Saturday, May 31, 2008

Follow the Bright Lights

After the Austin Lyric Opera performance last night of "The Bat" (with music by Johann Strauss as in Die Fledermaus and English lyric and hijinks by Esther's Follies) our friend Allan the playwright took this picture of us on the City Terrace with those alien looking lights on that little circular stage and a giant, thin tower of light that is on the building where we will have our future home.

I am incredulous that I have gotten so little done on the one hand and amazed at how much I have done on the other. Life is funny like that. I am in this state of pure euphoria, panic and confusion. I went out with some ladies and played tennis this morning which I haven't done in ages. It was fun and really took my mind off everything in spite of the fact that everyone was asking me about the stuff.

I keep packing up boxes for the movers to take and bags for me to take to the condo with various things I deem necessary to a civilized life. (Yeah, don't say it.) There will definitely be a many week period where whatever you want is wherever you are not. That may actually last quite some time because I think we will eventually store some things at our other house and, of course, the parking and storage being four floors down will mean that whatever you want is in storage or your trunk. But if we are lucky things will get simpler with every load of stuff that is tossed, preserved in its place or given away. Well, won't it? Won't life get simpler??? Really? Probably not. There will be new things to add to the confusion, new resistances to tossing newer things and, of course, the inevitable decay and obsolescence. So it goes. I suppose the important thing is to just take the next step. Or steps. And some of them will be trod next week.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Neglect, Regret and Paying Attention

This shot of an old piece of silver in the window of Let's Dish on South Lamar shows the whiffs of neglect. I had a couple of (cheap) silver wine buckets that went off to the thrift store the other day. They needed a bit of polish. Well, more than a bit. I left it to the next owner. I kept an (even cheaper) oversized chrome champagne bucket. I have forgotten just now where I put it but I figure I'll take it to the condo and ice down a bottle of champagne for when the ultimate toast needs to be made.

I've found many things around here that have been neglected I'm afraid. Objects that we thought we'd use left to collect dust. Souvenirs I couldn't leave a foreign land without and yet now sort of regret owning. I have found the relics of old attempts at organization that I now find amusing.

As we pile things in the front room to move to the condo and upset the flow of the rest of the house I regret things not being where I've come to expect them. I've had a few pangs of regret about leaving this place, too, I suppose, but mostly I regret being in the situation of straddling the two properties. I know in advance that whatever I want will be at the other place. I regret that we are doing a bunch of redecoration in the new place because it delays settling in. While still owning the house buys us time to deal with all the stuff I regret having to keep up with this one. I sometimes feel that I didn't enjoy the remodels we did here fully, but then I remember all the great parties in the great room and how much I've enjoyed our master suite for the last four years. I'm using FFP's office now and he probably got a lot of use out of this space. Still. I keep looking at things that I acquired and the promise they held when I paid the credit card bill and think "Gee, did I ever really need that?" If it's a gadget, I often ask "Did I ever actually learn to use it?"

So it goes. Some people are sanguine about using and losing things. If you saw the garage at my dad's place, you'd see that he believed in using, saving, reusing things for a lifetime. I think I got some of that and then mixed with a modern, disposable sensibility that leads straight to neglect and regret.

When I think of the river of stuff that was here in this house over the years but has gone away, I'm surprised there is anything left. But there is lots left. Sitting in piles, looking neglected.

It is one of those times in my life when I feel like it is hard to pay attention to what is going on. We are communicating with scores of people, it seems like, about closing our place, moving some stuff in and painting, building custom furniture, getting new AV equipment. Whenever I have a problem, I hire another expert and then I have to coordinate one expert with another.

But I'm moving on. Someday I'll get out of this house. I will have all my worldly goods in my condo or my other house. I'll forget about things I left behind and then one day, maybe in the window of a junk store I'm photographing, I'll see something and realize "I used to have something like that." But then I won't feel regret. I will feel amusement and relief. And, if I'm tempted, I'll buy the thing in the window.

Today we went to a restaurant for lunch. I picked up a book from FFP's car to read while we ate. Sitting in the restaurant, nothing to do but read it, I realized that I was enjoying it very much. I have had trouble finding time to read with that kind of focus and attention. I wish I thought things would get simpler soon. However, no, they will get lots more complicated before they get simpler. I delude myself into thinking that the day will come when I will wake up in the morning and realize that there is nothing I have to do that day to take care of residences or get rid of stuff and I will find some new way to complicate things and go buy something or plan a trip somewhere or start a project. Or, at least, check a book out of the library that I won't find time to read.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cutsomer Service

Is this a cigarette machine? Yes and no. Yeah, candy cigarettes. I took this at Big Top on South Congress, of course working hard to get my reflection Candy cigarettes. Innocuous enough I guess except for all that implication of imitating adults in a nasty habit, yada yada.

This is not a battle I'll fight. The youngsters I took to the candy store ignored the machine (and the chocolate bacon for that matter).

Big Top is delivering what they promise. Sweets of all stripes. Cheerful help. What more could you want?

Things are not so well in other customer service realms that I'm currently navigating. I called one provider of service for my old address, thinking I might migrate this service to my Dad's house. The result? They increased my bill for my current service. After threatening to do that and then getting management to say that they would not do that.

I had a 'final' walk through of our condo today. Yeah, they fixed some things. They broke some things in the process. They admitted they didn't fix the hot water heater, but they are 'having meetings' about 'final delivery from the contractor.' FFP said this meant that finger pointing was proceeding (at our expense?). You think?

