Monday, January 30, 2006

Good news and bad news

The good news first: Nearmiss reports that our outline has been accepted for production: "We're in. No contracts yet, but I did bug him about it today."

She's going to take first whack at the script this week while I figure out how to teach Javascript, CSS, and syndication to a class of tech semi-literates. I think I'll start by not teaching how to code Javascript. It should be adequate to show them only what it is, to make them familiar with the code through some simple examples. They're training to be journalists, not Web designers.

Now the bad news.... Quite a few Netsurfer Digest subscribers have written to me since the last issue in November. They want to know what's been going on. I've posted in blog posts all that I know, so I furnish them with the relevant links.

Today, a subscriber wrote in with the first legal threat. Whether or not a lawsuit, even a class action suit, is worth pursuing for a $20 subscription is beside the point. One thing I did learn from the threatening e-mail was that Arthur had put a line of red text on the site that reads "Since some of you are wondering, yes we'll have our first issue of the 2006 year out shortly (roughly by Jan 23/24 or so). Patience, patience!" You'd think he'd tell me about that.

The letter reads (with an edit, by permission):
Your last issue was in November, 2005. The links to all services such as back issues etc. don't work; they are locked.

I have been a subscriber since 1998. You have thrown out all pretext to professional journalism and the public should know about it. There is always an attorney out there willing to take a class-action suit against your publisher. I have copied those Internet news services that may bring the story to the public.

It's not the cost of a subscription that matters but the principal. You have not lived up to your subscription contract. How many $20 subscribers have you cheated this year? It's not the editor or writers that I point the finger at (I wonder whether they were cheated on paychecks) but the publisher. This is worse than any security problems we face.

Bonus atmosphere:

I write this post on my laptop, seated in the downstairs bathroom as chinchillas run free across my feet, legs, shoulders, and head. One just scampered across the top edge of the laptop screen.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New varmints

We have a new species in our home. Child One has decided to take in two rescue chinchillas. They are about a year old and unlike most small mammals, live a long time. Child One is 11 years old and may have a graduate degree by the time her chinchillas reach the end of their natural lifespan.

One is light gray and male, called August. He's on top of the box. The other is darker ("black velvet" in chinchilla-breeder jargon) and female, named June. August is more social, and neutered.

These are by far the most social mammals in our home, dog and some children included. If you have a chance to play with them, or you're looking for an expensive pet (or a free rescue pet), I recommend them.

I bet the mouse gods are angry.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A pain in the cornea

The ophthalmologist took a look at my eyes this morning. He concluded that I do have keratoconus in my right eye. He also said my left eye was fine. He said that the keratoconus shouldn't worsen given my age.

He didn't present me with a lot of treatment options. Given that my left eye is perfectly correctable, the doctor said the only option he'd consider is to do nothing. He could have prescribed a hard lens for the right eye only, but he said that patients who use only one hard lens tend not to use it at all, since it's uncomfortable. That solution, as I mentioned before, does not fit my lifestyle.

He ruled out surgery or implants because I don't need them to function.

So I'm stuck living life as if I have a clear sandwich baggie (both layers of plastic - I checked) permanently welded over one eye. It's a huge pain in the ass.

The three and a half good eyes of Nearmiss and myself finished the "72 Virgins" outline. It's in the producer/director's hands. News as it comes.

Bonus recipe:

It's cold and snowy out. Steak under a broiler is just too gray and lifeless. I don't have an indoor grill.

When I need a wintertime beef fix, I tend to go out or fry it at home. I cook a bit, so it's occasionally more sophisticated than slapping it into a cast-iron pan and letting it sear on both sides - although that has its place.

I tried something different this week and thought I'd share - it's ludicrously simple and delicious. My local Iranian grocery sells huge boneless sirloin steaks for C$11/kg. That's US$4.33/lb. I had to do something with it. This came out wonderfully. Scale as necessary:

2 lb sirloin
1/2 cup light soy
1/2 cup rice wine
3 tbsp green peppercorns (canned; I'm estimating how much I used)

Cut the steak into strips a half-inch wide. Mash half the peppercorns. Dump all ingredients into a bowl and mix. Let it sit and marinate an hour or two.

