About me

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Balancing the Death Orchid

Yes, the Death Orchid remains in bloom, the screams of so many of my deserving relatives drifting upward unheard by most.

Yet, there is a balance to the world, and that balance extends to the vestibule of our office. Meet the newest arrival. Look closely. Look deeply. From here spring forth the cherubs, harps and lutes in hand and arm. Our local font of light and loveliness.

Is it any wonder that I skip tra la tra la down the halls?

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Most white flowers are abominations

And they so often stink like burning wires. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but then I'm said to be given to exaggeration and understatement. Probably not all that well known for exceptional truth telling, but that's another matter for another day.

Meanwhile, I actually do like white lilacs. They remind me of a better place and time, likely forever lost now.

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Another harbinger of spring

These lilacs are not as strongly odored as I recall, but maybe that's the cold today doing it's evil work. Or maybe the bees sniffed it all up while the warm was here. Or maybe my old nose is about worn out.

I used to give lilacs to my first grade teacher, Mrs. Johnson. Yes, Mrs. I'll let you explain about the Ms. Of course, she's dead now, and she won't spank you like she would me, even if you do deserve it more.

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We need more wisteria

Wisteria is just hard to beat. It's 37, cold, and rainy. Not a spring day you hope to remember, but cup your hands around a set of blooms. Breathe deeply. Let the odor of spring heal you where you need it.

Of course, there's also some potential for sneezing, but we can save that thought for another day. All we need here are some tall pines for this vine to climb, but then the smelling might be more fraught with hazard.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

If thy right hand offendeth thee

Cut it off. Or in the case of that tiny whisker, pull it out by the roots. The danged little thing was worthy of an international torture report. Enough so that I interrupted a meeting called by a VP to not find tweezers or scissors. Instead, I waited until the drive home and a very long stoplight. Yes, the world is safe again.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oops! We did it again

And here's where it is.

Let's see if I can post this one in the right place this time. Yes, I get befuddled once in a while, especially when lists invert without warning on my blog dashboard.

Diana and I just pulled together our third Full Moon blog. Her art. My prose. Folks, I am a lucky man to be able to work with such genius as this. That Shannon pushes it all just that much further by making my prose readable is icing on the cake.

Bear in mind that the only collaboration that occurs is when we put the art and the prose together. Before that point, we simply share life in this one world.

The three of us go to lunch where we speak frankly and honestly, the intent being to make it all better. If you've never worked in such a manner with someone, you've missed a treat, and I stand by that even if they did make me eat at Hooters one day. Hey! Think of it as a developmental opportunity.

The ice cream sandwich

Ages ago my grandparents got a dog. A collie and chow mix. One of the treats in their freezer was the box of ice cream sandwiches.

At some point, they had to be gone a few days, probably to the hospital, and they arranged for a relative to house sit. And dog sit.

Among the instructions my grandmother left were that Penny, the dog, could have an ice cream sandwich each afternoon.

So Alice on the first afternoon went to fetch an ice cream sandwich from the freezer. She unwrapped it, took a bite, and held the rest out for the dog.

The dog refused and would have nothing until she received a whole, unbitten ice cream sandwich.

And so began one more story about the loyal dog who guarded my grandparents...and who was just a little spoiled.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

A month with Virgin Mobile

I left at&t last month after several years, and with some trepidation I went with Virgin Mobile, mainly because someone else did the research, and it appeared to be the least sucky of the options. Here's my experience to date.

The phone

The phone I picked is an Android (LG Optimus V). It appears to do about everything the iPhone did, and it does so equally poorly, though with one exception. It will place a call. A clear call, and do so without needing the speaker phone. The sad thing is that now after being burned by the iPhone, I don't make all that many calls anymore. We'll see if that changes.

And Skype makes those calls freely. With video.

The Android apps are comparable to what is available on the iPhone. Facebook and Twitter perform as you'd expect. Evernote is a godsend. The Google Blogger app is useless, which astounds me. The web browser blows, but that's true for every phone I've seen when you really attempt to browse. The Urbanspoon app does not play nicely with the virtual keyboard, and I've about stopped using it. The few other applications rarely get launched.

