The Man With The Foolish Grin Is Keeping Perfectly Still
Had my first dental appointment in *mumble-mumble* years today, ostensibly to take advantage of a free teeth whitening coupon I recently received in the mail.
Some people have an almost pathological dislike of doctors; my antipathy toward dentists isn't quite that extreme, but due to a botched wisdom tooth extraction inflicted upon me by my last dentist *mumble-mumble* years ago, I have been avoiding subsequent visits.
But still, sooner or later you have to look squarely into the eyes of your nemesis and say, "I will not allow you to intimidate me further. Have at, Sir (or in this case, Madame)! Cry 'havok' and let loose the dogs of periodontal hygeine!"
Or something like that.
So, I arrived promptly on time for my scheduled appointment this morning (after dropping off Little Nellie at the Scooter Doc to fix a minor problem), filled out the paperwork, and was escorted to "the chair" (the obvious analogy to Capital Punishment did not escape my notice), where I was interviewed, X-rayed (digitally, which was interesting, since the images popped up immediately on the laptop screen facing me - lulling me into a false sense of security, since apparently the images don't "reveal all", especially to the untrained eye), lectured, measured, and eventually leaned back to begin: The Scraping.
The nice dental technician-lady admitted that, considering I hadn't been to a dentist in *mumble-mumble* years, things were in not-too-horrible shape. Still, I was showing some initial signs of minor gum disease, evinced by a deepening of the gap between the surface of my gums and the underlying ligaments or something. Not awful, and easily reversable, she said, with more frequent cleaning and more vigorous flossing (something I've always been, unfortunately I guess, somewhat adverse to doing).
And then the news sort of went downhill from there. Because of the length of time between visits, I had a rather significant plaque and tartar buildup that was going to require "deep cleaning" using an ultra-sound pick, which might necessitate a local anesthetic, and did I want one?
Now, I have a somewhat high threshhold for pain, coupled with an abject, profound, and completely irrational, albeit fairly common case of trypanophobia (fear of hypodermic needles), so I opted out on the shot in the gums. And frankly, the cleaning wasn't at all uncomfortable, aside from an occasional minor twinge.
However, because they had only scheduled me for an hour's worth of cleaning time, she was only able to clean about a quarter of the way through, meaning not only would I have to forego the whitening, but I would have to schedule an additional appointment to finish the remaining part of the cleaning job. Clearly this wasn't going to be nearly so simple and straight-forward as I had envisioned.
And then the dentist herself popped in for her perfunctory inspection, at which point, after poking and peering with the little mirror-on-a-stick, she informed me that I had two small cavities between a couple of molars in the "upper right quadrant" that would require filling, which means most likely scheduling a third appointment, before I can even consider doing the "free" teeth whitening, which keep in mind, was all I was really there for in the first place.
Now, this is a shock, not to mention a great disappointment to me. I have always prided myself on the fact that I have survived for 47 years with nothing in my body that didn't grow there on its own (I don't count the tattoos since they're external, decorative, and completely elective on my part); no fillings, no crowns, no pins, or metal joints, or stints, or transplants, or bionic implants or what-have-you. "All OEM", as the guys at Schuck's Auto Parts would say. So, the prospect of my first artificial "enhancement" is just a teensy bit depressing, especially coming right around a birthday, as it does.
I guess I should count myself lucky. By the time my grandparents were my age, I think at least three of them either had full-on dentures - both upper and lower - or enough gold, lead, stainless steel and ceramic inside their jaws to set off an airport metal detector. And my parents, although not quite so laden down with dental appliances, nevertheless have a fair amount of work in there as well I believe. So, I've truly got nothing to complain about, and certainly can only blame myself for my obvious inattention to dental discipline.
But still, I walked out of the office feeling a rather down in the mouth - to say the least! - which depression was exacerbated only slightly by forking over $80 for my portion of the co-pay (and further, being armed with the knowledge that I'll probably have to shell out roughly equivalent amounts on at least two of the now three subsequent visits I'll need to schedule before this round is over).