Heat up a wok or large skillet (I have a huge frying pan) with two tablespoons of peanut oil. Drain the meat and peppercorns of excess marinating liquid; keep as many peppercorns as possible for the cooking. Once the oil is hot, dump the meat and peppercorns into the pan.

Chow/stir fry the meat until it reaches the proper level of doneness (which is rare, of course). Dump into a serving dish and pour the masterful, naturally-produced pepper gravy over the meat. Serve.

This dish has one of the highest taste/effort ratios I've ever managed. Let me know how it comes out for you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Elvi and I watched a lot of comedy tonight and our biggest laugh came, ultimately, not from a writer but from an actor.

The second season of "The Tournament" has been workmanlike comedy: good enough to watch, but not as inspiring as the original stretch of episodes. This year's season has gotten better as it's gone on, however, and tonight's episode 9 was easily the best of the lot.

The introduction of Barry McConnell's dad was a genius tactic. The guy was scary enough to have an effect on Barry, but was multidimensional enough to feel real. He wasn't the cartoon that Hank Hill's dad is. If Robbie wants to dance, let him dance, this mean dad says. And he does teach Barry a thing or two about keeping your lady happy.

That's all fine. So is the admiration and pity that Barry's hockey buddies - yes, even Singh - throw his way when they meet his dad.

But our biggest laugh came from pure acting. You can't write "Barry's face expresses disgust, despair, and 'I should've seen this coming' all at once." Well, you can - but unless you have an Alain Goulem to play it, it's not going to mean squat.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Briefly (well, it started that way)

I wanted to post a short note to keep Jakob Nielsen happy (see #7, and ignore the rest with respect to this post).

I've been working on characters for "72 Virgins" most of the weekend. Most of the inspiration came at a Havdalah performance that Child Two and her classmates put on Saturday night. Remember, monkeys: never travel anywhere without pen and paper.

Right now, I'm going to hop in the shower, do carpool, and go vote. I find this particular election exciting, because the Liberals always pull more votes than polls predict. The margins in Canada's parliamentary system are fine. A swing of a few percentage points can tip ridings. How big will the swing be today?

I predict a Conservative minority government. The Tories (the Conservatives) won't pull in as many Quebec votes as predicted and won't have enough MPs to control Parliament outright.

The Liberals will clean house and get rid of all visible remnants of the Chretien/Martin power struggle/structure. Once the Liberals have a new face/facade in six months or a year, they will topple the Conservatives and waltz back into power.

This prognostication assumes that:

a) Stephen Harper is the Stephen Harper we knew and avoided before the campaign, and is not the new improved version we saw during the campaign.

b) Harper and his party avoid the tendency of all elected parties to slide toward the centre. If the Conservatives stick to their guns, they will alienate the other parties enough to lose confidence.

My vote? I live in the western half of Montreal. My riding will vote Liberal. I like the Conservative platform and I would like to see the Liberals clean house. But I can't help recalling that Harper has said he'd have sent Canadians into Iraq. I'm not a big believer in pre-emptive war, so that gives me pause. Afghanistan? Sure. Iraq? No.

Gosh. Politics is something I actively try to avoid on this blog. Dang.

Powerful Western democracies - and Canada - can kick ass militarily. To maintain favour in the global eye, however, they must wield that big stick with caution. The US can't be a bully and expect weaker countries to fall in line.

Nobody faults the US - and Canadian - invasion of Afghanistan, because that was retaliation. Even if Iraq had planned an attack on the US, the US has to stand and take it. Once hit, any country would have global support to hit back. Look at Gulf War I.

It's braver to face the threat than it is to push first.

Even though I know no one in the Canadian military, even though I would have no personal investment in Canadian forces in Iraq, I'm glad my country isn't involved there.

It's gonna have to be a quick shower....

Friday, January 20, 2006

The roof, the roof, the roof we will hire

We found a roof, provided by another TriggerStreeter. It's the top of the DeWitt Theatre in Auburn, Calif. It's not quite the urban setting we had in mind, but it sure beats a hill. Marior has admitted that his hill just won't do, so it looks like cast and crew will be making the three hour drive to Auburn. You can see the roof in a small image at that link.

In the meantime, Nearmiss pitched four shorts this morning:

"The Apple": A morose teenager young teenager is the target of his family's criticism even after he eases his grandmother's passing.

"72 Virgins": A suicide bomber finds himself in limbo with his victims and has to convince them to pass to the other side before he can attain Paradise.