Oh yes, there's a Virgin Mobile app, or at least an icon, through which I'm supposed to be able to check my account, and even pay my bill. It launches the browser, linking directly to the primary, not mobile, website. Talk about absolutely useless.

Bear in mind that phone apps are not something I will pay for any more, primarily because the phones, and much more the phone data networks, are not ready to support the claims in any real sense. (And of course, I did watch a gal watching a basketball game on her phone today. Go figure. The gods of Sprint smiled upon her.)

The Swype text entry application is a generally nice feature when it works. However, it's learning all the time, and my fingers are, apparently, gifted at confusing its algorithm.

Emails don't always go anywhere, and they go nowhere with no warning. This is especially true when emailing a picture from the gallery, but not always. Often, simple replies fall off the earth. This will be a HUGE problem for me one of these days.

The real problem with the Optimus would be exactly the real problem with the iPhone, that being battery life. However, I try to limit myself now a lot, a whole lot, and with the longer power cable from another device, I can keep the phone plugged in by the couch or bed. To my knowledge, no phone has a battery that can withstand the use it would receive if the owner believed the TV ads.

Bear in mind that what we call phones now are more computer than anything else, and that means a reboot is often the cure for whatever is not working. That is certainly the case with the Optimus. I should get in the habit of cutting it off at night when it recharges, but I haven't, and that leaves me remembering at some point during the day to reboot. Usually, I've needed two or three reboots per day. I suspect if I never touched data, no reboot would ever be required.

The network

Virgin Mobile runs on a subset of the Sprint network. I've not traveled far, and I've not explored the limits. However, I spend most of my time on WiFi, and that means it's easy to forget just where the data are coming from because the phone is working. My evening walks suggest that that the network slows substantially in Raleigh between 4 and 6 PM on weekdays. Then again, maybe Facebook and Twitter do maintenance then.

And then there was today, the first month anniversary of my time with Virgin Mobile. Last Friday, I paid for another month of unlimited access, and today my phone stopped working. Lovely. The support person says I have to call each month even when I pay online. That just plain does not make sense to me.

I also won't be doing that routinely, I'm sure. There is something here that I do not understand, and I asked that question plainly on the phone, twice, and by email once, but there was no explanation. This could have been a language barrier. It could have been Skype and some background noise. Who knows? If that's really the case, and a call is necessary each month, I anticipate changing my allegiance by the time summer gets here.

Then again, perhaps I can arrange my travel schedule to accommodate a loss of phone service for a day once a month. On the dark side, I'd suggest that opens up 1/30th of the bandwidth, but surely no organization does (much) of that and stays in business. I just have to believe I have missed a stitch in understanding how the account works.

Now, I do need to give the devil his due. The Optimus cost less than a quarter what the iPhone 3GS cost. The monthly fee from Virgin Mobile is about a quarter what I was paying for at&t to irritate me, though on paper Virgin gives me the universe (unlimited everything). However, we both know the reality of that marketing and advertisement hyperbole. In addition, the email with attachments that at&t needed 45 minutes to upload is, usually, gone in a very few moments with Virgin Mobile, and the attachments are bigger now. MMSs also flash out in about a fifth the time they needed on the iPhone with at&t.

What this means is that when Virgin Mobile disappoints me those half dozen times a day, the price I pay for the blood pressure spike is far less. We'll see later just where my limits really are.

To this end, I believe the question boils down to who blows chunks less, and how do you feel about the price you pay for the lack of reliability that you know you'll experience in some manner. Every carrier and, probably, every phone presents unique challenges for which customer service will apologize and the carrier will do nothing about because they balance their books on the backs of our patience.

It's a very strange way to build an enterprise.

22 March

Note: Lil tells me that she did the automatic renewal on the website, and she did not have to call. I'll do that when (1) I've decided to keep the service, and (2) I've decided which plan I need.

Note: So today, I go for lunch. No data. I am a mile from the airport, and that might be too far in the boonies. Back in the office, I called customer service. The Indian fellow is quite pleasant, but substantially unknowledgeably. He's following a script. Of course, I type a few numbers wrong, but we finally get it straightened out, especially after I reminded him that the contract ended yesterday, not today. After taking me through some steps where I reentered numbers that were already in the phone, it rebooted. Then he told me it would be a few hours before it was usable again. At this rate, I do not see our association lasting much longer, and I suspect they'll be glad to be rid of me. They sure are acting like it.

