Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.
Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
The source of my technology headaches has finally been publicly outed.
This news article identifies the nasty truth that <paraphrase>95% of software projects are late or crappy</paraphrase>. It goes one better and actually identifies why. Salespeople. Promising that which does not exist or cannot be delivered.
If at any time in the past 20 years some insightful news reporter (or corporate CEO for that matter) had simply gone down to the trenches and asked the programmer geeks "what's up with this late crappy software?" I'm sure they would have learned this. And learned it without having to report on a study of 1400 IT providers. Heck, I could have told you this years ago. Sales has promised a huge app in a short timeline? Yup, been there. Client and sales guy draw up a spectacularly complex website on a cocktail napkin while on a power lunch and I am expected to follow their 'technical specs'. Got that tee shirt. Embarrassment because some code that I wrote is at large in the world and it sucks. Got that shirt too and I have already torn the sleeves off.
One of the reasons I quit the cubical warrior lifestyle (at extreme loss of pay I might add) is because the marketing dweebs always had me running around putting out fires and never allowed me the time or resources to create quality. Has its upside I suppose. That all started a chain of events that ulitmately landed me in Montana.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Yup, I took the time to listen in to the Montana bloggers radio show. Here is my input:
First off, "triumphalism"? Who uses words like "triumphalism"? Hey, this is public radio guys, what if someone ignorant had been listening? They could have popped a vessel in the brain. Even I had to dictionary.com that bad daddy. I think using triumphalism in a sentence is pedantic.
Second up, I could not tell you guys apart by voice so please forgive me if I refer to you all as "one of you panelists". Karen, you are the exception. Your voice was as melodious as the pipes of pan, as sweet as a sugar beet, as distinctive as a ruby in a sea of cubic zirconia.*
Karen, I liked your explanation of credibility. By "liked it" I really mean "agree with it". A credible blog is nothing more nor less than a blog I like to read.
The problem here is that this is not what credibility really is. Not so much for the personal diary blogs but the problem can exist with them; whether a blog is true or fiction for example. Credibility becomes a serious issue in the political and journalistic blogs. It becomes far too easy to fall into the trap of only reading that which we agree with. To put ourselves into an echo chamber that makes our own opinions louder and drowns out the challenges. Truthfulness and deep examination becomes casualties. But then again, we are not really journalists are we? We are bloggers. In our world it is all about me. Yes me. My blog my rules. My thoughts, my ideas, all things I agree with are good, all else is evil and should be shunned. Blogs without credibility encourages this a little too much. I think one of you panelists mentioned this while talking about journalistic blogs. In spite of all the hoo-haa about whether or not bloggers are journalists I think if someone is going to blog about things like politics or current events, when a blogger works to effect many people in the community, country and world, the standards of credibility need to be set higher. A good blogger definition of what credibility really is wouldn’t hurt either.
(And a side note to all the wanna-be political bloggers out there that I hate to read. Please set your personal standards for credibility really, really high. You know what they say about opinions and assholes…)
When I first started tinkering with these pixilated words my motivations were selfish. I was in it to practice my writing chops and have a forum that was all about me. Damned if I cared if anyone was bothering to listen in. A funny thing happened after, oh, the first comment I received. I had the epiphany that it is not all about me. I found a set of Montanan blogs that I enjoyed reading, put them over on the sidebar so I could find them easier and the next thing I know I have people dropping semi-regular notes in the comments, I am regularly cruising around to check other peoples blogs. I find myself truly fascinated by what is going on in these peoples lives. I think they call this community. Cool.
I have to confess, in real life I am one of those people that forgets to keep in touch. I am like that online too. I don't often comment elsewhere. A post has to be pretty spectacular for me to link it. Perhaps you should think of me as shy. Don't worry fellow bloggers, even if you do not hear my voice I am still here. I am interested in this Montana blogger community. I am paying attention to you.
Journalism and blogging.
I only have one item to comment on here, concerning bloggers on the payroll. Any blogger paid to express a certain viewpoint is not creating a blog. They are creating press releases, or propaganda, or a commercial website. Failure of full disclosure should result in loss of credibility. The ugliness of this is that it can be very difficult to distinguish between a paid site and a true blog. Let the reader beware. I have long since stopped believing what I see on teevee, I have never trusted information I find on the internet.
Ellie, thanks for calling in with your comments. I think you articulated very nicely what Karen was stabbing at earlier. Blogging is fun. This is certainly the point behind my own blog. Often there is no goal to a blog, it is a chance to express ourselves. We don't have to win the flame war or shout down an opinion, all we are here for is the writing, the creativity, the sharing, the ability to reach across ether and touch or be touched by other human beings. I made a rule for myself, no blogging about politics. I think this has been a good rule for me. I have only been at this a short while but you have no idea how many news articles I have read that have made my blood boil and made me want to reach for the keyboard. It has been much more challenging for me to find the interesting parts of my own life. I tried a blog once where all I did was rant about the news. It went nowhere, no one read it, it made me angry all the time. Blogging for fun is much more pleasant, both for the reader and the writer.
So Ellie, (I hope I have your name right) what is your url? You sound like someone I should like to read and keep up with.
Your final comments.
Well said, well done.