"Do No Evil": Three sixth-graders take shortcuts as they summon a special demon to do their bidding.

"Weeping with the Fishes": Fish in one tank launch a surprise attack on another tank only to be greeted with an escalating response.

Looks like they want to buy "72 Virgins", so Nearmiss and I will spend this weekend writing outlines. I had already roughed out a synopsis for the pitch.

Bonus search engine referral:

A netsurfer in the Islamic Republic of Iran found 101 with a search for "sexy poster" on Blogger's Blog Search.

Now, if that won't tip the scales to get this post tagged in Echelon, nothing will.

Off to chip the front walk. We can't have the G-men slipping as they assault my home.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Nearmiss and I have until the weekend to come up with loglines and synopses for four shorts. We IM'd this morning and already have three ideas to work on: working titles are "Weeping with the Fishes", "Dead Grandmother", and "Bad Hockey".

On top of that, Marior wants us to rewrite "Time and Space" so that the key scenes take place on a hill instead of on a rooftop. I have nothing against rewrites, but the driving force behind this one is his inability to easily find a roof. The rooftop scenes work because of the roof-access door and the parapet around the roof, so I'm spending the time finding a place to film remotely. This looks promising.

With a little effort, it's just not that hard to find a roof. Makes me wonder about the rest....

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Casting call II

Our director had such overwhelming response to his Craigslist casting call that he pulled it down after two days.

This is what it said, unedited. (I just noticed he asked us to edit it. Oops.)

We are making a short, no budget, 10 minute long, Sci-Fi film which might be incorporated into a feature length movie.

We are looking for actors, and we are also looking for crew, and post production people.


SHELDON, 33, intelligant college drop-out nerd.
MOM, 50-ish, matronly
TIBOR, 20, younger version of Sheldon
CASS, 20s, sexy goth girl
WEREWOLF GUY, 20s, tattooed, (but not necessary), long haired, bad boy type
TEEN BOYS 1 and 2, into comics
GRETCHEN, 70s, demented
ALIEN BEINGS 1 and 2, Tall and big, muscle-bound perhaps


TWO CAMERA GUYS, if you have a video camera, 24p, and are experienced. Got a stabilizer or tripod?
MAKE-UP PERSON, if you have experience
WARDROBE PERSON, are you a seamstress?


We need a place to audition and rehearse, so you have a room and/or BACKYARD, or office space near the South Van Ness area and would be willing to let us use it we would be most appreciative.

We need these locations for the shoot-

SHELDON'S BEDROOM- If you just have a bedroom with lots of light, great. If you have a bedroom with these things in them even better; messy- clothes all over, text books, science books, sci-fi posters, especially goldfish bowl and/or snake and lizard aquariums

MOM'S KITCHEN- with breakfast nook area

ROOF TOP- We need access to a roof top with accessible by stairs with door. The roof should have a brick parapet (small wall around roof). Building must look like it could have gargoyle statues on it. (if it doesn't, a gargoyle will be provided, but the building must look like a gargoyle is not out of place.)

If you know of a location like this and have access to it, let us know.


VIDEO EDITOR, experienced


If you fit any of these positions, or not, or know of these locations, or would just like to wish us luck, please contact us. This a no budget short film being made for the fun and experience. If you would like to be considered for future productions please contact this poster. We will let you know when and where we hold auditions.

Thank you.

Nearmiss wrote me today. A different producer wants to hire us to write a short or four for this summer's festival circuit.

Dang. I may soon be able to say I'm a paid screenwriter. I've found that the local pros I've met at schmoozefests and elsewhere are remarkably welcoming of amateurs, but I can't help feeling like a wannabe. The psychological benefit of pay will help me more than the cash itself.

Speaking of schmoozefests, Montrealers should check out the new Montreal Film Group. It's not a writers' group but is meant to cover all aspects of film. I can't make the first meeting on January 31, but I expect to attend subsequent gatherings.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Casting call

This link calls up the Craigslist casting call for "Time and Space". (Our director wrote and posted it. Ahem.) And you thought I was making it all up....

I dropped by Alex's today to deliver a new ADSL modem. He asked about "By the Book" - a title I grow less and less fond of, by the way. He found it to be a fun idea with great characters. He suggested it should be a comedy, and he's not the first to say that. I had planned some comic moments, but I'm not sure I could handle the genre switch. I'll let the story take me where it wants to go.

