all in your head.

Nightmares are sneaky. They come at you when you are unsuspecting and defenseless, and they come from inside your own head. Then again, I suppose all these things are the advantages of nice dreams, so maybe I shouldn't complain too much. One of the most upsetting things about nightmares is that they continue to be upsetting. As a kid, you might have thought they were terrifying, but at least your Mom didn't get them.

But that's not true at all. The worst nightmare I've ever had was as an adult, in college. I dreamed that I was testifying at a trial, saying that my dad had abused me. I was sitting in the witness box, looking out at Daddy sitting at the defendant's table. The absolute worst part of it was that I knew that I was lying. I knew Daddy had never touched me, and I didn't understand why I was doing all this. It still makes me shudder.

I have tricks to combat nightmares. They don't actually work, but since I think that they do, somehow that means that they do work after all. That's the most brilliant and nonsensical thing about them. They're just little things that grown-ups told me when I was little and earnest and nightmares were my biggest problem. I believed the grown-ups, because they were grown-ups. Then the tricks worked, and so I really believed in them. Oddly enough, two-thirds of my tricks are religious in nature. If you don't think that's odd, I have a brother who does.

The first thing is prayer. Some Sunday School teacher told me once that praying not to have nightmares would prevent them. I added that to my prayer routine that very night, along with protecting my family and pet cats. I never did any sort of study to see if it worked. You know, develop my hypothesis, pray not to have nightmares one night, then don't pray about it the next night for control purposes. My thirst for scientific knowledge was not strong enough to risk bringing bad dreams upon myself. Of course, I still occasionally had nightmares, but I wasn't going to get mad at God for letting one slip through. Never did it occur to me that I was asking God to please enforce mind control over me.

The second trick was from a preacher, who told me that if you invoke the name of Christ during a nightmare, it will go away. So while the prayer was a preventative measure, this was actual battle. I remember the first time I tried this one. I was probably nine. I don't remember what the nightmare was about, but I remember having that pivotal moment when you realize, Oh wait, I'm having a nightmare. I'm really asleep and none of this is real. So I gathered up all my mind strength and screamed out "Jesus!" in my head (and possibly out loud). The dream actually faded into wispy smoke and a completely different setting appeared, a view of a chimney on top of a building in London at sunset. I wonder if my parents thought I was a sleep-blasphemer.

I was enthralled with this effective maneuver. I tried a thing and I got results. Of course, now I realize that the important part was probably the realization that it was a dream and the decision to take control of the dream. Obviously, at that point, I was at least somewhat conscious and could control my thoughts. I mean no disrespect to Son of God. While logically, I believe that the actual word has nothing to do with it, I'm not going to start calling out "Zeus!"

The last trick doesn't have an interesting story and is not religious at all, or at least no religion I've ever heard of. If you wake up in the middle of the night, having had a nightmare, roll over. This will "clear" the nightmare and you'll go back to sleep to dream about something else. There is nothing more irritating than escaping from a terrible dream into reality only to go right back into it. Logically, this probably has more to do with waking up enough to move. But who wants to be logical all the time? It's magic.

None of these things work, and all of them do. Try them, or don't. It's all in your head.


three little words.

At fourteen years old, I did not know much about love. Shocking, I know. Ten years later, I can say that I know a little bit about the way I experience love. See how I carefully qualified that statement? I did that, because learning about love for me has been a series of disillusionments. I'll have an idea based on unreliable sources (friends, movies, Country Crock commercials featuring hands), which is then tested in my life, and I come to the conclusion that those butter commercials are not about real love. Rather than make you laugh by trying to explain what it is I think I know about love now, I'm going to discuss a very specific part of love, namely, the phrase "I love you."

Three little words, as pop music is so quick to remind us, but of so much importance. Blah blah blah. The phrase gets more credit than it deserves, because it's so easily and frequently abused. Take a survey and see how many people have said it without meaning it, either intentionally or not. Just words, guys, just words.

