Sunday, December 18, 2011

Because You Have The Innernet

At brunch this morning my buddy said he wished he could win the lottery so that he could solve his parents money problems and the problems of another mutual friend. I asked him if his parents would take monetary assistance from him and he replied "you've obviously never been poor."

This reminded me of a story from when I was poor. I was working two jobs at the time. It was a Sunday and I was just finishing up a shift at Brookline Booksmith and meeting my former boyfriend for dinner. It was Summer and we had decided to meet on the lawn in front of Cambridge City Hall. This way if one of us got there early we could sit on the nice green grass and read a book (this was pre-iPod) until the other one showed up.

So I was headed into Cambridge from Brookline. For a number of reasons (starting with I like to walk and ending with T service sucks on Sundays) I got off at Hynes Convention Center and walked into Cambridge instead of transferring from the Green Line to the Red Line.

As a result of my decision, I ran into a friend of mine (let's call him Harry.) Harry worked at the Middle East. When Harry came into a lot of money it was well known he'd get drunk, get others drunk and hand money around. I knew that Harry did this because he told me so himself. When I ran into Harry he was clearly well lubricated. He said "Oh Hey Doll--let me give you something because you have the internet at your house. Also--this is for your phone bill because you call Ryan* in California." I did try not to take his money, ("No Harry, thanks I can pay my phone bill.") but he made me feel like I was being rude not to take his cash, so I did.

I went to the green in front of Cambridge City Hall to wait for
the Boyfriend. I told him the whole story--was I wrong to take Harry's money? Could we put it in an envelope and leave it at the Middle East for him to collect when he sobered up?

He replied "I think Harry just bought us dinner because you have the Intranet."

And then we went to the Border Cafe and ordered catfish bites.

*A mutual friend who had moved from Cambridge to California

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why Yes, my Mom is an Intellectual Badass

My parents are retired and they're now grandparents (although their version of retired involves working at least once a week, running a soup kitchen and grand-parenting--which is to say it's still pretty lively.) As our conversations over the past few years have been more about what my niece and nephews are up to and less about Hamlet, I've begun to wonder--is my impression that my parents are intellectual badasses an illusion? Is this just something I tell myself to keep them on a pedestal?

As it turns out, no. I called home tonight to talk to the Ageds. We talked Christmas shopping, I told them what day I was arriving and we discussed Angry Birds.

Towards the end of the conversation I remembered that I wanted to get a book on the Avignon Papacy (AP)--a conversation I'd had with some friends last Friday about medieval Christianity* had made me think that the AP was something I might want to know a thing or two about. When I looked up the Wikipedia article on the AP, all the sources were in French or German and when I tried to search the subject on my favorite indie bookstore's website the results were..less than promising. So I thought I'd tell mom I wanted a book on this subject matter and turn her loose on the booksellers of New York City.

When I told her what I wanted and why (information on the origin of Purgatory and other things which led to the reformation) she replied "Oh! that's not where all of that comes from! It's all due to the black plague. What you want is some of the books I read in college."

She then went on to explain (or rather remind me) a great deal about the social reactions to the black plague (flagellants, witch burning, Jews accused of well poisoning, etc.) And then we went back to discussing the reformation.

It's nice to have common interests with my mom. I can't keep up with her in a shopping marathon, but at least we can talk about medieval history together.

*What do corporate drones like me do for fun? We go to the Old Spot in Salem to talk about the history of Christian schismatism over beers with Latin teachers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bad Dreams

Since my professional life has gotten so busy/interesting this past year I've been treated to a set of rich nightmares, most of them this summer. I thought I was done with them until Monday morning. I woke up at 5 am from an awful dream. Awful enough that I don't want to talk about it*

But of course, the subject matter of the nightmare hardly matters when one slams awake in the middle of the night. The fact of it being the middle of the night, along with the leftover bad brain chemicals that linger are enough to make one terrified and awake and upset. I called in sick. True it was 5 am and I did not have to leave the house for another 2 hours and 40 minutes, but my lizard brain was in charge at the time and my lizard brain knew things were not well.

This was one of the few times I wish I had a boy (the others tend to be when I'm sick or very upset). I started to think about how nice it would be to have some nice, sleepy boy throw his arm around me after a nightmare...and then stopped thinking about that. Because I imagined some Lovecraftian creature throwing one of it's many tentacles around me.

I left the lights on and Felt Bad until the sun came up. By then my the nightmare brain-chemicals had burned off and I could grab some of the sleep I'd missed.

I've found myself thinking of this--the only time I really wish I had some boy is when I'm upset or sick (waking up from a nightmare qualifies as both) and wondering how one would express this in an online dating profile.

*Much worse than the one where my former colleague had taken to killing every one in the office who wandered into the server room and hiding their bodies. I could smell the corpses when he showed me where he had hidden them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Set your Phaser for Stun

When we got the Xerox Phaser 8860 and I installed it I wrote a poem about the device. Like Mr Silas Wegg, I don't dip into poetry much. I'm not posting said poem, because I strongly suspect it was a bad poem.

So why did I write a poem about a network printer? Because it was a thing of beauty! It printed brilliant color and it did duplex. It actually prints from wax--the cartridges are like giant crayons. It could print files from our most difficult applications. It had routines for cleaning itself. You can take the contents of the waste tray out and write with them. It made the Financial Planning staff happy because they got to say "Phaser" a lot. Finally, I installed it myself without calling for help.

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this last bit was such a big deal now. Network printer installation is not exactly Rocket Surgery. But at the time I was just starting to learn that I was, in fact, a competent grown up. That was in 2007.

I love tools. I particularly love beautiful, useful objects. The Phaser, with it's wax printing and self cleaning falls into the category of beautiful and useful, from my point of view.

The Phaser is not doing so well these days. There are some light streaks in large blocks of color. Every time I've noticed this before I just ran it through the basic cleaning program and hoped it would get better. There's an advanced cleaning program---where you put in the number of the ink jet that's not working--but that always seemed alarming to me (what if I screwed it up?). The printer has a test sheet which prints little Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black streaks with numbers next to them. The numbers are the print jet numbers. If there is no Cyan streak next to 134 in the Cyan block, then there is probably something wrong with Cyan jet 134.

Today I tried to clean the printer and wondered why I'd found the idea of using the advanced method so intimidating previously. So I told the printer to clean Cyan jet 134. As it ground away I looked at the rest of the test page and lined up a recently printed document (so that I could see where the light streaks on the page were) If this worked I could go through and get the printer to clean each of the jets that lined up with a light streak and then the printer would work as beautifully as it had the day we bought it!

Alas no. Seeing the light streaks on the test page in after cleaning jets number 8 and 134 saddened me. There's nothing I can do for my old friend.