Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Embracing the D70

My new camera is here. The battery is charging.

Tonight I discovered that I'm not all that fond of UPS. They made it very hard to just pick up my damned package.

I've been anxious to receive my camera. I paid $30 to ship it, and it's been two weeks. Some of this is the ebay seller's fault, some of it is UPS. For example, the UPS tracking site has not been updated since March 24, when it was in Brooklyn. Today is the 30th. There was finally an update to tell me they'd attempted delivery, found no one home at 2:50pm and took it away. I remembered that I used to be able to pick up the package at their customer center, but that wasn't documented.

I checked the website to see when the local customer center closed. It said 6pm. So I drove home, got my slip, and drove to the center. The clerk said, "Oh. No. You can't pick it up. You have to call our 1-800 number and schedule pick up through them. Then you can come back between 6:30 and 8pm." It was 5:30.

So I walked outside and called the 1-800 number from my cell phone. After a two-minute spiel about how I could use their website to accomplish the same thing, and aren't I a lazy Luddite for wanting to talk to a person?, a woman answered. She gave me every option but pick up.

I said, "The clerk told me I could pick it up at 6:30."
She sighed and took my information. "Someone will call you within the hour to tell you when to pick it up."
"But," I said, "the clerk already told me when I could pick it up."
"Someone will call you," she said.

About fifteen minutes later, the same clerk I'd already talked to called me back. He said, "Between 6:30 and 8."

BF and I went to Costco and ate dinner. I bought a CompactFlash card and a twin-pack of Camisoles, because it makes me feel Victorian-like. I think Luddites must like Camisoles.

At 7pm, I went to pick up the camera, fully expecting trouble. Thankfully, I had no trouble. I walked in, the clerk punched some buttons on his speak-and-spell and I left with a slightly bedraggled (not bedazzled) cardboard box. Signing of my name was involved.

The camera is pretty. It came with the world's smallest tripod, and a lens cleaning kit. I cleaned my lenses for fun, but it didn't work out all that great. The battery takes two hours to charge, so I'm sitting here waiting. Twiddling my thumbs. Thinking about going to sleep.

I have a half hour until it finishes charging. Maybe I'll lean back in my chair here, and rest my eyes. This room is awful bright. A cat nap never hurt anybody.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Vote for George!

Please take a moment to Vote for George! George wants to be your food critic in Santa Barbara and all you have to do is sign up for an edhat handle. It's easy and quick and they don't sell your information or anything. Besides, you've ALL got at least one junk mail account, I know you do. And I actually like reading edhat. It's a local quirky online zine type thing where they spend a lot of time counting stuff and telling you random facts about Santa Barbara and Goleta. If you hate that sort of thing, just unsubscribe after you vote. But I don't think you'll hate it. In fact, it could very well be the best decision you've ever made!

Please vote before 5pm PST today.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Ode to an F100

You were a kick ass camera, F100. You made my days brighter and my nights more focused. I hope that you make your new owner as happy as you made me.

I've no right to ask this of you, F100. But please, think of me, think of me fondly. It's not you, it's me. I'm a Compact Flash whore. But then, we'll always have the park where we made beautiful pictures together.

Goodbye, sweet prince, may flights of angels sing you to Connecticut, where you will see the changing leaves of fall. Adieu. Let us splice the avenues of our heart and frame this moment in reel remembrances. If it were in my power, I would summon you a montage from the depths of my light box and we would watch a series of blending, shifting scenes encapsulating better times, happier moments, skipping hand in strap through the tall, green grass of summer.