I am so disappointed in the AV provider for the condo that I've decided not to spend any more money with them. (I'm already committed to an expensive set of surround speakers from them.) I have hired a consultant to help me buy components and flat screen TVs and to talk to the EPS guys. (Empty Polo Shirts.)

I had a very sad experience with the TV/Internet/Internet Phone provider (a monopoly for one year as I understand it). On my last foray to their call center, I was told that they had no record of my 'community' and therefore couldn't sell me anything. Today I bought a little LCD TV for the condo (online, Costco, selection assisted by my consultant above) and decided to try to schedule installation of the TV service. So, yeah. Four calls, or more, and every time I punched the button for 'new service' it hung up on me. I got through to a live person by selecting the choice for existing customers. I told them my problem. They transferred the hang up service. I called back, navigated to get a live person and told them I'd run out of time to buy something from them but that the new service choice wasn't working. Later I called and got through. I ordered my service. The person didn't say anything about Internet or phone. She said I needed to pay the installer for installation and my converter. "Can I use a credit card?"

"No. You have to have a money order." I'm totally serious. What does she think I am, drug dealer or homeless person? Finally it became clear that I could give her a credit card.

When we checked out our condo, I asked if the Internet worked. (It is supposed to be "included with the homeowners fee.") She (it's always a she at this point, a she who takes off her spike heels before entering your hardwood abode) said she didn't know and couldn't test it! I said, "I brought a laptop, can I test it?" She agreed. It didn't work. After we'd been through the punch list with mixed results she took us to an EPS that we'd talked to before. He was in a state of high bewilderment. He said our Internet would be installed 'when we got our TV service.' We would have to be assigned a user ID and password. This last info really threw him and he kept repeating it. He was using a (wired) Internet connection in the sales office we were in and seemed amazed that it worked. I told him that I had sent an e-mail to someone he had recommended the other day. This was about enhanced Internet service. He did not remember telling me this nor who it could have been. I asked if I would REALLY get Internet service when I got TV. He said that his installer was 'pretty good' and he hoped he wouldn't be too busy.

Holy crap. Customer service is dead. Well, except for a couple of my consultants. Even the Apple 'Genius' managed to insult me with a "don't call me we will call you" attitude although they did get us a new hard drive in only a week's time. Customer service rule? BE a genius. Don't call yourself one, though.

None of this surprises me, of course. And my only bully pulpit is this blog. But, yeah. Customer service. Dead. Oh. But. We like the concierge folks we've met at our new condo. So far they seem concerned, competent and interested in service. There is that.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Where Is My Head?

Between a bunch of relative visiting and the countdown to closing the condo and starting the move, I feel like I am losing my head. I also have been hearing the phrase "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" in my head.

So, yeah one niece flew in Tuesday and the rest arrived by car and another couple of cousins and some of their offspring at various times. Our house is a disaster so we didn't entertain anyone here except for a few minutes. I've had my fill of playscapes, toy shops, candy and ice cream for a while.

The downsizing effort is getting very weird and frazzled. We are getting more stuff ready to give away and I'm trying to pack up a few boxes for the movers with essentials for living in another chaos central in the condo while we work on it. I know that I'll ultimately be happy that I painted a little and put in custom shelves and custom closet fittings. But another part of me wishes we didn't have to go through all that at the other end. Tomorrow we see if they have fixed nicks and dings that we may in fact paint over. (Although most of the things were things that we were not touching, of course.)

We are going to move a little bit of permanent furniture and some temporary stuff (a couple of lamps, a folding table and some folding chairs for example). We hope to be able to 'camp out' down there if we wish while we are working on it. So we are trying to plan for stocking the bathrooms and the kitchen with a few things. It's crazy, like going on a trip or something.

I keep finding things I wish I'd cleaned out years ago and then I settle in to do something and I have everything where I can find it or things look a certain way and I think "maybe I'll miss this, maybe I won't like my condo setup." Of course, most of the time I say to myself that I can't wait to not have things scattered all over so much space and to be shut of a lot of the things stacked around here.


The picture was taken on South Congress of the window of Austin Art Glass. I didn't visit the store. Wouldn't be wise with little ones in tow. Nope, we visited the Kid Genius for toys and the Big Top for candy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Welcome to Austin

My great nephew looks bewildered. It was a dizzying day for me. I had a workout and did a few things at my house but mostly I bought food like whole milk, Ritz crackers, bananas. Frosted Flakes and peanut butter and tidied up my dad's house. Three separate trips to get groceries (HEB, Costco and Randall's, don't ask), a rush hour trip to the airport and a trip to get some takeout for dinner later I had settled my niece and this young man into the house. (He was delighted to find that cabinets opened in Dad's kitchen though not in his at home.) He looks a little confused here in baggage claim. Before ten o'clock the rest of the Colorado gang arrived, my other niece, her husband, her small daughter and the brothers of this guy, six and eight, who erupted from the van sputtering about Game Boy and their night in a motel and other exciting adventures with their aunt and uncle.

I am fretting about the condo, the move, selling my house and a zillion other things. But I'm going to have to worry about kid-friendly restaurants, playgrounds, etc. for a few days. The kids are cute and their great-grandfather enjoys seeing them. (Although by Sunday he may not be enjoying so much since they are all seven staying at his house.)

