Friday, February 22, 2008

My Family And Other Irritants

It snowed overnight.

Mrs Stevie, resplendent with bruised face1 and suffering2 from a bad back for Lo! these many years decided that the best policy was not to awaken me so I could wield the mighty Troll3 against the forces of nature. No, she would "go it alone" with a snowshovel, and thus guarantee a weekend of pain and misery for all.

Of course, we still had the prospect of driving several on the 5-inch thick blanket of snow to Huntington Hyundai to pick up the fabulous Steviemobile, but just as I was getting everything together Mrs Stevie drove off in her car for points unknown.

I expressed bafflement to the Stevieling.

"Where in Azathoth’s name is that demented woman going?" I shrieked. "We're supposed to be getting my car back from the extortion mill that is Huntington Hyundai!"

"She's gone to take Bil the Elder's phone battery back to him" answered the child. "Don't bother calling because she told me she is incommunicado!"

Mrs Stevies eldest brother, Bil the Elder, owner of the fabled iBrik, possibly the most useless piece of computer electronics ever to rest on the face of the Earth, had a cell phone malfunction last week in which the charging socket disintegrated. He brought it round to my house, no doubt under the mistaken belief that I would ever in a million years undertake another repair job on any of his technology adjuncts. I allowed him to use my 11-bux-off-the-interweb battery charger and apparently he took this as a permanent arrangement. Once again the urge to use Finesse4 is almost overpowering me.

Mrs Stevie had charged his phone battery overnight using my charger, and was now returning it. This would not normally have induced such a rage in me, except that time was getting away if I wanted to catch a train before noon and Bil the Elder lives on the way to Huntington Hyundai and we could have saved time by stopping at his apartment en route.

I was puzzled by the "incommunicado" bit though. We have expensive and at the moment increasingly inconvenient comms infrastructure in place to negate just this sort of situation. I polled the Stevieling for more information.

"Why in the name of Shub-Niggurath has she gone off without her cell phone?" I screamed. "Where is the sense in that?"

"Dunno" replied the child and withdrew from theater

And so I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And called Bil the Elder on his cell and got his voice mail since he obviously still didn't have his bleeding battery back.

Mrs Stevie eventually hoved into view, and I gently probed her for information.

"Why the hell didn't you take your cell phone with you?" I screamed, veins audibly popping from my brow with barely suppressed, yet righteous, rage.

"What are you babbling about? I had my phone!" the vile harridan insolently spat back.

"Then why were you refusing to use it?" I enquired at volume 11 and at frequency levels rapidly approaching those employed in the manufacture of silent dog whistles. My vision was becoming red due to the number of blood vessels that had burst in my eyeballs on account of my apoplexy.

Mrs Stevie whipped out her phone and peered at it in the short-sighted squint she uses to look at stuff carefully and to curdle milk.

"I'm not seeing any missed calls" she snarled.

"Why would I call? You told the Stevieling you were incommunicado!" I howled, every hair on my body erect so strong was my rage.

"I told her Bil the Elder was incommunicado!" she frothed.

At this point we agreed that although the Stevieling deserved to have all her TV rights revoked, her computer privileges rescinded and other stuff we were too angry to come up with at that moment, the hour was late and we had to get under way.

We went out to the car, whereupon Mrs Stevie said "Wait here for me" and ran back to the house and shut the door. The Stevieling and I sat in the car as the snow deepened on the windshield.

Suddenly, Bil the Elder's car swung into the driveway, parking so as to prevent us getting out without maneuvering. This is his trademark. No matter how much space there is in our 5 car driveway, he manages somehow to park so as to use at least three cars worth of spaces.

"Is my sister here?" He called as he got out of his almost-parked car.

"In the house. What do you need?" I asked.

"I need to talk to my sister" he helpfully answered.

"She's in the house. Please don't block us in like that" I said, with just a hint of the rage I had so recently suffered.

"I won't be long" the blockhead said, and walked up to the (closed) front door.

Where Mrs Stevie let him languish (and us too, of course) for about three or four minutes.

When she did emerge, their conversation was extremely short. She got in the car, Bil the Elder backed onto the road in front of our driveway and obliviously span his wheels to give the road in front of our house, already an accident magnet, a mirror smooth polish before disappearing into the falling snow. Mrs Stevie began cursing in the low, continuous way she has, and I managed to glean that the problem was that Bil the Elder's flatmate had not told him his battery had been returned. He had driven all the way over to our place to get the battery that she had driven all the way to his place to give to him.

I thought we were off to get the Steviemobile, but Mrs Stevie obviously thought we weren't late enough and so decided to drop off the Stevieling first in a fifteen minute digression in the opposite direction to the car dealership. This brought on a case of the snarls from me, and I think she began to understand my tolerance for any more dicking about was at an end. We drove to Huntington Hyundai.

