Capital Semi-Colon.

Talking to a computer user that you have never met before through a computer problem can be a challenge. If you know the person you have a relative idea of how the person thinks and you can bark out the appropriate commands for them to respond. If you don’t know the person, you could easily find yourself speaking in a way that they don’t understand at all.

Yesterday I was talking a customer through a DSL issue. He couldn’t get connected to the internet. He was an older gentleman that yelled into the phone when he spoke, I think he thought yelling made the string between the cans vibrate faster. I had him open up his web browser (in which he shrieked, “I use FoxFire!”) and type in the address of his DSL modem. This went beyond his comprehension, because there was no “www” at the beginning and no “.com” at the end, it’s just a series of numbers. To make it easier I had him type out the “http://” at the beginning of the address.

He asked, “Is that the upper small letters or just the small letters?”

I responded with, “just the small letters. Don’t use ‘SHIFT'”.

He gave me an “o.k.” and we were doing well for a few seconds until I arrived at the colon in the address.

“Is that one with dots?”

“Yes”.

“How many dots?”

“Two in a stack.”

“Where is it?”

“Next to the ‘L'”.

I heard him fiddle around and he replied, “I keep getting a comma in there!”

“It’s a capital semi-colon”, was my reply of resignation.

“Oh yeah!”, what his delighted response.

Thank goodness we didn’t have to approach the lower-case question mark for the “slash”1.

1 This is a particular nitpick of mine: the slash on the question mark is the “forward slash” and the other slash is the “backslash”. You use “forward slash” in web addresses. For the most part you only use backslash in Windows filenames (and yes I know about backslash use in other operating systems).

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Ringy Dingy.

I own an iPhone. I use it a lot. I don’t talk on it so much, rather, I update my Twitter and check my e-mail and chat with various people through the built in chat mechanisms. I try not to be obnoxious with my phone, but I admit that I can be from time to time. I usually get a “look” from Earl when I get that way. I have important things to say to important people.

Anyways, I find people yakking on their cell phone in public spaces to be obnoxious. Where is it written that people should carry on mundane, ordinary conversations whilst standing in the middle of a restaurant? I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had a cell phone for a really long time or what, but I always thought that a cell phone was for important, earth-shattering conversations. “My wig is on fire.” “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” “I’ve ran the car out of oil and it isn’t moving now.”

“What are you doing?” in a monotone, uninterested voice is not a conversation to have on your cell phone while standing in the middle of Wendy’s, balancing a Big Gulp on a tray loaded with fat with a newspaper wedged under your smelly armpit. I resisted the urge to bump into the tray by mistake. I would have forgiven her if her wig was on fire.

While Earl and I were enjoying our quick lunch at said Wendy’s today, I noticed that there were 11 people talking on their phone out of the 30 or so in the restaurant. Three of them were at the same table. I envisioned them in a conference call with one another.

I tried calling my friend Greg the other day at lunch time. The call went to his voice mail. A little while later I got via text, “I couldn’t talk, I was in a restaurant.” Now that is the type of response that I would expect. I’m glad he didn’t yak at me with his mouth full. That would be improper.

So the next time you see me in a restaurant and I happen to be talking on my phone, slap it right out of my hand and declare “Practice what you preach.”

Unless my wig is on fire.

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Inhibition, or lack there of.

There are two traits that I admire in people. Actually, that’s not quite accurate; I admire many things in people but there are two primary traits that I truly enjoy. One of them is charisma, which I consider to be a natural extension of self confidence. Not all self confident people are charismatic but most charismatic people are self confident. Let’s face it, some people are over confident. I don’t mind a touch of cocky (and we all know that I don’t mind a dash of arrogance) but I don’t care for self absorption or assholishness. Charisma though, that makes me swoon.

The other trait that I admire in a person is a lack of inhibition. I enjoy people that feel the freedom to do their own thing without reservation. It’s a trait I wish I had but in the back of my mind there’s something, though I can’t identify what it is, always holding me back even if it’s just a little bit. My throttle is usually at 3/4 power, sometimes I ramp up to 7/8 but I rarely cruise at full speed.

I don’t know why I have this touch of inhibition residing in my makeup. I’ve analysed it six ways from Sunday for the past 40 years but have never figured out where it comes from. I guess that’s not entirely accurate either, there are certain events in my past that hit home: in grade six I was described as “weird” by a couple of classmates. They said that after I performed in a school production of Battlestar Galactica. I guess I took “alien” too close to heart or something. I don’t know why that bothers me, I am odd. Today I celebrate that. But once in a while I have that little barrier I put up to keep my psyche safe.

I have a friend who used to perform in various talent shows in the area. Her singing voice is good; she can carry a note, she can stay within the key of the song and she has a good sense of rhythm. Would she make it on a Broadway stage? No. But when she gets up there and does her thing she puts every single drop of effort she has into her performance. I admire that. I always hold off just a bit. “What if they don’t like me?” Perhaps I’m afraid of failing and reliving that moment when I sang my heart out for a recital in college and I was told that I would never make it as a singer. I think my performance inhibition comes from that battle scar. I should strive to move beyond that.

Tonight I found myself singing Abba tunes as we left the theatre at the end of “Mamma Mia”. I started singing softly and slowly but surely I sang loud enough for the large group of elderly women to hear me. I didn’t want to intrude in anyway, I wanted to express my joy from the movie through song. And so I sang. No one said a word, good or bad.

I took that as a compliment.

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Linens. Things.

The local Linens and Things store is closing. This is a bad thing because it’s the closest store to our house in the event of a linens or things emergency. Being gay men we must keep our house well decorated at all times. Linens and Things helps out with this.

