NaBloPoMo

Metalameness

I gotta get my blogging act together. There's not much point in doing a posting-every-day challenge if I keep throwing up some lazy crap just to check the "I blogged today" box. Yet I'm going to do it again tonight.

Worse, I'm blogging about blogging. Few things are more self-consciously annoying than that.

Anyway. How are you?


All aboard the car train

35

Enjoy scenic Central Texas.

I am still very sad and angry that there will not be a high-speed train between Austin and Dallas anytime soon, if even in my lifetime. The drive from my house to my parents' is about three and a half hours, which always gives me plenty of time to sulk about that and also fantasize about alternatives.

Lately I've been wishing we could have a car train, or some kind of a land ferry, where you pay to link or load your car onto a giant truck and just sit back and relax as you ride from city to city.

This would also solve the problem of connectivity on either end--a train would be great, but face it, there isn't a city in Texas where you wouldn't want to have a car, unless you only need to visit the central core of the bigger cities.

The only problem would be where to sit. Ideally you'd just ride in your own vehicle, but you'd need a climate-controlled cabin. Idling all the vehicles to keep the a/c going would defeat the purpose.

I'm sure someone smarter than me can figure that part out, though, and then we can all show up at our destinations fresh and relaxed.


Party

It's 1 am but it's still Saturday night. My stepmom had her 60th birthday party tonight. It was full of family and family friends--people I've known my whole life, or at least more than half of it.

There is always awkwardness and some regret that I don't keep in better touch, or didn't live up to potential, or aren't more outgoing (and therefore a different person altogether), but mostly it's pretty incredible to have people who are with you for the whole ride.


Dogs, birds, words.

Not much happened today. I got up, made a smoothie, went to work, came home, got takeout, came back home and ate it, and walked the dogs. That was it; that was Thursday. I did not live a great story, as the fake-inspirational wheatpaste signs all over town would have us do.

I do have a few small things to share, though.

The first is this great Vine someone made. You'll have to turn the sound on and let it loop, oh, 20-30 times to get the full effect:

(Aw, come on, play it one more time!)

The second is that I figured out how to flip the bird in iMessage while playing around texting with my friend Leslie.

Bird

The new emoji update gave us the little middle finger guy, and it's wonderful. But sometimes you need a bolder, more abstract statement, and that is this:

Birdy

I sure told them, whoever they are!

(No one was really a jerk to me today. But if someone ever is...)

 


Passion!

Passionflower
Photo credit: Len Burgess

Today I planted the passionflower vine my friend Phyllis* gave me the other week. It was tricky, since I was planting it in sloping clay soil, and it took a lot of effort to dig a big level hole in that sticky dirt. Also there was apparently a little city of mosquitoes living in the pot it came in, so even though I had coated myself in DEET I had a tiny cloud of observers hovering a few inches from my efforts.

No problem; I got it in. I hope it likes its new home.

Ambivalent flower

I put it next to the deck in hopes that it will twine up the railings. The plant itself is not nearly as dramatic as its Seussian flower, is it?

It didn't seem that thrilled about being moved to begin with, and the caterpillars were feasting on it heartily, so it looks a little sickly. But if this is a good spot for it, I'm sure it will do fine.

Caterpillar

This caterpillar tried to hitch a ride on my gardening glove. Nice try, buddy.

Gulf f

Photo credit: Vicki DeLoach

My friend and coworker Larry told me these guys will eventually become Gulf fritillary butterflies, and I'm really looking forward to having them around. I noticed a few of the caterpillars strayed from the plant when I was driving it home--I peeled one off the gear shift the next morning--so maybe I'll have butterflies in the cabin of my car, too.

*Yep, there's Phyllis again. Some people have this way about them that you spend one evening with them and they influence you for weeks, or sometimes years.


What's next, people? Self-riding bikes?

I was riding my bike to work this morning and hit a spot where the cycle track ran out at the end of the block and was replaced by a bike lane at the other side of the intersection. This was no big deal but did require me to veer slightly to the left, a little closer to the car lane.

Robot cars

(Here's a diagram, since I find it hard to visualize these things and Google Earth isn't up-to-date on the Mueller development.)

I heard a car coming up behind me right as I hit the intersection, and I fully expected it to gun past, which is what I prefer and what most drivers used to sharing the road with bicycles do. Just get past me as quickly and safely as possible and we'll be out of each others' hair forever.

This car instead slowed and hovered behind my left side as I drifted over into the bike lane. Argh, dude, just pass me! You're making me nervous.