I recovered the car, after paying a bill that exceeded the estimate by 100 bux and thereby causing several of the less important internal blood vessels of my heart to spontaneously rupture, then I drove to the station, where I found that Mrs Stevie had contingency plans in the event I thwarted the Battery Delay Ploy and Operation Drive The Wrong Way For A Quarter Of An Hour: She had somehow managed to get the 8:51 train cancelled.

Fortunately, most of my fellow commuters are a bunch of weak-kneed milksops and they used this, and the snow, as an excuse to go home. This meant that despite the dastardly Mrs Stevie/LIRR collusion, there were still seats when the 9:33 appeared.

At 9:45.

With the mandatory 15 minute layover in Jamaica (Not The Good One) and some piffling delays along the short section of track 'twixt Jamaica and Flatbush Avenue, I got to work around 11:30.

I was the only one here.

  1. From a fall in the car park outside her office two nights ago
  2. Unquietly
  3. The Snowblower Of Supreme Spiffiness
  4. My claw hammer

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Matters Arising From High Finance And Improvised Ear Maintenance While At Work, With Special Reference To The Bloody Car Dealership

Two days ago the half yearly car insurance bill was due, so Mrs Stevie gaily called them and had the $1200 costs deducted from a credit card.

My credit card.

A raging ear infection I've had for a week has necessitated the use of ear drops that not only cure the infection, but melt the wax in there too. As a result, bubbles of liquefied goo have been periodically robbing me of my hearing and then explosively clearing with FX inaudible to others but deafening (literally) to me. Yesterday it became so non-stop and intolerable I thought I would go mad and I spent half the day trying to claw the insides of my own ear out with anything to hand (which is probably how I got the infection in the first place). Last night I syringed out the ear with a commercially available bulb syringe, blotted out the moistiure with a cotton swab and I'm pretty sure I punctured the eardrum in the process. The hearing loss was immediate and there was free flow of blood probably originating from some important part, but at least the incessant popping and crackling was gone so it's not all bad. I think I can see where Van Gogh was coming from now, although admittedly his problem was that he didn't have enough cerulean blue and had forgotten to buy turpentine and so lost a fortune in brushes when the paint in them hardened rather than an earfull of molten wax. Another trip to Doc Rubberglove's House o' Humiliation is probably called for.

This morning I took the fabulous Steviemobile to the dealer for a three thousand mile service, the investigation and cure of the recently acquired handbrake-freezes-in-cold-weather syndrome and a NY State inspection. The two remaining readers of this blog will shudder in rememberance of the last time I did this sort of thing at Huntington Hyundai and I have to admit to a small tremor of homicidal rage when I flashed back a year while at the service counter, but that mood passed when the lady booking me into the computer pulled a face and asked me when the last oil change had been. This is important because although Hyundai call for an oil change every 4500 miles, the warranty requires that it happen every 3K miles.

I looked up from the rooting through the bagged paperwork and said "It was done at the 24K mile service, here".

She shook her head and said the last record she had was at 18K miles. I told her I'd had the 21K mile oil change done at a different place (which was true) and that they should have done it when I brought it to them for the 24K mile service.

"It's not automatic" she said, which left me flabbergasted, since without the oil change there is precious little meat on a 3K mile service. I had an ace up my sleeve though.

"Well, I know it was done" I said, and as she shook her head I pulled out the service logbook, which I insist they sign and date each time a service is done. I opened up the logbook, traced my finger to the entry (which was for the wrong mileage, but that's due to the 4500/3K mile discrepancy between the published schedules and the required-by-contract ones and of no import) and asked "What does a red 'R' mean"?

"Inspect and replace" she said

"Well, according to this signed, dated entry in the official service log for this car, you inspected the oil and filter and replaced it."

I drive the car so little (about 6K miles last year) that I'm not concerned about the mechanical issues of not replacing the oil. I'm bothered by getting charged for it if they didn't do it, and I'm bothered by them not paying attention, and I'm bothered that a 3K mile service doesn't include an oil change as standard. I'm bothered most of all that these clowns could put my warranty in abeyance by lack of due dilligance. It's all right though. If push comes to shove I have my secret weapon - Mrs Stevie and the lawyers she works for. One or the other usually suffices to frighten the living crap out of most New York businesses attempting to cheat us.

I Left the car and Mrs Stevie took me to Farmingdale Station so I could come to work.

The woman is all heart.

I arrived to find a message waiting for me from Huntington Hyundai that they needed to do the rear brakes (only 3mm of lining left, but I drive like such a granny that they haven't begun to give out the low-lining squeal yet) and they want to replace the timing belt - normally due at twice the mileage I've put on the car but the recommendation is also every four years and there's that pesky warranty to keep valid so the bottom line was would I authorize work "valued" at 700 bux?