- Wonder as we move to the future
And finally, Karen, thank you for cracking me up more than the other panelists. I must agree with you that all Montana bloggers are really good looking! Should there ever be a Montana blogger meetup the world would likely shift in its orbit from such a concentration of animal magnetism.
(*well what do you want me to say? That I could tell you apart because you were the chick? Take the poetry and run with it.)
Sunday, March 27, 2005
At the previous address I had basic cable. It was nice, I got to watch Iron Chef and there was pretty much always a cool old movie on. I had one big beef with it. Commercials. I am growing a huge intolerance for all sorts of advertising. I have adblockers to keep it off my internet and when I see it on teevee I immediately grab the remote and start channel surfing. Basic cable turned me into a huge channel surfer. I could waste hours cruising through the dial. In my effort to skip the advertisements I usually missed big chunks of the programs too. I don't think television has done much to improve the quality of my life.
Here in Montana I have chosen to not spend money on cable television. I am not going to pay someone so I can watch advertisements. Now my teevee has the antenna hooked up for broadcast only, just like they did in the olden days before cable. I can pick up exactly one channel. This is the best thing that has happened to my teevee consumptions since I was forced to upgrade from black and white. My only real problem with the whole one channel thing is the commercials. Now when an advertisement comes on I immediately grab for the remote and I am stymied because there is nowhere to flip too. I often just switch it off at this point. I don't spend very much time with the teevee these days.
A basic roundup of shows on my one channel: Evening news, both national and local (good). Sienfeld reruns (bad). Law and Order (what the hell, people watch this crap?) I have also caught a few minutes of The Apprentice. This show made me laugh, is it supposed to be comedy? Unfortunately it could not survive the 'keep me interested enough to make me sit through the commercials' test. I had the teevee on for the first few minutes of The Office the other night. According to the marketing this is supposed to be some hot new comedy. I liked the dry humor of the supporting cast and it reminded me of my days as a cubical warrior. But the lead character manager dude was just stupid. I am not a fan of stupid. Not only did the show fail the commercial test, I don't think I even made it to the first commercial. It was switched off due to stupidity.
My great master plan with the teevee following the move was to sign up to netflix or do a lot of movie rental action. Well after, what, 2 and a half months I finally got around to plugging in the ol' VCR. (Don't even ask about the DVD player.) Can you guess the first thing I watched on it? - Porn. With the huge selection of video choices available to me doesn't that just speak volumes about the quality of our entertainment industry? I don't know who is going to hell faster, the entertainment industry or me.
Friday, March 25, 2005
- I smoked my first cigarette.
- You what?
- At the conference. I was doing more drinking than I usually do and so I asked * to take me outside and share a cigarette.
- Did you enjoy it?
- They only let me have about two puffs off of it before they decided they were corrupting me and took it away.
- Why did you decide you wanted a cigarette?
- Because you are always giving me a hard time over having no vices.
- I know you better than that. You have vices. And I give you a hard time over it in jest. You know that right?
- Dessert isn't a real vice.
- Some vices are better than others.
Back in 2003 I managed to kick my caffeine addiction. Strangely enough I don't think I am any better off for it. The biggest difference is that I no longer keep a stash of Diet Coke near my bed to supply the first thing in the morning fix.
As my Montana relocation became reality I decided that there is nothing quite like a lifestyle change when it comes to breaking old habits. I decided it was time to get rid of one more of my vices. An illegal one that I don't care to elaborate on at this time. It's actually an easy vice to get away from. All you really have to do is get away from it. I only miss it when I'm bored.
This past week whilst checking out my 'I'm not so young anymore' paunch in the mirror I decided one more vice has got to go. Sugar water. When I kicked caffeine I pretty much just switched over to the caffeine free sodas and kept up a high consumption rate of high fructose corn syrup. A lot of my calories come from sugar water. If I am to make any sort of progress in the battle against my manly gut I will either have to start running marathons again or I have to cut calories somewhere.
The thing about weaning oneself off of a vice is that it becomes an all encompassing obsession. I have gone four days now without a soda, but at day two I had to give in and went for cool-aid. Still sugar water, but at least it's not high fructose corn syrup. It gets hard to concentrate on work when your body is telling you it wants something. I am still undecided if the sugar water vice really has to go. I am going to try to spend a couple weeks eating an above average number of salads and less sugar; it ought to show in the waistline at least a little, right?
There is a certain amount of remorse in giving up a vice. I certainly miss the fun times of my youth when drugs were new and fun, when I could stand smoke without my lungs hurting, when I could eat any quantity of sugary or fatty foods, when I could drink like drinking was important. I miss all that. I'm gonna miss soda too.
I have always believed vice is important. It helps define your character and personality. A vice can make people more interesting. I think that people that don't struggle against vice are weaker than those that do. This strength doesn't come from being vice free, and it doesn't mean having to win the fight. It is the constant battle that keeps us strong. Or perhaps I am reading too much into my sugar water.
Since my relocation I have improved my flossing habits, kicked an illegal habit, am working on improving my exercise habits, and now I am in an experiment with less sugar. I hope all this self improvement doesn't leave me boring and weak. Stop me before I give up beer.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
I spent less than $500 on parts and it took less than 4 hours to build (including beer breaks). I only said "FUCK!" once during the process and it booted beautifully the first time I gave it power. Yea, I rock.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
A friend of mine would lament that she couldn't find decent guys to date because there were no cowboys. She wasn't in Montana when she said this and she was not referring to the clothes. It wasn't the hat, boots and belt buckle she was looking for, it was someone with a certain kind of heart. At the time I was a little smitten with this girl and the idea of being more cowboy like suddenly became appealing. Unfortunately I had no cowboy role models at the previous address. The question has hung with me ever since. How can I be more cowboy?
