Archive for January, 2006

The Non-Event

Sunday, January 1st, 2006

I’m having one hell of a time remembering today is Sunday, much less that it’s New Year’s Day. The only real clue is the TV marathons. It sure beats the heck out of the typical Sunday fare – football and fixits. I used to follow football pretty closely, but ever since I took up biking and started spending my Sundays riding, I lost track of who went where. Then I lost the ability to care.

Beau Hunk likes to watch the fixit shows on Sunday, but for the most part I can’t get overly enthralled. First of all, most of them cover problems mostly found on the East Coast. Keeping snow from falling over a doorway isn’t a problem I have, so I can’t really get interested in the project. Secondly, I spent most of the first half of my life on construction sites. I know how to do most of the stuff they’re doing, and I laugh at the ways they do it.

It was refreshing to have something different to watch today. But it never really sank in that it’s New Year’s Day. So much so that I even forgot to have black-eyed peas with my dinner. Hell, our day’s schedule was so screwed up that we didn’t even have dinner. We each ended up snacking at different times.

Luckily I don’t put a lot of store in the superstitions of New Year’s, so it’s not that big of a deal. If today is any indication, the year will pass by in a blur and before we come to any profound realizations, it will be over.

You Can Never Go Back

Monday, January 2nd, 2006

When we got married in October, we had such a wonderful visit to the hotel that we decided we’d like to repeat the experience. We thought we would try to go back once a year and take a few days to enjoy the property and fabulous views.

During our visit we had heard that some big investment firm had bought the place and was planning on renovating it. The rumor was that they had already planned $4 million in upgrades, mostly to the main house, which was originally built in the 1800′s. We wondered if the place would escape the “upgrades” with it’s charm. It looks like it may not.

The other day I visited the hotel’s website and saw that all of their top of the line rooms, including the one we stayed in, were not available. That’s not surprising since those would logically be the first to be renovated. But what blew my socks off was that the off-season rates of most of the available rooms have almost doubled from the on-season rate we paid. Some have more than doubled.

We thought the rate we paid was pricey, but reasonable. But there’s no way in hell we’re going to pay what they’re asking now. They have one room for $1,000 a night. A fucking grand. A night. For that price, better come with your own private servant to take the mint off your pillow and hand feed it to you.

I’m really disappointed that the new owners are going this route. I suspect they are turning this charming, family-run country inn into a yuppie palace of cookie-cutter rooms and lousy service. I wonder if they are installing phones and TVs in the rooms. It wouldn’t surprise me, but it would totally shatter the sense of peace and tranquility.

We will wait and see how this all works out. Maybe this new rate plan is temporary, but if it isn’t, we won’t be returning. You have no idea how much that disappoints me. Our wedding and honeymoon was one of the most happy and relaxing times of my life, and I would like to be able to renew that memory once in a while. I guess it’s true what they say, you can never go back.

One More Step

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

Tomorrow I have to go try to see a counselor at the college to see what classes I can take. I’m pretty much doing this last minute, since classes start January 16th. In case you haven’t looked at your calendar lately, that’s not that far away. Oops.

This whole process hasn’t moved at lightening speed, mostly of my own fault. I procrastinated about getting my application in and doing my testing, and by the time my previous transcripts had been received, it was too late to get a real appointment with the counselor. But they have walk-ins available, so that’s my task for tomorrow. Yay.

I hate doing all this and am intimidated as hell to be going back to school. Which is why I put this off for so long. I just couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone and find out where to start. But I finally did, and now I’m ready to talk to an expert and find out what classes I should take first, what classes I can take at this late date, and what my schooling future holds.

There is a part of me that is looking forward to starting this new adventure, and is glad to be taking this next step. The rest of me sees only a gaping tunnel, contents and terrain unknown. But life is about putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward, so onward I go, one step at a time.

Dear McAfee

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

Dear McAfee –

Please kiss my shiny white ass. The suckage of your product is only surpassed by your online chat, where your employees spell kwality with a capital K.

My laptop came with a “subscription” to your products, which turned out to be a 90 day trial. When that expired – without notice – your “account” page prompted me to buy a new subscription for the princely sum of $168.00. Not being a moron, I declined this rare opportunity to pay many times more than retail.

