The Great Radio Blackout

February, 2001

The Read And Delete Newsletter for February, 2001

Greetings friends, fiends, foes, family and all you other fine folks. It's the February filibuster issue-- from a month so full that it spilled out into the following days of March. 
February has been a busy month on and off the Maloney Ranch. Between doing a company-wide software audit (for license compliance), battling the dreaded minions of e-mail viral malice and keeping up with speed of suburban life--there has been very little time for anything else. I have had next to no time for anything fun- just busy, busy, busy. Pardon me if I vent a little......


RADIO BLACKOUT One of the sadder events of the month was the passing on of my car radio. It had been sick for a couple of months-- the tape player had gotten severe arthritis and could no longer eject without help, and the station pre-sets struggled with bouts of amnesia. Finally the tape motor could no longer hold its speed; developing such wow, flutter and pitch deviations that Vivaldi sounded like Mahler and my Bible on tape commentator sounded like Peter Jennings on lithium. And then-- the end. It died the day after my favorite classical radio station (WNIB 97.1) went off the air. I guess the radio just gave up. There was this sharp clicking sound-- a curl of smoke laced with the acrid odor of toasted electronics-- and then-- silence. My Chrysler Infinity stereo passed into eternity. I extracted the carcass from the dashboard, thus leaving a gaping hole in my drive-time.
Due to time and budget constraints, I was unable to immediately replace the unit and thus spent the next two weeks motoring sans wireless. It was brutal. At first I thought that an audio fast would do me some good; a chance to relax, depressurize and quiet my heart in the middle of my busy life. Uh-uh. Not this little 'ol radio junkie. On the first day I constantly found myself unconsciously reaching over to turn on the radio that just wasn't there. After two days of isolation I went into full news withdrawal. I wound my windows down at stoplights and listened to the other cars, just trying to hear anything that might sound like a newscast. I began to fantasize about picking up hitchhiking journalists or meteorologists. I was tempted to use my cell phone to call the news station and ask them what was going on in the world, or else just hire somebody to ride with me while reading the newspaper aloud. I read every signpost two and three times, checking the billboards for political "spin". Four days after that paranoia set in. I began to think that everybody else who had a radio was now talking behind my back, talking about ME! It was hopeless. People at work were asking me, "Did you hear so and so on the radio this morning?" Augh!! I was ready to bust off the cars' aerial and jam it into my ear, but the only reception I would get would be from the emergency room. 
But it's all ok now, the major media can relax. I put in another radio, and it is a good one. The new radio has enough fidelity to accurately reproduce the sweat running down the cellist's brow, and is powerful enough to pick up the newscaster's inner thoughts. I feel so much better now that I can again be shocked, angered and disgusted by the news during every morning and afternoon drive-time. 


DOUGHNUTS IN DENIAL--In order to get my mind off of my troubles during the Great Radio Blackout --one of the things I tried was the "Krispy Kreme" doughnut. ''Krispy Kreme" is a national franchise that specializes in providing upscale doughnuts to trendy suburban sugar maniacs. I have heard plenty about the Krispy Kreme, usually from acquaintances and co-workers who are addicted to the product. I have seen them often-- sitting in a glassy-eyed stupor or else in the throes of sucrose withdrawal--willing to give up their computer mouse in trade for another saturated fat fix. So I decided to try one of "those" doughnuts, maybe to trade one obsession for another.
I drive past a Krispy Kreme shop on my way to work, and the cars at the drive thru are usually lined up all the way around the building, and sometimes there are enough squad cars in the parking lot to make me think that the place is under siege. I pulled into the drive thru line-- right behind a guy in a Jeep Cherokee. I could see that this guy had a really bad case of the sugar shakes. (He ordered three dozen Krispy Kremes-- with assorted toppings.) He trembled noticeably as he received his order from the window, and he burnt rubber getting away with his stuff. My turn came. I ordered a dozen. The order taker called back, "Only one dozen?" I replied, "I'm not hooked yet." She handed me a box about the size of a size and weight of concrete patio block. 
Upon sampling the product, my first impression was that this doughnut was trying very hard not to be a doughnut. Pasty, doughy, sickly sweet with overtones of fat, and just a touch of mono-glycerides. Laden with good 'ol artery plugging, heart stopping cholesterol. Even the glaze carried with it the stickiness of corruption, the mark of the beast himself, the evil Sugar Demon-- who began at once to attack and undo years of dental work (that I am still paying for by the way) then stopping to rest as ballast at the bottom of my stomach, before turning those crispy creamy calories into upscale cellulite. I took the eleven remaining fat pills to the office, where they were scarfed up in nanoseconds by the unfortunates who are held captive by the Krispy Kreme monkey on their backs.
I don't normally go on about doughnuts. But those of you who read my treatise about coffee (was it really two years ago?) know that I drink my coffee plain, without the adulteration of latte, cappuccino, or any flavoring to mask the fact that it is a drink made from beans. Coffee is coffee, and if it tastes like vanilla, it's not coffee.
The same is true for doughnuts. If a lard ring wants to pretend its a French pastry, so be it. Real doughnuts come standing on end- twelve to a box- thank you very much. They don't come lying on their backs in a sheet cake box-- gussied up and arranged like a harlot on a chaise-lounge. If I want a doughnut, it's Dunkin Donuts for me. No pretense here-- it's a cake of yeast with a hole in the middle. I'm not supposed to eat the silly things anyway. My diet calls for oat bran "pot scrubber" muffins with WD-40 margarine. I asked my doctor if oat bran would make me live longer. He told me it "would seem like forever." I think he's right. 