There are enough cowboys here in Montana that I am learning to recognize them when I see them. And no, it's not the hat that is the giveaway, it's more in the way they carry themselves. It's the style and the approach to problems and a way of presenting oneself without pretense.
Cowboys have a certain romantic appeal to them. They embody honesty, self sufficiency, hard work. They can be stubborn and single minded toward their lives, and there is little difference between work and life. In spite of the romantic view, they can also have some pretty abrasive personalities. I don't always understand what women see in them.
One think the thing I like about cowboys is the passion; for work and for land and for beasts. They can show great creativity and I have been awestruck by cowboy art and poetry. I am impressed that they find it important to take the time for poetry.
I am learning to understand cowboys more, but I don't think I completely get it yet. I don't spend much time with horses, but I hope it's not too late to be a cowboy when I grow up.
Monday, March 21, 2005
I was tempted to title this post: "Bloggers I would go out to dinner with if I ever had the opportunity." It would be more of an attempt at being clever than actual fishing for a date. I decided that it might be too stalkerish and perhaps desperate. I don't want to frighten these nice people that I really don't know so well. Besides, I don't want to come across as the lonely single guy that can't get a date. It may be true, hard to tell really, but appearances are important.
I actually enjoy dating. I haven't fallen into the trap of 'where are all the good ones' yet. I enjoy the 'getting to know you' conversations with people; even people I can tell are not 'the one'. I am entertained by the variety of different personalities out there. Every date I have been on has shown me new insight into human nature, life, and this crazy culture we live in. I don't think I have ever had a bad date. Interesting ones for sure. Plenty that had no follow-up. But nothing so bad as to make me want to flee and quit dating.
I never date with any expectations. About all I ever expect from a date is that I will be picking up the tab. I don't expect to ever see her again or get a phone number or a second date or a good night smooch. It's when you start crossing the line into the smooch or the second date that socializing gets complicated. Some people think these things are important and meaningful and others do not. I have had meaningful smooches and lesser ones, it is important at this point to understand the other person enough to know what they think of it. So long as everyone is on the same page I think pretty much anything goes. But if I sense that a smooch is meaningful to someone, or just playful or spiteful or whatever, then I won't go along unless I feel the same way. Dating gets really uncomfortable when one person is smitten and the other is not. I've been on both sides of that equation and both are awkward.
Anyway, I hope you appreciate how I took a blog post about adding new people to my blogroll and turned it off topic and all about me. On to the links.
Not only is it a cooler than cool blog name, but the girl behind it is cute, smart and Montanan. I am a sucker for cute and smart. She just scored a sweet job in the big wide world so wish her luck.
The Inmates are Running the Asylum
Rachel caught my eye by saying nice things in my comments. I had a bad experience dating a crazy girl once, insanity usually puts me off. But I would still go to dinner with her on the chance that it is simply an exotic blogger persona fronting for a creative personality.
I met this girl last summer and ever since we have been flirting mercilessly over IM. I am worried that should we meet again in real life the digital fantasy and cool flirty tension we have built will be destroyed by the hard cold light of reality. Anyway, welcome to my links.
Someday I may sort my links by Montanans and non-Montanans. But for now I just wanted to find the various blogs I have been reading without having to tear through my bookmarks.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
I don't know the back-story on how Montana legalized gambling. Not sure if I want to. Fact is that it is here and practically every bar, restaurant, hotel, and gassit mart has a big sign out front that screams CASINO.
I have passed time with the video poker machines in the past. I have even learned that if you spend long enough loosing two bucks in nickels that sometimes the house will buy you three bucks worth of beer. That makes me a winner in my book. Overall I don't care about gambling, don't give it any thought, and don't care if others want to do it or not.
What's annoying are all the signs screaming CASINO at me. They are freakin' everywhere. Sometimes when out and about I want to stop to get a tank of gas, or a sandwich, or a soda, and while the establishment before me looks like it may meet my needs I am really not sure because it is trying to be a CASINO. I am mildly amused sometimes at the gassit marts with the big CASINO sign out front that have a couple poker machines inside tucked away in the corner. I think that the sign should not be larger than the space occupied by the casino. I have recently realized that I am subconsciously avoiding the places advertising CASINO. I think I will make a personal rule to not solicit a business where the CASINO * POKER sign is larger than the name of the business.
I think the proliferation of these keno and poker machines stinks. It stinks like greed. It stinks like desperation. It stinks like the bottom of the barrel that is getting scraped for the dregs. The only people that make money from these casinos are the owners of the machines, and from the looks of some of these so called casinos even they are not making very much money. Have you ever seen the people spending time with these machines? Wealthy is not a word I would use to describe them. Montana casinos are reaching into the pockets of the ignorant and the poor and the desperate. These machines are sucking at the life and souls of the common man. They encourage wastefulness. They encourage ignorance. They encourage drunkenness (not the good 'lets have fun' kind, but the bad 'lets make it a lifestyle' kind). They encourage laziness. They encourage bad math skills. They encourage get rich quick in place of work hard and prosper. I think the casinos are part of a disease that is hurting Montana.