I purchased your product because it was the least expensive of the pack. Now I know why. When installed, your product refuses to update. The process, when not being blown up by 500 server errors, asks me to enable cookies on my browser. Even when cookies are already enabled.

I contacted your online chat support. I take it you define “support” rather loosely. After waiting 20 minutes (your chat window estimated that at two), I was connected to an agent who continuously proved he was barely glancing at my responses by repeating questions that I had just answered.

Me: “I get a page that tells me to enable cookies, even though cookies are already enabled.”
Him: “Do you have cookies enabled on your browser?”

I mean, really. Do you have any idea how hard it is to have a conversation like this an not be an asshole? I almost pulled a muscle trying to be polite.

After half an hour of chatting, his advice was to enable cookies (already done), and make sure that IE was my default browser (also already done). Then he said I should restart my computer. Knowing that we were past the 8pm CT cutoff for contacting online chat support, I performed the procedure on my second computer so I would not lose my connection to your service department. Seeing that I was not so easily shaken loose, your support person then came up with the most brilliant of all responses to the problem we had been discussing for almost 40 minutes:

“We are aware of this temporary problem. Please try your download again in a few hours. If that doesn’t fix the problem, feel free to contact us again for help.”

If this was a “temporary problem”, of which you were aware, they why in the name of all that is holy didn’t this brilliant piece of humanity tell me this at the beginning of the conversation?? I realize it was the end of his shift and he wanted to go home, but that’s no reason to give me bullshit advice just to get me off the line.

So tomorrow I will once again log on to your chat support site. Once again I will wait for an available customer service agent, hoping that I can connect before my clothes go out of style. And once again I will take way too much of my time to explain what I’ve already done, and that things aren’t working. Hopefully this time I will be able to get someone who give three-tenths of a fuck about their job and who can help me get your fucknut product to actually work.

Distastefully Yours –


The First Enrollment

Thursday, January 5th, 2006

It’s official, I’m a college student. I went over to the college yesterday morning to get a drop-in appointment with a couselor. I’m really glad I went over early. When I got there, there was no line and plenty of parking. By the time I left, the place was packed.

My meeting with the counselor wasn’t exactly productive, mostly because my college transcripts weren’t on record. I got an e-mail saying they had been sent, but they were nowhere to be found. That wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but since I haven’t been in college for almost half a lifetime, I can’t even remember how many semesters I went, much less what classes I took. So the advice was to completely avoid General Ed until we can figure out what can be skipped based on my prior records. That pretty much killed my plan to take General Ed until Fall, but the good news is that the Paralegal classes I need to start are offered in the Spring. I had been led to believe that wasn’t the case, so yay!

I am only taking three classes, nine units, this semester. Twelve units would be a full-time student, and I don’t think I’m ready for that just yet. I may never be ready for that. We’ll have to wait and see. All three of my classes are at night, so that should be interesting. My schedule is as follows:

Monday 7 – 10pm: Introduction to Paralegalism
Tuesday 7 – 10pm: Legal Writing and Research I
Wednesday 6 – 9pm: Family Law

That ought to make for a stunning start to the week, to say the least. I’m usually in my jammies and getting ready for bed by 10pm, so it will take some adjustment to pull this off.

So I’m enrolled, oriented, and ready to start my studential career. I even have a parking permit. That’s about as official as it gets. Now I just have to pass the damned classes.

It Must Be Love

Friday, January 6th, 2006

In October of 2004, Beau Hunk and I were getting ready to go on the bike club’s annual trek around San Francisco. It starts with a ride on BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transit train) that would take us to the Embarcadero in San Francisco. From there we would ride along the Embarcadero, past Fisherman’s Wharf, past Chrissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge. After crossing the bridge, we would ride into Sausalito and Tiburon, where we would have lunch. We could then either take the ferry from Tiburon back to the City, ride to Sausalito and take the ferry back, or we could retrace our steps back over the Golden Gate Bridge and go home that way.

This was not a hard-core ride. It had more to do with food and social skills than biking. It involved a lot of crowded sidewalks, rough paved trails, and streets that contained trolley tracks. We had long ago decided that this was a ride for the “townies”. Townie bikes are ones that are born for goofing off or the utility of riding around town. You sit upright, don’t get in a hurry, and the configuration is all about hauling groceries and not having to walk around the store in Spandex and funny shoes.