I turned around to see how close it was and realized it was a Google self-driving car* on a test drive, cautiously waiting while I made my lane shift.

Once I realized what was going on I relaxed because I knew I wasn't in danger of being plowed into by an inexperienced driver or, worse, a texting one. Still, given how cars and bikes usually interact, the Google cars' real-world behavior could use a little finessing.

Self-driving cars are a fantastic idea, but this very brief encounter made me realize the transition period between human and robot drivers means we will have to account for two sets of behaviors and two sets of assumptions. It might get hairy for a while.

*One of the Lexuses, not the super-cute deliberately benign-looking ones. Sadly.


Fine, I'll just wear a barrel and disappear, then.

I keep seeing sad articles about Generation X, how we're this teeny demographic blip between the Boomers and the Millennials who are going to end up shafted on benefits and have a muted voice in politics. How we are destined to age and die alone, poor, and broken in our desert tent cities, eating dry cat food out of the bag while we tunelessly croon snatches of Nirvana and the Pixies to ourselves.

I think it's all a little overwrought. And yet, my sister and I went to one of the big department stores in the mall tonight to shop for something to wear at our stepmom's birthday party this weekend. We walked through the enormous juniors section--it just kept going and going--and rounded the corner into the Older Women area. Creased slacks, sweater vests with faux-fur collars, crisp blouses with gold-rimmed buttons, rack after rack of this. We kept going and circled around to the fancy dresses, and then the juniors again.

Where was the section for us? There were a few displays here and there that had stuff I would consider wearing, or at least could see people I knew in, but mostly there...kind of wasn't one. I never find much I like in department stores anyway, but the message seemed pretty clear.

"I feel betrayed by fashion," my sister, whose hardest choice at the mall had long been what not to buy, said a few minutes later while we pawed through limp, uninspiring tops that were just a little too young for us at another national chain. She seemed genuinely distressed. I didn't know what to tell her. "Join the club, kiddo," seemed callous and obnoxious, and I am trying to be less of those things.

Plus, I felt a little disquieted myself. If we're such a nonentity that the big guys aren't even bothering to market to us during our biggest earning years, maybe there really won't be any social security left by the time we're 67.


A few things I liked today:

Shiny
Ooh, shiny!

Ok, this first one is boring because it's just the weather. But oh, wow, today. Cool air, yellow sun, blue skies, green everything else from the rain. Days like this are a Texan's reward for putting up with August.

 

The next thing I liked is a little boring too. Ok, boring's not fair at all; it was slow and contemplative, as is only fitting about a documentary about a topiary gardener.

I think A Man Named Pearl is only available on DVD right now, but it was worth waiting for. A really sweet movie, with lots of greenery to enjoy if you like that kind of thing. Many thanks to Phyllis for recommending it.

Bow wow

(I don't have a picture of Phyllis at the moment, so here's a picture of her dog Bow Wow instead.)

The last thing I liked today, or at least liked enough to write about it, is this blog. It looks like it hasn't been updated in a while, but it's written by Mad Mike, a man who spends his days walking around Austin looking for, and often finding, drugs on the ground. His lengthy account of the week he spent in jail is excellent. This Vice interview gives a quick background of the guy if you're curious.

Now, sadly, I must stop looking at things I like and go to bed. I hope your day was full of things you like too.


Grumpy mutt

WHAT

What.

√úter is extremely grumpy when he's trying to sleep. If you so much as rest your hand on his shoulder when he's dozing he'll let out this exasperated-sounding grunt: Nnnnggggh.

I don't do this often because I don't think it's cool to pester the dogs (and also because I'm aware it's kind of weird), but it's so funny that I have to every once in a while: when he's sleeping I'll rest my head on his back and let him bear most of its weight. Then he does a very long, loud, almost baroque grunt: Ngggggggggggggggggggggggggggh. He just sounds so disgusted.

Sometimes these grunts go on forever. I mean they're so long, like 30 seconds of uninterrupted grunting. This makes me laugh, which makes my shoulders and head move up and down, which makes his whole body shake. So his very long grunt gets chopped up into a series of little staccato grunts: Nnngh ngh ngh ngh ngh ngh. And that makes me laugh harder, which makes his grunts even more emphatic, and then we are stuck in this giggle/grunt feedback loop that only ends when he gives up with a weary sigh because let's face it, I've never been able to let a joke drop.

Both our dogs are a lot of work, and their weird behavior problems cause me considerable angst. But anyone who makes me laugh so much every single day is well worth the cost of their kibble and Comfortis.