That is where this rant stops because I do not think they should be outlawed or taken away. I believe Montana should be a free 'live and let live' state. I like the fact that Montanans cherish their freedoms and avoid interfering with their neighbors. There are precious few places left in the USA where this is the case. I am happy that people in Montana are free to try making a living by offering gambling. I am happy that I am free to gamble or not gamble as I see fit. I am happy that my neighbors share the same freedom. I am simply disheartened that there are so many Montanans that don't know better ways to make or spend their money.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
I just got the word; my brother is finally home from Iraq. Official demobilization planned for the end of the month.
I'm proud of him. When he first arrived in Baghdad about a year ago he would send Emails describing a city of three million people living with no running water, or electricity and sewage in the streets. His most recent Emails described a city that has elections and utilities and hope. I don't care what you hear on the news, a lot of good has happened in Baghdad because of people like Major M__ doing hard work in dangerous circumstances.
Can't wait to buy him a beer and hear some stories.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
The knocking on the door was coming from the landlady. She had an issue to discuss.
"I need to talk to you." She said. "I've had a complaint from your neighbor. You really need to keep the noise down at night."
"Oh, I'm so sorry." I feigned. "I didn't realize I was causing a problem."
"Well, the neighbors need their sleep. Just to remind you, the quiet hours here in this building are from 10:00 until 8:00."
"I'm really sorry. I guess I didn't realize how much noise I was making. I will make a better effort to tread softly and keep the stereo turned down at night."
I don't know what sort of complaint the neighbor lodged. The dear sweet churchgoing old landlady may or may not have known what she was scolding me for. She may simply have had that apprehensive look on her face because she doesn't like confrontation. I wasn't about to come out and say "sorry about the drunk chick screaming 'fuck me' late last night."
"Thank you for talking to me. I would never have known there was a problem otherwise."
"Thank you. And don't forget about those quiet hours."
The angel on the one shoulder was remorseful and apologetic. The devil on the other shoulder was chuckling about sweet timid landlady having to tell me not to have loud sex.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
R__ had called in the afternoon looking for a friendly voice. We talked up the problems of moving and settling into new places. "It's easier for guys. We women have all these safety issues and gender issues. You guys can just go to the local sports bar and watch a basketball game and chances are you will start chatting up someone who is there, decide if they are someone to make friends with." I don't pay much attention to sports but I couldn't disagree.
I sometimes play a head game with myself. Where is the next lay coming from? Is it someone I know? Someone new? What are the odds I will meet her today?
I wanted to get out. I needed to get out. Working from home and not getting out makes a dull boy. A burger sounded good. And a beer to go with it. Someone had told me a place where I could find such things. Worth a look.
"It's a new mattress" I told her "Less than two weeks old."
"Then we should be on it."
She turned the lights off before stripping off her pants and shirt.
I had been a bartender in a past life. A past address. I already knew everyone in the bar. Not their names, but who they were. I could scan the dozen people and see who was lonely for company. Who was lonely for drink. Who was making their social rounds. Who was the tough guy. Who was the floozie. I had met these people a hundred times before. I quit a good paying job once because I didn't want to spend any more time with them.
Every girl is a little different. Some are timid, some are screamers, some are creative. This one turned off the lights and hid her body under the sheets before grabbing me with surprising strength and forcing me to her. "Get over here" she growled. "Get on me."
The burger was standard bar fare. Nothing to write home about. The beer was better. Good to know that some local watering holes put quality beer on tap. I nursed at the second glass. No reason to stay here. No reason to leave. I toyed with the idea of ordering a shot, quashing what was left of the alcohol and looking for my entertainment back home.
It's not ok to be indecisive. It is okay to break the mood in order to get the condoms. You are supposed to chat about past history a little. There is supposed to be a little foreplay. When she sinks fingernails into my back and holds me skin to skin with a viselike grip of the legs all I can do is fuck.
The girl sat next to me but did not look over. Dropping smokes, a lighter, keys on the bar top. "Mind if I smoke?" "Suit yourself." I'm not sure what the icebreaker was. Pretty soon we were talking and swapping jokes. I ordered another round. I found a reason to stay. I tried to think of another joke.
"Come here" she commanded in a throaty whisper. "Fuck me. I want it. Fuck me. You want it. Fuck me." And she would buck and thrash and pull her legs to my shoulders and claw my back and bite my neck.
"A crocodile goes into a bar, bartender say 'we don't serve crocs.' The crocodile says 'gimmie a beer or I will eat one of your customers.' Bartender still refuses. The croc goes to the end of the bar, mauls the girl sitting there, tears her limb from limb and chows her down. He goes back to the bartender and says 'now give me a beer or I am doing it again.' The bartender says 'I am still not serving you and you can't do it again anyway. You are about to go to sleep.' Croc says 'what do you mean?' Bartender says 'that was the bar-bitch-you-ate.'"
We flipped and turned our skin smacked together and she would grip me and scratch at me. There was biting and slapping and some hair pulling. "I'm fucking a crazy Montanan" I muttered.
"That's not nice" she said.