Earl and I browsed through the store closing sale items, where the junk from other stores has been shipped here for quick sale. I’m sure the good stuff has been shipped to stores that aren’t closing. Nevertheless, we spent $250 on various items.

Because of our visit to Linens and Things I must admit that I’m overly excited about going to bed tonight. We bought a “pillow top” mattress cover for our bed. I’m hoping this improves conditions in our bed to the point that I can easily drift off to peaceful sleep. Our mattress gets flipped quarterly as we were instructed when we purchased it five years ago. Earl is the bigger of the two of us. Ironically, I have the deeper trench on my side of the bed. I don’t know why this is. We can flip the mattress up, down, left, right, north, south and no matter which way it ends up there I am sleeping in a ditch while Earl relaxes up on the mountain. I don’t know why this is. I’m hoping the new pillow top mattress cover remedies this. It has memory foam embedded into the pad. I don’t plan on drinking any red wine in bed though1.

We also purchased a new pillow for me. I think my current pillow was from 1986. Perhaps it was a graduation present from a relative or something. It was flat like a newspaper but it didn’t leave stains on my skin or anything like that. Now that I have a fluffy pillow again, I can wrap my arms around my old pillow. I have an odd way of sleeping: one leg must be outside the covers, the covers must be up to my shoulders and I bury myself into a little fort like area where I feel protected. Maybe I had an encounter with the boogieman some time in my past.

Midnight.

It’s a little after midnight and I am cuurently in the middle of a DJ gig. Pink’s “U + Ur Hand” is playing. The floor is moving well.

I have all the lights in the DJ booth turned off. The door is closed. I find solace in being alone im my own space in this public place. I’m behind glass silently watching the crowd. Few realize I am here. I like that. Yet if I were to leave the song would stop and the party would end.

In my own way I’m cleverly in control of the entire situation. I like that.

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If It Ain’t Broke.

So today I trekked up to the family hardware store to work on their computerized accounting system. Now in this day and age it may seem odd to hear the phrase “computerized accounting system” but that’s the best phrase I can come up with to describe this situation.

Up until 1986 my grandmother handled the accounts receivable for the business. She posted invoices and credits to the customer accounts and then at the end of the month, working with my grandfather they would send out the statements to the customers that owed money. She did all this accounting on a mechanical NCR posting machine, which looked like a large adding machine from 1971 that had a typewriter style carriage on it; the adding machine would do the tallying in the appropriate columns, “Debit”, “Credit”, “Balance Due”, etc. It was the norm back in 1971. In 1986, computers were taking over the duties.

In 1986 my aunt took over (for the most part) the accounting responsibilities of the business from my grandfather. I handled the accounts receivable that summer and would work part time when I was in town through the early 1990s. I learned the whole process simply through observation. In 1989 I decided that they needed to computerize the whole ordeal. I had worked part time as a temp writing accounting programs for a cash register company near Boston, so I wrote an accounts receivable program that was a drop in replacement for the mechanical posting machine. They still used the same statement forms and ledger cards. The program ran on a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model II that I picked up for 50 bucks.

The computer has been replaced twice since then but they are still using the same program today. It runs on a snappy 286. They’ve been having issues with the system over the past month or so so I drove up to do some maintenance on this ancient computer and software. They had also lost the capability of doing backups because the 5.25-inch floppy drive had died.

Rummaging around through the old computers I found a replacement floppy drive and after about an hour of work I had the system up and running once again. Talk of upgrading was minimal, because if it ain’t broke there’s no sense in fixing it. I think it’s ready to last another 15 years.

While hunting through files I found some of the old backup floppy disks from the first computer. I thought it’d be amusing to compare the size of the floppy disk with the size of a CD or DVD in use today. The first computer used the larger 8-inch floppy disks. They didn’t hold much information.

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The Next Day.

I go through this every year when I start cycling again. The second day is the hardest day to get back on the bike, especially if it’s been a while since I’ve ridden. My muscles are complaining a little bit but my body is adjusting to my return to exercise.

When I ride familiar routes I go into autopilot and my mind goes into daydream mode. I think of so many different things. I’m instinctively aware of what’s going on around me but my mind is elsewhere, occasionally searching mundane subjects; I’m thinking of ways to improve the road I’m on or I’m thinking of ways to increase productivity at work. Sometimes I get creative and think of a topic for a blog entry or an idea for a series of video podcasts pops into my head. Before I know it I’m trudging up the hill to the house. The last mile is the hardest, it’s always uphill. Both ways. In the snow.

It’s Never Too Late.

He had been patiently waiting in the corner. There he sat, watching, knowing that his turn was coming. We were well acquainted. We’d spent many years together. This year would be no different, no matter how much I tried.

I finally came to his corner and extended my hand. I literally carried him up the stairs, where we would get reacquainted this year. We reminisced a little bit as I dressed to do the deed: “Remember when we helped those kids?” “How about the time they stared at us at Northern Lights Circle?” I spruced him up and he stood tall. I sat on his saddle and clamped myself in.

It was time to go for a ride.

As we danced on the pavement together, he softly reminded me that as Agnes Moorehead said several times during the series she’s most remembered for, “We are quicksilver, a flash of color, a fleeting sound. Our home has no boundaries beyond which we can not pass.” My body reveled and I could feel his smile beneath me. Tears streamed down my face.

In May 2000, at 221 pounds I rode six miles. I thought I would die.

In July 2008, at 189 pounds I rode sixteen miles. And I reveled in life.

It’s good to be a cyclist once again.

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