I may not be posting for a bit. Much to do and need to spend some time with this crowd, too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Initimate Confessions

Well, not really that kind of intimate. Just occurred to me to title it thus because of the photo. (Taken recently of mannequins at Let's Dish on South Lamar if I'm not mistaken. I like the wigs and the way the slips drape.)

I am almost completely paralyzed by trying to figure out what to do next. I took my dad to the doctor (his repaired retina is doing well so far) and did a few things around his house and then went to one of his banks and got him some money for his granddaughters and great grandchildren to spend while they are here. Tomorrow I'll do some more chores at his house, buy a few groceries for over there and pick up one of my nieces and her smallest son at the airport during rush hour. Wednesday at some point the other niece, her husband, their daughter and my other two great nephews arrive by car. Yikes. I reassured Dad that they will all leave on Sunday. He said he'd survive.

I have so much to do around here. I have lists and lists of lists. What the mover will move. What will we move. What we will wait to have delivered until something is painted or built. It's not cosmic. Repeat. Talked to one of the AV people. I asked about blank plates in the floor that the condo people said were speaker things. He said they didn't have anything in the floor! Uh, OK. This is going to be such fun. He is also having trouble sending me an e-mail, even though I sent him one that he can reply to! Bodes, if not the worst, a less than stellar customer experience. He did call me back finally, however.

OK. Just do something. Even if it is wrong.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

There's Something in a Sunday

I'm not sure I feel so all alone (a reference to a Kris Kristofferson song) since FFP and I have been interacting most of the morning and early afternoon. I do feel a little overwhelmed and sad, though. I think that's probably typical for someone a couple of weeks away from acquiring a new place to live that will then have to be decorated, redone, settled into, furnished and adjusted to. All the while, maintaining the old abode and getting it fixed up and things removed from it and somehow getting it sold. Adding to my list of things to fret about is a visit from a bunch of relatives. They are staying with Dad. They won't be here too many days and the hope is that they won't drive him crazy!

When we ask the people at the condo office to let us do something or get information, their standard response is "We know you are excited about moving in, but..." followed by some explanation about why we aren't seeing things clearly. Ha. Excited. No. Scared, weary, afraid I'm forgetting something, certain they are forgetting something. Yes.

So, yeah, we dug into some of our tasks today. We attacked the cabinets in our media room. What a graveyard of anachronistic media. Laser disks, VHS tapes, cassette audio tapes, CDs, LPs, DVDs. If we sell the house to the buyer of choice all the equipment will stay. (All these media have players in that cabinet!) Therefore we decided to leave the laser disks behind. Cassettes are going to thrift store or trash. A few VHS ones survived. I packed four boxes of CDs. Yikes. Perhaps more winnowing will occur at the other end? Yeah, right. We haven't addressed LPs or DVDs yet.

Lots of stooping and lifting. FFP made migas while I started on the job and then he did lots of getting up and down off the floor to get the lower shelves. Finally we lost the will to continue on this particular task and FFP went to get the cars washed. My car would never get washed if he didn't take it.

While I was eating my migas, I sat at the table in the big room (the media room) because our breakfast table only accommodates one person with newspapers spread out all over the place. (FFP said that soon we will have a table where we can both sit. Which is true because our table for the condo is bigger than the breakfast table in question. However, in this house we had two other tables steps away from this one in other rooms. One is gone now, but still. I think he has a point, though, but I'm sure we will be bumping into each other in the condo in more ways than this.) I looked out into the backyard I will soon abandon and watched a blue jay bedevil a junk iron sculpture of a bird. It's beautiful. But there is always something dying or something growing where it isn't wanted as in the vine shown above.

There is a funny feeling that you spent money on components and media and, really, when did you think you were going to sit down and listen or watch all this stuff? I turned the CD player on and we listened to a few CDs. I flipped on the cable first and discovered that all the premium channels were blocked. We haven't watched TV in that room for a while. I'd returned cable boxes from two other rooms and I figured they had messed something up. I called and, amazingly, I got a technician with a big brain. He found something in their "quirky" (his word) billing system that caused it. He checked a box and voilĂ ...we were getting the service we were paying for in that room. I mean we probably won't watch in there again for a while (ever?) but I hate it when things are like that. I still haven't gotten anyone with the company that is providing TV and such for our new condo to discuss it with me. And we are buying new (flat screen) TVs. So it may be months before I have a DVR and stuff in the condo. Not watching TV for a while would probably be a good idea! We could listen to CDs! Watch DVDs! (Yeah, I have three Netflix titles sitting around in the bedroom.)

Meanwhile, the computer transition isn't going too swimmingly. I called the Apple Store on Tuesday and Thursday. Both times the part was going to be in 'the next day.' Thursday the genius said "and then we will fix it and call you when it's ready." Don't call us, we'll call you. This made my guru upset (he's the real genius, I think). He called and they said "the part is being shipped and it will be in tomorrow." Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I'm spending too much time trying to tweak computer environments. I seem to be a master at crashing machines. I crashed the Windows XP in the VMware as well as getting the iMac in a state where it wouldn't restart without a boot to the head. It all came back, but I've got to admit: I'm getting a little gun shy! Not that I'm not backing up everything and not that it isn't fun to break things, but sometimes you just want your computer to work!

