’s release. Please everyone commit to making one phone call each day this week to Senator Cantwell’s office to let her know that we want action. The goal is for Senator Cantwell to receive at least one phone call about Jason every minute of every day this week.

Senator Maria Cantwell
202-224-3441 (Washington D.C. office)
206-220-6400 (Seattle Office)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

In Which I Have Surgery

I am having a DCR procedure Friday morning - DCR stands for Dacryocystorhinostomy. They are basically creating a new tear drain for my right eye, which has had a lump around the tear duct since January. Apparently my tear ducts are much smaller than they should be (at least in my right eye) and nastiness has been building up from a blockage in that area. Plus my tears cannot drain down into my sinuses like they should, so I look like I'm perpetually crying and wiping away tears. I haven't been able to wear eye makeup in months!

So I'll be having an outpatient procedure under a general anesthetic (first time in my life!) around 8:30 am, and will hopefully be home by noon. My friend Rachel is staying with me for a while, and so she's going to take me and bring me home and make sure I don't collapse or starve or whatever; at least until I've fully recovered.

Unfortunately, on Tuesday my right eye started really swelling up, and now 3 days later my vision is partially impaired, and my eyelid is puffed out over the top. The whole area is very tender and I suspect, infected. My Dr. has me on antibiotics to try and get it back to normal in time for the surgery, but I am dubious that less than 2 days of meds is sufficient to turn it around. So it might have to be postponed.

So I would welcome prayers; that the swelling and infection would go down, and that I would be calm and relaxed throughout the process... and that I don't freak out when they come to give me the IV (I'm a needle-phobic)!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Why Casey Anthony Didn't Win

As angry as everyone following the Casey Anthony case may be, I actually think the Not Guilty verdict may be far worse for her than she or her family have imagined.

Look at it this way. If she had been judged Guilty, she would go to jail. I don't think she'd get the death penalty; she's young and obviously weak. Everyone would feel vindicated and jubilant, and in 20+ years when she was paroled, the worst of the anger and desire for vengeance would have subsided and there would be little interest. She could live quietly, and at least she would be regarded as having paid her debt to society.

But as a person perceived as guilty by the majority of society (I've not heard of anyone who believes she is innocent) who "got off scot-free", she will be rejected and shunned by society. I doubt anyone would ever hire her for a job again. The fact that even her parents have had death threats is an indicator of how strongly people hate her right now. No one will ever allow her around their children, I would be very surprised if she ever has another date in her life, and I can just imagine her showing up at one of the nightclubs she used to go to... the appalled hush that would fall over the room, the turned backs. And that's just the mild response... there are always people who take vigilante justice too far, and her life will doubtless be threatened for a while to come.

I'm not exactly surprised at the jury's decision. Although everything "gestures" to her, the actual, tangible evidence that proves she killed her baby just isn't there. And I am actually comforted that our legal system would rather err on the side of letting the guilty go free, rather than send the innocent to jail. That's one of the wonders of our legal system, and I am grateful that we can have a questionable Innocent verdict, as opposed to one based on popular opinion. When the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped, they executed a man who very possibly was innocent. This judgment 75 years later, with a similarly tragic case, I find encouraging and an indication of maturity.

Five years ago, I might not have thought this. I was inclined to believe that where there's smoke, there's fire, and that anyone who was in jail was genuinely guilty. But then I learned of Eric Volz, and the sham arrest, trial and conviction he suffered in Nicaragua for murder, and I realized that mistakes are made, and popular opinion allowed to influence trials. Eric was so patently innocent - and all evidence and witnesses to that innocence was discarded and ignored so that evil people could get revenge on America... or protect the real murderer... or score political points. Anything but justice was the goal.

So I don't mind so much that Casey Anthony is going to go free. Because I would rather the guilty go free than the innocent be imprisoned, and I believe that society will probably be far crueler to her than any prison cell could be.

I know, I know, these 2 opinions do not match up!

Friday, May 06, 2011


A friend was writing about creative and artistic endeavors, which made me think of this journal entry I a wrote a while back, so I thought I'd post it here!

June 14, 2005
I am currently engaged in a wholly engrossing activity of truly nerdish/geeky proportions; I have become a chronic embroiderer. My favorite activity most nights is to come home and watch Simpsons episodes while I do needlework. I am keenly aware that this is the most appallingly boring activity most hip young thirty-somethings could ever imagine. But there are several compelling reasons why I feel the need to sew.

[BTW, did you know that the word "suzan" in Farsi means "needle"? See?!]

