29 May 2004

Why Shopping For A Car Is Hard

[1] Because buying a car takes money, and sometimes a pretty big pile of it.
[2] Because there is a scale of almost infinitely divisible gradations of 'pro' and 'con' when it comes to cars. For example, the engine on this car seems to be in great shape, and the brakes are good, and the clutch is smooth. But the paint on the car is teal green. Or another example: this car has a sunroof. And that car doesn't. But that car is cheaper.
[3] Something about the act of selling a car transmogrifies a fine, upstanding, moral person into a deceiver and a shader of truths. Is it so hard just to give me the straight, honest answer? The first time?
[4] This is where it comes back again to money. When dealing in cars, everyone wants to buy for less than it's worth, and sell for more. It gets exhausting to face this dilemma again and again.
[5] Here, in our town, what you drive tells people what they should think of you. It is a constant struggle to do what we can to forget this bit of hellish conventional wisdom.
[6] How do you know who to trust? And when do you trust your own senses? This seems like a good deal to me, but...

After a week of obsession, we finally bought a nice, little green car to replace the even littler green car that got smashed up a couple weeks ago. All in all it was a good trade although a bit traumatic for everyone involved. We're all still getting acquainted but I think it's going to be a good thing. Jen has started calling it "my car" instead of "the car" which is great because it means that maybe she's reached the acceptance stage of grieving over that little green car that they hauled off to the junkyard.

24 May 2004

A Few Pictures

A couple pictures from the South Africa trip are now posted over in the gallery on the main page. There are only a couple tonight because I have been car-shopping for days on end and I'm exhausted and just want to go to bed and sleep for a week. But keep your eyes peeled, because I'll eventually be adding some more. Go here to check them out: www.peterschrock.com/index1.html

21 May 2004

Recommendation

Two nights ago I finally saw the movie "In America". I know that this immediately exposes the fact of how tragically un-hip I actually am. Yes, I know the movie came out nearly a year ago, and was nominated for many awards, and got all sorts of critical attention, and that all the cool people have already seen it.

So this begs the question: why am I bringing it up now after so many words have already been expended on its behalf?

The reason I am bring it up is simply this: I just want to say that I liked it a great deal. It was good and sweet and sad and hopeful all at the same time. The photography was good. The dialogue sounded lifelike. And when a movie like that comes around (they are few and far between) I think it's worth paying attention to it.

20 May 2004

Cool Bug Of The Day

My fiance is finishing her second year of medical school, which means she will soon be taking the board exams in order to quantitatively announce to the world her unique ability to cram her head nearly to the bursting point with amazing facts both great and small. This ability continually astounds me, but never more so than this week.

I've been serving as the doctor-to-be's typist during the last few days. She and her study pals like to condense their mass quantities of data into clean, efficient Excel sheets carefully edited to present the necessary information as compactly and concisely as possible. Me, I get to be the hack with the laptop. She says it's because I'm so good at typing, but I know it's because of the brilliant and witty company I provide. And although it's a low paying job, the benefits are great, especially when she smiles like that...

Anyway, I'm learning all sorts of interesting information this week about parasites. You may have heard about the bugs that you can get by walking around barefoot, especially in dirty places like septic tanks and sewage treatment plants. If you haven't, let's just say it's a pretty inventive approach they've come up with. Did you know that after they burrow through the soles of your feet, they swim through your body all the way to your lungs, climb up your throat, head south toward your stomach and on to a nice warm home in your small intestine. Did you know that? I was impressed.

So, although it may be a little distasteful for those with vivid imaginations and weak stomachs, I am hereby nominating the intestinal nematode, the lowly Hookworm, for the Cool Bug of the Day award.

I found what is apparently the first grade picture of the intrepid little worm on the web here. Just look at him. His mother must be so proud.

19 May 2004

A List Of Useful Things I Thought About Today While Trying To Leave For Work

[1] A bag of pretzels, a box of 'Nilla Wafers, a tupperware full of Grape Nuts, one large grapefruit, two books, a phone, an iPod, a wallet full of nothing, and a camera is too much to fit in a backpack.

[2] Where did I get all this stuff?! And why am I taking it with me to work?