Note: At about 4:30 EDT, I noticed that data was not working (again) unless I was connected to WiFi. After a Skype call to customer service and speaking with two different people, I now have an escalated ticket. What that means remains a mystery to me. I am trying desperately to keep my cool on the phone because I know it's not anything the rep has done or can do. They are worker bees just as I am. While we were on the Skype call, I was surfing the competition. I'm thinking data is a big ruse, and I need to stick with voice and a little texting. We'll see.

Note: After the call, I tweeted a question to @VMUCare to ask if data in this area was out of service. About an hour later, they tweeted back with an email address. I sent a message to this address. Last night's email through the website remains unanswered.

Note: 7:30 and still no service. No call back. No response to either email. The Twitter account is also slow, and when something does come along, it's not particularly useful. Stuff like call this or email that. At 7:35, someone took me off hold and hung up. I'm on Skype, so the phone bill is on them, and I call back. It's now 7:40. This could go on a while.

Note: At 7:45, a customer service guy tells me that it's one of two things. It might be a network outage. They've been having those all day. It might be a problem with my phone, and that could take three days to resolve. I swear this is about the silliest mess I've experienced since BellSouth shut down our DSL for week. Too bad Clear doesn't do cell phones. Maybe they do VOIP through a hotspot? I'm feeling desperate here. meanwhile, Lil reported that she did lose service of all kinds for a day when her month rolled over, but that cycling the power got her back to working.

Note: At 8:30, I receive an auto-response to my email regarding the veracity of what the customer service man said about taking three days to get the phone to working again. Meanwhile, I stumbled upon a series of communications indicating that Virgin Mobile throttles back data after the first month. Although I do not know that to be true, it wouldn't surprise me, and experience suggests that at&t did the very same thing. In neither care is there any offer to charge less for offering less service.

Note: At 9:08, I turned off WiFi to check data access. It worked. I'll sleep on the problem tonight. I can change companies easy enough. I just lose the $60 I paid for the second month in addition to the price of the phone. This is not huge money as these things go, but there are better ways I could spend the $200. However, there's piece of mind to consider.

Not your mama's collard

Decorative kale has been around for decades, and I suppose this specimen at the arb is one more example. It's probably edible even if it does look stemy. Yes, we all know that is not a real word.

The decorative kale is ok, especially in a decorative garden, but I believe I prefer regular collards, peppers, and such for landscaping because of the obviously dual purpose.

There was someone living in Benson, main street, back in the sixties. She put collards around her light pole every fall, prompting my mother to remark each time about the idea.

Yet for as much as Mama claimed to like collards around a light pole, she kept roses in her yard. The collards stayed out in the field.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Trash by the Hobbit Hole

Pausing at the local hobbit hole, I noticed a chunk of white trash. Bring ever the aficionado of white trash, I inspected further. Somekind of prescription salve. Expired in 2008. But then it rattled. Even though I'm well aware of how curiosity killed the cat, I open the bottle. One sad sprig of weed appears. Oh my! I return the lid, drop the bottle back on the grass, and head back along my path. There's a cemetery coming up soon.

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Doris was well remembered

It would help in some of all this to believe, but I don't, yet I do find a certain solace, beauty, and comfort in some of the old words.

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Foundling in the cemetery

You'd think it be quite enough excitement for one day finding a castoff bottle of weed, but next on the list is a Huffy bike in the old graveyard. Tires inflated. Go figure. The local dead have offered no explanation.

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Two young sentinels

Two young sentinels delineate the path I will not be taking today. They are from the copse by the gas station where the winos gather and confabulate. Being younger of root and alarmed by the gathering construction equipment, they set out by the starshine of a new moon to put down roots here in a safer place.

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No trout yet

No trout yet in the local trout stream. No catfish either. Bees, however, are in abundance. A few bream would take care of that nicely.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bees a'buzz

The bees at the arb were in their element today. Warm and sunny. New flowers to sniff. Much honey to make.

My grandfather had a dizen such hives, and he'd gather the wild colonies that would set up housekeeping in unfortunate places, like the corner of your front porch.