  • One, because it keeps me from being an irredeemable couch potato. As long as I am Productive, I don't feel like my evenings in front of the TV are a complete waste.
  • Two, because it keeps me from eating from boredom - it is impossible to eat and sew simultaneously.
  • Three, because it impresses the hell out of almost everyone. A well-executed sampler or project as a gift will pretty much make every other gift look tawdry, cheap, and ill-considered. "See? I love you more than everyone else!"
  • Four, because it is beautiful.
  • Five, because it is real.

Four and Five deserve some elaboration... some "embroidery," if you will. All day long at my IT job I manipulate bits of nothingness - I produce NOTHING except documents that more often than not never even get printed - ghosts of words that are read by someone in an email and then deleted, never to be made tangible. Needlework is the one inescapably real thing I do outside the office that actually displays talent and skill beyond my ability to hook up a user laptop on a DSL wireless network and connect via VPN to the office network, or add a show venue address to an enormous database.

It used to be that most of the things produced with needle and thread were useful in some way - you made clothing or upholstery or bed linens yourself. But now there's no need - it can be done more cheaply and quickly by machines in factories, or by women at home on sewing machines. Almost the only hand-sewing done now is for art's sake - quilts, cross-stitch, needlepoint. And when you use real linen, and cotton or sometimes silk thread, there is a tangible, beautiful product completed after many hours. It takes focus and it takes patience. Except for little projects, most needlework projects take weeks or months.

It's sometimes my only grasp on what is real, what matters, what is meaningful - with a TiVo, iPod, and Blackberry, I can literally spend HOURS on intangibles that have little value or benefit (unless it be to inspire or educate... but for me, usually it's just for entertainment). I come home after herding invisible bits and bytes around an unseen network all day, and I pick up a piece of fine linen with threads of scarlet and purple, and I am making something far more enduring than the report on client earnings I generated that morning, or the software installed that afternoon.

And of course, like I said - it impresses the hell out of everyone.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Relief of Abandonment

I am very, very accustomed to being left behind.

It took quite a while to realize that abandonment, often perfectly benign, was an integral part of my life. A general list:

  • My dad (Al) died of leukemia when I was 3
  • My best friend in kindergarten (Missy) moved away the following summer
  • My best friend in first grade (Betsy) moved away the following summer
At this point things stabilized... but I never had another best friend. I don't THINK it was a conscious decision; there just wasn't anyone I clicked with in the years that followed. I went through grade school and high school with many of the same classmates, but none really close.
  • My adoptive stepdad (Chuck) left when I was 17
This I didn't mind at the time; none of us were happy, and he was too strict and broken himself to really be able to show us any affection. But it did mess up the family dynamic; I felt that our stability had left with him.

College was where I actually started to make some good friends; none of them were "besties" but they were consistent and I saw them daily for several years... but as the only one of us actually from Nashville, when school was over, I stayed there... and they all left, to return home or continue their education elsewhere.

I made new friends at my first real job, then went back to school to get a 2nd degree and made some ALMOST best friends with 3 other women. We called ourselves the Honda Club, and they were the closest I've ever had to something approximating best friends. But within a few years, they all left as well, to different cities.

I got a long-term job working with computers at a talent agency, and started making friends there. There were 5 of us who got together frequently for dinner and movies, and we called ourselves Movie Club. But one by one, they left town (except for one of the women, thank God!)

I feel like I have formed and lost and reformed and lost so many friendships in my life that I'm honestly perturbed when someone actually STAYS. So many times I have been told by a friend that they are leaving town, and I go to the farewell party or give them a parting gift or help them pack... but on a certain mental level, after the sad, weary acceptance of another loss, I'm relieved. I don't know why; in some twisted, broken way... it is what has always happened, and so I don't know how to build a friendship beyond a certain level of development. And now, with their departure, I won't have to deal with the harder, more work-intensive aspects of the natural growth of a friendship.

Now that I'm much older and stable in my society, people from my peer group are proving more likely to stay. And I am beginning to realize that there are aspects to my friends that can annoy and disappoint me, (just as I can definitely annoy and disappoint them!) But never having had to work through this more advanced friendship stage before, I don't quite know how. I'm glad that I am older and wiser enough to be conscious that nobody's perfect, and that this is actually what is SUPPOSED to happen... but I'm afraid of messing up.

And don't even get me started on my incapacity for romantic relationships - at the developmental rate I'm going, I should be ready for dating and marriage around... 70. ;)