THE BIG MAC ATTACK As a network administrator, my job is to keep all the office computers operating efficiently at all times. Notice that I used the word "computers." A computer is a calculating device used by people of this planet who are engaged heartily in the process of running a business. IBM makes computers. The Apple company makes a device called the "Macintosh". It doesn't look like a computer, doesn't act like a computer and it doesn't work WITH computers-- but there is an entire segment of the population that insists upon using them in their work. The "creative crowd" --marketers- graphic artists-- "left brainers" so to speak-- are MAC users. So it came as a shock to me that I should be asked to not only bring one of these things into the office, but also hook it up onto MY network, a network populated almost exclusively by engineers. 
So when the word came down to me that the left brain department was expanding, I set about the task of the procurement of the animal. It is very hard to buy a Mac in a store. Apple wants to sell them to businesses via telephone or the Internet. It is understandable that when one is going about purchasing the "Roald Dahl" of computers, one cannot go about it in a conventional way. Thankfully, I was not in the market for an "iMac." (The iMac is a little Apple computer that is shaped sort of like the nose of a B-17. Most of the options available for the iMac are related to what color you want. The iMac is the ultimate example as to what happens when the left brain is allowed to operate fully unchecked.)
I placed the order by phone. I ordered a "G4 Mac", the desktop version-- as they call it. Six days later a UFO lands in the parking lot and two little purple men deliver a box to the front office. Inside is an iridescent blue thing with Lucite handles on each corner. There is a large glowing apple logo on the side. Seized with trepidation, I rush back to the lab for a Geiger counter. Upon unpacking the box, I also come across a Lucite coated cobalt keyboard with black buttons and a clear Lucite mouse that looks like the pendant worn by the "queen of the moonmaids" in some "B" SCI-FI flick. The video monitor (that I didn't order, by the way) sits on a little tripod and looks like the lunar lander. There is a big plastic ring on the side of the Mac. If you tug on it, the side falls open-- allowing you full access into its reactor core. If this is indeed a desktop computer, it belongs in Salvador Dali's office. 
Being a natural risk-taker, I plugged the thing in and switched it on. Most computers nowadays make some musical sound when they are activated, and the Mac is no exception. Windows computers make what is called "the Microsoft sound", a harp strum sound followed by a few piano notes fading out gradually into nothingness. G4 Macs make "the Apple sound", a single quick blast of sound, kind of a musical "blonggg!" a single resounding chord which sounds like a piano and a harp striking the ground simultaneously at the base of a mineshaft.
Speaking of sounds, this Macintosh talks. Whenever a message flashes up on the monitor, this Mac has to read it to me aloud. It starts out by saying, "Pay attention!", or, "Oops!", then it speaks out the message written on the screen. My favorite is when it says, "It's not my fault." When I called Apple tech support (there's enough material there for another newsletter) they told me that I needed to plug in the optional microphone in order to activate the voice recognition software just to tell it to shut up. 
I bought a technical manual for Apple Macintosh software. The author's credits list that he is currently writing a book about the "theology of Star Trek." (I am not making this up.) 

Sorry to get so technical this time. February seemed to be a month where the only traveling I did was to commute out of my comfort zone. I'll make up for it next time. For March--- James and the AWANA olympics! - springtime in Aurora/Naperville-- and a few surprises....

Gotta go..... Blongggg! (I can hardly wait for the flame letters from the Krispy Kreme and Macintosh fans.) 

Neil



P.S. Q. What do you get when you drop a piano down a mineshaft?
A. "A-Flat" miner.