As I was walking over to my office, I decided that I might get a bit of good news from the Scooter Doc. Instead, things continued to deteriorate. Evidently, the hit-and-run of the previous Fall had loosened something inside my muffler, which is causing the muffler assembly to vibrate wildly, which in turn has put additional stress on the wheel assembly, causing the locking nut to come loose, and letting the wheel wobble about a quarter-inch or so off true. Scooter Doc was able to fix the loose nut and thus tighten the wheel with a few twists of a large socket wrench, but he recommended eventual replacement of the muffler, since the vibration will continue, and eventually the wheel will come loose again. Oh, and he just happened to have one in-stock, which would take about 30 minutes to replace, at a cost of about $200 for the unit, and maybe $30 labor, plus tax.
Well, I was already on a spending-spree, so what's a few hundred more here-or-there, right?
As I trudged the remaining few blocks to my office, I just kept telling myself, "it's all for the best. It's all for the best."
And, really it is, but even so, I sure can think of more fun ways to blow $350 in ten minutes.
If There's Something Strange In Your Neighborhood, Who You Gonna Call?
Saturday night's interactive haunted house event went quite smoothly, so far as I could tell. While perhaps not quite as well-attended as we would have liked, still the turnout seemed pretty good, considering we didn't spend a dime on the little bit of advertising we put out, and that we were probably competing against high-profile events elsewhere.
That said, four hours is a long time to maintain the pretense of being a ghost doing ghostly things. We got occasional breaks, and I at least had enough pre-recorded old-timey radio shows playing in the background to provide a bit of aural variety to my evening, but hunching over old radio receivers and electronics repair manuals was definitely not good for my back.
Next year, I'll have to see if I can come up with a character that either sits in a comfy recliner chair, or, lies flat on his back for a good portion of the evening.
Just got off the phone with my mom. Turns out the "cell-harvesting" phase of Dale's treatment went far more successfully than anticipated, and they're letting him go home for a week before they begin the re-insertion phase. Being doctors, their prognosis remains conservative, but based on current results, there's a strong likelihood he'll complete the treatment well before the end of the year.
While we were talking she asked if I'd seen any of the pictures from the massive brush fires down in Southern California. Well, yeah, I've seen a few, including some spectacular shots taken from 200 miles above the action by the ISS Expedition 16 crew (see yesterday's post).
"There's one in today's Seattle Times, and I think it's my cousin Alvin's house," she said.
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." (I don't think I've ever even met the guy, but still, you have to feel a bit of sympathy for anyone who's just lost their home.)
"No, no, it didn't burn" she replied.
Sure enough, while we're talking I'm pulling up the Timesweb site and in the photo gallery accompanying the article there's what is presumably a shot taken from a helicopter showing a street in Rancho Bernardo, outside San Diego, which shows the remains of a dozen rather large, expensive-looking homes burnt down to the foundations, but with two homes at either end of the conflagration apparently completely untouched:
(Photo Credit: Louis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
"I'm looking at it right now," I told her, marvelling at the sheer scale of what appears to be completely random destruction.
"I think his is the one on the right," she says, "your Aunt Laura was talking our other cousin in Bend (Oregon), and they're both pretty sure that's his."
"Wow, that's pretty lucky for him," I replied.
"Well, the thing is," she went on, "I guess he had the house fire-proofed last year after all the brush fires they had down there. He spent about $900,000 to get it done. He bought the house five years ago for something like three and a-half million (why don't I know MORE about these relatives of mine?) and now it's worth about five million."
"In that case, he definitely got his money's worth," I said "If I were him, I'd be calling the fire-proofing company and be asking about doing a testamonial for them when this is all over."
Even if it's not the right house, those two home owners on that street have pretty much used up their quota of luck for about the next 50 years, I'd say.
This Conversation Can Serve No Useful Purpose Any Longer. Goodbye, Dave.