Know this, F100. No matter what the ravages of time may bring, you were loved. And there was music.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Tales of my Dumbassery

I invite you to learn from my stupidity. Or at least take the opportunity to feel superior. It started with music. See, I write to music and I wanted to hear the Dresden Dolls, "Coin-Operated Boy." And maybe "The Garden State" soundtrack. And Hot Hot Heat's, "Goodnight Goodnight." I checked it out at iTunes and they had the songs, but I needed to download an upgrade to buy anything and I hate how even if you buy the music you still have to do a lot of work to get it on your non-iTunes compliant mp3 player, which is what I have. I looked the music up on ebay and, but it takes too long to ship. I wanted to hear it now, damn it! And why should I pay the exact same amount for digital files I've got to burn and rip and such without liner notes when I can just have it shipped to me in a week. How much different will my life be in a week, I ask you? All these conflicting ideas bounced about my noggin.

None of this precludes my buying of the physical albums. My problem is that I want the whole album, and I WANT it right now. But I also want the liner notes. Last night's problems could have been solved if I'd sorted out these priorities ahead of time.

I ended up at the Dresden Dolls website. They have some sample mp3's to download, which is a wonderful practice. Then I got greedy. I still REALLY wanted to hear "Coin-Operated Boy," and hell, I'm going to pay for it, so I thought, "Maybe there's another site that has just that one song on it. I NEED to hear it right this instant or I will never write another word." At this point I'd forgotten about iTunes. I got caught up in the moment.

I ended up at, a nice looking site that had all the sample mp3's, plus the one I wanted. I tried to download it, nothing happened, it just hung. Soon after, I discovered that something did happen. I'd invited an ass load of spyware to take up residence in my registry.

Two hours and much deleting of keys and programs later, (including installing ad-aware and spybot, and briefly unable to boot into anything except safe-mode and blocked from accessing google...) the spyware was defeated. BF took over the operations at one point and I made a Screwdriver. Then the kitten helped me spill the Screwdriver. Then we cleaned up the Screwdriver. Then I was sad, lo, for I had spilt the blessed nectar.

The RIAA needs a friendly spokesman to rub this in my face -- a Smokey-the-bear type for pirating music. How about Harry the Hard Drive? Then I could look into Harry's disappointed face and be truly repentant. No one messes with Harry, especially not on Good Friday. Excuse me, I'm in California, I meant: Cesar Chavez Day.

And I never even got the song.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Mystery Check

Stupid fookin' university. I just opened a piece of junk mail that had been sitting on my desk and found a $500 check. Always suspicious of unexpected checks, I did some research. My old employer is cleaning house. They say that if you've got less than a certain amount in your retirement fund, then they distribute it right on back to you minus taxes... Only, I've got more than that amount in my fund AND I made it a point to meet with a benefits administrator before I left my job to make sure this wouldn't happen. So now the government has taken its chunk out of my money, when all I needed to do was roll it over from one stupid freaking fidelity account to another (I'm guessing that's what I should have done anyway. The benefits guy told me I was all set the way it was though) All university documentation (and I did look) says you need at least $2000 in your 403B to keep your money there, and I meet that requirement. So what the fuck is this check doing in my hands for the defined contribution plan??? Are they going to send me a check for the rest of it? Or does the rest of it somehow meet the requirement and if so, why's it different? Argh! So now I get to see if I've got the will power to put this $500 into my Roth IRA and get taxed again eventually or, you know, fulfill my dream of drinking an entire pony keg by myself. Excuse me while I continue cursing and not being tempted into going on a sweet bender. Because I'm a grown up. Grown ups aren't tempted by ill-gotten gains. No, sir. We're strong like oxen.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Folly of Wednesday

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, "Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music."
Chelsea Hotel #2, Leonard Cohen

My inner 12-year old demands attention.

I got the hard drive enclosure in the mail today, and it's beautiful. It's got a velvet pouch AND a charger AND a USB cable AND instructions AND a baby screwdriver with tiny screws! It even came with a shiny gold card covered in Chinese characters! I hid it in my underwear drawer. The bogeyman won't look there.

My hard drive arrives Friday. I can't wait to put it all together and see if it actually works. It's almost too much to hope for -- that something that pretty would be functional too. And boy, is it ever pretty. I had to hide it because I kept petting it. Petting it and stroking it.