That's an opinion I had even at fourteen. I'd heard stories about boys, evil and horny boys, callously tossing those words around just to get to second base. I was not going to let that happen to me. I would not fall for those three little words, nor would I let them pass my lips until I was good and sure that I was in love. That seems like a pretty reasonable attitude for a fourteen year old. Unfortunately, my implementation of that attitude was, well, misguided.

My first boyfriend tried to tell me that he loved me. He was so nervous and cute. We'd been talking on the phone a lot for a few months, seeing each other at church youth group every week or so. We'd held hands once. It was textbook puppy love, very sweet and innocent. He probably did want to get to second base, but that was more of a long-term plan. When he tried to eek out those all-important words, I stopped him. I was so sure of myself as I told him that I wanted to make sure this was love before we let those words out between us, and I just didn't think he'd given it enough thought.

The first time you say you love someone is portrayed as being very crucial on TV. You put it out there and then you wait to see what the other person will say. No one wants a nice hug and a thanks. That's heart-breaking. But that is nothing compared to being told that you're actually wrong. Fourteen-year-old Sandra took heart-trampling to new heights.

To that boy, I say: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I was an idiot. But you knew that.

Somehow, we survived my obvious lack of understanding about relationships and the feelings of others. I did eventually allow him to tell me that he loved me. But I didn't say it back. I had learned a little bit, but I still was firm in my belief that I surely wasn't going to tell someone that I loved him unless I knew it. And so I waited to be "in love."

How do you know when you're in love? I still can't define that. There ought to be a test, something more significant than a set of ten multiple choice questions in a teen magazine. The only thing I can figure is that I was waiting for gongs. I would have accepted bells or flashing lights and streamers, but I was waiting for some sort of big sign, a giant epiphany that told me I was really and truly in love. Sudden, swelling music would have worked as well. Life in general would be easier if there were more gongs.

To all you fourteen-year-olds out there, I would like to state that there are no gongs. No, really. No gongs at all. Is this getting through to you? I'm imparting wisdom here. Are you even listening to me? Of course not, you little twerps. Kids these days.

The result of that debacle was that I ended up not telling that boy that I loved him when I did. I'm embarrassed, nay, ashamed to admit that was the state of things for two years. It's lucky for me that he was just a kid in love for the first time, too. Otherwise, he probably would have told me to buzz off, because I was clearly incompetent at life.

Again, I say: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I was an idiot. You knew that even then.

This was all a long time ago and that particular relationship advanced much farther, allowing me to make new and more serious mistakes. Now it's all over, and I suppose only water under the bridge. I was young and foolish then; I feel old and foolish now.

The first time Josh told me he loved me, I hesitated. I hadn't been in the beginning of a relationship for years and years, and I'd almost forgotten about the first time those words are said. My fourteen-year-old self told me to tread carefully. But then I thought, no, I'm not doing this again, and I said it right back. And the world continued on, everything was wonderful, because I was in love. It shouldn't have to be that hard, and really, it isn't.

I used to think that the words could get old. I knew a lot of people who seemed to say it to their mates automatically, without feeling. I thought that came from overuse of the phrase itself. My ex-boyfriend was in the habit of saying "You, too" to my "I love you." I hated that. It seemed so routine and insincere. It's also what he said to his mom. I realize now that the staleness of the words has more to do with the state of the relationship than the tally of times the words are used. Still, I think that even if I was in the best relationship in the world, that "you, too" crap would bug me. Even Demi Moore got mad at Patrick Swayze for saying "Ditto," and he came back from the dead to love her.

Having come to that realization that the words do not get old on their own (or at least they haven't yet), I abuse the phrase. I use it a million times a day, at the end of every phone call, after being handed a glass of water, in the middle of a James Bond movie. It's like I'm testing it for robustness. It always comes back to me, and it has not gotten old. I love, and I am loved. We don't get tired of communicating our affections to each other, but maybe that's because we use a lot of silly voices.