Sometimes you have to marvel at the willful obtuseness of the corporate mind-set. I spent nearly an hour on the phone today with four different customer service reps, trying to figure out why an online payment made with my bank card was continually being blocked.
Basically it all boils down to the fact that VISA, in its infinite wisdom has decided that an effective anti-fraud security measure is to simply randomly reject certain transactions. According to the Online Banking Security Specialist (CS rep #4), there's been a lot of credit card fraud lately, and so VISA has beefed up its security system to red-flag "unusual transactions"; in this case an online purchase made on my ATM card to a foreign vendor (I was making a renewal payment to the French company that administers my Domain Name Server account.) However, she also admitted (somewhat reluctantly from the sounds of it - but I kept pressing her) there's really no concrete set of parameters that actually invoke a security block; it's all completely random. Also, there's no way for me, as the card holder to have the block removed.
Okay, I don't do a lot of business with foreign companies, so I can see how some computerized security countermeasures application might think that suspicious. Also, I just had the card replaced after foolishing leaving my previous card sticking out of the slot of an ATM a couple of weeks ago, so there's that as well. But, one would THINK there would be some option in the procedure to allow for a manual override of the block. But no, the only way to work around the security measure would be for me to call the company in Paris, put them on the line with someone at VISA, who would THEN give them a manual authorization code, which would allow the transaction to go through; I can't do it from my end, even though it's my card, and I'm the one making the purchase.
But, here's the really frustrating part about this: at the same time I was informed - for the 4th time - that there's no way for me to override the security restriction, I was also informed that the process was so random that if I waited for 24 hours or so, there was a very good chance I could get a subsequent transaction to go through with no problem.
So, the so-called "security protocol" turns out to be a completely arbitrary action taken by a compuer running on software that instructs it to randomly allow some transactions to pass through it, while at the same time denying other transactions for literally no valid reason whatsoever.
Now, there's really no point in blaming the machines, because of course they're just following the coding instructions supplied to them by an IT technician, at the behest of some middle manager who received a memo from a Second Vice President for Security Policies, or whomever it is that actually decides these things in the first place.
He's (and I will betray my gender by assuming it's a "he" - a reasonable assumption, given the general ratio of men-to-women in upper management positions, and the fact that most women have too much common-sense to make such a bone-headed decision in the first place) the one I'd really like to give an earful to right now.
But of course my chances of doing that are about as good as those of getting my DNS account renewed today.
UPDATE: Quite unsurprisingly, when I re-tried the transaction this evening using my other VISA card, it went through without a hitch. Evidentally, VISA must calculate there's less of a "security risk" that someone might try to commit fraud using a card with a $20,000 limit, than there is they would try to do so using a card tied to a checking account with only a couple of grand on-deposit.
It's something of a credit to how far we've come in the past few decades that this significant event - the first time in the 47-year history of manned space exploration that women have commanded two operational space vessels - has gone almost completely without notice by either NASA or the media.
Just another day on the job I suppose, but a significant day to note nevertheless.
THURSDAY 11/01: Tech/Dress for SPF; possible birthday imbibement, if time allows.
FRIDAY 11/02: SPF performance
SATURDAY 11/03: SPF performance
SUNDAY 11/04: SPF performance/strike.
In the meantime, I need to finish the sound design for my Ghosty character, scrounge up a couple more props and costume pieces, do a bit of clean up in the theatre prior to our Thursday show, scrounge up a couple of props for the SPF piece I'm directing, and try to get in a couple of nights of theatre attendance in-between everything else.
And then I get a week of respite, before the theatre fundraiser I'm co-chairing, which goes up on the 12th, followed by our annual Annex retreat on the 16th - 18th.
Survived last night's WINDAPOCALYPSE 2007! completely unscathed - not even a brief power outage, although 280,000 other local residents weren't quite so lucky in that regard. At worst, we have a few downed branches in the front yard, and it appears about 70% of the fallen leaves on our street were blown onto the sidewalk outside my apartment, but that's the extent of the collatoral damage.
