Hijo and Novia
Thursday, October 21 2004
With the liberal talk of Air America blaring from a stereo speaker on the south deck above me, I began work setting the first stones on the east slab today. I've been listening to Air America so much that I've memorized all their ads, from the ones hawking fast-acting penis medications to those promoting the hypnotic self-improvement tapes of Wendi Friesen. They're so embarrassingly bad that I usually chatter out loud along with them, using a goofy voice to stress the words that sound as if they were carefully chosen after lots of market testing. I wish there was a way for all these ads to be in Spanish to help me master the language. Maybe I should be listening to Spanish-language liberal talk radio, if such a thing exists.
I worked for a couple hours until it began to rain and I had to cover my new work with plastic and shut down my operation. Since the slab lies beneath the drip line of two intersecting roofs, neither of which have gutters, it was essential that I protect the exposed concrete "grout lines" from the substantial erosive force of water falling from two stories up.
The last few months have seen me being unusually dedicated to low-tech issues, first the massive task of correcting problems with basement dampness and now an entirely-cosmetic concrete slab resurfacing. This doesn't mean I've completely lost interest in higher technology. That interest has been sitting on a back burner, stewing slowly, its flavors mixing thoroughly and perhaps mellowing a little. But the arrival of our new Tivo device has made me reach for that pot once again.
Tivos run Linux, something I was reminded of when I was thumbing through the user manual. It's a little bit of a mindfuck to see the GNU Public License in the back of a mass-market publication. In terms of shock, it's equal to but kind of the opposite of seeing a McDonalds on Red Square.
Remembering the Tivo-Linux connection sent me to the web to ascertain the depth and breadth of the Tivo hacking community. As expected, it's large, and there are plenty of hacks available to even the modestly-skilled. My first priority was to get the Tivo attached to the household ethernet, something that seemed to be as easy as plugging in a USB ethernet adapter. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as easy as that; I actually have to pull the hard drive out of the Tivo and use something called "The Sleeper CD" to install the proper Linux drivers. But it's a well-worn path and there are very detailed instructions available for the complete novice. I'm going to wait until I have a suitable 120 Gig drive available so I can expand the Tivo's storage at the same time.
This evening Gretchen and I took our dogs with us and went to visit our friend Peter on the north bank of Rondout Creek in southeast Kingston.
For such an auspicious house, Peter's stone castle really isn't all that big; I don't think it's even as much as 2000 square feet. The other day we ran across yet another 19th Century painting of his house, but he's seen so many of them that such news no longer excites him.
When we arrived Gretchen and I immediately went upstairs to meet Peter's son (Hijo) and that son's girlfriend (Novia), neither of whom we'd ever met before. Both of them now live in Havana, Cuba. They're actually there legitimately doing their respective studies. They're about our age, perhaps a little younger, and we had excellent rapport with them immediately. This had a lot to do with the catalyzing effect of Gretchen's ebullient extrovertism.
When we came back down the stairs, Gretchen was horrified to discover that one of our dogs (probably Eleanor) had completely scarfed the spinach dip that Peter had set out for us. The container it had been in had been licked nearly spotless.
Over several glasses of wine, we learned how newscasts in Cuba differ from the ones we see here. (They're always upbeat and sometimes feature crudely-recorded pirated copies of films from other places, most spectacularly Michæl Moore's Fahrenheit 911.) Later we discussed a Guatemalan Spanish-language program that Hijo and Novia had both taken, one Gretchen is planning for us to take some time in the Spring. Then Peter (who is a legal assistance attorney) told us about what he had to do to keep a woman from being evicted from her apartment. At a certain point he abruptly kicked us out so he could spend time with his son alone.
So Gretchen and I went into the heart of the Rondout and had another fabulously flavorful dinner at El Coqui. Our waiter was unusually inept, but it didn't really matter.
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