At some point last week, Jen looked at me after I’d finished wrestling my hair into some sort of shape, and compared the results to Art Garfunkel. When she starts doing that, I usually start considering making an appointment to see my stylist. It’s taken years of patience and painful jabs with a cattle prod to get me to drop the idea of a $6 barber and move to a $60 salon, one in a long list of notions she’s had to wean me from. After several unsuccessful relationships with stylists across town (Candace, my last favorite, left her affordable digs to move up into Timonium to some sort of sports bar/hair salon hybrid, an idea lost on the sorry fools like me who are blind without their glasses and therefore unable to appreciate HD-quality basketball while getting our hair cut), she put me in touch with my new stylist, who has the kind of hair I wish I had—somewhere between Greek god and hipster nonchalance. You know, the hair you leave the salon with but can never re-create in your own laboratory.
He has shown me wonderful and amazing things I can do with my hair, even if I can’t master his hair-fu, so I go back to him in the hopes that I might learn by osmosis. And, I’ve fallen in love with the idea (and practice of) the shampoo/scalp massage. Oh, Holy Mary, Mother of God, there are fewer finer legal ways I can think of having someone else who is not my wife touch my body for an affordable fee.
After getting my hair shorn, I met up with a friend to grab a cup of coffee and catch up, which was a great change of pace. Sitting in a coffee bar and talking with him, as well as discussing the Bathroom Senator affair with the grandmothers sitting next to us,reminded me why I work for myself in the first place, something that’s been lost on me in the last two weeks or so: flexible coffee scheduling. About the time we were considering a bite to eat, I got a call from Jen, who asked me where I was with a voice that registered unease. She told me that our washer had somehow decided to quit draining itself and had then pissed two hundred gallons of water all over the floor of the basement, and that I’d better get home to help in the recovery effort she’d started.
After some initial panic, I calmed down when I saw the extent of the disaster, and silently cursed the original builders of this house. I have two separate curses, one for the builders and one for the Doctor, for all the ass-backwards stuff that’s been done with this house since they broke ground. A dirt floored garage? A pox on your children. A staircase designed in a way that ruins any chance of adding a convenient entryway to the third floor? May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits. A kitchen built with four (and at one point, five) doors? May the flatulence of twenty elephants descend upon your buttocks. And a basement with no sump, not even a simple gravity drain? May your bladder loosen and soak your bed every time you fall asleep.
So, with nothing left but good humor and a nasty smell, we folded up our sleeves and got to work with a mop and a shop-vac. I’d have pictures here to share the horror with you, but the local government did not allow press access to the devastation, and it’s probably for the best anyway. Suffice it to say the levees around the cat litter held, barely, and the lumberyard got its feet wet. Thankfully though, the water level didn’t reach either pilot light on the furnace or the boiler, and the tools remain high and dry.
We have fared better than the survivors in the south, and for that we are thankful; we have three dry floors, a heavy-duty dehumidifier, and a weekend of low humidity ahead. We also have a 2hp. shop-vac that drained the lagoon in under an hour, in case the rains come again. But that consarned washing machine is getting sent up the river as soon as we can get the scratch together for a quality replacement.
I have deliberately shunned social networking sites for years now. Actually, I’ve shunned pretty much everything about the social networking scene ever since the first chat clients came out years ago. I don’t have a ready explanation for this aversion, other than the slimy feeling I get whenever I ask someone to link to my site or for their chat name: I feel like it’s high school all over again. I don’t keep IM up and running a whole lot, nor do I just randomly IM people for the hell of it. I look at it sort of like making a phone call: I need to have something good to say in order to take the time out of someone’s day.
I’ve dipped my toes in the pool a few times, through Flickr (where my linked friends number in the teens) and through IM (begrudgingly; some people conduct the entirety of their business on IM, but I find it distracting) but I’ve never gotten over that feeling of wheedling supplicance, as if I was the freshman asking a senior if I could come to their party. I suppose this attitude throughout life has meant I haven’t been to many parties, but I have to look at the people with 900+ buddies and wonder if it’s just another game of collection and posturing. How can I be expected to maintain relationships with 900 buddies on a daily basis when I’m bad at maintaining flesh-and-blood relationships with actual people I know and love? Oh, and stay married, run a business, and spend at least a half-hour of waking time away from the computer?