Bonus stupidity:

My sleep schedule has been screwy since Friday. I discovered at midnight that I had prepared the wrong lecture for that Friday's class, so I spent the next six hours getting the proper lecture into shape. Saturday, Elvi and I stayed out late. Monday, I only fell asleep at 5:00 a.m. and I woke up at 1:20 p.m.

This called for drastic measures. I didn't go to sleep last night. I can get by fairly well without sleep, although hockey tonight may be a gear lower than usual. With any luck, I'll come home and nod off fairly quickly.

Monitor installed

While I shuttled children this afternoon, Elvi drove down to Burlington to retrieve the new monitor. Gosh, I'd forgotten how nice its screen looks.

I calibrated it in ColorSync, which advises you to squint or lean back from the monitor as you calibrate. (Un)fortunately for me, I have keratoconus in my right eye, so all I have do is close my left eye and the monitor gets blurry.

I've worn glasses or contact lenses since Grade Two. I developed astigmatism in my teens, but contact lenses corrected for that. When I decided to switch back to glasses a few years ago, the optician couldn't get rid of some slight double vision. I saw an ophthalmologist on his recommendation, and the doctor diagnosed the keratoconus in the right eye.

At the time, the only options he presented to me were expensive hard contact lenses or corneal transplant surgery. Since the lenses will need to be replaced if the keratoconus worsens, I opted to do nothing.

I'm a big wuss when it comes to eyes. I feel uncomfortable when someone only points at my eyes with a popsicle. Putting my contacts in is fine, but corneal surgery? Not yet.

Soon, maybe. I'm pretty much legally blind in my right eye now. I can't read these words with my left eye closed until I get about three inches from the screen.

Other options have developed in the meantime, such as Intacs. I should look into this again. I wear my glasses everyday, but wear contact lenses for hockey, and I'm not sure there's a non-surgical solution that's flexible enough for my lifestyle.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Mishaps old and new

Scott the Reader (Alligators in a Helicopter) asked me during an online chat if I ever defeated the invading mice. I do owe all you fans of conflict an update on that.

We left a trap behind the TV cabinet, and it was untriggered when I returned from my ten or so days in California. I've moved it to a small built-in cupboard on the stairway landing where we'd also found a sprinkling of droppings. Two weeks later, it also remains untouched. If I had to jump to conclusions, I'd say we've defeated the invaders.

Oh, and my toenail has just about grown entirely back.


Sorry for the interruption. My mom just called to wish me a happy birthday.

Elvi and I went out last night to celebrate. All the kids went off on sleepovers, so we didn't even have to spring for a babysitter. We went out for decent sushi at Sho-Dan. The standard sushi fare was good, but the dish we really enjoyed was the one specialty dish. I forget which one we ordered, but it was tuna, shrimp, something tempura, and more, wrapped in soy leaf, served with a spicy thick sauce. It was delicious, worth the $15 a plate.

We went out on the town after the meal to a club with a clientele that was entirely younger than us, but we're so hip, we didn't feel that out of place. I'm about 5'3" and Elvi is about 5'9" and she was in heels, so that accentuates the difference. As we were leaving, a girl in an oversized-houndstooth-pattern dress named Sophia came over to introduce herself. She said that "we" all loved the cute munchkin. I don't know if the "we" referred to a small group of friends or the entire club.

We came home to an oddly smelling house - odder than usual. Elvi found that the dog had thrown up on the mat by the patio door, but I knew that wasn't what I smelled. The dog had had diarrhea upstairs. The hall carpet was covered in it. Since it was my birthday, Elvi cleaned it up. What a gal.

Bonus "Time and Space" update:

"Time and Space" continues apace. Marior has bought props, put casting ads on Craigslist, and has contacted a composer about a score.

Nearmiss and I wrote one small additional scene, just a visual, really, with no dialogue, although we prelapped some existing dialogue into the scene. Marior wanted the scene, so we wrote it.