[3] Leave the pretzels. The 'Nilla Wafers can do double duty, breakfast and lunch.

[4] Do I need a camera? Hush. I always need a camera. Always.

[5] Where are my keys?

[6] Why is it that I can never find my keys? Am I deficient in some key-finding quadrant of my brain?

[7] Make the bed. C'mon, just do it. It's a small bed, it'll take 6 seconds at most.

[8] Where are my keys?

[9] Dang it. Shoes. I need to put on my shoes. Set down the backpack. Put on the shoes.

[10] Oh! There are my keys! Why were they in my shoe?

18 May 2004

Leonard Cohen Has A Thought

I've been reading from Pico Iyer's new book "Sun After Dark: Flights Into The Foreign" (which is good so far in a scattered sort of way -- I'm on page 120 and still figuring out what he's talking about) and at one point he quotes Leonard Cohen saying something that made me think:

"I feel we're in a very shabby moment, and neither the literary nor the musical experience really has its finger on the pulse of our crisis. From my point of view, we're in the midst of a Flood: a flood of biblical proportions. It's both exterior and interior -- at this point it's more devastating on the interior level -- but it's leaking into the real world. And this Flood is of such enormous and biblical proportions that I see everybody holding on in their individual way to an orange crate, to a piece of wood, and we're passing each other in this swollen river that has pretty well taken down all the landmarks, and pretty well overturned everything we've got. And people insist, under the circumstances, on describing themselves as 'liberal' or 'conservative.' It seems to me completely mad."

Something about this sounds like truth to me, but I'm not sure what to do with it. I can see us hanging on to our own personal bits of flotsam, making our way through the high water all on our own, holding to descriptions of the world that mean next to nothing when it comes down to our day-to-day reality. Generally speaking, we live unaware. We don't really know our friends, much less our neighbors. So many people I know are looking for meaning (in life! in their careers! in a new car!), finding themselves at a loss to know what to pursue. I don't think it's hard to see that there is something wrong here.

So what can we do about it, seeing as we are all in this mess together? In a normal flood, you swim for the nearest high ground, climb up on the roof, look for something solid. And so we swim; we try money and sex and power and entertainment and more stuff and more money and more of everything else. We try religion (Kabbalah is hot right now, did you hear?, apparently it's knocked Scientology right off the stage) but we forget that religion really isn't about "expressing our individuality" but rather about getting the right things in the right order.

I guess what I think will get us through the high water and the missing landmarks is exactly that: getting the right things in the right order. So it's a first rate puzzle: what are the right things? And what order do they go in? I guess we'll have to figure that out together, my friends and neighbors...

17 May 2004

Re-Entry Is Crap, But The Weekend Was Just Fine

So the milk's bad in the refrigerator, my muscles are stiff, my sunburn stings in the shower, I think I could sleep for a week, my inbox is full of noise, the Spurs lost to the Lakers, the Americans and the Iraqis are still killing each other, the Israelis are stocking up on even bigger and better WMDs, and yet...

All is well on Santa Cruz Island. We covered a lot of ground in three days, watched a two spectacular sunsets, drowsed through two spectacular sunrises, chased wild pigs, hiked the "trail of tears", lounged in hammocks (thank you to my friend Patrick for inspiration), slept on lumpy ground, counted birds, discovered a comet (turns out it was discovered already, it's called Comet NEAT, which is was, but we didn't know that, so much for enduring fame), ate pasta in a bag, talked about almost everything, got chased off of private property, pursued 1000 dolphins and a fast-moving Humpback Whale across the channel, and thanked the Lord and our lucky stars that we didn't end up on the other end of the island with the 40 Korean daytrippers and their generator-powered karaoke machine. Which, all told, made for a pretty great weekend. Which also makes me want to say thanks to my dad for being a pretty great dad.

13 May 2004

The Islands

If you've never been to the west coast of the United States, you should come. And if you've never been to California, and to Southern California, you really should come. And if you've never been to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California, you're just plain missing out. Your life has yet to begin. You are only a fragment of your potential self.

That's where I'm going tomorrow. Santa Cruz Island, to be exact. I'm going to miss you all, but not too much.