We even have The I Love You Test of Anger. You know how you can count how many seconds between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder to figure out how far away the strike hit? You just count how many seconds it takes the other party to return the "I love you" to find out how mad he is. It's quite effective. It also has the added benefit of putting the argument into perspective. Yes, I know that you're mad right now, but remember that I love you and more importantly, remember that you love me, so we're just going to have to get over this. Like any good relationship trick, we each know what the other person is doing, but it still works.

Even with all the mileage those three little words get in my relationship, I still think they get more credit than they deserve. The words only mean as much as the people saying and hearing them allow them to mean. They have no inherent value. To boys trying to get to second base, they mean nothing. To the girls who fall for that, they mean a lot. Love should be communicated, but not necessarily in that manner. "Tell me about your day," "Let me rub your feet," or even, "Have some of my ice cream." You don't have to use words at all, just hand the ice cream over and start rubbing my feet, and I'll know you love me. The words are just one of many ways to communicate love, and I want to use them all. Maybe I'll even get a gong.


snapping beans.

I'm sitting on the floor of my living room, facing a blank TV screen. I've got a big kitchen bowl to my right and a plastic grocery bag full of green beans to my left. I am snapping beans. Pinch one end, then the other, snap the bean into even pieces about two inches long, drop the pieces into the bowl. Pinch, pinch, snap, snap, snap, drop. Each step has a different noise, distinct, yet quiet enough that were the TV on, I wouldn't hear them. As I snap more, a familiar smell comes back. It's not like picking the beans, which has the smell of sweat and close spaces and dirt and broad yellow-green leaves sticking to your t-shirt. And it's not the smell of cooking the beans, which is hot and hungry and buttery. It's a fresh green smell, earthy and homey. They say smell is the sense with the most powerful memory, and as I snap, I think about beans.

A handwritten list on the kitchen table, scrawled in the pre-dawn hours, sometimes with a note below. Chores for summer vacation, from my mother who knew that she didn't make us do enough housework. I dreaded the List. At first it was long, because my sister was there. Sometimes Mama doled out the jobs herself and we each had an assigned column, our names like bylines. Sometimes she left it to us to fight it out who would have to sweep (hard, boring) and who would have to empty the trashcans (easy, quick). Then later, my sister left for college and the list got shorter, sometimes only one hastily written item to make my mother feel better about not making her daughter work harder. The seasons of the summer can be told by the chores, as sometimes we must pick strawberries, then pick blueberries, and then we must snap beans. I hated the garden chores, because I hated all chores on pricinple. I hated picking berries, because our fulfillment of the task was measured by how much we pick, and I ate half my crop. There's no reason I should've hated snapping beans. Snapping beans is a chore done on your butt in front of the weekday game shows. Snapping beans is a chore assigned by a mother who is trying to pad out the List.

A neighborhood swimming pool, sometimes empty and sometimes teeming with live little bodies. Mama doesn't swim, but sits in the shade of the carport. She pays as much attention as any seasoned mother, that is, none at all unless the soundtrack of shrieks changes volume. She brings beans in a kitchen bowl nested inside another bowl. She holds the bowl of beans in her lap and tosses the broken pieces into the empty bowl at her feet. As the hour progresses, the levels of the bowls switch. When we are the only ones there, she snaps and thinks about whatever Mamas think about. When other kids are also taking advantage of the pool, there is a row of Mamas in metal red-checked patio furniture. Some of them have also brought their beans, because everyone we know has a garden. Those who haven't brought their own help, too, and they talk about whatever Mamas talk about.

I am not at the pool, and I am not watching The Price is Right. I'm just sitting on my much-larger butt, snapping beans. I consider putting in a DVD, but decide that I rather like the noises made by bean pieces snapping and then tumbling all over themselves in the bowl. I feel oddly quiet and centered.

I think about whatever Sandras think about.


ze plane! ze plane!

So I wrote that little entry a couple weeks back about the tiny airplane ride and how I took all these pictures. And then I posted one picture. That was kinda mean, wasn't it? To make up for my teasing ways, I'm going to post more airplane pictures.

The view from atop my shoulder. Seriously, guys, tiny plane.

