23 December 2005


One of the advantages of working in or attending a school is that you get a little extra time off around the holidays. Anne and I took full advantage of this yesterday to have a marathon viewing of the Lord of the Rings. To complement the movies, we decided to eat like hobbits all day.

We actually started Tuesday night when we watched the animated version of "The Hobbit," which is one of my favorite movies of all time. We had a decidedly unhobbit-like dinner of miso soup, in anticipation of a lot of heavy food the next day.

Here's our dining and viewing menu:

Eggs, toast, tea, and (for me) sausage. First part of Fellowship of the Ring

Tea and scones. Continue Fellowship

Ploughman's lunch. First half of Two Towers.

Afternoon tea
English sponge cake, pumpkin bread, and tea. Rest of Two Towers.

Pot pie. First part of Return of the King.

Anyone who's seen these movies, knows that they're incredibly long, especially when you throw in all the scenes that were cut from the theatrical versions. (One of my most vivid associations with the first movie is one of profound discomfort. I unwisely had a cup of coffee just before seeing it in the theater, which severely tempered my enjoyment of the battle with the Balrog.) So although we tried with the diligence of Proudfeet to get through all three movies, we ran out of steam late last night with about an hour left in the "Return of the King." I guess it was too much hobbit ale.

I feel a little self-indulgent for staying home all day and watching movies while eating the equivalent of a stick of butter, but luckily I'm not feeling gross today. I don't think I'd enjoy eating like a hobbit all the time, but it was really fun and tasty to do it yesterday.

Tonight we'll finish wrapping presents, destroy the One Ring, and pack. Tomorrow we're heading up to Eugene for a week to see Anne's family. I'm looking forward to a little time away. Hope everyone has a great Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year, etc...!

15 December 2005

It sucks now

Over Thanksgiving, we visited my parents in Las Vegas. We had a nice and relaxing visit -- so much so that it took me a while to get back into work mode. On our way to the airport, we had to run a quick errand that turned into a comical adventure that made me think "if I had a blog, I'd write about this." So here it is:

The night before we left, my parents discovered that their vacuum cleaner wasn't working. It was still under warranty, and they found a service center not far from their house that would check it out, so on our way to the airport we stopped there to drop it off. The shop was tucked into a corner of a strip mall in the shadow of a hulking Home Depot and wedged between a military recruiting center and a Christian books and gifts store. The proprietor of the store was a large man wearing a shirt (that he'd undoubtedly picked up next door) that had the letters "JC" in large type on the front of it, with the smaller letters "esus" and "hrist" floating ethereally above them. He fixed us with a hard stare as we walked in, then slowly approached us without saying a word. After the silence became a little too uncomfortable, my stepdad, Jack, said "Um, we need to get this vacuum fixed." The prorpietor responded: "Mmm hmmm."

It went on like this for a little while, with my parents supplying all of the prompts that presumably were the shopkeeper's responsibility while he grunted monosyllabic responses, occasionally asking a question. Eventually, it seemed to dawn on him what needed to be done, and he proposed a solution.

"The problem is your vacuum. You need one of these." He then picked up a nearby vacuum and pointed the base of it at Jack like a rifle. "See there, all metal parts. Not like the plastic ones on yours. Only $1,500."

"I think we'd just like to get this one repaired under the warranty," my mom suggested diplomatically.

After some dithering with the woman behind the counter over what was and wasn't covered under the warranty, a bushy-haired man materialized from the back of the store and took my parents' vacuum back into the workshop. My mom mentioned that we had a plane to catch, so we could leave the vacuum if needed. "Oh no, I just need to replace this brush," he said through a window into his workshop. "I've already got it out of the box."

"Where you flying?" the proprietor asked.


"I'm going there next week. Petaluma."

"Oakland!" exclaimed the man working on the vacuum. "Yeah, I been there. Alice Street, by the lake." It wasn't clear whether he had visited a friend on Alice Street or perhaps just slept on the sidewalk, and I didn't ask for any more details.

After a little more awkward conversation, the repairman materialized with the vacuum, made a grand gesture, turned it on, and proceeded to suck absolutely nothing off of the floor. He scratched his head, turned over the vacuum so that it was resting on the tip of its handle, and started jabbing at the insides of it with a long-handled screwdriver. The woman behind the counter, who until now had maintained a detached diffidence toward her coworkers, intervened. She pointed out that he'd put the part in backwards, then said "But the brush isn't what's broken." She then turned to my parents. "You should never have gotten one of these bagless vacumms,"she accused. "They break all the time." True, my parents had bought a vacuum that didn't take bags but sucked all of the dirt into a large central chamber. Apparently they break all the time.

After some more harranguing about the cost of bags versus inevitable repairs on those machines that don't take them, she proceeded to negotiate with my parents over potential costs, including a finer reading of the warranty that seemed to exclude any parts or repairs that were needed as a result of using the vacuum. My mom resignedly decided to leave the vacuum in their care. I could tell as we walked to the car that my parents were uneasy leaving a relatively new and expensive appliance with these people, but it was their only, slim hope for getting anything repaired under warranty.

I called my mom tonight to get some addresses for Christmas cards, and was able to get the denoument of the story. About three or four days after leaving the store, Jack got a phone call.

"Hello?" he answered.

"It sucks now," the voice on the other end replied. It was the large man from the store (and I'm sure Jack was happy he has caller id on his phone). And yes, it does suck now and appears to be working fine.

12 December 2005


I had a good weekend that wasn't too busy, but had a lot of nice little moments like a dinner with friends and seeing "Walk the Line." Since it's Monday morning and I'm having trouble motivating to work, I thought I'd write about one of those.

I haven't watched much basketball this year, so I was happy to find a game between Gonzaga and Oklahoma State this Saturday while I was puttering around the house. It was a pretty close game, although OSU (not the Beavers) led for most of the game, at some points by double-digits. I took some breaks to go to the store and do laundry, so I wasn't following it too closely, but I made sure to catch the last couple minutes because it looked like the Zags were getting back into it. I'm glad I did because it turned about to be a fantastic finish. Gonzaga were down by one (61-62) with about 40 seconds to go, they somehow blew their two remaining timeouts while bringing the ball upcourt, then missed a jump shot. OSU rebounded with about 15 seconds left, and were immediately fouled. The OSU player was shooting a 1 and 1, and his first shot circled around the rim (at least three times, it seemed) before popping out. Adam Morrison grabbed the free throw and lumbered upcourt. CBS's announcers were Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson, and I'll paraphrase them from here:

Gus: Adam Morrison looking, has two defenders on him at the three point line, two seconds on the clock, he shoots, banks it, AAAAAAHHH!


Gus: That was ... Wow! ... Larry Bird! ... Amazing!

Bill: (sound of Bill Raftery swallowing his own tongue)

Gus: Have you ever seen anything like that coach?!!!

Bill: Ggglllrrr....

Gonzaga wound up winning 64-62. It was just an amazing finish, and the stunned announcers made it one of those small, but transcendent moments that are the reason I watch sports.

OK, time to get back to work. Hmmm, I think I smell coffee brewing....