Speaking of petting and stroking, there was a great line in last week's "Arrested Development," a line I feel compelled to quote or at least badly paraphrase. Lucille replaces the maid with a Roomba, and later in the show walks in on Buster, who is in bed, under the covers. She stares in horror as the Roomba skitters out from under the bed, across the carpet. As she gasps, Buster holds up his hook-for-a-hand and bellows, "What do you expect, Mother? I'm half-machine!" Then, with a scream, he plunges his hook into the pillows and feathers fly everywhere.

And here's an article about They Might Be Giants.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Thinking Out Loud

More reasons to be excited about the new camera: LASIK. I can get my eye to the viewfinder without smacking my glasses against my nose. Another reason: Tapazole. My hands don't shake like they used to -- at least not as much. That means I might actually be able to hold the camera steady and get the focus sharp. Stupid hyperthyroidism.

Vash at 2 months. Taken with the Nikon F100.

To Scheme or Not to Scheme...

I've been scheming about all the ways I'll use my new camera and all the accessories that I absolutely must obtain. The anticipation is intoxicating. (Or is that the Mimosa?) I found the coolest product on ebay that may or may not work, but I threw caution to the wind and buyed-it-now. It's a 2.5inch hard drive enclosure that includes a CompactFlash reader, LCD screen, and USB 2.0 connection. In theory I can use it to connect directly to my camera and off-load pictures. Then I found a 2.5inch Hitachi 20gb hard drive for pretty cheap, so I'll plug that in and see what happens. In the best of all possible worlds I've got a fairly cheap, light, and reliable method of backing up my pictures while I'm out and about. 20gb of storage (upgradable too!) for the same price as a 1gb CompactFlash card. Pretty snazzy. In the worst of all possible worlds, I can sell the hard drive.

Sadly, I have to wait until I get paid again to buy more toys. Otherwise, BF and I will starve. Or, at least, until my F100 sells. Then maybe I can buy a Speedlight (now I'm thinking the SB-800), or the Lexar 1gb 80x CompactFlash w/Write Acceleration, or a couple of filters, or a diffuser for the flash, or a new battery. It's all so exciting. I already have a heavy-duty tripod, a lovely Tamrac bag (backpack style), and a photo vest (or a fishing vest, depending on my mood), so I'm not exactly starting from scratch, despite the opinion of my wallet. Of course the only things I really have to take pictures of is Mother Nature and my cats. But let's not dwell on content quite yet. It'll kill the buzz.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I am Not a Role Model

Note: Kicking off Monday morning with a large slice of iced carrot cake and a Diet Coke was not one of my better ideas.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Adventures with Ebay

I don't know how these ebay power sellers do it. I guess it simplifies when you've got a system. With procrastination built-in, the whole thing took me about 8 hours to post one item. This isn't a "boo-hoo," "pity me" admission. It's written in the spirit of amazement and wonder. 8 hours? How does it take you 8 hours, it's not that hard? Well, it started with using the point-and-click digital camera and a tripod to get representative pictures of my items. Pictures that were free of lens flare, catch light, or the helpful kitten's tail. Then I loaded the pictures into Photoshop, chose the best ones, resized them, stroked them, and uploaded them to photobucket (which I had to discover first.) Then I packaged up the items and took the boxes to the post office to weigh them. Then I designed a web page for each item. (I've only posted the camera, but the flash will be up soon.) Then I navigated the choppy and many-queried waters of the ebay ocean, checking and unchecking, and racking up vague fees.

I haven't sold anything on ebay in a couple of years. I always preferred where I could set my low price and let it to sit to infinity sans stress. I'm sure it'll go smoother next time, now that my preferences have been cached for all-time. And mixed up in the procrastination, I wrote another 3 pages of my play, bringing the final submitted count up to 11. Smack dab close to my weekly target.

