Saturday, June 02, 2007


I've been having some trouble with computer. It started shortly before I left for vacation, and since returning it has been almost crippling. The symptom: whenever I am accessing the operating system from within another program, that active program, or the operating system itself, freezes up. Then I have to reboot everything. Working solely within a certain program works out fine, so there's been no trouble using the internet, for instance. But if I attempt to copy, paste, or even save my work, for examples, everything freezes up, and that work is lost in the reboot. I mention all of this because I spent the greater part of today attempting to isolate the cause of those symptoms: downloading several years' worth of updates and trial-version anti-virus software for the up-to-date system threat assessment. In retrospect, this has been the one week, suffered every few years, I've sacrificed so I don't have to deal with the constant invasive vigilance this culture of cyber-fear seems to inspire. The tedium of approving every contact and daily system maintenance is not for me. It seem like this lack of vigilance really did cause the problem, though. The scan took about an hour, and identified and quarantined a number of possible threats, none of which seemed all that destructive. Updating took another hour to load and deploy. After this, I turned everything off to cool while I went out to diner and a movie. Since I've returned, the computer has been acting perky and happy. All that defragging and stem-repairing does have some effect. Now I am able to type this out and save it, too, without the thing crashing. It hasn't been long enough for me to feel truly safe again yet, but I think that normal operations can once again resume. [Cavin]

Friday, June 01, 2007


Earlier today, I traveled the red line to meet Sunshine at Politics and Prose,* a bookstore up the northwestern hypotenuse of Connecticut Avenue just west of historic Tenleytown. Politics and Prose is noted for having a great guest speaker program: we just missed Al Gore* on Tuesday and Zbigniew Brzezinski* last month, among others. This is where we saw China Miéville* back in March.* Today, we were there to see Michael Ondaatje* read from his new novel.* Before the show, I discovered a nice, spare little Italian bistro sharing a store front with an Asian hair-and-nail place. I had a panini and spinach salad while finishing Robertson Davies'* exceptional Fifth Business (the first book of his Deptford Trilogy*). To put this into some perspective: this month I have read Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle,* Graham Greene's the Human Factor,* and Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages;* each is, in its way, a feat of easy-handed humanity to some degree tuned to a fine existential humor of precipitous insight--and without too much consideration I can say I liked Fifth Business best of all. I liked it so much that I kept ordering tea refills so I could finish before heading on to the bookstore, almost arriving late. As it happened, I was just able to see Mr. Ondaatje from the back of the crowd, framed by two silver-haired gentlemen in pastel golf shirts and lopsided belts. The reading was terrific, and the writer of the English Patient* was as amiable and down-to-Earth as he could be during the question-and-answer session afterwards. An hour later the crowd broke to the left of the store to start the line for book signing. It was too long for us: we slipped out to eat Asian fusion in Dupont Circle instead of waiting. [Cavin]

Thursday, May 31, 2007


We are given a "consumables allowance" for products we wish to take with us to Vietnam. It is assumed that American families, when posted abroad, find it difficult to sustain the same brand loyalties (and, to be fair, access to medicines) they enjoy at home. So, for posts sufficiently foreign, like Southeast Asia, we're allowed some addition to our usual weight allowance. Applications are myriad: boxes of favored breakfast cereal, shelves of over-the-counter cold medication, a childhood's-worth of truly trustworthy diapers. It's a cinch this is necessary, but a thousand pounds' worth? Some of the suggestions I've heard have amused me: it's often difficult to get the proper chips for US cookies, litter for US kitties, or brake fluid for US cars in the larger world. Granted; but I've never been someone who obsesses over stuff from home when I'm away. I'm mostly comfortable substituting the products available for those brands to which I supposedly domestically cling. Six months ago the only thing worth hoarding while traveling was my dear brand of disposable razor blades. Other brands, well, they suck. Since then, with an embarrassment of space, I've added mouthwash to my list: I often find off-brands disappointing. One thing I won't be packing is toothpaste. I like Crest, but not the gel version we're using lately. Yesterday I discovered a new, off-white tube by the sink. I thought the color, that of tartar, was an unfortunate choice for toothpaste packaging; but I was happy to note it wasn't a gel. Happy, that is, until I tried it and discovered it was minty vanilla flavored, and unpleasantly akin to brushing my teeth with fudge. Not only was it foul, but it turned the flavor of my mouthwash disappointing. I'm certain whatever they have in Saigon will be better. [Cavin]

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I drove back from Kentucky earlier today--eight-point-five hours, thanks, the last hour spent within three miles of my home--completing back-to-back vacations in two home states. The first of these, in NC, was the longest. During this week, I enjoyed one backyard barbeque,* which happened to coincide with my marriage's sixth-month mark, dinner at my favorite relocated local Sushi restaurant, fabulous Greek food beneath baseball stadium fireworks, and several enthusiastic passes at my favorite bar in all the world. I got to hang out with good friends, and even catch up with a few souls even rarer than I often am. I slept on three beds in two cities. I played with ten cats. The second vacation, a long holiday weekend in KY, was great after these seven days of constant socializing. Over Memorial Day I spent a lot of time sitting on the porch reading and doing little else. This holiday can be a big one in Sunshine's neck of the Appalachians. The family plot is essentially in the yard (it's actually beside the barn on the other side of the road where everyone parks their trucks), and Memorial Day is the time of year when the cemetery gets neatly mowed, the stones and washed, and everything is decorated with pretty flower arrangements. Last year there were visitors popping in all weekend, paying respects. The porch I was sitting on occasionally got quite crowded. This year there was less of that, and while it is too bad not get to see every single member of Sunshine's family when I come to town, it was also nice to get that three days of nothing but relaxation. Early this morning I began the long road back, which is beautiful through Maryland but I was eager to get home. [Cavin]

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day

Greetings from Kentucky, almost. I would have posted this last night were it not for the fact that Sunshine's mother has replaced her old keyboard with the kind of ergonomic modern thing having a split keypad arrayed around a central hump. I certainly cannot cope with something like that. I still mentally composed this post on Monday, and since all I want to do is write happy Memorial Day and then bitch about the 2007 Miss Universe Pageant, I figured I would backdate this entry into the out-of-the-way past where it belongs. Happy Memorial Day! We ate a large dinner at grandmother's house as befits a holiday. Then, later in the day, we enjoyed the annual Miss Universe Pageant Drinking Game.* My problems** with Miss Universe continue: it's about time for everyone to admit that celebrity judges are a waste of time. Not only does the attention they are paid during broadcast in no way justify their attendance, but they also show no credible understanding of what it is they are supposed to be judging. There was a better crop of interesting contestants this year, making it even more damning when Miss USA enjoyed evident judicial bias by making it all the way to fourth runner-up after falling down. What? Yes, she fell onto her ass coming down the glass stairs in her evening gown. I've never seen any contestant go all the way over before. Apparently the judges still haven't: they chose to rank her something like third in the event, beating seven other women who did not actually fall down. This was particularly galling to the domestic audience in México's capital city, since one of the contestants who more rightfully deserved to be in the top five was Miss México. Hence a lot of uncouth booing. [Cavin]