Beau Hunk had built me a townie out of an old moutain bike frame and some second-hand parts. It was a nice bike, but since some of the components were bought on the cheap, it wasn’t a functionally great bike. There was also an issue with the way the back wheel fit into the frame, making it impossible for me to get the wheel off the frame, should I have a flat. Beau Hunk could get it off, but I couldn’t. That pretty much necessitated I ride this bike only in his presence. Not a big deal, but it did provide a certain limitation.

As we got ready for this ride to San Francisco in October of 2004, Beau Hunk annouced that he wanted me to have his townie. His beloved Ritchey townie. He loved that bike. He had had that frame for almost 20 years – first as a mountain bike, then in the last few years, as his townie. He had built it into a lovely townie, and he was justifiably proud of it. And now he was giving it to me. He did stipulate that the gift was “in comtemplation of marriage”, meaning if I didn’t marry him, I had to give the bike back. (Law students are so romantic.) We then referred to it as my engagement bike. I didn’t get a ring until seven months later!

The Ritchey is such a fun and comfortable bike, and I love riding it. It has a nice, big, comfy Brooks saddle that I can ride in my jeans without mourning the loss of my womanhood. The handlebars are Nitto Dove bars, with wine corks as bar end plugs. It has fenders with mudflaps to protect against the dreaded ButtRiver that can happen when riding in wet conditions. The tires are wide like mountain bike tires, but with a only a very slight tread so it can be taken into gravel or packed dirt and still rides comfortably on pavement. It is a really lovely bike and comfortable as hell.

I bring all this up now because yesterday Beau Hunk called me outside to see something. He showed me his beloved Kogswell. The Kogs is a fully lugged steel frame, similar to a Rivendell Rambouillet. Beau Hunk built this last year to use as a touring bike. I looked at it and said yes, it is a lovely bike. That’s when he told me it was mine.

Click on an image to see a larger version.
The Ritchey The Kogs

Beau Hunk decided I needed a bike to bridge the gap between my go-fast road bike and my townie, and that the Kogs would be perfect. (Lucky for me, we both use the same size frame!) The Kogs’ tires are on the wide end of road tires (28cm), with a little tread. The bars are Nitto Noodle, wrapped with natural cork, the tape ends wrapped with twine instead of sticky tape, and sealed with shellac. It has classic bar end shifters, with the standard roadie brakes. But it also has an additional set of bar top brake levers that mount on the flat part of the road bars so you can sit up, look around, and still stop in an instant. By the way, the tennis ball case in the rear water bottle holder is to hold extra gear like long gloves, arm warmers, a vest, etc. It fits perfectly into the bottle holder and works like a charm.

I took the Kogs for my first ride today. We only took a short ride up the trail to the grocery store – about four miles – but it was a great ride. I’ve only ridden this trail on my townie up until now, and I realized that I missed going fast. I was clipping along quite nicely on the Kogs.

Beau Hunk built these bikes himself, installing all the parts and components. He spent hours picking just the right components – mixing what we had on hand with new parts to achieve just the right blend of aesthetics and functionality. The bikes are built for a purpose, and each is perfectly suited to it’s niche. And they look pretty damned slick too. I know how Beau Hunk feels about his bikes, and trust me, for him to give these beloved beauties to me, it means something.

Because in our house, nothing says love like a bike.

The First Class

Friday, January 20th, 2006

I had my first class Wednesday night: Legal Research & Writing I. It was a very interesting experience. Not terribly productive, but interesting. It was also a very small family occasion.

When I left the house, Beau Hunk told Woo that I was going to school. He was very excited for me, since he absolutely adores going to school. They came out to my car to see me away, both of them waving, Woo saying “I love you!”, which are about the sweetest words ever uttered by a little munchkin.

Ten minutes later as I was driving to school, my cell phone rang. Actually, it vibrated, scaring the hell out of me, because it was in my backpack and the car radio was playing, so at first it sounded vaguely like my vehicle was falling apart. I switched off the radio and my panic was instantly replaced by stupidity when I realized the hideous noise was just the phone ringing, not my car shedding pieces and bits down the road. The phone call was from my parents, who called to wish me good luck on my return to scholastic endeavors. I was very touched by the gesture, especially since I knew my husband put them up to it.