I took this one while dangling from the wing thousands of feet in the air. Or, uh, on the ground.

Finally, this shot was taken while we were flying over Kansas. Not really. It just looked cooler in black and white.



I'm lugging incredibly heavy equipment, one of the less glamorous aspects of dating a musician. It's about a block of walking between the club and my car, back and forth, navigating between pedestrians of varying levels of intoxication. People pass by in groups, looking happy at the best and a bit tired at the worst. A hot dog vendor with a mullet and white handlebar moustache sets up on the sidewalk, sensing opportunity. I walk past a doorway with a disheveled girl standing inside. She's struggling with her shoe, a shiny silver stiletto. Her belt, though purely ornamental, is hanging half off and her hair looks like she slept on it. She looks up as I pass, as if looking for a friend she lost that might help her with her dire shoe situation.

The buildings in downtown Greensboro are familiar, though I've never seen them before. They're old, half abandoned with junk piled inside behind dusty windows with "For Lease" signs. Old barber shops and five and dimes, they stand like old men on a porch complaining about kids on their lawns. A couple of them have been converted into clubs or posh restaurants in an attempt at downtown revitalization. The town planners see this as a great shining hope.

We pass through another group of people, a bunch of college kids heading home to sleep it off. They're not that drunk, and whichever one of them is the designated driver might even be able to pass a breathalyzer. The guys don't look that different from how they probably appeared hours earlier, maybe a few extra wrinkles in their polos. The girls, however, have obviously been undergoing a gradual deterioration. They're carrying their uncomfortable shoes, and they've pulled their hair back into messy ponytails. Jewelry has been stashed in a purse somewhere, makeup is smudged. Hours spent getting ready for a night of drinking, only to have alcohol make you realize how uncomfortable it all is. Still, they've not had enough to take them across the line from youthful and pretty into haggard.

Finally, we reach the car, and go about the process of piecing together the equipment so it all will fit into a sedan. A girl passes by, alone. Hair stuffed up into a rubber band, no shoes to be seen. Her balance is not what it should be. Her sequined halter top bunches around her stomach and over her miniskirt as she slouches down the sidewalk. She meets a group of six black guys on the sidewalk, who start talking to her. They're probably a bit tipsy, but she's wasted, and I can hear every word she says from twenty feet away. She was in the club (she doesn't remember which one), took some ecstacy, left because it was too hot, then lost her friends, and now she doesn't know where her ID is. The guys talk to her, one at a time, then two at a time, rotating themselves out, laughing out loud as she says something about how trashed she is. From an unseen nearby street, sirens sound, and she screams, "The police are coming! It's the cops!"

Finally, we're loaded up and we can leave Greensboro behind. It's almost last call, and this is not where I want to be. The girl with the silver shoe is walking unsteadily next to a muscled member of club security. The group of college-age kids have been replaced with a different version of themselves, five minutes later. The girl in the sequined halter top is leaned against a lamppost, one of the guys talking to her intimately. I start the car.

"I hope she gets home okay," I say to Josh.

"She will. She's probably got people looking for her."

"I don't think those guys are going to do her any favors."

"Yeah, you may be right. It's too bad. She was pretty."

I hadn't noticed.


scotch tape.

Scotch tape has become a genericized trademark, which is the fancy way of saying that everyone uses one particular brand name to describe a product as a whole. For example, it's much more common to hear "Hand me a Kleenex" than "Hand me a Kleenex brand tissue."

Scotch tape is made by 3M, formerly the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. I kinda like the old name, considering the company is most famous for tape and Post-its (at least those are the products I use).

I know what you're thinking. Wow, Sandra, that's not particularly interesting, is it now? Bit hard up for blog material, are we? Couldn't you have had a big fight with your boyfriend or maybe moved to Easter Island to drum up something interesting to talk about? Have you no commitment to your readership? I'd even put up with another entry about your mid-twenties crisis, but the history of 3M? Seriously?

No, I'm not really writing about the history of 3M. I'm going to talk about the history of Scotch tape.