I'll have to trust that a timing belt replacement actually involves replacing the timing belt, which, considering the recently shattered 3k mile/oil change preconception, is not a given by any stretch of the handbrake cables (replaced this morning under warranty).

I'll just add that 700 (plus another 25 or so in taxes not mentioned openly until they present the bill) to the already near-melted credit card then.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Massacre

Last night Mrs Stevie began issuing instructions.

"Flowers are a waste of money. Don't buy me any flowers!" she said.

"Hadn't thought of doing so" I said. "Why isn't the TV working?"

"Your daughter was playing Pokemon Challenge 2010 Ultimate Edition earlier. She must have changed one of the remote control settings" said Mrs Stevie. "I don't want any gifts either. No DVDs, like The Bridges of Madison County or Like Water For Chocolate . No books either. I don't want to find you've wasted a lot of money on one of those historical novels or biographies I like".

"You won't be disappointed then" I answered as I checked the TV was plugged in.

"No cards either. They are too expensive."

"Fear not" I answered. "As it happens I forgot to go out at lunchtime and get one for you. This year you shall be conspicuously cardless". I turned the TV on and off, then on again.

"Don't buy chocolate" she admonished me. I'm on a diet and I'm not eating chocolate so don't waste your money."

"A diet?" I said absently as I tried to figure out which of the umpteen remotes would unlock the fiendish TV/Video/DVD combination The Stevieling had left for me, so I could watch Scrubs. Since there are five remotes, the chances of that were slim, there being around twenty billion different combinations of button-pushes possible, only one of which would route television signals from the reception circuitry to the viewing/transcription unit. "Really?" I walked over to the cable box and began pushing buttons speculatively in the hope that the system would spontaneously begin conducting entertainment to the house. "What on earth for?"

"I'm a little overweight." she sniffed. "I want to look good for your sister's kid's wedding in the summer. I need to lose about twenty pounds."

"Per limb" I jocularly murmured, which is when I think I sustained the concussion.

I woke up in the early hours of this morning with a splitting headache and a goose-egg on the back of my bonce. The new skillet, so delicate it had to be hand washed under pain of sanctions, was lying beside me, and it now featured the domed base that gave the old skillet so much character (and also to the food cooked in it). I guess the break-in period for this item of gourmet cookware has passed and we may now safely put it into the dishwasher. I doubt anything that the Maytag could do would cause it any further harm.

I surmise I have once again suffered one of Mrs Stevie's signature attacks. I had been lulled into a false sense of security because of the regard in which she held the new pots and pans. It was inevitable that this attitude would change with the tide of Starbux Mochaspresso Clawhammer Grandes (now available in sugar-free formulations and hence not interdicted due to calorific boycotting it seems).

The irises of my eyes are each of different sizes this morning. Not only that, I am suffering a certain degree of...personal discomfort shall we say, that, in conjunction with the mysterious disappearance of the remote control for the DVD player, leaves me with a very ugly suspicion of dastardly behaviour on Mrs Stevie's part while I was hors de combat and she overly exited due to endorphin imbalance exacerbated by coffee-induced rage.

Lesson learned: Dieting obviously reduces brain chemicals moderating the temper of women.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Grab Your Sou'Wester! Thar's A Nor' Easter A Blowin' In!

Because the misery index isn't high enough it began snowing yesterday in the late morning.

I missed my usual train due to my not being able to get out of sleep mode, and my "safety train" (the 8:17) too, but was on for my "safety-safety train" at 8:51. There were a surprising number of spaces in the car park, but that didn't tip off my keen spidey-senses to anything awry. Only when I entered the little station house to attempt the purchase of a newspaper did I gain some inkling of the inspired lengths to which the LIRR was preparing for the coming snowstorm.

The 8:17 had, it turned out, been cancelled and everyone who should have been on it was now camped out in the station owing to the sub-zero temperatures pertaining to the outside. Inside it was like the Hollyhead pub on a Friday night two weeks before Xmas, with people standing shoulder to shoulder and doing a sort of slow back and forth surging as inconsiderate people tried to breath out of turn. I was snarled at as I made my way to the newspaper kiosk because I accidentally nudged someone whose elbows were in a sticky-out pose and caused her to spill her coffee. Of course, if she hadn't been attempting to text message someone on her cell phone at the same time she would have heard me say excuse me and been able to brace for impact or pull in the elbows a bit. As it was she just got coffee on her foot. Once I had my paper I made my way outside. I get claustrophobic jammed in with so mant people I have no intention of attempting sexual congress with. On my way to the door I had to negotiate Mz Sticky Out Elbows again. She had somehow lost the coffee and replaced it with an egg sandwich. She was still text messaging though, and mighty displeased to be asked to move again.