I truly deserve to spend my Sunday playing World of Warcraft. It's time to get some face time with my Dwarf Paladin. She's been feeling the ass end of neglect lately.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

F100's make the best impulse buy! In related news, Ebay is needlessly complicated!

I took this photo at a dog agility class with the Nikon F100 I'll be selling on ebay. Doesn't it make you want to buy my camera?

My friend Lily at sunset, 2002. Taken with the Nikon F100 and SB-28 Flash I'll be selling on ebay.

Chiana plays inside the Sara Lee box. (February, 2005) I took this photo with an Olympus D-520 zoom. It's point-and-click fantastic!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Worth a Thousand

I bought a digital camera. Okay, it's more than that. It's a digital SLR camera. A Nikon D70. A 6.1 megapixel camera. No more scanning new slides and negatives. No more removing dust and scratches in Photoshop -- now I just have to correct my own shitty camera work. Give me f-stops or give me death! On second thought, no death, just cake.

I'll be posting my Nikon F100 body on ebay this weekend along with an SB-28 Speedlight. I swore by my F100 when I was in photography school. Awesome camera, takes great pictures, and it's in fabulous shape. I hate to sell it, but man, I've got to subsidize the D70 somehow. It's sad because it's the last camera -- besides my Pentax K1000 -- to survive the mass ebay auctions of 2002.

I'll need to buy a new flash for the D70 too, since TTL won't work, and like, I totally need my TTL. The SB-600 would be a good replacement.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am. I've desperately wanted a digital SLR for about 3 years, and then yesterday I was sitting there and I said to myself, "Why the hell not? It's totally doable." After agreeing to sell my F100, BF said my plan was doable as well.

In about two weeks, I'll have the camera in my hot little hands. Will this mean a surge in blog photography here at the House of Mirth? I certainly won't make any promises I can't keep, but I feel compelled to give you a solid "maybe."

P.S. Yee Haw!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"Tell Me I Sold Out, Go Ahead"

He thinks it’s all about culture and art
but the truth of it is, that it rips me apart

- Marvelous 3, "Freak of the Week"

You ever have that line, that one line that wraps it all up like grape leaves and lemon juice?

That's my line, right there.

The Ass Crack of Wit

I'm at the halfway point of my week's page target (six of twelve, as opposed to seven of nine). I'm not going to tell you the title yet, because it's so clever you'd want to steal it.

I bought a ticket to see the play, "Enchanted April." I snagged a seat in the fourth row center cuz I got mad fone skillz. It's called politeness, yo.

I'm wary because the subject matter sounds very girlie. Hardly any killing or maiming at all. Just two British broads sipping tea in Italy... I expect it to be smashing as long as I'm smashed.

The optometrist tells me that as a result of LASIK, the left eye is perfect, and the right is mostly perfect. The right still has a tiny astigmatism, but that could be because of the dry weather. My corneas are subject to the whims of humidity; I'm human same as you. Same as you!

Don't forget to wear green tomorrow or the bogeyman will eat your soul.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Money Talks

I thought about keeping a page tally in the blog to alert the world of my play progress, and also to provide the illusion of accountability. But then I thought, how much of what I'm writing now will even make the first draft? Hell, most of it probably won't even last a week before I hack and slash it to bits.

Last night's "research" found me scouring the web for specific German word pronunciations, which if anyone ever looks at my cache, might raise an eyebrow or two. It's not my fault that the context is bigger than the word, but that's exactly what I'm going to exploit. At least until I change my mind. "You thought you were so clever," I'll say to myself, "but it stinks, you stink, the whole bloody world stinks." And then I'll beat my chest with my fists and throw myself into the still, cold waters of Lake Cachuma. Because I’m lousy with criticism.