PepsiCo seems favourably disposed to letting us use Mountain Dew as a prop (the lead is a geek who drinks it) and may even shovel a few dollars at us. We'll also be asking DC to let us use "The Dark Knight Returns" as a prop (the lead works in a comic-book store). If DC says no, we'll make something up. The story benefits from all the authentic touches we put in, but we can always mock up a fictional collectible comic.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Quick "Time and Space" update

"Time and Space" is zipping along. The producer has hired Marior to direct. Marior's first step is to turn our script into a shooting script, but beyond that he is already scouting locations.

Cool. Who'd have thunk?

I found a gargoyle shop in the San Jose area, Campbell actually. A mock-up might be a better solution than finding gargoyles on a flat-topped San Francisco building. Technically, I speak of grotesques. Gargoyles are waterspouts. Grotesques are statues of beasts, which most people mistakenly call gargoyles.

Bonus quote:

I stuck with movie quotes for Fun Joel's meme, below, but my all-time favourite entertainment quote comes from TV, from "Northern Exposure":

"All we are, basically, are monkeys with car keys."

Grandma Woody tells this to Ed as she explains film. It's been in my sig file forever.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Pyramid memes

As a writer/editor who has kept his ink-stained fingers on the pulse of the Net since 1994, I've seen the word "meme" grow from Richard Dawkins's original coinage to online phenomenon to a toy.

Dawkins considers gene to be self-replicating units of information. Genes use living creatures to live on - we're all just fancy bags that ensure the genes' survival. Many thinkers have extended this philosophy to cultural ideas, but Dawkins coined "meme" to represent these ideas. The memes also pass through us, but through our culture rather than our bodies. Strong ones live on and mutate, weak ones die off.

With the advent of near-instantaneous global communication came relatively instantaneous transmission of memes. In the online world, netsurfers came to use "memes" to refer to online fads, often particular files. Perhaps the most famous of these is the "All Your Base" video and its driving techno beat. Here's what I wrote in Netsurfer Digest 7.05 (Feb. 23, 2001):

All Your Base Are Belong to Us!

Every so often, some insubstantial piece of online fluff catches on and spreads through bulletin boards and e-mail lists like nerdy wildfire. Usually, the best we can do is tell you, "Hey, there's this nifty insubstantial piece of online fluff that has caught on and spread like nerdy wildfire." Such items are rarely understandable yet contagious - the perfect example is Mahir Cagri's "I kiss you" page. One of the latest such contagions is "All Your Base", a Flash movie based on an old arcade game called Zero Wing, famed for its Japlish subtitles. Take those subtitles, insert them into everyday situations like some kind of conspiracy, and add a techno beat so catchy it could easily get you dancing at your local club, and you get this. But that's not all. "All Your Base" has a history that we've rooted out. The concept started last summer with a Wayne Newtony parody of the game's intro screens and developed in a thread (which we can't reach) at Tribal War Forums that inspired still photos. These stills were then incorporated in a non-Wayne Newtony "All Your Base" techno version. There's also a FAQ on the game. Somebody's got to release that song as a dance mix....
All Your Base:
Game FAQ:

(Not all of those links still work.)

Anyway.... Usage of "meme" has expanded to include the concept of a pyramid-scheme-like game of tag. One blogger will set up a suite of questions, dares others - "tags them" is the jargon - to answer the same questions, and this so-called meme is afoot.

Fun Joel (see blogroll) started one of these a few days ago. Shawn at Agents Are Evil (look for it in a blogroll near me soon) was in the fourth generation of this chain, which at three tags per person is - let's see, 1 + 3 + 9 + 27... - oh, let's say about 50 possible participants already. Who am I to buck the trend?

ONE (1) earliest film-related memory:
Seeing "Fantasia" in the theatre during what must have been the 1969 re-release. I hid under the seat during the terrifying sequence set to Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain". I was three years old.

TWO (2) favorite lines from movies:
Two that I can recall without having to look them up:
"Her insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase." - "Raising Arizona"
"You're a funny man, Solly. I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last." - "Commando"
I have no idea why I like that Schwarzenegger line, but I love the movie. Maybe because of this later exchange:
Matrix : Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last?
Sully : That's right, Matrix. You did.
Matrix : I lied.

THREE (3) jobs you'd do if you could not work in the "biz":
Freelance journalist (duh)
House dad

FOUR (4) jobs you actually have held outside the industry:
University lecturer

THREE (3) book authors I like:
Kurt Vonnegut
Stephen Jay Gould
Jared Diamond

TWO (2) movies you'd like to remake or properties you'd like to adapt:
Vonnegut's "Bluebeard"
I always thought "Fatherland" by Robert Harris would make a great movie, and then I learned it was one.