But for the moment, I'm going to go through some more stuff. Maybe shred some old receipts. Maybe try to find some more stuff to get rid of. Maybe catalog a few things.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chaos and Randomness

There is nothing like wind, rain, hail and natural disasters to show you the profound randomness and transient nature of things. As people in Myanmar and China dig out from unthinkable rumblings of our earth and people around Central Texas look at damaged roofs, cars, broken windoows and toppled trees from our recent storm, we sit here, snug for the moment. We didn't even lose power Wednesday night. (The grocery store where FFP usually shops did, though, and we had to go to a second store for refrigerated and frozen items.)

Everything is like glass before the forces of nature. And the forces of manmade munitions. But someone survives (or has in our known past). (Picture is a detail from a photo taken at Art Works on West Sixth a couple of weeks ago.)

It certainly puts into perspective the uncertainties of moving and getting TV service installed in the new place and getting walls painted a different color. It makes you realize the nice thing about a financial cushion when you watch a shelter being set up in your own community for people without power. "I think I'd check into a hotel," I say. "Uh, yeah," says he. Of course, but for the grace of nature and all that. You never know. Keep your feelings of invulnerability in check, madam. Yes, I will.

Things happend. I'm wondering, by the way, how those palm trees and stuff on the pool deck (ninth floor, west side) of my new home fared in the storm. (It came in from the west and seemed to do the most damage on the west edge of things.) I think they plan to use that area for a grand opening which is, gulp, next Thursday.

Life comes at you fast, as the commercial says. Today I am really, really going to get some things done. Yes, I am. I will have relative duties next week as well as the craziness of all this, um, moving stuff. But at least we have no uprooted trees (at the moment) or broken windows. We aren't buried in rubble or surrounded by cholera-infested waters. There is that.

In the downsizing wars we had trouble filling the garbage can this morning but we scrambled around and found some more stuff to throw away.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Just Walk Away

All the careful sorting and allocating, all the 'finding the right home for an object' eventually winds up with the classic 'just walk away.' Garbage, curb, shredder, thrift store. Whatever. We discussed some of the objects with our potential buyer for the house yesterday. There was a general agreement on many things that we could simply leave in place for their temporary or permanent use. That felt good. There are still things here that other friends claim they want to buy or that we are just giving them.

The above is a handwoven wall hanging my mother made. It did hang in a room we have repainted. I had an idea to hang it at my dad's house where sailboats have become sort of an accidental theme in the living room. Mom made this by making a double layer of fabrics that intersected to make the drawing. 1976 is a significant year. Yeah, the bicentennial. Also the year FFP and I married. Currently I have forgotten where it is. I think I took it to Dad's, but I didn't hang it. It will show up again. It doesn't fit the decor of our tiny new condo. But I will always keep it somewhere, I imagine. Until, you know, ultimately I walk away for the last time.

I am a little nervous about all the corners we have to hammer down to get in the condo and out of here. But I am generally cheerful. Change is fun if nerve-wracking.

The downsizing went a little negative yesterday. I did queue up some stuff to give away and FFP shredded some stuff, but I bought a new coffee maker for the condo (it will be a temporary one and a spare when we move our Capresso) and also a kitchen trash can. The good news is that I'm going to ditch an old coffee maker and grinder and I believe I'll be walking away from our current kitchen trash can which is fine but a little too big for the condo. And, in information you probably didn't need, the trash chute at the 360 will accept 13 gallon sacks. Larger things can be left in the trash closet for the porter. Recycling will be downstairs somewhere. I'm envisioning my new environment. So far the vision is a good one.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Home Making and Lies We Tell Ourselves

One word that has been on my mind a lot lately is 'displacing.' The meaning I assign to it is a sort of psychological one. It is doing one activity to avoid another. Which is not to say that the activity done is useless although it may well be. I'm not sure that my definition is really correct. (I just displaced from writing this entry which is displacing me from lunch and a number of other things to try to see if my definition was correct and I've concluded it's probably not.)

Anyway, yeah. There are things that need doing. And I'm editing photos (the one above is going to become a favorite, see if you can see why) and writing a blog entry about not doing stuff.

One part of me says that by doing all this stuff on the computer I'm 'burning it in' to be sure that all is well. And, you ask (or maybe you didn't), how is it going with that other iMac which was supposed to be the condo solution for sleek computing environment for FFP? Well, Britney called from Apple. She is a genius, I guess. "We ran a test on your hard drive and found some bad sectors, too." She said she'd ordered another drive and it should be in tomorrow. She offered to transfer data but we'd wiped out most everything and my guru and I feel like starting fresh. I'm happy that we are going to have another go with a new hard drive, but sad that it happened.

I've a huge list of things to do from the ridiculous to the sublime, but (besides blogging) I've been calling providers of AV equipment and TV and Internet services for the condo. (This has been dissatisfying because the TV and Internet people can't find our 'community' in their data base and I got an answering machine for the company we already paid a lot of money to for the AV Surround Sound). Because, after all, what is a home without AV equipment, TV and Internet services....and coffee?

Yeah, coffee. FFP and I were discussing what to move to the 360 and we decided that since we will initially probably be spending most nights here (since our platform bed is being custom built) we would leave the Capresso here. This baby is one of our prized possessions. We decided we'd probably buy a more conventional cheaper coffee maker as backup and to use at the condo until we got the Capresso there so guess what? I looked online at coffee makers! Of course.