I took the next train out, jammed in with approximately 50 000 others, and decided to switch trains at Hicksville, where an off-peak train was waiting. Slower, yes, but it had free seats and the Stevielegs were begining to complain of overuse. What I hadn't reckonned on was the connecting train at Brooklyn taking 20 minutes to arrive. Thus it was that I got a late start to work, and so was in for a late leaving. This in turn would entail me missing the 6:04 from Brooklyn and being faced with the choice of taking a later train from Flatbush Avenue that would have me changing trains at Jamaica1 or going into Manhattan and catching the train I would be connecting with in Queens where it started from: Penn Station. If I mention that the trains in question are already overcrowded before they leave Pann, and that they offload only one or two people in Jamaica, it should be obvious this calculation is of the "no brainer" type.

Over the course of the afternoon, about an inch of snow fell and temperatures actually rose to 31 degrees Fahrenheit. This should have warned me, but didn't. No sense of the looming fiasco made itself known to Mr Brain. I finished work and rode in to Penn.

Where I found a jujuflop-in-progress the likes of which I have not seen since the last one.

Trains were delayed for "up to an hour". Thus Penn Station was now a larger scale version of what had transpired at Wyandanch that morning. Not only that, some gimboid had driven his car onto the grade crossing in front of an oncoming train, and had chosen Pinelawn to do it. That was good, inasmuch as Pinelawn is the stop for the largest cemetary in the area. the police could just scrape him up and drop him in a convenient hole2 but bad in that Pinelawn is in the chicane where the double tracks of the Ronkonkoma line become one slender track between Pinelawn and Deer Park. Wyandanch (Pearl of the East)3 is in between those two stations. "All Ronkonkoma service is suspended" announced the announcer over the annunciation system, triggering a panic rush to board the Babylon express.

It really bugs me that the LIRR can't keep things together when so little snow falls. Admittedly, the Pinelawn Train-Dueling Genius wasn't their fault, but no trains were running other than that Babylon one. Matters were made infinitely worse by the unseemly kicking, elbowing, shoving and biting going on in the mad dash to get on that one train too. Of course, if people are going to get in the way when I am trying to secure a seat they fully deserve to be kicked, elbowed, shoved and bitten.

As the train made it's way out towards Jamaica (still not the good one), I phoned Mrs Stevie and negotiated a pick up at Babylon Station. My car was, of course, six miles north of my train destination, at Wyandanch. It would be par for the course if the taxi service at Babylon consisted of one cab that night.

Mrs Stevie arrived at Babylon for the arranged pick-up in good time. I, however, was riding courtesy of the LIRR and so arrived over an hour after the scheduled arrival time. This on a train that made exactly no stops between Jamaica and Babylon, and rode on elevated tracks the entire route (and was thus unplagued by idiots who don't know better than to park on a grade crossing).

I don't know what I would have done to avoid the face-eating I was expecting if a fellow commuter, Rich, hadn't materialised and begged a ride too.

Mrs Stevie was so busy flirting with him that she totally forgot to launch her attack.

  1. Not the good one, the one in Queens
  2. Yes, I know this is insensitive but really, if you don't know that always yeild to trains is common sense then you deserve all my aprobation and then some
  3. My stop

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Another "Scientist" Has Too Much Time On His Hands

Yet another scientist has found himself with a dearth of real ideas and has frantically lashed out in an attempt to look busy.

Using the same philosophy the gave us unplanet Pluto and threatens to give us Bulge Huron, a Canadian Scientist has decided that it simply will not do that anyone use the Astronomical Unit any more.

It seems that the old definition (the distance between the Earth and the Sun) isn't any good because the Earth is currently in a spiral away from the Sun rather than a stable orbit, and will eventually end up in somewhere out by Mars (which will have relocated to the asteroid belt except that the asteroids will have moved out too). Apparently, in only a hundred years Mercury will be almost one and a half kilometers behind where it should be because of this. All the planets in the Solar System are going to be lollygagging behind their expected orbital position in a century. As I mentioned, they will have shuffled out away from the Sun too. All except Pluto of course because Pluto isn't a planet any more and cannot be expected to abide by the rules laid out for them.

The irony of the situation is lost on this demented stargazer of course. The relevance of this Planetary Laggardness is entirely moot because he won't be there to measure it when it happens. This disgraceful state of affairs is down to his colleagues in the medical side of the science business also goofing off instead of doing real science. Had they gotten their fingers out and invented immortality pills instead of inventing new names for The Sniffles he might have had a point about this Mercury business and been around to say "I told you so" when someone in 2108 tried friutlessly to find Mercury using hard sums. As it is, he will be pushing up daisies with the rest of us.

I wonder if Mr "Can't Find Any New Stuff With His Telescope" envisioned what he would be publishing when he went to Astronomy School.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Now That's A Pretty Song

Driving The Last Spike by Genesis, from their 1991 album We Can't Dance.

