As of today it’s been eight years since I married my very favorite wife ever. Happy anniversary, Jennifer!
Because tomorrow is my birthday, my wife, who is the coolest wife in the history of the Cosmos, made me this:
Yes, it is a knitted Dalek. This was after the plush brain cell, the “What Would a Zombie Do?” spinner, and the tickets to a Jonathan Coulton concert in San Francisco in January.
I often wonder what I did to deserve such a cool wife. Then I figure I’d better not question it.
That said, Happy New Year to all of you!
The quiet couple in the corner at the restaurant, reading and holding hands.
The couple laughing hysterically in the hotel room next door at some silly joke.
The couple that keeps striving to come up with the goofiest nicknames and terms of endearment for each other.
The couple that goes on those long bike rides on the hills in Napa, cursing all the while.
The weird-looking couple giving each other strange looks in the park.
The couple that decorates their house with gargoyles and stone dragons because, well, they’re cool.
The couple that has yet to run out of ways to say "I love you" to each other.
Yep. That would be us.
Happy first anniversary, Jennifer.
And so the other day, we were getting ready for our long bike ride; part of that preparation included slathering suntan lotion all over our legs and arms and faces so that the su wouldn’t broil us like lobsters. Jennifer handed me the lotion and I decided, in my own patented brand of logic, that it would be more efficient if, instead of pouring some lotion into my hands and spreading it on my legs, I would just upend the bottle and squeeze some lotion directly onto my leg. I squeezed the bottle just a little too much, and a large glob of lotion squirted out onto my leg and my shoe, and onto our hardwood floor.
"Honey!" Jennifer cried in her expasperated Oh- my- goodness- what- have- you- done- now voice that I’ve grown to recognize quite well in our few years together. "Look what you did!"
I was pretty nonchalant about the globs of lotion on the floor; indeed, I took one of the globs from my shoe and used it to coat my leg. "Look," I said, "No harm done."
Jennifer sighed, exasperated, and grabbed a napkin to clean up the globs of suntan lotion that had gotten onto the floor. "Honestly," she muttered, "If you only had the sense that God gave to a turtle!"
I paused at that — after all, wouldn’t you? A turtle? The sense that God gave to a turtle? Where in the world did that come from?
"Did you say ‘turtle’?" I asked my wife.
She didn’t answer me right away. I could tell from her shaking shoulders that she was just laughing too hard.
So it was a nice bike ride we went on. We had planned for a thirteen mile jaunt, but I decided it would be fun to take a 10-mile side trip, a route that I’d driven a couple of times and which I’d always wanted to bike on: down some country roads, through some orchards, past a stable or two, over a narrow bridge so covered in graffiti that there is no way to know what color it originally was. I asked my wife, just as we were turning on Schroeder, how adventurous, exploratory and, above all, how energetic she felt. It took just a little coaxing to convince her that she really wanted to take this side trip with me.
So we took that route. It was nice. The smell of fresh harvest in our part of the world is delightful, and the scenery around here is gorgeous, though uninspiringly lacking in hills or large bodies of water. And all along the ride, I got to tease Jennifer. "A turtle!" I kept bursting out. "I haven’t got the sense that God gave to a TURTLE!"
Things have been kind of like that on the whole. Last week my Linux box at home started acting up — well, okay, it’d been acting up badly for months. Then it got to the point where the X server wouldn’t start up at all; in Windows, this would mean that you couldn’t start the windowing program and all you had was the command line. While the command line is extraordinarily useless in Windows, there is still a lot you can do in Linux with just that command line, so during the day I was able to still work on my computer remotely — checking my e-mail, working on a couple of text files, and so on. But the hard drive was making a long trek south, and probably wasn’t going to last much longer. I wrote to the local Linux Users’ Group, and someone was kind enough to volunteer to come out and help me solve my problem.
After two sessions totalling fourteen hours, my computer is up and running again. I am very pleased and very grateful to LUGOD, and the folks there. And now I know what signs to keep an eye out for to make sure that this series of errors doesn’t crop up again.