Making a home nest is complicated in our digital age. There's the issue of Internet, the home network, TV, sound, etc. without which really it's not a home. The condo has a data cabinet that is supposed to assist in hooking up phones and Internet. In our walk through the assistant was surprised to find a tangle of loose wires there. Hmmm.

Then there are the more mundane things like trash cans, coffee makers and toilet paper. In re that last item, FFP and I had to laugh at the instructions from the condo people about the low flow toilets. ("You may find it necessary to change your use habits (e.g. space loads and flush more often).") We have replaced two of the toilets in our current home with the still low-flow but more expensive Totos that use some kind of vacuum action for better flushing. Better add a plumber's friend to the list of essential condo items!

A lie I've told myself through all this displacement when I've been sitting here messing around with the computer is that I'm 'burning in' this environment for the condo and that the result will be a better, sleeker computing environment for the future there. Of course, with the iMac for FFP the burning in did turn out to reveal a problem.

Anyway, things are going along here. We make progress by fits and starts, I guess. And the deadlines will come no matter what and we will race around, making snap decisions and seeing to the absolute necessities. I think I'll displace to have a late lunch. Since I missed breakfast and I worked's time.

Doing one thing and not another here, but I think I'll quit

Monday, May 12, 2008

How Did That Go?

I know you are out there, fans of the moving/downsizing debacle (not really a debacle but isn't that a great word?). Anyway, yes we had our inspection. And, yeah, we have a long punch list and we are sending our contractors back for some measurements and getting a licensed inspector to inspect it, but generally we are almost giddily happy about the place. Long punch list or not (most are minor things but certainly ones that need fixing) we love the place and while it isn't huge I think we are going to learn to love it immensely and, having discarded our way to a fighting trim that fits in the place, be happy there for years to come. The above view looks across our neighbors' balcony to the Long Center. We have been at the Long Center a fair amount during its triumphant opening and standing on the City Terrace we have been pointing out our balcony so we knew we would be able to see the Long Center from there. Still, it was exciting to take this picture.

This picture is directly across Nueces from our balcony. The cars in the foreground are on top of the State parking garage. The structure in the lower right delivers chilled water for air-conditioning to surrounding buildings and they pointed out our own chilled water in our mechanical closet. I didn't get a picture but if you look northeast you see the Capitol.

We had enough time on our appointment to get a quick tour of the gym, party room and media room. There is still a little construction around the pool but the pool is there and filled. I was thrilled that they have the exact kind of recumbent bike that I like. It has a personal TV like all the machines. I thought putting the 360 logo on the benches and stuff was a bit much but who is to argue???

The people running the inspections and such are using a one bedroom on the ninth floor. We asked if we could step out on the balcony while they made copies and they said sure.

I went back in and ask, "Did you know there is broken glass on the balcony?"

They said a pane of glass broke on the seventeenth floor. Yikes. Hope no one drops a martini while I'm on my balcony.

I'm feeling very urban and I'm in a pretty good mood, but now we really need to get some stuff done. Yikes.

Oh, and about the iMac. My computer guy dropped it off and I received the following e-mail from the Apple Store. Yeah, well, I wonder how long it will take for the Genius to call!

Thanks for making a QuickDrop. You have dropped off the following item:

Your Reference number is: Q01337051
Product: iMac (20-inch Mid 2007)
Date: Monday, May 12, 2008
Time: 10:36AM
Location: Apple Store, The Domain
Reason: pro care tech tools deluxe reported many bad sectors in the hard drive

A Genius will contact you at 5125551555 when they have completed their diagnosis.

Is it just me or is that Genius thing Apple asserts a kind of hubris??

So, yeah, I'm here, I'm cheerful, what else do you want? My in-laws don't want to go out tonight but I think I'll treat my dad anyway. Smiling, here. Because really...great views don't you think? And I'm just going to have to walk across the hall to the exercise room and a few more feet and I'm on my bike looking out over the pool deck and to the west, watching the Spring condominiums rise at Lamar and Bowie.

So, enough blogging. Off to throw something away!

We Are There...More Good Cheer?

We will be inside the tall building there that is framed by the columns of the Long Center Ring. We will actually be there today, doing our first inspection. We will be back in the public area for a party on May 22. We are trying to line up another visit for our contractors and we have a final visit on May 27 to check that things on the punch list are fixed. We close on June 2 and start trying to make that 1225 square foot condo our home for a good deal of the rest of our life. Or so we hope. I am weary about it all, really. Tired of hammering down the hundred and one details of moving. (One forgets how much there is to it when one hasn't done it for 30 years. Although we did move FFP's office out and then back into the house and we did remodel four times.)

My post about my dad elicited a couple of e-mails and a couple of comments at a party. An old friend clicked and blew up the picture and was nostalgic about my mom and hers. One friend thought we needed more good cheer in this space. I don't guess my computer woes of yesterday qualified, did they? The guru and I decided it was a hard drive problem. He put up a surface scan tool yesterday afternoon. At the moment it says it is on Step 132,031,873 of 624,470,624. It has found 306 errors. The part of the disk it is working on is going exceedingly slow probably because of error retries. I am leaving it running until my guy returns. He is going to take the machine back to the Apple Store. Makes me glad we didn't mail order it. Makes me sad that I got a lemon. We were pretty sure that was the case, but it took a while to figure out it had to be the disk. (I don't know: input/output error should have triggered it but there was other weird behavior.) Running side-by-side with the one that isn't working is an identical machine EXCEPT we bought it with a wired keyboard and mouse and bought the wireless ones separately so I could have a keypad or so FFP could try it or for some other reason I've forgotten. So they probably came from different manufacturing lines although we bought them on the same day. I am cheered that the one I chose to invest my whole computing effort in and to move all my stuff to and start using on an everyday basis is working. So, yeah, cheerful about that...although suspicious of the environment by association and a little nervous about having my life on this machine. (Oh, yeah, I have backed up data files on the Internet and external drives. But still when you lose your little comfy computer world it is beyond distressing.)