ONE (1) screenwriter you think is underrated:
M. Night Shyamalan. People drag his name through the mud for the dumb stuff like "Signs" and "The Village", but "The Sixth Sense" is the best screenplay I've ever read.

THREE (3) people I'm tagging to answer this meme next:
With sincere apologies, I will tag Alex, Konrad, and Josh, because he could use a reason to make teh funny.

Monday, January 09, 2006

"Time and Space" and film or video

Long-time readers will undoubtedly remember my discussion of "Time and Space", a short I wrote with fellow TriggerStreeter Nearmiss for a cooperative project at TriggerStreet run by a producer who goes by the nickname Liquid Monkey.

Over the holiday break, a director type who goes by Marior found the logline: Comic-book-store employee Sheldon is the boy who cried alien, and is in for a surprise when he's left to meet the visitors by himself.

He liked it so much, he asked for the script, and liked that so much that he's asking Liquid Monkey for details and a contract. As Nearmiss wrote me, "looks like we're in business." We'll need to find a flat-topped building with gargoyles/grotesques in San Francisco, where Marior wants to shoot.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Look what came in the mail Friday. Who says blogging and/or begging doesn't pay? May I coin the phrase "blegging"?

Thank you, Alex.

Here's a photo of the real thing:

Coincidentally, this past week, I found video footage of Israeli Spitfires in action (click the link for the MPEG). These are 101 Squadron Spitfires in 1949. The bare-metal Spitfire you see taxiing in the clip is not Black 10. I think the airfield is Ramat David, but I'm not sure of that.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Gears grind

People at TriggerStreet have asked to read my "By the Book" outline. Outside of TriggerStreet, a local producer wants me to rewrite his script for a co-writer credit. I'm not sure I'll do it just for credit, but if he plans to shoot it.... I'll look at his synopsis and decide.

Looks like 2006 might be a fruitful year.

Bonus update on the near miss:

The FAA replied to my query about the possible near miss I saw. As a result of my e-mail, the organization has opened an investigation and they promise to keep me in touch.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


It's been a whirlwind day. I was up at 7:30 to teach and spent the rest of the afternoon working through the e-mail backlog, which included several tasks Alex asked for Monday. I got nearly all done except one: does anyone out there know who Tricia Fish's agent is?

Alex asked to find out about the Bloggies, so I did. He's pimping, so I might as well. If all three of you 101 readers work extra hard, maybe you can make me a finalist. I kid. I actually have about two or three times as many regular readers, and not all of them are related to me.

Here's how to secure for me fleeting fame. Go to the Bloggies page that I just linked for your ease of use. Scroll down, and fill in the blanks. Feel free to nominate for any category - cut and paste can work wonders - but I'll feel funny winning anything but:

Best Canadian Weblog (Come to think of it, I'll feel funny winning that, too.)
Best Tagline of a Weblog ("Wherein your host holds forth on the fancy of the moment," which I think is pretty damned clever.)
Most Humorous Weblog (Less commentary on me than on the sad state of public humour.)
Best Writing of a Weblog ('Cuz I can write complex thoughts with not using big words.)
Best-Kept-Secret Weblog (The winner of this one is called Miss Congeniality.)
Best New Weblog (Comes with a toy bandwagon to hop on.)

Go forth and nominate.

Speaking of blogs, Alex also pointed out a new one by the writers responsible for Grey's Anatomy. Grey Matter joins the blogroll and pushes out Josh Friedman, who hasn't posted since December 5, alas. I also added another celebrity: Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It was either him or Joe Rogan.

Back home

The dog and I are back home. The guinea pig, rabbit, wife, and children will only return Sunday.

I came home early because I teach tomorrow morning to kick off the winter semester. The ticket agent at the American desk at SJC decided to charge me $130 to take the monitor as baggage, so Elvi and I decided to ship it more cheaply. My flight was delayed an hour and we had plenty of time, so I checked in and Elvi and I took the monitor to nearby downtown San Jose.

We circled a little bit before realizing that S. Almaden Blvd. was not S. Almaden Ave., but we found the Greyhound bus depot. My Web research had revealed that shipping the beast by bus would cost only $66.