Speaking of Linux, I put in my application to be site guide for an on-line Linux community. Not enough technical content. Someone else got the slot. Ah, well. I also submitted my proposal for a new fantasy campaign setting to Wizards of the Coast, just in the nick of time (I was actually standing in line at the post office when it occurred to me that I should have included a SASE with my submission — so I ended up grabbing two large envelopes, breaking the seal on the envelope I’d already enclosed my submission in, and rapidly addressing both; and now that I think about it, I don’t think I even paid for those envelopes).
Which brings us, via no discernible path, to this evening. Jennifer and I are relaxing in our office, she playing word games on her computer and me writing this entry and thinking about reading an article on D-Day in the most recent issue of National Geographic. There’s no real order to this entry. Nor is there any sense, I suppose.
But, then, as Jennifer herself pointed out: I haven’t got the sense that God gave to a turtle.
A green seaturtle, Chelonia mydas,
the God-given sense of which I do not have.
Usually, when I decide it’s time to zark a computer to death, it’s my Linux box that bears the brunt of my incompetence. Last week, though, I booted into Windows to check out an image I wanted to work on, and discovered that I was unable to hook up to the Internet through Windows 2000. I tweaked this, fiddled with that, and finally decided that what I needed to do was uninstall and reinstall the TCP/IP protocol that my computer needs to connect. No problem. Click on the protocol. Click on "uninstall". Click OK. It takes its time, and then tells you that you need to reboot the machine. No problem there. You reboot, and then you go back into Network Settings to reinstall the protocol from its nice little cache on the hard drive. No problem, right?
"Insert Windows 2000 Installation Disk to continue."
This is a problem. I don’t happen to have that disk right now. It’s with my brother-in-law, who lives out in Napa, quite a ways away from here. Not an impossible distance, but longer than a casual daytime drive.
All in all, it’s a bad thing. I haven’t been able to get on-line from Windows for over a week now. Not that I miss it, of course; I’ve been working in Linux pretty solidly for about a month now, and I’m getting very used to it. In many ways, I like it much better than Windows. But that’s a hobbyist thing, really; it’s like the difference between the guy who wants to drive his car from one end of town to another versus the guy who wants to tweak his engine, adjusting a gap here and tweaking a valve there and fiddling with an intake valve under that camshaft (or wherever you’d find an intake valve). Okay, his car probably isn’t as pretty, but he’s got a lot more faith in it, because he is pretty much responsible for it himself… and if it explodes, he knows who’s to blame. And I like how much I can customize Linux; just for fun, I’ve been playing with some screen capture software, and I made a snapshot of my desktop, which I’ve placed below. It’s based on H. P. Lovecraft, of course, since I’m still on that HPL kick; any day now, Evilpheemy, "Incident at Mount Joyce" will be finished and we’ll be ready to start playtesting Outer Darkness.
With Linux, I feel like I get more out of my computer, and I understand it better.
But meanwhile, I frequently stay up until the wee hours playing with my computer, adjusting this and tweaking that, and generally enjoying the heck out of myself. Jennifer doesn’t seem to mind that I typically end up sneaking into bed at 2:00 or so, still too wired to sleep. That’s reason number one: that she puts up with my weird hobby.
Jennifer likes to cook, and that’s reason number two. She likes to cook good food, and she does a very good job of it. She came home earlier this week with a quick-and-dirty recipe for green beans that involves garlic and soy sauce, and we’ve had that twice this week with dinner; tonight, we had it with this amazing lasagne that she makes, which involves some vegetables so cleverly chopped up that the texture almost makes you swear you’re not eating vegetarian lasagne. Jennifer likes finding recipes like that and bringing them home and preparing them, especially if they’re quick and easy. She’s got a knack for it; I call it her "Bean Trick", in honor of the bean recipe and our linguistic obsession with bean words in our house.