Am I happy, though, about getting to see the condo? I guess. More nervous. Inspections are contentious often and I don't like confrontation. Already we are begging the people for another appointment for our contractors and to allow an independent inspector to make a report. But, yeah, I am sort of excited and happy. It is a first step to a simpler life, I really believe. And although divesting of the house appears to be a long process (you think?) we will eventually get it done.

Spent Mother's Day Motherless. We decided to take FFP's Mom out on a different, less busy day and he spent a few hours over there with his parents, doing a jigsaw puzzle with them. He took him mom a plant and a card. We will take all the parental units out this PM or some other day.

I am really very lucky. Lucky to be healthy enough to contemplate a move and sometimes I'm having fun with it. Having fun giving away bookcases and other furniture to young people and just generally getting rid of piles of stuff. The computer problems would be daunting but I can afford to have my guru and his good cheer is worth a lot. FFP and I are lucky to have each other and to enjoy our retirement together. Life is good. Just a little busy just now.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Computer Addiction, Computer Affliction

This is an error I'm getting in VMware running Windows XP on an iMac I'd hoped to configure for FFP to use. Once it recovered from this error. Another time it not only lost the entire XP machine but was sort of taking over the Mac side when I tried to restart after this. This time I've left the persistent message which pops up after every retry. Do you find translucent windows disconcerting? Me, too.

I took a picture of the screen from the Apple side for this image. I'm learning a bit about Apple's OS X. (OS 10.5.2 to be exact.) I would convert to Apple only there are programs I don't want to convert. There are so many decisions in one's computing environment.

Forrest hadn't started to use the Apple machine and is still banging away on his ancient (by computer standards) Dell with Win 2K Pro on it. I'm a little frightened that I will suddenly see this death or near death message on my iMac. Because I have converted to it and have not powered on my old (very old in computer years) XP Sony in a few days. I've moved all my files and applications here. I am liberally backed up with a VWare image of this machine on the Apple Time Capsule and nightly backups of important documents to an Internet service and also to the Time Capsule. I still have the documents I moved here on an external drive, on the Sony and I made another backup of my collection of pictures to the Time Capsule. No amount of backups make you feel better, though, if your computer becomes a boat anchor and you have to have guru assistance to get running again. I like to sit down at my computer as I am now and check e-mail, write a blog entry, look up information, do my bookkeeping, write my journal, edit some pictures and just not have that nagging worry that it will quit working. I have had a few odd glitches with this machine but mostly it has run beautifully under stress. If it's physically identical companion four inches away wasn't misbehaving, well, I'd feel pretty confident.

So to add to the mysteries and concerns we had an electrical storm last night. The gum and safety pin wired network in this house wasn't working when we got home from a party. I finally walked it through carrying my laptop from place to place starting at the cable modem (rebooted) to the wired/wireless router connected to that. (Got the wireless working, wired worked directly, replaced the hub connecting to the other part of the house.) Went upstairs and tried the wire that goes up there directly in my laptop, couldn't get the hub up here working, replaced that. It wasn't nearly that straightforward either. I had to pirate the hub for up here from one I had across the room connecting my old Sony and an Internet printer. I thought the printer might work directly but it doesn't. My guru reserved an IP address for it but it doesn't seem to be talking.

Good thing my guru is coming this morning, huh? However, right now things are stable. I always feel bad for FFP as he looks helplessly on, unable to use his computer (because without an Internet connection computers feel useless these days.) He checked his e-mail in the wee hours and looked at a WEB site he heard about at the party.

Am I hoping things can be less complicated in the condo? Yep. Of course, this iMac that is acting up was part of the effort to streamline things.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Disappearing Dad

In some ways my dad is so much more in my life these days. Every morning, first thing, before or during my first cup of coffee, I usually call him. We joke and I check on a few things and see what he's doing and planning. If I forget to call, he will often call me so I won't call when he's in the bath or busy making his breakfast. If he needs anything serious, I'm there for him. I take him to doctors and surgery and do errands when he isn't up to it. These days a trip to the grocery store is usually too much for him. He is shrinking and one shoulder seems dipped down.

This picture was taken a bit over ten years ago, in August 1997. Dad is toasting something on board a small ship that we (my parents, two aunts and an uncle) took through the waterways of Russia. (That's my late mother in the background looking pretty good herself.) My dad wasn't exactly moving fast then, but he stood stronger, straighter, taller. I was watching out for all these old folks and pointing out the many uneven pavements and step ups and other hazards. He wasn't the one I worried about the most since one of my aunts had injured her arm before the trip started and the other one fell at the airport in Russia and pulled up a bit lame for the trip and my mother had a history of blackouts and falls.

I was taking Dad on an outing on Wednesday and I was thinking how small he seemed, how I seemed to tower over him now as he wheeled his walked along at the mall where we were going to get him a haircut.