10 May 2004

A Useful List of Things I Thought About While Walking Along The Street

{1} I saw some photos in a bookstore that caused me to think about a project I've been meaning to work on. Because of those photos, which started me thinking in a new way, I now know how I plan to go about my own work. This will help me finally complete the project which I promised to do about two years ago. Fortunately, I have a very patient client for this project.

{2} Wasting time at work playing with style sheets is never time wasted.

{3} There is a US mail drop box at the corner of Lake and Colorado.

{4} The Dalai Lama is over 70 years old somebody just said. I thought he was young, like 35 or something. Was I misinformed then? Or am I now? Does anybody know? I am going to have to research this some more.

{5} Writing a song is hard because it requires concentration. I'm not so good at concentrating. It's a hard thing to do while you're walking along a street with buses and cars and people. It's also hard to do at a coffeeshop where they are playing loud techno music.

{6} Always include the fonts with your Illustrator file. Otherwise you will pay for this in ways more terrible than you ever dreamed.

{7} There must be more to this life than high-fructose corn syrup.

{8} For one thing, there's Trader Joe's Salsa Autentica with the yellow lid. Just like mom used to make (in one of my past lives where my mother was a large, gentle Mexican woman who cooked like a champ.)

A Useful List of Things I Learned This Weekend Regarding Moving

{1} Moving from one house to another is better if you throw some things out first.
{2} After you've finished throwing some things out, throw out some more.
{3} And then a few more.
{4} Make sure you eat first, but not too much. It's never good to do all that work on an empty stomach. Or a really full one. Either one can lead to crankiness
{5} Moving is good when you have friends. It's even better when you have friends who will come to help you. And the best is when they help without complaining.
{6} Move someplace nicer than where you came from if you can. It's just a good goal to shoot for.
{7} If you pack something very carefully and it still breaks, be happy. That's one less thing you have to find a place for in your new house.
{8} Use a cart to move things in, especially if you have to go in the front door, into the elevator, down one hall and then down another before stacking all the boxes in a little tiny room. I know this from experience. Having a cart helps you keep from getting cranky.
{9} I could go on and on, which is what moving seems to do when you're moving somebody else's stuff, but that's enough of what I learned this weekend.

No, It's Just A Template

I didn't design it myself, it just came from blogger.com. But, nevertheless, version 3 of the blog has arrived. And if tradition continues as it has in the past, I will soon be fiddling with it or changing it completely. I do really like that star thingy at the top though.

09 May 2004

A Prayer from Robert Louis Stevenson

I know this is a little out of order but I was reading through my journal from the trip last month and came across this again. I copied it down off the wall inside St. Giles Kirk in Edinburgh. Thought it said things well...

"Give us grace and strength to forbear and to persevere. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. Spare to us our friends, soften to us our enemies. Bless us, if it may be, in all our innocent endeavours. If it may not, give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath, and in all changes of fortune, and down to the gates of death, loyal and loving to one another."

- R.L.S.

And, while I'm at it, here's what he had written on his gravestone:

"Under the wide and starry sky dig the grave and let me lie
This be the verse you grave for me 'Here he lies where he longed to be.'
Glad did I live and gladly die and I laid me down with a will
Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill."

04 May 2004

More About NieuCommunities South Africa

In case you're interested in finding out more about NCSA, you can check out Dave and Jaime's site, Sean and Deb's site, and Dallas' site.

A Picture Of Me

I made the fortuitous mistake of loaning my little digital camera to one of the street kids while we were hanging out watching the high stakes marble games in a vacant lot. He took a bunch of pictures that I would never have gotten, owing to the fact that he seemed know everybody within a 2 mile radius. Eventually he burned up my battery, but not before he'd filled the card with interesting shots. Along with everything else he took, he had two pictures of me and since I've had several requests I am including it here. That's me on any given day when I'm on the road: backpack, camera over my shoulder, dark colored clothing (the better for blending in), goofy grin...

A Nice Grey Blue

I know I said I was going to stay with the dark blue and the vague brown, but I just couldn't resist...please forgive me for breaking the sacred trust.