The album itself is a mixed bag, and I've found myself skipping tracks when it's been on the player, but Driving The Last Spike stands out as a particularly good swan song for the Rutherford/Banks/Collins line up. Great production, interesting subject (The life of the 19th century railway navvies in general, centering on a tunnel collapse) with superb melodies. I am particularly fond of the middle movement of the three-part piece. Genesis at their best in their long form, and one I find myself wanting to hear live at Jones Beach on a cool evening in late July with an onshore breeze, when the inversion layer forms and the acoustics in the amphitheater become something transcendant.

Which will never happen of course, since a reformed Rutherford/Banks/Collins Genesis probably wouldn't even consider playing a venue any smaller than Lichtenstein.

You either love Genesis or hate 'em, and there's some justification for arguing that a certain "sameness" has occasionally entered the formula under the Collins-as-songwriter lineup. Collins brought the band the commercial success they couldn't find during the years prior to the breakthrough with Follow You, Follow Me, but his style isn't to some tastes.

I've been an avid consumer of genesidal sounds since Selling England By The Pound, and was one of the few people who didn't think it was all over for the band when Peter Gabriel quit in '75 since Collins had performed one track, More Fool Me, on Selling England By The Pound and most people didn't know it wasn't Gabriel singing.

I think it was the last time I was right about anything.

You can also find Driving The Last Spike on the live album The Way We Walk, Volume Two: The Longs if my vague comments about track skipping put you off the idea of We Can't Dance.

I prefer the studio version, but the live one is pretty damned good too.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Just When It Couldn't Possibly Get Any Worse, It Gets Worse

I picked up the Stevieling from her grandparents place after school.

She was all abuzz about how one of her teachers had got 45 group ticket to see "Rent", which she assured me is the hottest show in the whole school. Everyone, and she means everyone is talking about the show, singing selections from it or putting on impromptu street theater versions of key parts of it. She had to get on line at 6:30 am to reserve herself one of the tickets, and there were already 15 kids there when she got on line.

Rarely have I seen her so excited about something to do with school, or anything really.

Later on she was racing around getting ready to go and play basketball and a heated discussion broke out between her and Mrs Stevie (while I was composing the last entry, actually) in which I distinctly heard the words "I'm sorry, but I've been looking forawrd to I-Con for a year now." come from Mrs Stevie.

I did something foolish and enquired what the problem was. I got my head bitten off for assuming that she hadn't heard me and asking again, when in fact the problem wasn't, for once, her increasing cloth-infested hearing but her salad-infested mouth. I wasn't looking, you see, I was typing.

It turned out that the proposed expedition to see Rent clashed with the Saturday of I-Con, a three-day SF convention we attend every year. Saturday is the best day of the con for me, since it represents the major autograph chances with the guest authors and this year Harlan Ellison has agreed to show. He used to come every other year, but it's cold and damp here during most I-Cons and Ellison is no spring chicken. I digress.

Thinking I could broker a solution of genius I said "Why can't she go to see Rent on her own while we do I-Con? My mistake was to smile when I said this, I think.

"Because I've already bought the tickets1 and she already asked her friend Marlene to go with her"

Damnation! I usually buy the tickets, and I do it a bit later in the year. Mrs Stevie's eternal hunt for the bargain-priced advanced-sale tickets had hoist us on her petard. I thought for a second with a sinking heart and a squeaking wallet.

I'm gonna have to buy full priced tickets for the show. The Stevieling would probably take missing the show with good grace (she usually does in these sorts of situation) but I feel like crap just imagining how her little heart is breaking. Come I-Con saturday I'll be suicidal with guilt even though this is none of my doing.

Never, ever have kids.

Especially beautiful, talented, girl kids.

  1. Non refundable

The Name's Tugmolar, Isambard Tugmolar. Licenced To Print Money

I had an 8:30 am dental appointment this morning

I arrived at Doc Tugmolar's House of Pain at around 8:15 am, and was seated at around 9. The doctor strolled around his office, drinking heavily and bumping into things and finally arrived in theater to begin work at 9:30. There followed an application of topical anaesthetic (which could have been administered at 9 by my calculations) and a mere twenty minutes after that, a series of jabs to the gum above my upper incisors.

The attempt to turn the tide of thousands of years of genetic selection was about to begin. Yes, I. Tugmolar DDS1 was about to attempt to "repair" British Teeth™.

He began by filing off all the enamel on the front of my incisors, all four of them. In this endeavour he demonstrated a weird sort of tooly link between us as he strove to use every single bit in his 250-bit set. Burrs, drills, files and something I swear should only be deployed on a horse were all applied to my gnashers in the interests of prophylactic dentistry and a fine time was had by him.

I didn't enjoy it so much.

Bad enough that the office filled with the choking stench of burning teeth, an acrid gaseous nastiness I'm sure at least two of my three readers are familiar with. Bad enough that his ditzty assistant was using the Syphon of Patient Undrowning in the Fallout of the Water Assisted Drill and Their Own Saliva as a baton to illustrate some endless tale of how her best friend's philandering boyfriend had left notes on her car2 and how the best friend had pissed her off3 forcing her5 to show her6 the letters and then crow about how everyone was laughing at her7 instead of using it to assist me in breathing.