"Wild crazy sexy Montanan."
I'm pretty sure she was flirting with me more than I was flirting with her. The way she was leaning in to me. Touching me. She was also drunk and getting more so. I beat her at foosball and then beat her at pool. "I guess I am pretty drunk." She would say.
"Yeah you are. I suck at pool."
"Do you want to go out with me?"
"Let's finish this game."
Hardons don't last. They used to when I was younger. It can be frustrating to have the naked girl in bed without the equipment to keep going. "It doesn't matter" she said. "It doesn't always have to be hard" as she ground her pelvis into me. "You have a nice cock. A sweet cock."
"Here is what I think." I said. "I think I could seduce the pants off you right now. But I'm not sure if I want to. There could be a hella cool one night stand tonight. If we were lucky we could stretch it to a week or two. It would be intense and fun and then burn out quickly. On the other hand I could make a friend of you first and then things have a chance of lasting."
"What do you want?" She said.
"I'm not sure."
"What do you want? Just say it. It is the same thing I want. The same thing everyone wants. You know what I mean. You can have it. Just say it."
We lay in the bead sweaty and breathing hard from the effort. "I don't usually do this." She said. "Actually I never do this. But you are so sweet."
"You have never picked up a random guy at the bar and taken him to bed."
"Never. I haven't even had any in a long time. The guys around here don't impress me. But you are sweet."
In the morning the shower stung my skin in places. The steam both cleared my head and clouded my memory. What the hell happened last night? My body had a few tender spots. No visible bruises. I guess some of the blood on the sheets could have been mine.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
A couple of comments on my chinese food post have led me to believe that I won't find any good chinese food in Montana. Well in the past I have found a decent Chinese eatery in Whitefish, and a fair to middlin' one in Missoula. You are right, nothing 'to die for' but passable at least. City life has spoiled me for varieties of good dining being a stones throw away.
This all got me thinking about regional foods. When in Seattle I make a point to get some Ivars clam chowder. Traveling in the south I simply can't pass up the barbeque. I am particularly fond of BBQ pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw on them. Stops in New Orleans call for gumbo or shrimp creole. When I get a hankerin' for tex mex I gotta go south. Colorado can do ok, but for the good stuff you need to go farther into New Mexico or Texas. For the real deal Mexican cuisine, nothing beats crossing the border into Mexico (duh). I have never spent much time in the New England states, but if I ever find myself there I intend to score some lobster.
So what about Montana? The lack of variety is scaring me. It's not just chinese food, ethnic restaurants in general are in short supply. I can't find a decent salsa in any supermarket. The pizza here is only as good as pizza hut. Huckleberries? Yea, they rock, but they don't exactly make a meal. Traveling to Montana for huckleberry pie is about as fulfilling as traveling to Wisconsin for a cheese sandwich.
So what food does Montana do better than anywhere else? Beef baby. Yeah. Steaks, roasts, burgers, ribs, grilled, deli sliced, brisket, bloody rare or burnt well Montana is my favorite place for turning cows into tasty!
But it's not quite a name brand is it. Food is associated with regions in our collective cultural conscious. Philadelphia - cheese steak. New York - Hot wings. Chicago - pizza. But the Montana - beef connection is not so ingrained. I'd like to think it is because Montanans (and western states in general) have done such a fine job of exporting beef to the country and the world. When you can get a damn good steak pretty much anywhere between New York and Los Angeles it makes it hard to associate that steak with Montana. So it goes. At least Montanans know the difference between 'damn good steak' and 'the best steak'.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Truth be told, I have enjoyed internet dating sites from time to time. Moments of boredom usually lead me back to them. I also have a habit of logging in and searching from the point of view of the opposite sex. It's a 'check out the competition' sort of thing.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the competition…
Based on my previous moves I have learned it takes at least a year to settle into a new location. Sometimes more. I have been here just long enough now that I am no longer frantic with my time. Cramming my waking hours with quests for bath towels, yet another waste bin, mattresses, drivers licenses, so forth. Things have slowed down enough that it is time to start looking for the important stuff. A good Chinese restaurant. A comfortable neighborhood dive bar. A sandwich shop. A friend to share them with. You can read the yellow pages all you want, but you may never find the right places without a little guidance. Someone to tell you to go there on Thursday night because that is when so-in-so is in the kitchen. Someone who will introduce you to their friends so you can get their opinion too. Heck, I would appreciate someone who would join me for some eggrolls and fried rice. Sure beats dining alone.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Who: Disillusioned youth.
Hat: Baseball cap
Catch phrase: "When I get out of this state I'm gonna…" OR "I can't wait to get out of this state."
Likes to wear: What the people on television wear.
Knowledgeable of: Reasons to leave Montana.
Found near: Video game consoles, skate boards, high schools.
Drives: second hand vehicles. Often rusted, occasionally spewing smoke.
Who: Friendly Neighbor
Hat: Baseball cap (clean)
Catch phrase: "Have you heard about the Johnsons…" OR "Have you heard what the Smiths are doing?"
Likes to wear: Clothes sold at Wal Mart
Knowledgeable of: Neighborhood gossip. Supermarket specials.
Found near: Supermarkets, post offices, banks.
Drives: American made four door family cars. Often clean, not rusted.
Age: 30 and up
Catch phrase: "This place is getting too crowded. Someone just put up a house two miles down the road."