Will he just shrink until he disappears? It is sad. I remember this feeling of towering over my grandmother as she shrank, but I was taller to start with. Then the feeling of being taller than my mother when actually I had been shorter until her spine started to compress.

My dad had a world class wanderlust. It is a gene, I think, and there are lots of people in areas like Texas that were fairly recently frontiers that have it. Unfortunately, he didn't have much money with which to scratch the itch to travel. So we patched together road trips on cheap gas, relatives' extra beds and campgrounds. As he gradually had more money there were motels, hotels, even airplanes. At some point in the '90's my parents realized that they had driven through or visited all 48 contiguous states. They took a cruise to Alaska and then, of course, Hawaii loomed. Somehow they talked me into booking a cruise around the islands for their 55th wedding anniversary in 1996. I joked that soon they'd be getting passports and filling in the countries. Sure enough, they did get passports and went off on a tour of the England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. My dad loved beautiful, green Ireland and thought he could live there. Or maybe it was the stout and whiskey. So it wasn't a huge leap for them when my aunt suggested they go along on a cruise on the Russian waterways.

My parents had a friend living in Germany and she was urging them to come visit while she was there, but they never got it done while my mother was alive. They continued driving to Colorado and having adventures and they participated with me and two friends in a great road trip in 1998. They put a lot of energy into moving in 2000. It took a lot, too, with 33 years worth of my dad's pack rat, use everything depression era ways and my mother's stuff magnet hobbies (miniatures, spinning, weaving). My dad was energetic during that move. I went back to Mesquite with him one last time with a trailer so he could transport back here rocks, fossils, plants, one pet box turtle living in the yard and some sad lawn furniture. Dad had energy then and he was standing tall. He hung bird feeders in his yard, had an outdoor shed built for seed and yard things, planted and poked about. There is no energy for this now. The giant ferns he has cultivated on the glassed-in porch no longer get re-potted and it is usually the maid who waters them.

My dad is much more of a presence, more of a concern to me. But physically he seems to be disappearing, shrinking, leaving me a millimeter at a time. On the phone, he occasionally sounds like my strong dad of old. The one who rescued me in cars that broke down, throwing on a tow chain around my bug's bumper or who handled tasks requiring strength and agility well beyond anything I ever managed. Now if he drops something on the floor, he has to maneuver around with his 'grabber' on his walker to get it up. In the morning he makes a trip to the curb with his walker that has brakes and a basket and gets his paper with the grabber. His world is shrinking, too. He does get out for activities, but it wears him out to do so and long trips are out of the question. He did renew that passport he got in the late nineties, but only for an extra form of ID. He doesn't really see himself leaving the country again. In fact, his granddaughters and their four small children are coming for a visit because jumping in a car and driving to Colorado is no longer an option. He and mom used to do this even in the winter. Getting on a plane seems daunting, too. After my mother died, Dad and I managed several car trips to Colorado and Dallas. He made that trip to Germany and then went back a few years later with a friend and they also visited Austria, England and Iceland. He checked off a few more countries than my mom ever made. He said of the younger (my age) women who took him on this trip: "Everywhere those girls wanted to go was uphill." But he made it. Now it is clearly out of the question. It's hard to say when the corner was turned.

All of us Boomers (the ones who haven't already been consumed by stroke or cancer or diabetes or heart disease or something) think they we won't shrink. That we can be larger than life for all time. That we won't diminish, disappear, sag into gravity and finally return to the earth. But we will. When we look at our shrunken parents, we are looking into the future. A smaller and smaller future.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Do You Ever Have Those Times?

Do you ever have times when it seems that everyone is treating you like a child except your parent? That everyone who works for you is trying to tell you what you must do and what they refuse to do and why their offereings are ironclad and only make sense, you fool! I am the customer and people think that means that they get to tell me what the rules are, that they get to tell me that they are sorry but it is 'policy.' Some of them refer to another 'they' which is apparently a part of their company, perhaps a person who doesn't work there anymore or some unassailable management person who is unreachable for the likes of me, and this 'they' has either not kept good notes, or has carefully researched how things should be done.

I'm sorry, but sometimes I'd like people to remember that I'm the customer. If you don't want to cooperate in being the vendor please don't be strident and please don't treat me like a child. Just face that you aren't pleasing me and move on.

Not having a good time of it. The exception is my computer guy who came over here Sunday and worked and worked on my computers but adamantly refused to take money because he was just "getting us back to where we were." I told him it was not his fault we had a hardware or software problem but he was adamant. I'll make it up to him, of course, but it so made me feel like a customer. And not a stupid customer who just didn't get it either.

Photo was taken in the Second Street District of the window at Mercury in April. That phrase 'Take a Seat' was used I'm sure to sell chairs but to me it has those overtones of "you are being ripped off so sit down and take it, customer." So I'm not sure I'd use it to sell even the handsomest of chairs.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


We went to Larry Peel's 75th Birthday Benefit Roast on Monday. Caymus Vineyards provided some excellent wine and the ladies in this picture probably had a glass. Or two. Me, of course, Ann Clark, Diane Carr, Megan (Larry's assistant, her last name eludes me) and Deborah Peel. This was taken as the last of the party broke up. I showed Deborah's shoes on Austin Daily Photo. So I thought I'd show our smiling faces over here.