It's still a bit blustery outside, and the weather report indicates we could see some brief hail later today (Okay, in the amount of time it took me to type this, it's gone from "blustery" to "light monsoon").
With The Show up-and-running and nothing in the way of projects until next weekend I've got a light couple of days ahead - no major plans - so if the weather holds out for a few hours on Saturday or Sunday, I guess I'll be spending it raking up and bagging the half-ton of brown mush in front of my house.
Well, it was an interesting weekend to say the least.
Spent all day Friday Guest Slogging, which turned out to be quite a bit more work than I expected. Granted, The Stranger editorial staff probably gets a lot of source material sent in their direction by politicians, bureaucrats, in the form of press releases and whatnot, so they don't have to actively troll for news and posting ideas as much as I, and apparently my fellow GS's did. But, additionally, there's a tremendous amount of self-inflicted pressure to deliver interesting, topical, amusing, comment-worthy fare. I think we all did a pretty good job of things, given those conditions, but I noted a definite "petering out" towards the end of the day. Anyway, if you're interested in reading the sordid details, and the inevitable armchair criticism from the commenters, you can read all about it here (Just look under the section for Friday, October 12, 2007).
Friday night was of course, Opening Night for The Show, which by all accounts went swimmingly; a fairly full house, one reviewer in attendance, and lots of laughter, from what I could hear. I didn't actually see it until Saturday night, since right before curtain I was roped into helping prep for the after-show party.
David, our web master, came in Saturday to shoot some production photos, and asked me if I would be interested in attending the Sunday matinee performance of Seattle Opera's Iphegenia In Taurus; his wife wasn't feeling well, and he was looking to unload the seats. Generally, I'm not big on opera, for pretty much the same reason most people aren't. I don't have a classical music background, my knowledge of opera being limited to a handful of real-life experiences (and multiple exposures to old Warner Bro's cartoons) that have been well - boring, and encompassed just about every negative stereotype one can think of; large people standing around gesturing and bellowing in incomprehensible foreign tongues, while not much else happens. But, by the same token I do think it's important to broaden ones cultural experiences, and what the heck, it was a freebie. So, I said, "sure, I'll go."
(Ironically, I got a call this morning from my friend Colleen, who sings in the Seattle Symphony Chorale, offering me a half-price ticket to their matinee of Mozart's "Requiem" - odd that the only two offers I've received to attend classical events in ages would both come on the same day!)
A little later, I got another phone call, this time from my mom: "What are you doing today?"
"Um, I'm going to the opera this afternoon, why?"
"Well, your grandmother, and Aunt Laura and Uncle Gary are in town - "
"You mean, now?"
"They just got here a few minutes ago!"
"Okay, well I don't have to be there until 1:30, so I'll come on over now."
(Keep in mind, I later found out she'd heard from her sister on Friday that they were coming up; that's my mom.)
So, had a pleasant, albeit brief visit with some of the fams today, however, it did turn a little surreal towards the end, when they decided they wanted to go out and get something for lunch. Now, understand, these are not sophisticated urbanites we're talking about here. They're not stupid by any stretch, don't get me wrong; they're just regular, "average joe and jane" salt-of-the-earth types. That being said, they are nevertheless small-town folk, who don't venture up to "the big city" all that frequently (Portland is closer to their neck of the woods anyway), and among other things their culinary tastes tend toward the - how shall I say it - heart-clogging.
We're talking mid-western "meat and potatoes" type people here, whose idea of "exotic cuisine" is American-style Chinese food. To be fair, they're also game-eaters, so regular servings of deer, elk, moose - and occasionally even bear - might seem somewhat "out there" to even hoity-toity epicureans.
Anyway, the guys (my uncle and my mom's husband) decided they wanted to go somewhere that football was on. Okay, no problem. We're smack in the middle of South Lake Union, and there are any number of places nearby that would fit the bill. But, my uncle, who has been to Seattle on numerous occasions when he worked in the construction industry, only knew of one place in the neighborhood, and in the interests of both expediency, location, and access to large-screen NFL, it was decided we would dine - at Hooters.