Likes to wear: Unknown, they are hardly ever seen.
Knowledgeable of: All of society's problems.
Found near: Won't be found near anything. They are trying to get away from it all.
Drives: Pickup Truck. Dirty.
Drinks: For as long as the beer supply lasts after monthly trip into town.
Age: 30 and up.
Hat: Baseball cap (dirty) OR cowboy hat (clean).
Catch phrase: "Howdy"
Likes to wear: Blue jeans, flannel.
Knowledgeable of: Bovines, hay, the weather.
Found near: Dirt roads.
Drives: Pickup truck, dirt or rust optional. Tractors.
Who: Cowboys (cowgirls)
Hat: cowboy hat
Catch phrase: "Quit it you damn horse."
Likes to wear: Cowboy boots, cowboy hat, oversized belt buckle.
Knowledgeable of: Horses, common sense.
Found near: Horses.
Drives: Pickup truck. Often with horse trailer.
Drinks: Coffee, whiskey.
Who: Rugged outdoorsmen. (and women)
Hat: Fishing hat, felt hat or winter cap.
Catch phrase: "I was out hunting last weekend…" OR "I was out fishing last weekend…" OR "I left work early to do some fishing…"
Likes to wear: Hip waders, sturdy boots, flannel, wool.
Knowledgeable of: The best fishing spots.
Found near: Forested areas, sportsman shops, gun shows, drinking establishments.
Drives: Pickup truck. Usually dirty or rusted. Gunrack optional.
Who: Fashionable outdoorsmen. (and women)
Hat: Ski hat
Catch phrase: "It's soooo beautiful here."
Likes to wear: Gore-tex, nylon, synthetic base layer and waterproof outer shell.
Knowledgeable of: The best hiking trails.
Found near: Hiking trails, ski slopes, kayak shops, Whitefish.
Drives: Subaru or SUV (clean).
Drinks: Microbrew or wine.
Who: Hippies. Also known as "Missoula Hippies"
Catch phrase: "Is this organically grown?"
Likes to wear: Hemp cloth, non synthetic wool blends, dreadlocks. (Dirty).
Knowledgeable of: 47 different ways to save the planet.
Found near: Missoula.
Drives: Subaru. Dirty with bumper stickers.
Drinks: Chai tea, fruit smoothies.
Age: 55 and up
Hat: could be anything. (clean)
Catch phrase: "I like it when it gets this cold."
Likes to wear: Clothes from Wal Mart
Knowledgeable of: Montana history and folklore.
Found near: Living room sofa.
Drives: Four door American car. Clean.
Hat: Baseball cap
Catch phrase: "Can I get a motel near there?" OR "Will this road take me to…"
Likes to wear: Short pants and tee shirts.
Knowledgeable of: Highway rest stops. How everything is less expensive back home.
Found near: National Parks.
Drives: Station wagon, mini van, or Winnebago.
Drinks: Gatorade, soda, bottled water.
Monday, March 07, 2005
I like internet radio, with persistence you can find some good music that 'real' radio stations won't play. Besides, I am growing a low tolerance for the advertisements that ordinary radio and teevee bombard me with. On the Yahoo! messenger gadget is a little tool for streaming down music. I put it to use the other day and listened to some nice tunes.
A most unfortunate thing happened. The music stream started playing an advertisement for Lays potato chips. I immediately clicked over to the music player and started hammering on the stop button. All I got back was a message that I could not stop playback during commercials. You don't tell me how I can and can't use my computer! thinks I, and with a few deft mouse strokes I had all internet traffic stopped at the firewall. Too late. The damage was already done. The entire commercial was already in the buffer and I had to suffer through the whole thing. Needless to say, I won't use the Yahoo! music player thingy any more.
The next day I found myself at the supermarket. In the potato chip isle I made a point to stop in front of the Lay's brand chips and let loose a stinky fart. Hopefully I discouraged someone from a purchase and made that advertising model slightly less effective. Now I have to figure out how to deliver a fart to the goofballs at Yahoo! that think they have a say in how I use my computer.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
- So have you been in touch with your friend M__ since your move?
- Yes, I went and saw her the other weekend. She is pretty much the only friend I have in this state. I have been talking with her pretty regularly.
- That's cool. How are things with the two of you?
- Well, things are good. When we hang out together it's almost like we never broke up.
- Uh, oh. Be careful with that. Someone could get hurt if you end up holding the torch again.
- She broke up with me, and neither of us has found anyone else yet. It's just comfortable is all.
- It's really hard to make friends out of someone you have dated you know. When I went back to * recently and saw D__ it was really emotional to leave again.
- uh, huh
- Nothing happened or anything, but staying at his place in his guestroom was the most comfortable place I stayed while I was there. I just know him so well and am so comfortable with him. But it was really hard to say goodbye at the airport again. Like breaking out in tears sort of hard.
- Well, it's not quite the same with M__ and I.
- I'm sure it's not, I'm just saying, in my experience it is really hard to make a friend out of someone I have dated. If I were to move back to * it would be too easy to fall into the habit of hanging out with him all the time just because he was the only person I know. It would be like dating again. But in the end we would have to break up again because I know that there are too many differences and I could never marry him and a long relationship just wouldn't work.