Things came to a head when Doc Tugmolar wedged two fingers under my broad, sensuous upper lip and jammed it into my nostrils. With both nose and mouth out of the respiration business it wasn't long before I began showing signs of distress. I thrashed around in the chair, gurgling, clawing frantically at Tugmolar's face and going blue and finally Miz Ditz realized the problem and thrust the Syphon deep into my mouth, where it promptly stuck to the little dangly things at the back of my throat and I threw up.

It was all very tiresome.

It took only three and a half hours to complete the restoration of my teeth, whereupon I could engage the Doctor in the discussion about what to do viz-a-viz that damned twice root canalled tooth that needs capping8.

Basically, the tooth became troublesome last April or so as detailed here, and required emergency root canal surgery. After this, the tooth seemed okay, but proved painful when the temporarily capped tooth was subjected to side-to-side force. Doc Tugmolar and the Endodontist both replied to this with "well, don't do that then", advice about as useful as a sodium spitoon since the act of chewing would always end up with the tooth being laterally stressed at some point. I put up with this situation and the desire on the part of the Endodontist for me to do month-by-month evaluations for six months then asked for a second root canal please. The Endodontis obliged me around a month before Christmas, but it didn't help.

Then the temporary crown let go the week before Christmas.

The pain almost immediately subsided since the stubby broken tooth was not in contact with anything unless I ate, so I decided to live with it and made an appointment to get a new permanent crown measured, which would happen around early March due to Tugmolar's busy golf and vacation schedule. Just when I thought I might catch a break, Mrs Stevie had two crowns let go of her head and the insurance company that provides what we laughingly refer to as our dental "plan" informed us that I would have to pay 500 bux if I wanted my tooth crowned, since the process of capping teeth was partially disallowed on "age related" grounds.

That's right.

The insurance company won't pay in full for a process one would need mostly when you are older because they feel it is age-inappropriate surgery. Presumably they are saving their money to pay for fixing the teeth young men and women have kicked out in Karate lessons, playing rugby or mosh pit diving.

They went one better with Mrs Stevie and refused to acknowledge she had filed a pre-approval for the procedures until the temporary filling she had instead of crowns, put in by Doc Tugmolar "while the paperwork cleared", fell out. Today, after my prodding the dentists administrative department to see what the hold up was, we got approval, provided we could come up with 800 bux (Mrs Stevie is a tad younger than me12 and seems to have gotten a 100 bux per tooth break in the ageist insurance procedure here).

Coming up with this cash on spec these days is problematical. In my youth I would simply not drink so heavily for a couple of days, but now money is in short supply. I made a descision (Mrs Stevie wasn't there to immediately rescind it on principle, which would only necessitate the rescinding of the rescinding once she got the details since she would be the ultimate beneficiary of my actions). I told Doc Tugmolar that I didn't think it was a great idea to crown my tooth because it was my feeling that I would only be able to stand the pain of it moving around in my head for about six months before I was hammering on his door demanding a session with Mr Screwclaw.

We agreed he would file off the sharp edges (he'd had lots of tooth-filing practice that day and was feeling confident in his dental tool superiority over the world as one would in such circimstances), fill the little hollow that keeps filling up with cornflakes when I eat them with ordinary tooth filling gunk and we'd call it a day. The money saved would then be available for rebuilding Mrs Stevies formidable mastication equipage.

Now I just have to figure out how to pay the car insurance bill.

  1. Doctor of Domestic Science
  2. Miz Ditz's car. Curse the lack of reflexive pronouns in English!
  3. Miz Ditz was the one with nose out of joint. Again, curse the English language and it's confusing lack of reflexive pronouns4
  4. See footnote 1
  5. Miz Ditz. See note 2 for criticism of lexical confusion when writing in English
  6. The best friend. English. Curse. Reflexive pronouns etc
  7. the friend, I think, though to be honest I had lost track myself by now
  8. A lie. It needs to be regenerated since the consensus is that it has a lateral crack somewhere along the root. If only scientists hadn't spent the last twenty years figuring out that Pluto isn't a planet and arguing endlessly about whether Global Warming is real or not9 they might have been able to put some of those idling grey matter cells to the task of making teeth grow back. Useful science like this only gets done if there is a Nobel Prize at the end of the rainbow though, and the insurance companies probably have a vested interest in having teeth go south painfully on a regular schedule
  9. Duh. Next time you are travelling from Jasper to Banff stop off at the Athabasca Glacier and take a gander at how the ice sheet has behaved of late. Look at the colour of the ice. Think of what it must have looked like before we started burning coal and oil like it was going out of fashion10 and look at the colour of the exposed morraine11. Now think about your high school physics classes on heat transfer
  10. Which, if you think about it, it is
  11. That's what we geological types call the ground under a glacier
  12. Though quite frankly I've lost count of the times I've been mistaken for a younger, cuter, visiting friend by passers-by

Monday, February 04, 2008

Blade Running

Mrs Stevie gave me the Bladrunner Suitcase O' Ents for Xmas.