Now, I got this information from less-than-reliable sources, namely a couple of coworkers and a Wikipedia article.

Long ago (1930) and far away (Minnesota), a guy invented Scotch tape by putting sticky stuff on the amazing new technology known as cellophane. It was brilliant in a why-didn't-I-think-of-that sort of way. 3M started selling it, but only put the adhesive around the edges to make production a bit less expensive. This corner cutting resulted in less stickiness, and the people realized that 3M was just being cheap. In case you weren't around then, you might not know that people of Scottish descent were stereotyped as being stingy, so the new adhesive was called "Scotch tape." The name, ahem, stuck. 3M ended up adding more of the sticky stuff and kept the name.

I can't find any record of this story on the 3M website, but it's not something they'd want to spread around. So, Scotch tape is actually a slur. Somehow, I don't think Jew tape would have been as successful.


wheelchair, stutter, bird.

We don't have to be at the bar for very long before we decide that we hate it. The building is downtown and showing its age. It looks like it used to be an important bank or event hall, though I find out later that it was just a five and dime built in 1930 by a company known for having impressive architecture. In any case, it's got beautiful high ceilings and torched lighting. Then thirty feet below, where we are, is a bunch of crappy tiki furniture. It's heartbreaking how they've destroyed the natural beauty of this room, obscuring the patterns on the ceiling with inflatable promotional beer bottles and signs about the Friday night "Luau Party," a term that seems redundant to me. Perhaps on Thursdays, they can throw a Fete Fest or a Shindig Soiree.

So we hate the bar but know we're stuck here, because they're paying Josh's band money to be here. We spend the time making fun of the building, which is what we do best. After a while, even we run out of jokes, so we have to start in on the patrons of this fine establishment, the people who come here willingly. Clearly, they see nothing wrong with a luau party.

It's about this time that I notice there's a handicapped guy. That's kind of unusual. The wheelchair crowd and the bar-hopping crowd don't overlap much in my experience. But there he is, and I'm a grown-up, so I don't stare. I do wonder what happened, whether he was crippled from birth, whether he's accepted it or if he's really bitter, if he gets drink discounts. It's actually about the same sort of thinking I do about the girl with the precarious cleavage, except that I know she gets drink discounts.

Then I see the bird.

The handicapped guy has a pet sitting on his shoulder, and suddenly, I forget all the rules about not staring at people in wheelchairs. Now I'm insanely curious about the guy, and I wonder if he's able to get away with this obvious health code violation because people pity him. Maybe being able to go into bars with cockatiels on your shoulder is one of the unsung silver linings to not being able to walk. Blind people get a similar benefit with their dogs.

The guy is hanging out on one side of the bar, talking to the bartender. I decide he must be a regular and think that he's probably pretty well-adjusted. If he's got the guts to go out to a bar with other people his age on a regular basis, then good for him. I bet he cleans up at playing limbo at the luau parties.

The band starts playing and I switch my focus to the stage, where I check out my own boyfriend. I'm sitting at a bar of sorts, basically just a wooden plank with high stools and the occasional Miller Lite umbrella. Perhaps the bar owners do not trust the old building to be able to keep the rain off their patrons, thus the need for umbrellas indoors. Sometime during the second set, someone comes up right next to me. I take a quick glance, and there sitting next to me, is a guy in a wheelchair with a bird on his shoulder. He smiles brightly at me, and I think, well, this is a first. I've been hit on by guys at auto parts stores and guys in computer labs and once upon a time, that guy playing bass on stage right now, but this is my first experience with a disabled pet owner. No, no, that's not fair, he might not be hitting on me. True, there are a bunch of other places along this same fake bar that he could have parked, but maybe this one has the best view of the band. Maybe he wants to check out my boyfriend. Just smile back.

I turn back to the music and after a minute or two, the bird and his owner leave my side to go back to the bar. I am relieved. Awkward social situation succesfully avoided!

Until he comes back and resumes his position next to me. We exchange smiles again and he says something that I cannot hear over the music. I lean in to get him to repeat himself.