For the first time in ten years, I have a zero balance on my credit cards. If you ignore the thousands upon thousands of dollars I owe in student loan debt, the state of my finances is: awesome. The paying off of these cards mostly represents college and photography school. My cameras are paid off -- the same cameras I had to sell on ebay to pay my rent when I was unemployed. My textbooks and late night snacks and computer parts from five years ago -- finally final. I can face the world unencumbered -- except for all the tuition money I owe -- and it feels good to be out from the shadow of slowly incrementing APR's and balance transfer madness. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Of course there are still lots of obligations with their grubby paws outstretched. I should begin the long process of saving for a down payment. I should up my Roth IRA contribution because Social Security won't be worth a damn. I should begin the arduous journey of financial maturity. But most of all, I'm excited because I might actually save up enough money to go to Europe. (Note all the qualifiers I use to keep my hopes from being dashed when it all falls through, again.)

I really like thinking about money. Even when I didn't have any, I spent a lot of time drawing up budgets. It's such a crude thing to talk about, but it's not something they taught us in school. How else do we learn? The stock market was a total mystery. No load and expense ratios and index funds, oh my! I still know people who haven't put anything into their 401K or 403B because they think they're too young for it to make a difference. But I say, "The power of compounding compels you!" And then I get funny looks, because I'M the crazy one.

On a serious note, it's not about dying with the most toys. It's about comfort. It's about being realistic. I don't want to work until I'm 70, at least not in a nine to five capacity. Let's be honest, there won't be a pension waiting for me or any government assistance... Health care will probably chip away at my savings and I'd rather not be a burden on anyone. I want my days cleared for writing and reading and travel. I want my life of leisure. Maybe it's an innocent view of retirement, but that's what keeps me motivated. That's why I set aside a chunk of my income every month that I won't see for 25 years. I do it because someday it might be worth it. And that's my gamble.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Surviving Warcraft

I've got my play idea and two pages in the vault. The goal is to write another ten by Saturday at 5pm. Warcraft will suffer, but my conscience will be clean.

I don't know what it is about that game, but I can't get enough. My eyes are crusted over and bloodshot from not blinking, my back hurts, my butt's asleep, and there I sit clicking and clacking and slashing away. There's always another quest to complete, some elite creature to kill, or other imaginary goal to crush. I have a level 17 Tauren Warrior who specializes in mining and tailoring. He just reached 7 gold because he's an auction machine. It's an illusory accomplishment that fills me with short-term pride. I should be looking towards the future, not wasting hours of my life in mock battle, stimulating a fake economy with my hand-stitched linen britches, and dreaming about a kodo mount. I know it, you know it. Now I need to pry myself away, both mentally and physically, and get back to what really matters: hours in front of my computer typing out self-congratulatory smut.

Not much else to report. I haven't made any frivolous purchases or yelled at any homeless people lately. I'm slowly making my way through Bill Buford's "Among the Thugs." It fills me with the desire to drink and destroy, but it's a satsifying read and came highly recommended from my co-workers. And I've got my daily gym visit to keep any sociopathic tendencies in check.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Starting Over

It's a writing day, so really I'll spend most of it avoiding my desk. I'll think of all the productive things I should be doing instead: laundry, oil change, eating, exercise, cleaning, and so on. And then I'll feel guilty that I'm wasting so much time, time that could be infinitely better spent playing video games. You see, I'm all about conveniently patching over the moral potholes in my philosophy with industrial grade excuses.

I've got to come up with an idea for a play. I told the instructor I'd read something tomorrow. I didn't specify what, so in a pinch I could recite the phonebook on a technicality, but that's not exactly in the spirit of the workshop.

I overheard BF just say, "I am a totemic machine." He is deeply engrossed in the video game that cannot be named. For if I think too strongly on this game, it will consume me in its wanderlust.

The weather is grey and gloomy, perfect writing weather. I'm semi-clean and marginally hungry. I think I'll kick start the procrastination tango with a hearty bowl of Campbell's soup and maybe a stale tortilla. Then I'll pet the cat, take a nap, sort some clothing, and oh yeah, start chiseling.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Prepare for the Ides of March!