Last year I was invited to join a business-oriented social networking site, and I considered the offer for a while before acting. Perhaps this would be different from the other sites I’ve poked around on (it was better-looking, for one thing), and perhaps it might help me from a business perspective, I thought. With reservation, I signed up and created a profile, entered some employment information, and then poked around to see who else was signed up. The results were pretty slim at that point—a few people on the margins of companies I’d worked for, but nobody I’d actually consider contacting.
At that point, I decided my criteria for linking to other people would be twofold: I would have to had direct working contact with them, and I would have to be reasonably certain they’d link back to me.
Over time, I got a few invites from friends I knew, but the account lay mostly dormant for a year until recently, when I got an invite from a friend at a company I’d not listed in my history, which I accepted. After I updated my profile, suddenly I got three more invites from people I didn’t remember and two that I did. I noticed that certain people had contacts in the upper two digits (and sometimes three) while others had numbers like mine.
Asking around with some connected friends, I found that several of the people asking me for links were people we couldn’t remember—the names were familiar, but the faces and roles were mysterious.
Also, with reservation, I took the larger step of inviting several people I’d worked with for links, feeling sheepishly like a freshman again. Thankfully, the people I invited all linked back to me, which was affirming. I guess it’s something that I need to just get over, because there are millions of people out there linking and inviting and connecting and buddying who have the faintest connection with each other, and they don’t seem to have a problem with it. For me, though, I look at it like the friends I’ve got—it’s not the numbers, it’s the quality.
After waiting patiently in our closet, the $300 Powerbook I bought a few months ago finally got some attention this week.
To recap, I bought a G4 Powerbook off Craigslist with a very wobbly display knowing I’d probably have to do some work to it, but not soon after I got it home the display completely crapped out. After doing a bunch of research, I found the parts I needed and an english PDF of the Apple Service Guide on a German website after a lengthy Google search.
I replaced the DC power board, the display inverter, and the display cable in May, but the problem still persisted, and my budget for parts was depleted. So we put it on the shelf and waited. Later, my MacBook Pro had a similar problem, and the Apple Store replaced my LCD under warranty. I knew the only thing I hadn’t replaced was the culprit.
In the meantime, I got a call from a client who needed a larger drive in their Powerbook, which turned out to be an identical model. So, having dissected one laptop, I had plenty of experience opening another, and I used the fee for that job to pay for a new LCD.
After two hours’ work this evening (I’m getting faster as I go) I had the new LCD in place and tested out, and after buttoning up the top case, she was ready to go.
Apparently, our little ‘ville is #49 on Money Magazine’s top places to live in 2007. It must be the picturesque Friendly’s downtown that tipped the scales. Or, maybe it’s the drunks stumbling out of Bar at 9AM. Whatever their criteria, the fact remains: we still don’t have a good restaurant within walking distance of the house. (Word has it that the one restaurant that’s actually worth a damn has been chasing off other prospective restaurateurs with obscure liquor ordinance rules, something that has soured us on ever ordering crabs from them again.)
I was talking with a client who’s in a semi-related field a few weeks ago, and he mentioned the recent implosion of the Baltimore advertising community. He compared this town to New York and DC, and said that we’ve never fostered a real advertising community here because all the shops in town are founded on a burning hatred of one another. Everyone steals clients from everyone else, the employees bounce from place to place, burn out, and eventually all the firms blow up and reform into other firms.
If that’s how it actually is, then they should take a chapter from the bustling restaurant scenes downtown, in Fell’s Point, and over in Canton. Having one good restaurant in town is great, until the regular patrons get sick of the menu. Having two restaurants across the street from each other is better, because A. if one is full, people can go to the other, and B. people flock to areas where multiple restaurants are concentrated. We are Americans. We want choices, because we’re fickle Wal-Mart shoppers, not Soviet citizens waiting in lines for soap and toilet paper. Look at every homogenized strip mall erected in the last twenty years: there’s a mexican chain, a steakhouse chain, and an italian chain. Around them are smaller fast food chains. None of them are hurting; on the contrary, there’s a two-hour wait for an overcooked, underflavored slab of meat, and there’s only Miller Lite on tap. But there are choices, and that makes us happy.
There is strength in numbers, in both advertising and local restaurants. When an area has enough of one thing to reach a critical mass (quality advertising shops or locally-owned restaurants) then people will start showing up. People will come from the other side of the country and the other side of town to check out the scene. And if the food is good, they’ll keep coming back.