"W-w-would you l-like a Y-y-yuengling-ing?"

He has a stutter. If he weren't already perched in a rolling chair, I would wonder if he was just nervous. I suddenly feel incredibly sorry for this guy and hope that he did not have to go through public school like this. I also notice that somehow, he knows what I've been drinking. I am definitely being pursued by a handicapped guy with a pet bird. I realize what a great blog entry this story could be, provided I'm careful with the wheelchair jokes.

"No, thanks. I've got to drive home sometime tonight."

I am proud of myself. This is a reasonable excuse to turn down a drink from a guy.

"Oh, well, c-c-can I g-get you something else? A C-c-coke?"

Okay, now I just don't freaking know what to do. Turning down something as innocuous as a Coke (which could mean a Pepsi, this being the South) seems just cruel. I really, really want to be nice to this guy without encouraging him, but I missed out on a lot of valuable social experience by reading books in my youth, and so I don't know how. I could ask him about the bird, but then he might offer to let my hold it, which is not something I want to do, but if I just turn him down and then don't say anything, he's going to think I'm a jerk, but if I try to talk to him, I won't be able to hear him much over the music and he'll think it's about his stutter, and HOLY CRAP, WHY CAN'T I JUST TALK LIKE A NORMAL PERSON?

In the end, I turn down the Coke and don't say anything more, and he wheels himself away after a minute. I am terrified that he counts me as another person being dismissive towards him because of his disability. Or maybe he doesn't think that at all. Maybe he thinks it's just as well that I wasn't responsive to his advances, since I didn't seem to be much of a bird person. Whatever he's feeling, I feel like a rotten human being. I consider calling my social anxiety crippling, but in this context, that would be pretty offensive. Get over yourself, Sandra.

The ironic thing was, after all that, I could've really used a beer.

*Note: I apologize for my poor representation of this dude's stutter. Writing in dialect (is stuttering a dialect?) is harder than you think.


technically unsupported.

Despite being a "computer person," I occasionally have to contact tech support. I hate it as much as anyone, but I feel sorry for the people working the phones. They're going to have to deal with unfriendly and angry people every single day. Calling tech support is admitting you can't do something on your own and that you need help, something a lot of people don't like to do. And so the people calling are already angry.

I wish, though, that there was a secret code I could give to the guy on the other end of the line that would signal to him that I am not an idiot, the "baa-ram-ewe" of tech support. I'm sure they get lots of calls from idiots.

"Something's wrong with my computer! It keeps showing me a message!"

"What does the message say?"

"Oh. Uh..." mumbling sound of person reading to himself "My system has been updated and I need to restart."

"What happens when you restart?"

"I haven't tried that."

There are idiots out there. There are people who think they know more than they do, who go mucking around in things they don't understand, who fail to read the instructions and then they blame whatever representative happens to get dialed when they call. Note that I obviously have never done any of these things. After all, I'm a "computer person!" I am very sympathetic to the plight of tech support.

But sometimes it seems like they don't read the instructions either. Last night, I was having trouble setting up security on my home router. I logged in as an administrator, found the page where you change security changes, made the security changes, then clicked 'Apply.' Nothing happened. I tried this several times, with different variations in the changes I made. I looked in the documentation included with the router. I looked at the online support FAQs. Finally, I sent an email to tech support. This was my email:

Hi. I'm having trouble enabling WPA-PSK security on my home wireless network. I set the security type to WPA-PSK, enter the passphrase and the confirmed passphrase, then hit Apply, but nothing happens. I tried varying the passphrase some, but that didn't help. When I change other settings on the same page (such as the SSID), the Apply button seems to work, as the screen changes. But when I make any security changes, it does nothing and my settings do not get saved. There doesn't seem to be any error message. Any ideas?