I am not getting enough done these days. I seem to swither, hovering over my 'to do' list, thinking that organizing it will actually get the work done. As if. Plus I continue to swither over my new computer environment and, I confess, enjoy learning some new things. It's a joy to type on this new sleek screen. I also confess that when I have 'duties' to take me away from the house and my 'to do' list that I am relieved. Today I am taking my dad to lunch, helping him tidy up the house and taking him for a haircut. And I have a board meeting this evening. On the one hand I'm delighted when there is a blank day on the calendar. On the other I'm glad something hanks me away. Go figure.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ups and Downs

This is the Apple Store at the Domain where they are pushing iPods for Mother's Day, I guess. I seem to have had a lot of highs and lows lately, both physically and emotionally. I think it is a result of all the change and uncertainty going on in my life. Does it make me nervous that we have our inspection tour of our condo on Monday? Wow, yes. Does the uncertainty about selling our house make me nervous. Sure. Am I envious that some of my tennis buddies are going off on interesting trips? Yep. Am I worried about the long term care of our parental units and, short term, about a visit from my nieces and four greats (niece and nephews)? Uh-huh.

On the other hand after a nice humid but not too hot day tennis game wherein I had some interesting shots and then an hour of working out and reading, I did feel good and alive and the little physical ailments had melted away. (Was that a little hangover this morning?) That Advil didn't hurt either, did it?

I'm making peace also with the computing environment I'm trying to create for the future. I'll still need some assistance from my guru and I have yet to form a strategy for talking FFP into wanting to try the new setup. (Didn't help he heard me grumbling over the difficulties there.) I'm actually spending way too much time fooling around with the computers. It's a great way to displace from going through old moldy files of business records or trying to figure out more stuff to discard or give away from this house.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Brighter (Pink) Mood

I owe the pink in this refection picture to the Planet Cancer Flamingo-a-GoGo Fund-Raiser. They used the pool deck at the new AMLI downtown to host this big party. This is an image of the party in the glass of the exercise facility. A careful, perhaps enlarged, view will reveal the 360, our future home.

Am I in a better mood today? Maybe. Maybe not. I left a zero out of a bank account number and was as a consequence late paying a credit card. I am not hopeful on the computer problem front although this machine seems to be behaving perfectly. One problem I had (sound wouldn't work on the Windows image) has even magically cleared up at the moment. Perhaps to make up for the very bad behavior of the other box? My computer guru comes to look today. I think he is perhaps TOO hopeful and if it's a long, drawn out process FFP may be using his ancient box until and after we move. Although my guru ought to have more time when school is out.

I shouldn't let these little things get me down. We had a nice time at the party last night and then we listened to some older folks' music at III Forks and had some food there. It was a pleasant evening. I have enough money, I don't have cancer, one day this move will be a memory. Chin up. Cheer up. We are going to a benefit this evening for an individual who does have cancer. Friday night we celebrated with another couple. They have been married ten years as of Friday. They got married in our back yard. She has cancer. Cancer appears to be a theme of the weekend. But chin up, it's part of the chaos. On we go.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Chaos, Entropy and Inevitability

Actually the full title of my credo is: Chaos, Entropy and the Inevitability of Death. But just inevitability is OK, too.

Yesterday when I got up and came upstairs to do my computing of the morning the iMac I had been configuring for FFP was giving errors in the software that allows the computer to run Windows. Distressing because the error was on the big file that really is your windows 'disk.' Worse it was locked up even for Apple functions. It gradually responded a little but getting Windows going again was no-go. If I'd taken a Snapshot somehow it got corrupted, too. FFP hadn't started to use the computer, but I'd invested a lot of time installing and configuring software and moving snapshots of the files. I'd also been working on scanning in business card stuff he used to keep in an old-fashioned Rolodex. I'd backed it up once but not my most recent version. (Rule of computers: If there is a crash, you will lose one file's latest version no matter how meticulously you back things up.)

Now the scariest part of this is that, essentially, the computer and software I'm typing this on is identical to the one where the Windows went away. That other computer seems to be running OS X fine (although there are some weird messages so I'm not so sure), but, of course, we are far from evolved enough to rely solely on Apple. Yeah, so the really scary thing is that this (mostly identical) setup that I am, in fact, typing this blog on, has been not only configured and stocked with files. But I've started downloading pictures, updating spreadsheets, refining my environment, updating my journal, etc. Now I also started backing up a bunch of essential files to the Time Capsule and to an Internet backup service. But my last computer, a big ugly slow and low on memory five-year-old (or more) Sony seems as slow as a caveman. Plus, of course, it is now a bit behind on the latest versions of files.

We should expect it, though. Computers are complicated mini-reflections of our lives with lots of tweaks, preferences and files we've created. And there is the inevitablility of the tumbling down. The falling away and erosion until the shiny computer and it's brain that is a mini-you is only and oozing pool of toxic waste.

Death is inevitable, too, but regardless of our situation, whether we are gravely ill or old or seem to be in fairly good shape, we don't know when it comes. And until it does, we are updating files in our heads and making calendar entries planning for the future. Knowing that all is chaos, entropy and inevitability doesn't really buy us anything except a kind of peace, knowing that really we can only keep it together for so long. Hmmm...I was a little disturbed to find that I already had labels for 'death, chaos and entropy.' But you don't come here for the cheer and joy, do you? I didn't think so. Now you can turn away from the computer and go confidently through your day, knowing you have it more together than someone. Me, I have to go play tennis.