I kid you not, before attending an afternoon of classical lyric theatre, I sat with my mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle and stepfather (I guess technically, that's the proper term) at Hooters, where their motto is: "Delightfully Tacky, Yet Unrefined".
Now, I've never set foot in the place before - I've really never had the urge or even the mildest sense of curiosity about the place, and I figure I'd already been given all the information I needed to know about it, just from what I'd seen and heard in the media. So, needless to say, my expectation going in was pretty low; and I think I can say in all honesty that I wasn't disappointed. Granted, the famous low-cut tank tops and push-up bras were eschewed in favor of more standard loose-fitting sports jerseys, but the tight orange hot-pants-and-hose combo was well in evidence, as was the teeth-clenching "peppiness" or whatever they call it, wherein every waitress seems to have been rigorously trained by Moon-Unit Zappa in proper "valley girl" speak, circa 1982.
And of course, it being Sunday, the place was packed wall-to-wall, mostly with jersey-clad males, a smattering of women who were presumably good-natured spouses or girlfriends, and surprisingly, about a dozen kids, most of whom appeared to have been dragged in by Single Dads With Weekend Custody, based on the noticeable absence of adult females in their parties.
(Seriously guys, you get the kids every other weekend, and not only can you not tear yourself away from that Packers-Redskins game to, like, take them to the zoo or the park or something, but you have to bring them to HOOTERS?!? And I'll bet you're still trying to figure out why the "little lady" became disenchanted with marital bliss.)
Oh, and as for the food, well, all I can say is Hooter's other motto should be something along the lines of: "If It Ain't Deep-Fried - We Don't Serve It!" Deep-fried pickles, deep-fried chicken wings, deep-fried shrimp, French fries, onion rings - even the ham-and-cheese sandwich my aunt ordered looked like the meat had spent at least a few seconds immersed in hot oil.
Fortunately, I had begged off ordering food, since I'd eaten breakfast only a couple of hours prior. Good call on my part; after just a couple of prefunctary nibbles at some of the glistening, grease-laden fare, my stomach winced in protest.
So, when 1:15 p.m. rolled around, I made my exit, gave my mom and grams a hug, was refused a handshake from my uncle on the (quite reasonable) excuse that his hands were slathered in buffalo-wing juice, and dashed in the direction of Little Nellie, having thus survived my first - and I hope only - excursion into Hootersville.
After that, even sitting through a 2 and a half-hour opera sung in French seemed like a piece of cake by comparison.
And actually, it wasn't half-bad. In fact, I'd say it was pretty good, given my abject lack of experience with opera. The leads sang well; the music was actually quite lush, even romantic, for a piece with such a decidedly dark tone; the set was gorgeous (the production is being co-produced by New York's Metropolitan Opera, where it will be staged after the Seattle run); and noted theatrical director Stephen Wadsworth's staging made the piece a lot more active than it probably would be under normal circumstances, since frankly, there's really not much in the way of story or action (David joked at intermission: "I guess the car chase happens in the second half!"). Heck, I even knew a couple of actors in the company!
So, all-in-all, a pretty wacky weekend, one I'm quite certain won't be repeated for a long, long, long time.
This past week has been (and will continue to be) chock-full of little odds-and-ends of things being started and/or completed.
The Columbus Day Holiday came in tres handy, as that was the day I actually managed to get a few things done: the boat got washed, the inflatable deflated and stowed, new dock lines and new shore power cable attached. After that, I had a meeting with our local theatre union federation, then did some work on prop pieces I'm going to be using for The Theatre's annual Halloween Event. That was followed by another meeting for The Theatre Staff, after which I spent a couple hours helping to finish painting the set for The Show, and finally rounded out the day by attending a 50th Birthday Celebration for my friend James, wherein much good-natured ribbing ensued, to be sure. I've got one coming up myself in just a few weeks, although - thankfully - not that "big milestone" one yet. Still, only three more to go until I get there - yikes!