Tech support's response:

It sounds like you're having trouble setting up WPA-PSK security on your router. First, log in to your router as an administrator. Then, navigate to the Security tab. Select WPA-PSK from the drop-down list. Enter a secret phrase into the Passphrase and Confirmed Passphrase fields (make sure they match exactly). Hit the Apply button. The router will restart and your changes will be applied. Please respond to this email if the problem persists.

It's so difficult not to immediately reply and say "Did you read my problem? Can you read, like at all? Third grade level at least?" But I don't, because I am sympathetic. This person is only doing his job. He's not doing it particularly well, but it's probably a mind-numbing job. Maybe on his first day he actually read the trouble reports, but after a couple months of constant abuse from customers, he just gave up and started working on autopilot, skimming for the problem and then cutting and pasting responses from the documentation.

Still, man, give me a break. It's clear from my email that I'm past the hurdle of logging in and setting phrases and hitting Apply buttons. So don't give me instructions on what I clearly know how to do. I know you have to make obvious suggestions, but perhaps just ask me questions about my steps to make sure that I'm doing it right. Ask me if I'm logged in as an administrator. Ask me if my password is between 8 and 63 characters long. Acknowledge that you understand that I understand. You know what would be great? Apologize to me for asking stupid questions.

To make sure I understand your problem, you seem to be unable to enable WPA-PSK security on your router. First, let's go through a few simple trouble-shooting questions. I apologize if these seem obvious, but they will assist me in narrowing down your issue.
1. Are you logged in to the router as an administrator (username = "administrator")?
2. Are you using a passphrase that is between 8 and 63 alphanumeric characters long?
3. Are you making these changes on a computer connected to the router using a wired connection?
If these questions help you solve the issue, great. If not, please let me know and we'll procede from there.

Isn't that much, much nicer?

Here is my suggestion. Put secret passwords in the documentation. Somewhere in the verbage, say "If you are having trouble with this setup, call tech support and give them the code 'Squigee.'" That way, the guy knows that you at least read the manual. You can put more advanced codes on the advanced screens so he'll know you're at least looking at the right thing. Maybe if calling tech support was not such a degrading experience, we'd all be a little more friendly when we had to do it.

Okay, probably not.


not a movie review: meet the robinsons.

To sum up: Lewis is left at an orphanage as a baby. He grows to be a precocious kid, constantly making up new inventions from plans scribbled in a marbled composition notebook. However, he has trouble finding parents who want to adopt him, what with the explosions coming from his room all the time. At a disastrous science fair, a kid named Wilbur Robinson approaches him, claiming to be from the future. Wilbur explains that a villian with a bowler hat is after him and they fly into the future. Lewis meets Wilbur's family, which is eccentric at best and downright crazy at worst. They must pursue Bowler Hat Guy and stop his fiendish plan.

This movie is seriously the best Disney animated feature I've seen in a long time (not including the Disney/Pixar collaborations). It's probably the best one I've seen as an adult. Its greatest quality is the sheer imagination that pours out of it. Having not read the original book (A Day With Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce), I can't tell how much credit for that should go to the author. It's futuristic, so there's a lot of room to really go nuts. It's sorta like the Jetsons...on acid. The scene where Lewis meets Wilbur's family is a great example. He is escorted from room to room, outside then in then back out, meeting strangers being strange. There are men in the flower pots and an octopus at the door, a woman directing a chorus of frogs, plus a guy fired out of a cannon and an old man with his clothes on backwards. The scene is fast-paced, so you can't quite decide if you want to learn more about what you just saw or see what's coming next. My general reaction was, "Uh...wait, what?"

I can see how some people might not enjoy this sort of imagination gone wild. I say to these people, Embrace the silliness.

The villian is particularly interesting. He's a moron, and I admittedly got a little tired of the boy-is-this-guy-stupid jokes, but only because some of them were too obvious. He is only known as "Bowler Hat Guy" because he wears a little hat with a purple ribbon and a HAL 9000 eye - the hat is actually a robot and the true mastermind of the whole scheme. Bowler Hat Guy is a good villian, because he looks dastardly (wearing clothes like those of Snidely Whiplash), but is mostly harmless and entertaining to watch.

