May 12th, 2002

default, pepper

(no subject)

It's been another none-too-productive week at the ranch, but a fairly nice last few days nonetheless.

Yesterday I stayed home sick, but after having a surprising recovery in the afternoon (cough), I wandered about a few stores looking at Things To Eventually Purchase. Actually, in one case, the absence of things to eventually purchase: I'm still contemplating a digital camera, but not contemplating any of the ones I could find in stores, with the possible exception of the Sony DSC-F707. When I break down and get one it's likely to be an SLR.

The other thing I'm contemplating is a Nintendo GameCube. Why? I'm not entirely sure. I enjoy playing computer games sometimes--but usually in short doses. My PC isn't powerful to play modern computer games and I don't really want to commit to a huge online multiplayer mega-adventure. And, even if I did, upgrading the PC would cost almost as much as a GameCube anyway--a video card that doesn't suck is over $100, and a Celeron 433 processor is, by game standards, at the trailing edge of technology.

At the same time I'm thinking of getting more gadgets, I'm contemplating getting rid of a couple I already have. The scanner I got a couple months ago is a great scanner, but I have to face facts--for the use I'm likely to get out of it, I might as well scan the remaining film that I want digitized, sell this one and get a $99 flatbed. I'd also been considering selling my DVD player--it's progressive scan, DVD-Audio, DTS, and probably a few other buzzwords I'm forgetting. But I almost never watch DVDs.

Both of these purchases are ones I might well not have made if I'd been honest with myself beforehand. The scanner was mostly a purchase to convince myself not to get a digital camera--but, well, if I want to get 35mm film into my computer, I can get it "developed" to CD at most places now at a resolution at least as high as the flatbed could do it. And the DVD player purchase was made in blithe denial of the extreme lack of use I got from my laserdisc player. I told myself that was because I'd had the misfortune to get into laserdiscs as they were on their way out. And I did. But the main reason, I think, is that I just don't have much inclination to collect movies I've already seen and watch them over and over.

Unfortunately, I've confirmed that my PowerBook really sucks eggs as a DVD player connected to the TV, so my idea of using it as a replacement for occasional viewing won't pan out. I should be able to get $300 for the scanner (new two months ago it was $400), but I'll be lucky to get $150 for the DVD player, I suspect, which may make it not worth the effort--replacing it won't give me any profit.

Today, John Cooner and I wandered out to downtown Orlando and the Fringe Festival to see Toxic Audio, an a capella group that John told me about a couple weeks ago. They're a pretty amazing combination of singing group and comedy troupe. After that we went to a taqueria called Tijuana Flats. Pretty good food, and with a hot sauce bar--with serious hot sauces--rather than a salsa bar.

After that I stopped by Herbie Bearclaw's with John, but decided to bow out of watching "Dead Alive," an old Peter Jackson movie which is apparently considered one of the goriest films ever made. I'm told that in context it's kind of a witty spoof of gore movies, but my gore tolerance tends to be pretty low, so I bowed out. The night ended on a cheerfully surreal note at a rest stop, as I noted the security guard pulling up in a pickup-bed camper marked "Rest Stop Security" and getting out to strike up a conversation with two people at a picnic table who obviously not only knew him but were apparently expected. Questions: does the security guard sleep in the camper when he's not on duty? Does he live on site? And are those two people he talked to rest stop regulars?

Tomorrow (technically "later today") I should really see about writing some more. Yesterday I did get a few hundred words written on my current story, at least. I'll have to decide whether I'm coherent enough to try to do something with Mom for Mother's Day, too.
default, pepper

Notes from the field

It's ten before six p.m. and I'm at a Starbucks again, this one at the corner of Cleveland and Fort Harrison streets in Clearwater, Florida, a few blocks from the ocean. It's a beautiful area, combining a beach town feel with an "old Main Street" setting. It's also overrun with well-dressed zombies.

Yes, those of you familiar with real life sci-fi cults (or just acquainted with internet lore) may well recognize not only that town but those very streets as hosting the world headquarters of the Church of Scientology. There's an old bank building on the diagonal corner from this coffee shop that's labeled "The Clearwater Building" and has a big Church of Scientology engraved across its top. Sitting here looking out the window, I'd guess that 80-90% of the pedestrians have been Scientologists. It's not a crowded street scene like a downtown business day, but it's far from deserted--usually I can see one to two dozen people outside purposefully striding the sidewalks.

"Wait," you may be saying, "how can you tell they're Scientologists? Do they have uniforms?" Well, yes. All in dark business slacks, blouses and shirts all white or blue (I suspect the colors signify groups). The women wear scarves; the men wear neckties. The scarves and neckties are one of a few different patterns. This makes all of them look businesslike (in a door-to-door missionary "Have you heard about L. Ron Hubbard?" kind of way) and, particularly for the women, slightly nautical. All of them have keys on rings on a belt loop and I believe all of them have pagers.

It is as if a thousand LDS missionaries had gone dot-com.

Every so often a renegade wanders past--a guy with no necktie, and a few people in polo shirts (when I came in the Starbucks someone with a "Flag" polo shirt was leaving, referring to the Scientology "Flag Service Organization," and I think I saw another polo shirt with an "Org" logo I didn't quite catch).

I have an irrational temptation to stand up and loudly say, "So, who here's a Scientologist?" I suspect this is my friend J.'s fault, somehow; he has a peculiar drive to look at--not just glance at, but spend hours digging through--things he finds worthy of mocking, from Scientology to UFO conspiracy theorists to fundamentalist Christians. (I understand the desire to learn about things one might disagree with, but doing it with the seeming goal of working yourself into a frothing rant--even if you think of it as mocking your "opponent"--isn't something I've ever been too enchanted by.)

So, anyway. I've spent the afternoon wandering about South Tampa looking at more potential apartment sites--this time without touring them, since they're older ones, not from management chains, and will require setting up an appointment to view. I also looked at another one in Palm Harbor, a sprawling, wooded complex called "Country Place" that reminds me of some of the vacation villas at Walt Disney World (usually a good sign in my book).

"Wait," you may say again, "haven't you already written--interminably--about NetPoodles' poor financial health and how you shouldn't be making any long-range commitments like, oh, another lease?"

Yep, guilty. But I've considered that if I'm going to stay in this area, moving to a more central location than where I am now makes sense no matter what--unless I get a job in Brandon or in the "New Tampa" area (the northeast corner of the county, directly north of where Brandon is), which is quite unlikely in my fields, I'm going to to cut down on my commute to virtually anywhere by moving westward.

And the honest reason for being hesitant isn't financial, I know. I want to feel like I can leap off to some other part of the country at a moment's notice if a job I want pops up.

Two years ago that seemed like a real possibility, but now it seems like a pipe dream. The chances of me remaining in Tampa through 2002 seem increasingly high; I don't have the money to just move somewhere else and find a job, the way some friends have done successfully (and some friends have tried to do and failed, a reminder that doing so is much easier said than done).

So the question, I suppose, becomes: if I move from where I am, do I want to move to a place that provides at least a credible illusion of a quiet country retreat, or do I want to move to a pedestrian-friendly urban pad in South Tampa (or a credible illusion of one of those, like West Park Village)? Is a charming seaside Pinellas village like Dunedin too far east to be a good choice?

And is telecommuting from Big Sur really out of the question? Yeah, I know.

Postscript: I returned home and picked up a few days' worth of mail, including a postcard from O'Reilly acknowledging the receipt of my resumé--probably the physical copy I sent after the e-mail one. For some reason this makes me more melancholy than cheerful, but I suppose I can't give up until the 30 days are really past--the end of this month.