It has provided endless entertainment since I breached the security seal on the nifty Voight-Kampff briefcase it came in. I've marvelled at the artwork. I've spent hours watching Harrison Deckard draw a bead on someone out of shot with my tilt-to-animate framed scene. I've fondled the origami unicorn while uttering convincing LA street gibberish and wearing a trilby. I've flown several times around the living room with the 1/48th scale Spinner while making realistic LA ambient sounds that caused Mrs Stevie to go thin lipped. I think she disapproves of the West Coast, even dystopic visions of future versions of it. Either that or she is fundamentally opposed to the flying car. No matter. I pay her little attention when I'm having fun, and I'm having lots of fun with the bits in this kit.

And that's not the best part.

Since Boxing Day I've seen Bladerunner: The Definitive Cut.

And three hours of Documentary "Making of Bladerunner" stuff.

And the US theatrical release of Bladerunner.

And three hours of documentary "Behind the scenes of Bladerunner" and "Bladerunner: Actor and Crew Retrospectives on the Iconic Film of the 80s"

And the theatrical trailers.

And Bladerunner: The Director's Cut

And the fun's just starting! We still have the UK theatrical release of Bladerunner and the Bladerunner workprint to view.

This movie has everything: Harrison Ford, mind-staggering scenery, eardrum-endangering low frequency enhanced soundtrack (the sub-woofer finally has its day), nude nakedness, Daryl Hannah when she was young and supple starring as a raccoon, Sean Young's1 shoulders: the list goes on and on.

And no-one says the fun has to stop there, as I pointed out to Mrs Stevie when she expressed concern over how much more material was in the set. We can simply load disc one back into the player and start all over again once we're done. She obviously hadn't considered this, and was immediately overcome with emotion, crying and cursing with pleasure at the prospect.

It doesn't get any better than this.

  1. Yes, that Sean Young, the one that recently made a fuss at the Director's Guild Award after imbibing twice her own weight in strong drink, only to disappear into rehab. Apparently she heckled a Mr Julian Schnabel who was accepting is award for directing somethong called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Well, not to be judgemental, but let's face it: I doubt The Diving Bell and the Butterfly will ever be classed as "an Iconic film of the 80s" or be issued in five different versions in a suitcase along with a plastic origami butterfly and a 1/48th scale diving bell. You heckle Ridley Scott, Director of Bladerunner and you've crossed the line, but The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? Sounds as interesting as tax instructions to me and I can only imagine the nature of a speech from the maker of such a movie. Not only that. I think one must cut Sean Young some slack here. How would you behave if you had found out you were manufactured, born sometime in early adulthood, imprinted with someone else's memories and given a five year life span? I submit that the strain of living with that for 27 years would tell on anyone. I mean, look what it did for Arnold Schwartzeneggar who rampaged all over the place killing people and stealing vehicles before someone dropped a steam hammer on him.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Great Moments in Commuting

I'm still sick, so this will be short1 . They say "Less is More". I give you a veritable cornucopia of never-ending lessness.

This entry concerns events that took place eight days ago, during my inbound morning commute.

I had set out early for my train and so did something I usually forego these days: I swung by a local deli and picked up a cup of coffee, which I consumed in the early part of the journey. The coffee itself plays only a minor role in the story, so it is probably an unimportant detail that the quality of the beverage was distinctly average even by my rather pedestrian coffee yardstick. I like plain ordinary delicatessen coffee. I dislike intensely the post-90s obsession with acidic brews that bite back. I am willing to acquire a taste for strong liquor on the grounds that it will at least offer sweet oblivion from the hellish assault on my person and mentality that is my daily life. All Starbux can offer is a strong urge to throw up and a headache if I can actually drink one of their foul brews. Even so, I like my deli coffee to be unburned by standing too long on the hotplate and to have skim milk in it that hasn't begun to turn because the nitwit deli owner doesn't know that unrefridgerated skim milk turns in an eyeblink. I digress.

Back in the 80s, when I first began this long-term relationship with the LIRR, I used to commute the way everyone else did, with coffee and dead pig'n'egg sandwich bought from a coffee and breakfast truck in the station car park. The ride in was a joyous feast in which the stomach was rewarded for not bleeding out after the previous night's attempt to deplete the nation's strategic rum stocks with a delicious sandwich and a refreshing beverage over a copy of the Long Island Newsday. I gradually learned to loathe the journalistic style of the paper2.