- Yea, I understand, but at the same time I don't think there is anything wrong with spending time with someone who is comfortable to be with. Or holding hands or dancing close or any of that.
- All I am saying is be careful, these things stir up emotions and when there are emotions involved it makes it too easy for someone to get hurt again. Like if one of you starts to see someone else there could be hurt feelings for the other person.
- Well yea, but if there is communication and everyone knows where they stand; I mean, we are all grownups here. It's okay to have touching friends. It's okay to enjoy a moment with someone.
- Just be careful.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
While wearing my web developer hat I have seen up close many of the problems of software and web development. Badly planned projects, feature creep, poor allocation of resources, unrealistic deadlines, allowing the marketing department to have a say in what the geeks are doing. All ingredients in the recipe for disaster.
Last year when I had a couple months before my Montana relocation I was approached to do some web development. Seeing that I was bored and the extra money had some appeal I agreed. I informed the client way up front that the relocation was imminent, tried to set up a timeline that ended around the end of January, and dove in. Hindsight being what it is, perhaps I made a poor choice. I set my timeline a little too ambitiously. I did not factor in enough 'fudge' time for the odd crap and the inevitable feature creep.
The first steps of the project went smoothly and quickly, and then the development plan started to change. Users of the system started coming forward with requirements that were not in the original plan, marketing started pitching the work in progress out to clients. Clients started logging in and using it. Then my Montana relocation happened. I tried my best to keep up the work from motel rooms and between house hunting and packing and the million other moving chores.
Now I am here and there are thousands of miles between me and the client and communications have broken down badly. I have another full time job and can only put in time on evenings and weekends. The original development plan we were following is apparently out the window. Every time I try to adhere to it a client using the system NEEDS something different and I am pulled away. Code is getting deployed untested. Every other day I get an Email to the effect of 'URGENT, client needs X tomorrow.' I still haven't finished the work on the urgent problems from weeks ago. My Emails back to the main office are usually sprinkled with question marks indicating points of detail I need clarification on. I think only about a tenth of my questions are ever answered. I am frustrated and I want this project to end.
The worst of it is that I brought much of this on myself. I should have known better than to think a web project of this scope would stick to the map and not feature creep. I should have known from painful experience that a marketing project would explode with a slew of bizarre requirements. I hope I learned a lesson from all this.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
I'm so giddy over the new mattress that I doubt I will be able to sleep.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Montana is a western state in the classic sense. Historically people who went west did so to try to scratch a living out of the hard land and be free from the bullshit found in the cities. Here in Montana I am finding plenty of fine people that come from that tradition. There is a strong attitude here that if a man can come and live in this land, make a living, and wants to continue doing so indefinitely, then that man deserves respect. It does not matter if that person is a logger or miner or school teacher or inn keeper or mushroom picker or whatever else his living comes from. It does not matter what that persons personal beliefs are or how big their home is or how rusted out their truck is or even if they comb their hair. If you can live in the west successfully, you have earned some respect. This fosters a large 'live and let live' sprit in the local population. The folks here respect their neighbors enough to let them do their own thing and generally frown on interfering in the affairs of others.
This 'live and let live' spirit I find here manifests in many different ways. If someone wants to sit on their front porch with their shotgun, yelling about all you damn trespassers, that's fine. And when a trespasser gets shot, that was pretty much his own fault and there is not any reason for anyone else to get involved. Or if someone wants to cut down every tree on their land, then so be it. There may be grumblings and gossip about wasted resources and how they will regret the decision when the wind picks up in the spring, but in the end it is their own land and the neighbors don't really have a say. If someone lives life as an alcoholic, or a druggie, or can't figure out that education leads to bigger paychecks, that is all fine. In Montana, every man is his own king.
For a long time Montana did not post speed limits on the highways. The correct speed to drive was whatever was "reasonable and prudent". This ended back in the 90's when the federal government threatened to withhold highway funds from states that did not conform to federal speed limit standards. Most Montanans found this to be un-neighborly and generally opposed to the way life ought to be lived in the west.
The 'no sales tax' thing one finds here in Montana also comes from this spirit. There are some cities here that either have or are considering adding a local sales tax, mostly the tourist destinations. The thinking goes that tourists can be used to fund schools or whatnot. This tends to rile up the locals in interesting ways with a powerful argument being that the Montanans will end up paying over half that tax themselves so why don't you damn gov'ment types just sod off, mind your own business, and leave the locals in peace.
'Live and let live' is a beautiful philosophy on paper. I'm sure most every starry eyed youth, self included, has uttered the phrase. But big city folk, like me, can actually have trouble with the reality of it. The idea is actually as anti-socialist as one can get. There is no entitlement in a 'live and let live' culture. No one is entitled to a fair break, or a good deal, or an education, or a job, or health care, or a comfortable retirement or even so much as a taxi cab or a local news station on the teevee. The only thing anyone is entitled to is what they can earn from the sweat of their own labor. If you didn't bother saving for your own retirement, no hand outs for you. If you didn't bother to give your kids a good education, tough luck for them. If you didn't think ahead to how cold and harsh the winter is here, no one will miss you when you freeze to death. Naturally this western philosophy conflicts somewhat with the socially-secure, medicared, food stamped, welfared culture that is the good ol' USA.
Montana Style and the Mall.