I get easily bored at times, and this can sometimes take odd manifestations. A couple of weeks ago, while heading off to the University to work in the lab a bit, I decided that I was bored with going left, then right, then left and down to the highway. And so instead of taking that second left, I went straight, and found myself being forced to take another left; then I took a right, just for the heck of it. Then I found myself taking a right. And so on.
The back roads of Solano and Yolo Counties are amazing. There are acres and acres of farmland, of course, but there are also wetlands and grasslands, bird sanctuaries, marvelous old Victorian style houses, and an abandoned church with an old graveyard that someone has moved their modern double-wide trailer onto; naturally, it’s that last bit that caught my attention the most. There is also a large damp field near one farm where an egret has taken up residence. The first time I drove past it, I took our digital camera and tried to get a picture of the egret; unfortunately, it was way too far away from the edge of the road, and the photograph shows nothing but this tiny white speck in a sea of light brown grass and mud. I erased the picture from the camera. Unfortunately, the back roads are a bit inconstant, it seems, and I haven’t been able to find that bit of marshland again.
The upshot, though, is that I’ve been able to find at least two routes Davis from Dixon that stay far away from I-80. I doubt that either route saves any time except during the heaviest rush hours on I-80, but there’s still something rewarding about speeding down a farm road which is barely wide enough for your car, let alone your car and the tractor that’s pulling a wagonload of hay. With the windows down and the soudtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? blaring loudly.
We’ve had weird car karma over the past couple of weeks (more about that some other time), and last night we wound up driving separate cars home from Davis to Dixon. I offered to lead Jennifer along the back roads so that she could see what I’d discovered. She probably wanted to get home sooner than that would have entailed, but she was a good sport, and we drove those roads. Bear in mind, that was the first time I’d driven that route in the dark; I almost got lost a couple of times, but managed to get us home safely. Jennifer puts up with weird stuff like that from me, and that’s the third reason.
There are two more reasons, but I won’t detail them here: just think about wholesome implications of the phrases "love monkey" and "gum drop bear", remind yourself that today was Valentine’s Day… and that’s all you need to know. It was clean.
And if I were the silly sentimental fool that I have been known to be in the past, I’d have spent this entire entry talking about how much I love Jennifer and making you, my one or two constant readers, a bit sick; but instead I wanted to share at least three ways in which Jennifer has made my life so much more interesting and exciting than it ever was before, by giving me space to do random things in, and participating in some of them with me. This whole marriage has been a complete life upgrade for me. In a way, it’s almost like the difference between Windows and Linux for me; with Jennifer around, I just feel like I understand things better and get more out of life.
And just for the heck of it, here is the snapshot of my computer’s desktop:
Perhaps not all that exciting, I guess. And it looks quite a lot like Windows in some ways. But trust me, it’s a big change.
Classic Monster Movie Collection including: Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, and Phantom of the Opera. The Mammoth Book of Awesome Comic Fantasy A really comfortable and gorgeous grey-green sweater Chocolate Orange And, best of all, a new grill for my continuing experiments in backyard food rocketry
Merry Christmas to all of you!
There are times when I’m afraid that Jennifer just doesn’t appreciate me enough. In response to this entry in her journal, and her calling me a "beanhead" earlier this evening, I created this picture for her:
And, the piece de resistance:
…which is truly my masterpiece.
And my wife looks on these and tells me, "That’s nice, dear."
The things I have to put up with sometimes.
"This is a test, isn’t it?" I asked my wife via Instant Messenger after a long pause.
"No it’s not," she replied, "and you really don’t have to if you don’t want to."
It was too late, though. I’d already agreed.
Back up a few minutes to where I’d told Jennifer that I was going to stop at Long’s on the way home and pick up some medication. Under the new health insurance plan that our company has bought into, co-pays usually are a much more painful experience than they were before (the last time I had to buy my allergy medication and pay a $35.00 co-pay, I wanted to call up Aetna the next day and demand how they could sleep at night; of course, the next day was September 11 and that call was never made), so these visits to Longs just aren’t as much fun as they once were. I try to refill all of my prescriptions at once now and get the massive payments out of the way. So I IM’ed Jennifer and said, "I’m going to stop at the drugstore on the way home. Do you want me to pick up anything for you?"