I arrived at school with plenty of time to spare, found prime parking and spent a fair amount of time standing around with my fellow classmates outside of a locked classroom. It was an experiment in people watching and listening.

Being college, there was of course a small cluster of emaciated females whose speech revealed the possibility of emaciated brains. I call them the Twit-o-Ramas. Their conversation went something like this: “like, backpacks, in like, the bookstore, are, like, fifty dollars!! I was all, like, gah!” I was torn somewhere between laughing out loud and joining the conversation to ask if the backpacks were fifty dollars, or were they like fifty dollars. Because I might want a backpack that was like fifty dollars. I could use it to buy some Taco Bell or something.

Our class age spans a larger spectrum that I had expected. The youngest is 18 (not surprising), but the oldest is a 72 year-old woman who is starting a new career. Go lady, go!! There are only two men and probably 20 women. There are several people in the class who are starting new careers, and many who have ambitions of going to law school.

The professor seems fair enough, but was quite clear that she knew the ins and outs of flakey college students and would brook no bullshit. She also made it very known that there is no room for Know-It-Alls. We have one person in the class who thought he’d show off his vast knowledge of the legal system by asking if we would cover blah-blahs, throwing out some specific legal jargon. But he didn’t really know what he was asking, he was just showing off. Each time the professor would ask him to clarify his remark, because it made no sense. He would try and mostly fail. Then she’d tell him what it was that he was trying to say, why he was saying it wrong, and how that sort of imprecision related to the class. By the end of the evening, the professor announced that she was going to have lots of fun picking on him, since he was convinced that he knew the materials already (and clearly did not). I’m not sure if I was amused by her command of the situation, or horrified of the prospect of her doing that to me.

Next week I start my Family Law and Intro to Paralegalism classes, bringing my triad of firsts full-circle. I wish it wasn’t so far away, because I’d like to erase the unknowns and move on. But the good news is that I have almost a week to do my first reading assignment without any conflicting assignments. If I were smart, I’d probably use that time to set up a study regimen and space. But I’ve never been accused of being terribly smart, so I’m not holding high hopes about that sort of ambition.

Putting the Mountain in Mountain Biking

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Beau Hunk went riding with the local mountain biking club a few weeks ago and discovered just how awesome the riding is around here. So awesome in fact, that he took me out to share the joy. I think I have finally discovered “true” mountain biking. You know, the kind that takes place on mountains and through forests instead of going across cow pastures on fire roads.

The scenery was to die for. We rode through lush forests and cross many creeks. The first creek crossing we rode across, and it was deep enough that when my foot was at the bottom of my pedalstroke, my leg was in water above my ankles. I had to keep telling myself to just keep pedalling and not stop. Shamefully, I ended up saying this outloud. At least only Beau Hunk was there to witness my complete descent into bike dorkdom.

That was only the first of many water crossings. The next creek crossing had lots of “dollheads” (big round rocks the size of a doll head) that tend to roll when you hit them, causing idiots with no technical bike skills like me to fall down and go splut. Beau Hunk suggested I walk that creek, because falling would leave me far wetter than walking it and it was cold out. He wasn’t kidding either – the water was halfway up my shin on my walk across. The next crossing was best described as a small river as it was around 25 feet across and involved hiking over rocks and felled trees. Beau Hunk took my bike while I picked my way across the rushing water.

Boy was I glad I wore my wool socks! By the end of the ride, my socks were still soaking wet and had to be wrung out. But my feet were warm as toast. Wool: nature’s own miracle. You have to love it.

There were many other times on this ride I ended up walking or carrying my bike, mostly over fallen trees or areas too technically difficult to ride. But I didn’t care, I was having a blast! I even rode my first singletrack. Although, I should qualify that by saying that it was a wide singletrack and downhill. I don’t climb well enough to take singletrack uphill without hurting myself.

The downhill was magnificent. The trail wound around the side of the mountain, taking nasty dips and wicked turns, some of which were walked. We decided that style points would not be awarded, and that walking difficult sections would be a good idea since getting hurt would be stupid. The strategy worked since I came home completely unscathed, and with a huge smile on my face from the ride.

This area is lush with trees, lakes, rivers, streams and mountains. I can’t wait to find more rides like this. The best part? The trail head was only 20 minutes from the house. I love that this much fun is right out my back door.