There has been an ongoing controversy in the Flathead valley about a proposed shopping mall. Having tuned in late I'm not sure if I have all the details right. But it goes something like this: A big time property mogul wants to make a new shopping mall. He has plenty of money, knows the right people in the government, and has a grand vision for the future economy of the area. All he needs is some zoning approval, a tax break, and the vote of the city council and he can create the hub of a new economically prosperous business district. This proposal generated a pretty good shitstorm. A great many members of the local community banded together to block the new mall. Arguments included planning to build on land with an inadequate aquifer, traffic congestion in the proposed area, negative impact on the current business district, taking business away from the existing mall. Many of the problems were addressed, new locations were picked, road word was done or planned. Concessions made. Many people are still up in arms and the shitstorm continues.
In the meantime some other developers went about their business and started planting some box stores up north of town. There is a Target and a Petsmart and Borders Books, and a Lowes and a few others filling in the gaps. The typical strip with the same names that can be found all over the country. The end result of all this is… A shopping mall. A big chunk of land with the same traffic problems, and business district impact, and environmental impact as a shopping mall would have had.
I was pretty stumped by this. I don't think anyone was really trying to stop the march of time and keep the area unchanged, although a minority of mall opposers might be like that. Could it be that Montanans are too foolish to know when a shopping mall is being constructed while they are opposing the construction of a mall? I doubt that too. The answer to this I think is in Montana style. When the mall mogul proposed his plan one significant piece was the tax break he needed. In exchange for a new development that would benefit everyone with new jobs and economic expansion he wanted the community to cut him a break. To a true Montanan this sounded a lot like entitlement. Here was someone going west, facing the same hardships as all the other pioneers and whining about how hard it was. In the west if you can't make it on your own, you don't belong here.
Montana Style and the Hippies.
I paid a visit to the Good Food Store in Missoula the other day. Montana hippy central. The store sells organic and natural products, is big into recycling, bring your own shopping bag to save resources, that sort of thing. The employees and shoppers here are good intentioned people. I've tended to lean left and hold liberal philosophies all my life, but this place bugs the crap out of me. I get the feeling that the hippies are turning up their noses at 'the common folk' that don't go to the trouble to buy only recycled or organic products. On an individual, one to one conversation, I find the people at Good Food to be genuinely decent, caring, intelligent and well intentioned. Even very in tune with Montana Style. Put these people into groups of three or more and you start to hear things about how SUV's and Hummers make them angry. How all mining and logging should be opposed. How development should be regulated so that they can enjoy a free and wild Montana.
I am having a hard time rationalizing the existence of the Good Food Store against Montana Style. Here is a group of Montanans that will adamantly and vocally disregard 'live and let live' if you happen to, say, drive a large SUV, or make a living at cutting down trees, or even toss your aluminum cans in the rubbish instead of the recycling. They appear to want the entire world to wear the same rose colored glasses they are. Pointing out things like prices at Good Food can be 10% to 30% higher than at the other supermarkets and poor people simply cannot afford to buy recycled and organic products does not stop them from believing everyone in the world ought to behave as they do. For a group of people that proclaims 'celebrate diversity', diversity appears to end when someone is different enough to need a big truck with a fuel efficient diesel engine instead of a Subaru.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
I am pleasantly surprised to find people actually stopping by my blog and posting a few comments. To keep the karma wheels turning here are a few links back:
Odett - Thanks for sharing my pain with customer service.
Anonymous - Was good enough to point out that gas comes in 85 octane flavor in Helena. Could be an altitude thing.
Craig over at mtpolitics.net said thanks for the link.
Sarpy Sam pointed out to me that a true Ruben was made with corned beef and not (as I sometimes like them) with pastrami. I was skeptical, I had to make a googlefight. Sarpy Sam was right, the man really knows his beef. I stand corrected.
Ever been to the good food store in Missoula? I had lunch at their deli recently. I ordered the Ruben. After ordering there is plenty of time to stand around and wait. Take a few orbits of the salad bar and try to look interested in the wholesome, natural, organic, recycled, caring about the world, foodstuffs. When in fact all that is really interesting is "when am I getting my grub, I'm starving here." Apparently there is plenty to care about, many fashionable hippies are wandering about taking a great interest in product labels. The store thrives in a sort of orderly chaos. The lines for the cashier appear to be informal. There are plenty of opportunities to get out of the way of the natural fiber wearing little 'ol ladies pushing their shopping carts right through the queue. I wondered about the ethics of leaning against the salad bar, and how many other hippies parked their butts right next to the romaine while waiting for the deli to deliver up their sandwichy goodness?
After finally getting my grub, paying, and seating I take a big famished chomp out of my sandwich to discover they made it with roast beef. Who the hell makes a Ruben with roast beef? I did not like the idea of carrying my plate back through the throng of earthy patrons, wait for a deli guy to have time for me and explain to him that a Ruben is made with pastrami or occasionally corned beef. The thought of waiting there next to the salad bar for another short eternity while they got it right made my skin itch. I ate the damn sandwich. I was starved. It was either the worst Ruben I have ever been served, or the nastiest roast beef sandwich I ever ate. Leave it to a vegetarian hippy to screw up a simple meat sandwich.
There is more Jones in the archives: February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 December 2009 January 2010 May 2014