"Um, not really," she replied.
"Okay," I replied. It was close to quitting time and I was busy hacking up a lung because of my newest cold, so I didn’t type anything else.
But then Jennifer added, "Oh, wait! There is one thing, if you don’t mind."
For some reason I winced. Just a bit. See, I’ve often told Jennifer that she and I have the ideal relationship, because while I’m the kind of guy who would willingly buy tampons at the drugstore for her, she’s also the kind of woman who would never make me do that. But I could tell that our relationship was about to hit a crossroads.
"Mascara," she told me. Which is when I paused, and then typed, "This is a test, isn’t it?"
She was sincere when she told me that I didn’t have to buy the mascara for her. But I’d already made the offer, so I agreed anyway. I quizzed her about brand, style, color, etc., as many questions as I could think of about mascara (I didn’t think that Ph would be an issue but I don’t know that much about cosmetics — as I’m sure she would have no idea why I might prefer one brand of athletic supporter over another, I suppose — and so I asked her anyway). She pondered with me ways in which I could retain my masculinity while staring at shelves of mascara and lipstick. Her suggestion was that I stare blankly and mutter beneath my breath, just loud enough for anyone who might be staring at me oddly, about the wife and her constant makeup needs. I told her that I would probably have to buy a new watch, something particularly manly, that would make up for buying her "girlie stuff".
Honestly, though, buying makeup for the wife isn’t all that big a deal. I can’t honestly imagine the clerk thinking to herself, "Wow, here’s a guy buying makeup — what kind of a fag is he?" More likely (and indulge my little fantasy here), she’s thinking to herself something like, "Wow, here’s a guy buying makeup — I wonder if he’s taken? If he is, that sure is one lucky woman."
Well, I can dream.
It wasn’t that bad, ultimately. I stared blankly at rows and rows of lipstick tubes and mascara applicators, knowing that I’d stared just as blankly at memory chips the other day at CompUSA. I could find no mascara, though, so I did end up going to the woman at the counter and asked her. She showed me where it was, without any inflection at all or any sort of reaction. It was the sort of distracted customer service attitude that I’d frequently assumed when I was working at a video store and people wanted to know where the latest Tim Robbins film was — something inoffensive, not interesting enough for me to watch, and certainly not interesting enough for me to think of the customer as interesting in and of him or herself. So I doubt that the clerk at Longs had any sort of reaction to me — this medium-sized guy with a black beard who probably hadn’t shaved in a couple of days and slightly unkempt hair buying makeup. In all probability, she probably knew it wasn’t for me. CoverGirl probably isn’t, as a brand, manly enough for a guy like me.
Still, though, as I walked up to the counter to pay for the makeup and pick up my medicines, I stopped at one more counter and picked up one more thing to buy.
Jennifer was pleased that I’d gotten the right brand and style and color of mascara for her. I told her it wasn’t all that bad an experience at all.
Besides, my new watch — with the digital compass built right into it — is more than manly enough to make up for one wimpy-ass tube of mascara.
The storms in the Greater Central Valley of California never get that impressive, at least not in Yolo and Solano Counties. True, there are floods and worse in this area every few years, but, on the whole, the weather around here is very mild. Today, the air has smelled like rain all day; I went to the Borders about a mile from my office for lunch today to have a light sandwich and work on some math problems, and when I came back to the office, the rain had started. It never got heavy, but it kept up for the rest of the day.
After driving home to drop off some books and change, I went back to Davis to have some dinner and coffee and to go to Evilpheemy’s house for some beer and to watch Dune. With Jennifer gone during the week these days on a project for the Big Evil Fish (hereinafter in these documents referred to as BEF), I find myself spending lots of evenings with friends, watching comedy and science fiction movies, or just spending evenings at cafes; anything to distract me from the fact that I’m alone in this big empty house that my wife and I built together while we were still just dating.