Dang - when I look at it all in order - that was a lot to get done in one day!
This week includes finishing up some last-minute PR for the show; starting rehearsals for a 10 minute play I'm directing that will be done as part of an evening of short pieces early next month. Then of course, The Show opens on Friday, on which day I'll also be a guest commentator for the blog site belonging to our local alterna-weekly newspaper, which should be - interesting.
Working Too Hard Can Give You A Heart Attack, Ack, Ack, Ack, Ack, Ack
Got home from work just now and found the bill for the boat repair in my mailbox - along with the funniest - not to mention topical - "New Yorker" magazine cover I've seen in quite a while (there's currently a thumbnail in the upper right corner of their web site, but you really need to see it full-sized, just for the expression on Ahmadinejad's face.) It was good to get in a laugh before opening the billing envelope, otherwise I might have cried instead.
Let's just say, it was less than I anticipated, but far more than I was hoping.
Couldn't let the day pass without acknowledgement of one of the defining events of the 20th Century. For those who aren't already clued-in, today is the 50th Anniversary of the launch of Sputnik I, the first earth-orbiting artificial satellite.
Although this momentous event occured a full three years before I was born, the legacy of that tiny, beeping sphere nevertheless shaped a large portion of my upbringing. Not only was I quite literally reared on the sights and sounds of innumerable manned and unmanned rocket launches (some of my earliest memories, muddied though they may be in the loose temporality of a small child, are of sitting on my father's lap watching early Mercury lift-offs) resounding in my eyes and ears, but at the same time I was privvy to a significant cultural shift away from the omnipresent dread of "the nuclear nightmare" that defined much of the post-WW-II era, and toward Kennedy's now-famous "new frontier" of the 1960's. To say that I was born at the beginning of a new era in human history, presumptuous as it may sound, would not, I think, be inaccurate.
Of course, other geo-political and cultural issues came to the fore during that same period: our increasing military involvement in S.E. Asia; the counter-culture movement, and others, but for me, those pale in comparison. Space was the paradigm of the age in which I was born and grew up, and for those who know me well, it is still one of the things with which I most strongly define my sense of self.
I was less than six months old when Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin powered into orbit on the top of a Soviet R-7 rocket, essentially the same launch configuration that had put Sputnik into space three and a-half years previously. I probably saw (although it would be absurd to claim to remember) Alan Shepard's publically televised 15 minute sub-orbital flight mere weeks later. The same goes for John Glenn's February 1962 orbital mission.
But after that, the memories become clearer, sharper even as the frequency of such events accelerated with lighting speed: sitting in our ranch house outside Laramie, WY, watching later Mercury launches in glorious black-and-white; listening to CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite - to me, the veritable voice of the "space age" - describing Gemini missions, and of course culminating in that unforgettable July evening in 1969, sprawled in front of a color TV in the living room of our house in Lake Oswego, OR, while a grainy black-and-white image conveyed the ghostly form of a space-suited Neil Armstrong as he hopped down the ladder of his lunar module "Eagle" to take that first furtive "giant leap for Mankind".
Since then, there have of course been innumerable other triumphs, and tragedies - both for the Soviets and for ourselves - as we continue to take our first small steps off the planet we call home. And despite the complexities of international politics and the fickleness of public support, we endeavor to live up to the legacy left us by the herculean efforts of the likes of Korolev (a fascinating story, his, and one almost completely unknown to most people outside of the space fraternity) and von Braun, Gagarin, Glenn, Aleksei Leonov, Valentina Tereshkova,Ed White, Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins, Lovell, Schmitt, Young, Crippen, Ride, Krikalev, McAuliffe, Yang, so many others, all of whom, like those of us born into the First Age of Space (but unlike them, destined to watch the skies from below) are children of the new era, born out of the fear and paranoia of the past, and destined, despite the backsliding of the less visionary among us, to continue to take "small steps" into the future.
All thanks to a little silver ball flung into the unknown on a column of smoke and flame a half century ago today.