I used to help him gather the honey, my job being to stand back and help chew the comb. Yes, I was very good at it.

However, I'll probably just admire these hives, leaving the honey comb to another boy and his bee charming grandfather.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bees a'buzzing

The bees at the arb were In their element today. Warm and sunny. Light breezes. Many new flowers to sniff. Honey to make.

My grandfather kept bees. Maybe a dozen hives. He added a few every year a neighbors called him to remove a swarm settled in some inconvenient place, like a front porch.

Each summer I helped him gather the honey. My job was to chew the comb that didn't make it to the jars. Yeah, it was a tough job, but I did it well.

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I stand alone

The pink caught my attention from a mile away, standing alone and undisturbed in a half-acre of mulch, nothing else nearby daring to bloom yet. No one else nearby daring to admire either, as I approached to stand equally alone in the gusting spring breeze of a March day a bit warmer than expected.

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Wild, untamed, and perfect

It's just a straggly, unkept, forgotten sprig of forsythia. Ignored most of the year, marking a spot where a house once stood, where lovers courted and children played.

Most all that gone some 40 years now to make way for a road.

Yet this one unfailing ghost remains. Perfection in its singular unkept and hardly remembered beauty.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

My foundling dollar made whole

I suppose there is some sort of federal prohibition regarding using cellophane tape on American currency, but I don't expect the federalies to be out on patrol at Chubby's Tacos today, and I'll be quite safe from human approach some thirty minutes later anyway.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Return of the death orchid

Yes, death orchid. It's not so black this time. Something must have scared a little more red into it since the last visit.


Dare to look deep into it's throat, and there you'll see in the swirling fog of smoke and flame the tortured souls writhing in the pits and bowels of unending hell.

It is not a pretty sight, especially with so many of my deserving relatives cluttering up the place.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cast your vision wide

Musashi teaches us to cast our vision wide. Yes, it's a martial arts thing.

On today's walk, I found a buck beside the parking lot. My reward for looking elsewhere. Looking wider.

The interesting  part for me was that I spent the better part of the day with people who cannot look past the obvious, much less see it.

So I get the buck. Of course, my first inclination was to look for more, and I did. Finding no more, I then wondered why it could not have been a larger denomination.

Yep. Greed remains alive and well.

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's about about time

I have long argued that the effluent from waste treatment should be discharged upstream, not downstream. A very few miles of tumbling in an open stream will render the scrubbed water ready for use.

You don't believe that, Raleigh? Ask Smithfield.

And now technology makes it even better. It'll be just like those SyFy stories about reclaiming water on space stations all too soon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

W00T!!! Lily makes Phi Beta Kappa

The pic I need for this will need a bigger camera. Or maybe I'll just break down the door to the roof and tell it to the crows. Wait! I'm on a plane. This will need to wait until I'm back in Raleigh. Oh hell! We both know I'll find some way to brag about it in San Antonio.


I wonder of she will have to eat a goldfish or something. Maybe. Those crackers are good.

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My suite on the Southwest plane

Maybe I'm living right. Or maybe I've mastered that intimidating look. Regardless, I have the row to myself on an otherwise filled plane. Of course, I'd gladly share with the fellow in the distance, but he's currently occupied with his girlfriend. Sadness. Maybe the rum will ease my pain.

But there's also the barefooted Carolina boy at the front of the plane, the guy who just needed to pee again. He might need to relocate, or otherwise seek mentoring.

And yes, if you need to pee, and the bathroom is occupied, I do mind if you sit in the aisle seat, unless you bring rum.

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Dipping snuff on a Southwest plane

Mind you, I completely understand active nicotine receptors. It's just been forever since I was exposed to a spit cup not mine. By forever, I mean since 1969 when my grandmother died.

So this redneck dude is dipping his Skoal because he can't light up. Could someone please introduce the fellow to Snus? I would appreciate it.

Meanwhile, I gave him my extra napkin while placing his name deep on the no-kiss list.

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Did you lose this?

Found in RDU. AJ's Tavern to be exact. I had just anesthetized the miserable pain in my neck, and was stepping out for my plane. Looking down, it appears that some one got a mani in my seat at the bar. Bummer. I need one too.