The doctor moved dead pig, eggs, bread and butter to the head of the TOXIC - NEVER EAT list and Mrs Stevie put paid to the experiments in rum consumption. C'est la Guerre, as they say. I was left with the coffee, which I almost lost to the tidal wave of "Friends" era coffee-pseuds that seemed to spontaneously pop up in the early 90s, and who had the weird idea that coffee had to hurt. Fortunately, there were too many Delis for Starbux to take out entirely.

But time has worked another indignity on me by ensuring that if I drink a cup of coffee during the first ten minutes of my commute3 that my bladder is bursting by the time we get to Flatbush Avenue.

This normally wouldn't be an issue either, except it means using an on-board lavatory, since the Flatbush Avenue men's room is usually locked so it can be cleaned from 5 minutes before my train arrives to an hour after. I've tried varying the train I come in on, but the attendant seems to have some sort of Anti-Stevie radar. At Penn Station one has many alternatives under these circumstances. At Flatbush Avenue one's alternatives involve a trip to the local police station on a charge of exposure and public indecency, and once is plenty for that experience I can tell you. Even if the attendant screws up and somehow I manage to enter the men's room, it will be lacking soap of any kind in the dispensers. You don't want to shake hands with anyone in this area, I can tell you.

So the only other alternative, as unthinkable as it would seem, is to use the facilities provided on board the train.

Things have gotten immeasurably better since the new trains came into service as far as the bathroom facilities are concerned. The cramped, smelly little cubicle, floor awash with blue fluid and filled with the refuse left by fellow travellers of the older M1 and M3 trains has given way to a spacious, wheelchair accessible room with modern fittings. Of course, since it is used by the same people who used the older ones it is smelly, awash and filled with scattered refuse. New Yorkers can be the dirtiest people in America when they put their minds to it, and some of them display a disturbing lack of familiarity with the use of a flush toilet.

Anticipating that the paper towels would all have been used up, and not wanting to chance unrolling the toilet roll on the grounds I didn't know what previous visitors might have done with it first, I made sure I had a pocketful of paper napkins (I always carry some in my bag) and set off on my journey of discovery.

I have mentioned in the past the tendency for these new trains to rock from side to side, so much so that a commuter can feel as though he or she is starring in an episode of the old undersea adventure series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. This adds a frission of excitement to the whole business of peeing, at least for those of us who do so standing up4. The technique involves folding all the requisite clothing out of the predicted path of the urine stream5 pointing one's equipment in the right direction, adopting a wide-footed stance 6 and grabbing the bars with both hands before relieving oneself. Attention to detail is paramount. Forgetting, for example, to unzip in all the commotion is a real danger and one that can lead to embarrassing questions at the Flatbush Avenue security station, as I have found to my cost.

I managed to complete the aforementioned process without undue problems, and was shaking the water off my hands after washing them and prior to drying them on the nice, fluffy paper napkins I had laid out on the sink when a deep gurgling came from the commode and a column of "water" erupted out of in a fountain of unpleasantness approximately two feet high. I leapt backwards, feet skidding around like mad in the reflex motions of one with years of experience on blue-liquid swamped flooring, and managed to avoid getting hosed down. The napkins weren't so lucky though. I wasn't going to touch them on a bet, let alone dry my hands on them. Snarling, i searched my pockets with my soaking wet hands for another way to dry them. I located a postage-stamp sized paper napkin with a large coffee stain on it and did the best I could, using it to trip the door lock so I could make good my escape from this latest fiendish anti-commuter measure deployed by the LIRR. As I was struggling with the door lock there came a second eruption from the commode, and a second, even more impressive geyser of greywater shot ceilingward.

I escaped to the vestibule and leaned back, trying to regain some composure, whereupon an oriental lady jumped up, shot me a filthy look, ripped open the door and raced into the bathroom slamming the door behind her. She was in there about one minute before I heard once again the signature sound of Old Filthfull erupting.

When she came out, the lady scuttled back to her seat with a haunted and disgusted look on her face.

  1. pauses for the unseemly hysterical cries of "Thank God" to die down in the cheap seats
  2. the writers use the same trick you used at school when made to write 500 words on the Tudors. Say everything you have to say. That takes up 150 words. Say it all again, changing a few prepositions and adding some adjectives. That brings the count up to 400. Then add a "conclusion" to this "introduction" and "main article" by saying it all a third time but stripping out all the padding you put in the other two versions. Viola! One 500 word essay/Newsday article.
  3. Nominally a 50 minute affair but subject to changes in temporal length that would surprise Stephen Hawking if he found them going on in a Black Hole
  4. and who would be mad enough to sit on the seat voluntarily?
  5. only experience can lead one here
  6. care is needed to avoid slipping on any spilled blue liquid here: the required technique leaves one vulnerable to inadvertently "doing the splits" if shoe-sole traction with the floor is lost, which, for a person of my manly build, could be catastrophic on many levels