Saturday, March 26 2005
Throughout most of the day my head continued to feel like it had an angry trout struggling to burst out of it. I seriously started contemplating what I would do if it continued this way for the rest of my life. It was a ridiculous notion, since (aside from Meckel's diverticulitis) I've never suffered from anything that didn't heal itself inside of a month.
By early evening I'd had enough of dealing with my head so I decided to take a nap. When I woke up an hour and a half later my head felt much better. From then on into the night I'd occasionally experience a mild trout movement in my forehead but it would subside before it became much of a distraction.
Last night my condition had been such that I'd been quietly reluctant to socialize with the photogenic vegan Buddhists and their lamb named Daniel, but tonight I was feeling unusually fresh and chipper, fully capable of participating in the scheduled activity: a "story telling party" at the residence of our other photogenic Buddhist friends in Rosendale. What an intriguing idea: people sitting around taking turns to tell stories! That's one aspect of pre-Enlightenment society whose revival I wouldn't bemoan.
We sat in a circle on the floor eating snackfood and spinning yarns, some much better than others. About a dozen people were there, and, aside from our hosts and our friends from Eagles' Nest, everyone there was a complete stranger. It's important to note that I'd decided not to drink alcohol of any sort, which meant that I was forcing myself to socialize with strangers while sober, an activity I have mostly avoided since the Spring of 1989. But I've decided that I'm at a reasonably comfortable phase of my life, and if I'm ever going to remaster the talent of socializing while sober, now will be the time of most likely success. I say "remaster" because I was once perfectly capable of sober socializing. But that was back when I was as a sophomore and junior in Oberlin, when much of my social time was spent in front of a cooking pot containing a varied blend of caffeinated tea.
One of the first stories tonight was told by the mother of the lady of the house and was, believe it or not, the true story of how, during a time of unusual UFO activity, translucent space aliens had drifted through the kitchen of her house on Hurley Mountain Road. Nobody else in the audience had stories of the paranormal, though John from Eagle's Nest Road told of the time he'd seen an asteroid skip off the atmosphere and a woman had a story about an experience with the ever-elusive phenomenon of ball lightning.
Nobody seemed particularly interested in discussing the space aliens but something as empirical as ball lightning raised many questions. What exactly was the fireball? How had it behaved? Normally I let such questions ferment for a little while before piping up in my capacity as the guy who knows a thing or two about science. One doesn't want to be the annoying know it all at the party. So after a suitable pause, I explained to the gathered that a lightning fireball is comprised of that odd fourth state of matter, plasma, and that plasma is a cloud of atoms that have been stripped (at great energy cost) of all their electrons. I said that since plasma is a most unstable state on earth that such balls soon collapse as they suck the electrons out of surrounding matter. (This is, by the way, just one of several theories about fireball lightning.)
One of the women present, the one who seemed most interested in exploring ball lightning further, kept asking me questions about the phenomenon and I kept answering them. I didn't know entirely what I was talking about, but I wasn't talking entirely out of my ass either; I'd retained the salient details from the few things I'd read about ball lightning. Finally this woman asked me directly, "But how do you know?" It was a confrontational question, a stressful social moment that is part of why people like to drink when they socialize. My body, unaccustomed to experiencing such moments while in a completely sober state, reacted with a jolt of some hormone (adrenaline?) that at the time felt like an injection of a powerful, unfamiliar stimulant directly into my head. Happily, though, I was swift on my feet, answering "Oh, I just made all that stuff up!" This retort was self-effacing, mocking, and hilarious at the same time. The woman had no idea that it was also sort of true. In other words, it was the perfect comeback, and it felt wonderful to have been able to utter it in time. It reassured me that I was capable of sober socializing and that I could even have fun doing it. I've been needing such reassurance for years.
The story I told was a combination of my three best Josh Furr stories. Together I'd call the opus "Just Because You're Paranoid..." since it starts with character development about social openness and foolish decisionmaking ("Squandering a Quarter Million Dollars Ain't Hard to Do") moves on to more character development concerning misplaced paranoia ("Pizza and Beer for the Black Man Next Door") and then concludes with a twist where the sum effect of the social openness and poor decisionmaking places our hero in a situation where paranoia is unexpectedly justified.
And now for a few online things that have me exercised:
Today I went looking for drivers for a Umax Astra 2200 scanner, which a client had given to Gretchen the other day. My first stop, of course, was the Umax website, because of my familiarity with the standard practice of hardware manufacturers offering drivers for their hardware from their website. This is something I've come to expect, and any company, say, unwilling to provide drivers for old hardware raises my suspicion about their level of commitment to their customers. Why should I buy new things from a company that won't support the things they used to sell? But Umax was doing something even more offensive than not providing the drivers. They were providing them, but only as a $14 CD sent via snail mail. I kid you not. Happily, copies of their stupid drivers were available online. But how many people don't know enough to look for other sources? I sure hope this doesn't represent the beginning of a new trend among hardware manufacturers.
While I was searching the web for Umax Astra 2200 drivers, I came upon this advertisement, the one that doesn't look like an advertisement at all but is labeled "Computer Wizard." Click next, you're taken to an intermediate page that seems to be performing some sort of complex diagnostic. Then you're dumped on this page, which tells you everything that every web server knows whenever you visit a page. In my case it told me that I was running Windows 2000 and (somewhat inaccurately) "Netscape Navigator Version 5." A speedometer then shows something called "Average PC Performance" as very slow, but "Improved PC Performance" as very fast. Finally it claims to "recommend" a product called "PC Booster." We're supposed to believe that the Average PC Performance is our computer, and that if we bought PC Booster our computer would show the dramatic speed increase shown in the second speedometer. But this advertising technique is a cryptofraud; no diagnostics were actually performed and the first speedometer graphic is the same one presented to all visitors. It isn't labeled as being anything other than what it is, but the intention here is to deceive people.
Meanwhile my old friend Matt Rogers has been bombarding me with links to web pages documenting surreal details from life in our post-reality age:
WatchingAmerica.com - translations into English from foreign news sources. Unfortunately, when George W. Bush talks about being "mindful of the filter" he's not talking about going directly to this page to get his news.
The United States of Jesus - this Terry Shiavo thing has done an excellent job of demonstrating that Christian fundamentalism is something of an organized freakshow. It's all fun and games until the witches get burned and the Jews get pogrommed.
Police 'Showdown' Over Schiavo Averted - supposedly Jeb Bush had intentions of making an end run around the Florida legal system for the cause of ramming that confounded feeding tube down that dead woman's throat. The picture of Jeb on this page is priceless; I haven't been so inspired to make and hurl a shit pie in years.
Heartland Morality, American Politics - what it means to think like a heartlander and the disconnect between thinking and believing.
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