Aside from the general chaos, there are lots of clever quips and gags that we come to expect from big budget animated kids' movies now. They're put in there for the adults, to keep us interested between the toilet jokes (I counted only one) and kicks in the crotch (none that I can remember). For instance, Lewis asks Wilbur what his dad looks like (who is not seen til the end). Wilbur says that he looks sort of like Tom Selleck. Later, we do meet Wilbur's dad, and he looks nothing like our favorite mustached private investigator, but he is voiced by Tom Selleck. That's for you parents out there.

My one complaint is that it got a little heavy with the message, which is "Keep Moving Forward." In this context it means to learn from your failures and move on. Keep on keepin' on. Never, never, never, never give up.* You get the idea. It's repeated all the time, and at one point, it's spelled out in fireworks. So when the film is starting to wrap up and it goes into cheesy mode, the continued stressing of the point is a bit much. I wanted to yell out "Keep moving the plot forward!" That being said, it's a good attitude for kids to develop. It's much harder to learn as an adult.

It's clear that the Disney company is trying hard to get back to its roots. Before the movie was a classic Mickey cartoon. At the end, an inspirational quote was shown, which contained the words "Keep moving forward." The quote was from Walt Disney himself. It's a good marketing move, as the company is seen as more and more of an evil corporate giant. I was torn. It was such an obvious PR scheme, but at the same time, I have to admit that I do respect Walt Disney the man. The guy was a visionary. I might have been more receptive to it if I hadn't already been bludgeoned with the motto.

I saw Meet the Robinsons at a second-run theatre, so it can now be viewed on a big screen for a couple of bucks. I highly recommend it. Take your kids. Sneak some candy in your pocket. Enjoy yourself. Embrace the silliness.

* In doing research to determine just how many nevers to use for this quote, I learned Churchill's actual words: "Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." Just in case you were curious or about to correct me.


trash = treasure.

The people who live at my apartment complex, and that includes me, have an understanding. The dumpster sits near the entrance of the complex, and all who live there must drive by on their ways in and out. Whenever someone throws away something that could be salvageable, it is left next to the dumpster, rather than inside. There's a little grassy area there, where furniture and clothing alike have rested, waiting to be taken to new owners. This area might as well have a great big sign over it, proclaiming "One man's trash is another man's treasure."

So it's become my habit to take a good glance at the dumpster every time I drive by. A stereo, a lamp, a sportcoat, a pair of pants, a bag of hangers, a dustpan, these are the items that transferred ownership to me via the dumpster. It's a great big game of finder's keepers out there, though no one is weeping.

Perhaps I give my neighbors too much credit. It is possible that things are only left in this area because the items are too heavy or large to be lifted into the dumpster itself. And while these people probably do realize that the items are furtively taken off to live in a new apartment, they don't understand why. To them, the thing is broken or old or dirty. It is trash. Whether or not it is usable is irrelevant.

But some of them do get it. Occasionally, something will have a sticker attached to it, saying that something works, possibly with limitation. A TV once was "Fuzzy, but free," a computer monitor was "old, but works okay." The donors do understand then, that they're not really throwing the thing away, but only leaving it to fate.

I hate waste. Part of me is glad that I can get free stuff in this way, and part of me is still pissed off that the people can't make the extra effort of donating the crap to a thrift store. Fine, yes, some of the stuff is rescued, but some of it is not and still ends up in the landfill anyway. I've been known to take stuff from the free pile next to the dumpster and then drive it to Goodwill myself. I grumble all the way. The truth is that these people would still throw the stuff away whether or not there was anyone to pick through it later. Some of them view the gleaners with contempt, not realizing we see them the same way.

This rant of mine is an old one. Every time I dumpster dive, be it spontaneously at my apartment complex or a planned attack as the local university evacuates for the summer, I am both thrilled at my good fortune and irritated that our society is so wasteful. The solution is probably not to gripe on my blog. I should just keep what I'm doing - donating my old stuff, rescuing what I can. Plus, gripe on my blog.