It’s not that I’m unused to goodbyes; much of the relationship that Jennifer and I have had has been marked with goodbye. Up until now, with one two-week exception where she went down to the Bay Area to train on some BEF product, I’ve been the one to go away; spending months at a time commuting up to the Pacific Northwest to my own company’s development office to replicate our development environment or develop a new product; or traveling for a month in Ireland and the UK, without even coming home on the weekends. This time, she’s the one leaving; and this time, we don’t even know how long it’s going to be. It could be just a couple more days, or it could be a couple of months, depending on how her job interview turns out.
Jennifer’s dad travels a lot for his job as well. Last week, I wanted to ask her mother if it gets any easier, seeing your spouse off on a trip like this. On Sunday, Jennifer’s left immediately after church to fly out to Chicago for a 2.5 month project for the same BEF that Jennifer works for. After church, Jennifer and I invited her mother to come along with us. We asked her if there was any place in particular that she wanted to go; she said, a bit mournfully, "Chicago". I knew then what the answer to my question would be, and I haven’t needed to ask it.
It’s selfish of me to feel like this, I suppose. After all, I’ve done a lot more time away from home over the past year than she has (probably at least 50% of the time, now that I think about it). And I know that she doesn’t want to be gone, any more than I want her gone. So I commisserate with her and I do my best to be supportive and understanding, but I still miss her.
By the time I left Evilpheemy’s apartment, the storm was getting pretty heavy. The rain was falling hard, and the lightning was right overhead, making the sky as bright as day at times. Driving down I-80 I can see the big empty fields to the south, and over them the lightning sparks gigantically, almost from one horizon to the other. The sounds of the road and the car stereo drown out the thunder, but I know that it’s there.
And it’s short-lived; by the time I get home the rains have already dwindled to a mere sprinkle, barely noticeable when I step out of my car briefly to check the mail. Behind the clouds, the moon is shining; it’s a half-moon, according to the calendar above Jennifer’s desk, but it’s almost bright enough to be a full-moon. The rain has stopped by the time I get back into my car, and I’m glad for it; I wanted to have Jennifer here with me the first time that we listen to the rain falling on our house.
The clouds above Dixon are breaking apart. Through them, I can see a single star.
So the other evening, I went out into our back yard to hang my laundry out to dry. I came back inside to hear the sounds of gunfire, screaming, and high-speed industrial music emanating from our living room. This would probably have been alarming to some people, I suppose, but I wasn’t at all dismayed; I simply knew that Jennifer was in the living room, playing House of the Dead. When I approached, she smiled distractedly, not looking away from the dying zombies and monsters that were oozing green blood, and pointed at the other light pistol, which she had gotten out of the box but not plugged in. I sat down next to her, plugged in the light gun, clicked "Start" and began shooting.
Marrying Jennifer was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. There are many reasons why this is true, but here are the top five reasons why I’m convinced that this was a good idea:
- She Cooks. Jennifer actually seems to like cooking. And even though I tell her it isn’t necessary to prepare dinner every night, she does so anyway. And she’s a good cook, too.
- She’s Funny. Strange things just pop out of her mouth sometimes, like when she called the cats "fuzzy window beans". I have no idea what it means, and I don’t think she does either, but it made me laugh.
- She’s Brilliant. Apart from being smart enough to have the incredibly good judgement to marry me (either that, or someone slipped in a frontal lobotomy somewhere when she wasn’t looking), she’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, and she’s not afraid to show it. And I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else who reads as fast as she does.
- She Plays "House of the Dead". It goes without saying that a wife who plays shoot-em-up games with you which feature zombies oozing green gore is just cool. In fact, she was the one who insisted that we buy the game, as well as the DreamCast system to play it on (and who knows? maybe one day we’ll even buy another game for the DreamCast).
- She’s Just That Cool. There aren’t many guys in the world who are lucky enough to find someone like Jennifer, let alone be fortunate enought to marry them. I try to tell her often how I feel and how much I appreciate her, but sometimes I need to say these things in a public forum as well.
Thanks for everything, Jennifer. I love you more than anything.