The plan was in mid-spring when the Greyhound guy told us you could only ship electronics a maximum of 1,500 miles. I, of course, complained that I hadn't seen that on the Web site. Elvi shushed me while the guy consulted the computer.

You know how you can tell that someone is plain dumb? This guy wasn't that. Sure, he was working the dawn shift in bus cargo, but he seemed smarter than that. Young guy, too - maybe mid 20s. I hope he has a better future ahead of him. Nevertheless, he only found the true state of matters after we prodded him.

Greyhound would ship the box, but couldn't guarantee the standard three or four days in delivery time. He said it would take five to seven days. We were shipping the box to Burlington, Vt. because Greyhound won't take it across the border, but that is not a problem. Elvi and the kids flew out of and will return to Burlington, with drives from and to Montreal. If the box gets to Vermont by Sunday morning, she can pick it up and bring it home. Otherwise, I'll have to fetch it myself.

The flights home were far more interesting to me. At one point over the western US, the clouds, aircraft, and sun aligned to produce a rainbow effect that skinned the clouds. They looked like cotton oil slicks floating in a puddle of blue sky.

As I was turning away from the window, I caught a flash of white. I turned back and saw a white twin-engine passenger jet, possibly a 737, flying away to our 7 o'clock. It surprised me so much, I let out an actual verbal gasp. We either flew directly beneath it or its flightpath passed just in front of us above. It was westbound, so I'm guessing it was only 1,000 feet higher than us (no way was it 3,000 feet above, which is the other likely option, I think). I believe FAA regulations call for three miles of horizontal separation and that was not maintained. The white jet was essentially directly above us.

Was this a real near miss or is my brain making this appear worse than it was? I'm not sure. But I will look into whether or not the public has access to near-miss reports.

Waiting for the flight to Montreal in O'Hare, I happened to sit next to an animated man who was talking to a much quiter man. They were talking acting and movies. The animated man had all the drive and charisma of an agent with the knowledge of a pretentious director. In five minutes, he dropped quotes from Jacques Derrida, Walt Whitman, and Quentin Tarantino. Animated man was a director, it turns out.

The quiet man was from France and is pursuing an acting career. Animated guy was full of horror stories and was at the same time enthusiastic and discouraging. The conversation was a blast to listen to. I probably ought to have introduced myself with "Hello, I'm a stupid writer monkey type," or something, but the conversation was just too deliciously entertaining as it was.

Why were they flying to Montreal, do you suppose?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Not Bill but Webs's excellent adventure

I'm no Josh Friedman, but the frequency of my posts slowed this weekend. I finished the beat-sheet/outline of "By the Book" Friday and spent Saturday helping my friend Stuart set up his home for his New Year's Eve wedding. The crowd was a good one, as was the food (Stuart is a foodie), but the bride's choice of music could have used a good dose of Webs.

Just about the only dance-able songs on her iTunes playlist - remember, this was a Silicon Valley wedding - were "Like a Virgin" and the typical wedding crap like Kool & the Gang.

Webs DJ'd college parties in the '80s and clubbed the '90s into oblivion, so he knows his music. (No, my New Year's resolution is not to talk about myself in the third person; this post is just turning out that way.) Once most everybody left, the hired babysitters came out to party and we managed to bop by switching back and forth between some live streams of '80s music. God bless Dead or Alive.

I spent intermittent moments of the weekend talking to Bill's phone service. I never did reach him, so I decided to hunt down Arthur on my own. A Google search revealed his home address, the place where he interviewed me for Netsurfer's beginnnings. I had remembered the street, but not his address - but Arthur put that address in early NSDs, some of which are still on the Web.

Arthur wasn't home, and his full mailbox indicated that he hasn't been home for weeks. He's probably away for the holidays.

Other than a tour of the Sunnyvale/Santa Clara area, my trip only revealed that he's living in the same place. Oh, and I got a nifty "sueded microfiber" olive-green shirt at T.J. Maxx.

Over e-mail Bill has pledged to continue to support Netsurfer with hardware and bandwidth only, same as before.

Questions remain, however. Could use the NSD name and other business aspects of, well, the business without Arthur's consent? What is the status of copyright on the NSD archives? Then there's the question of access to the mailing list.

And that's square one. We can't proceed until we get Arthur to respond.