The playwriting workshop starts again Sunday and I'm not ready. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready. The idea of writing a full-length play is too monolithic for words. It's just one big block of stone and my hands are covered in petroleum jelly.

BF and I are off to Yosemite at May's end. I'm entering the next and longest stage of the vacation process: planning mode. I bought a second Camelbak last week so BF won't die of dehydration on the purple mountains majesty. (Translation: I don't plan on sharing my water.) And then I bought hiking shoes sight-unseen -- that is, if you count buying over the internet as sight-unseen. They have Vibram rubber soles that I'm assured "apply torque on rough terrain." (Translation: they were half-off and I didn't do any research.) Speaking of roughin' it, I'm looking to make dinner reservations while we're there. Some place nice. Preferably a place that BF has to wear pants -- that's my barometer of quality. By night, we'll sleep on cots in tent cabins and by day we'll dine on fine cuts of meat. Ah, paradise -- now with communal showers!

I said to BF, "I'm starting to think of our Yosemite trip as a live-action World of Warcraft adventure without all the killing."

I got a tsk, tsk out of him.

I'm going to see a play tonight in Carpinteria called, "Habeas Corpus." The actor who played the monster in my play has a featured role, and I told him I'd go. It's not that I don't mind breaking promises, because I do it all the time, it's just that I prefer to think of it as a low-level quest that'll net me easy experience points. And maybe the act of dunking myself in theater will generate some much-needed inspiration. Try as I might, I'm not finding what I need inspiration-wise in the delightful fantasy that is World of Warcraft. Although I make a mean linen bag...

It's been over a month since LASIK and I can still see. I can't rub my eyes 'til May, but I can read fine print on my television set. Operation: success!

After a month long break (and an inconsistent use of hyphens), I've started sweating on schedule again. By that I mean, going to the stupid gym. If I don't go regularly I get all these weird random shooting pains, but if I do go regularly I get all these slow, dull, persistent aches. Ask me in the middle of my workout which is better and I'll just kick you in the face. That is, I'll push the stop/pause button on the treadmill, calmly step to the floor, and deliver a round-house kick to your chin. Blood will fly out your nose. And you will probably cry. So don't ask.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


I guess I can tell you. You deserve an explanation.

I am addicted to World of Warcraft.

Phew. No more secrets.

I play a lot. I fish and cook and do first aid. I tailor and I mine. I sell green linen shirts at the auction house. I'm hip to all the acronyms, and I can make my Tauren warrior cry.

He has a good heart, even if he is Horde.

The chat commands still trip me up. And people who invite me to join their guild without introducing themselves, these people confuse me. I don't make that kind of commitment without an introduction! I could talk about the game for hours I think, which is why I should never start. Right now I'm mining and tailoring, but my long term goal is engineering. I've got stacks and stacks of copper in my deposit box. I'd also like to make my own woolen bags. That'd be something all right. In the mean time I sell what I make at auction, and I do okay. And I kill things with my hands. Sometimes I use a blunderbuss or a mace, but BF tells me I should get my unarmed skill up so I can duel fisticuff style.

It's a whole secret fantastic world. Another Tauren (representing a real, live person) stood next to me while we were fishing and struck up a conversation. "How's the fishin'?" it asked. I answered something generic, it answered back, and that was that. Just one moment, a tiny slice of interaction with another human being, a total stranger. Then we went our separate ways to cook fish and kill things.


Our little kitten was fixed last Friday. We spent the weekend positioning her on blankets, eye-dropping Amoxycillin down her throat, and keeping Vash from playing rough with her. She's healing fine. The fur the vet shaved off is already growing back and her appetite is strong. We also had her implanted with one of those identification chips. It gets injected in the back of the cat's neck and is used by the pound and animal shelters to return strays to their owners. Now we just have to get one for Vash. Neither cat wears a collar and it's just a matter of time before one of them makes a mad dash for freedom.

We can't have that, can we?