Monday, January 24, 2011

How Much Is That Woolly Mammoth in the Window?

I guess there's a news story going around about how scientists are going to try to clone a woolly mammoth. To this I say, "Excellent. Do it."

Some people might cringe and ask if we didn't learn any lessons from Jurassic Park. Well, no, I don't think we did. Jurassic Park was just a movie. A book first, then a movie, and as we all know, morals went out in the thirties. The point of any story nowadays is merely to entertain. And Jurassic Park was extremely entertaining.

Besides, real-life isn't subject to the same laws that stories in books are, which is to say, just because things happen in a book—like, that everything that can go wrong will go wrong—doesn't mean the same will occur for our modern scientists who simply want to clone a gigantic hairy elephant.

I've seen the skeleton of a woolly mammoth up close. They're not that scary. Or tall. And I think they'd be fun to tame for riding purposes, like a horse.

So I say go for it. I would LOVE to drive through the plains and watch herds of woolly mammoths grazing peacefully on the range (they're herbivores, aren't they?), or hike up into the Uintahs and spy a woolly mammoth splashing around in a small pond in the forest, bathing like a cherub out of a renaissance painting—depending, of course, on which habitat this friendly creature will prefer.

Honestly, I think it would be extremely awesome if we could bring back ALL the dinosaurs. I've held the secret belief for some time now that earth-life has been stuck in a cycle: humans reach a technological singularity where they have the bright idea to clone the dinosaurs that died out years ago. Success! The dinosaurs are brought back, but refuse to cooperate with the boundaries we place on them ("Come on, Mr. T-rex. Keep your teeth to yourself and stay behind this Invisible Fence®. Geez!"). They leave the very nice preserves we set aside for their grazing and carnivorous needs, rampaging across the globe, slaughtering all the humans. Then an asteroid. Then, humans manage to come back. Then the humans reach a technological singularity and decide to clone the dinosaurs that died out years ago. Success! The dinosaurs are brought back, but refuse to cooperate . . . and so on.

Which came first? Dinosaurs or the humans? It's really a chicken/egg question. There is no right answer.

And when I think of it, there are only a few glorious deaths I can reconcile myself to if I can't have the luxury of going in my sleep real nice and easy. One is to experience an end-of-the-world disaster movie situation. That would be just fine. I watched the terrible 2012 last night and I'm of the mind that I'd rather die than try to survive the bull crap that movie toyed around with, because really, who'd want to survive with all the jerks on the (spoiler alert!) arks?

My other preferred glorious death would be to survive long enough to have a full menagerie of cloned dinosaurs on the loose that could wipe out the entire human race. That would be kind of fun. So bring on the woolly mammoths!

Seriously. Right now.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Facing Down a Salesperson (and Winning!)

Back in November I sat on my favorite glasses and broke them into a million pieces. The frames were made by Smith before they started doing their own prescription line (I do believe). I had prescription lenses put in and I wore them for seven years or so. I got a lot of compliments. The first time I met Stoker I was wearing them and the only reason I caught his eye was the glasses and my attractive behind.

Kidding of course. There were other reasons.

Smith has a great warranty, but I think I was beyond the time frame, or at least, the damage to the frames was obviously NOT from a manufacturer's defect (unless the manufacturer had used macaroni and paste to construct the frames). So I couldn't send them in and expect much. Or I could, and Smith would probably do something about it, but then I'd feel guilty the rest of my life for taking advantage of a company when I KNEW it was my fault.

To make matters worse, the pair of glasses I got the year before were total crap. I guess it's my fault for being such a sucker half the time, because everything special the eye place (Optique on West End in Nashville) could do to my glasses, they did. Because I let them. Because they're so forceful and they read you a list of what they're going to do and you can't follow what they're saying and then at the end of the list, they say, "Ok, the amount you owe is X dollars." To avoid looking stupid, after all, you've just spent two hours picking out the glasses and wasting their time (you're made to feel; or perhaps you just suffer from a hyper-awareness-guilt), you nod mutely and hand over your debit card.

So the last pair sucked. I got the special aerospace engineered jet-aircraft high tech poly-whatsit plastic/glass so the lenses were real thin and light and didn't turn my ears saggy from all that heavy glass/plastic weighing them down all day. I got the type of glasses with no nose-pinching things just so I don't end up with a skeletal bridge when I take the glasses off. You know what I'm talking about. The only problem is, those glasses with no nose-pinchers are harder to adjust.

That was why the last pair sucked. Thin, high-tech lenses and no nose pinchers. "We'll adjust your glasses any time, for free." You just have to make the time to go in and have them adjusted. Headache city. In short the last pair was too light and fell off my face all the time, and they were crooked even though I had them adjusted the day I picked them up.

I lost that pair. Before I sat on the other pair. So I was wearing the very first glasses I ever owned. A fifteen year old Tommy Hilfiger job (that was back when Tommy was the bomb) or something like that, which, as it happens, also always managed to fall off my face. I have a very small face, I guess.

In November I went in to get new glasses. I spent a few hours picking out what I wanted, then sat down to do business and the lady told me I couldn't get a new pair until January according to my insurance, unless I wanted to shell out $500. No, I didn't want that. But if I'd been AWARE that I didn't get another pair in 2010, I would have canceled the stupid insurance and reinstated it the next year, because I'm devious like that. Who knows if it would have worked. (They pillage me, I pillage them. That's how it works, right?)

January rolls around. I return to the eye place. They pull out the glasses I'd picked before and I sit down to pay for them and talk business. The chicklet rattles off the list of charges fast enough to make an auctioneer jealous, and finishes up with, "The total is $190."

I stare at her for a second, blinking rapidly. "So wait, I owe you $190?"

"Yes, that's correct."

"What exactly is my insurance paying for?"

She sets the paper down and shows me. This paper would have been helpful to see before she read me the charges.

Essentially, my insurance is paying hardly anything and the frames I'd picked out were priced at some astronomical amount. $400 or something like that. And they weren't even the Dolce Gabana kind with diamonds and crap on the stems! In fact, I have no idea what brand they were! Nothing spectacular. Nothing to provoke envy in my enemies. Certainly not worth $400.

"Hmm," I say, "The last pair I bought, seems like my insurance covered more and I ended up paying hardly anything out of pocket."

"Maybe those frames were on sale or they were on the list of frames that your insurance paid more of."

"Where are the frames my insurance will pay more of?" I ask, feeling fleeced. 

She stands and walks to a drawer in a side-table and yanks the drawer out. This is obviously the drawer of cast offs and birth-control glasses and I laugh, remarking as much. To which she only smiles, politely. Originally, when I bought my first pair there, the so-called sale-frames were on display, like the other glasses. They must have learned in the interim that to discourage customers from getting the cheaper frames, they needed some psychological warfare. It almost worked on me. Almost.

I found a decent enough pair that wasn't too repulsive and returned to the desk. "I'll get these."

She goes over the charges with me, again. I still owe too much (for my taste. I've got a lot of expenses this year, you know). The thing that's costing so much is the super-high-tech-weightless polywog crap lenses. So I say, "I don't think I want the special lenses. I mean, what do they even do?"

"They make it so that when someone is looking at you or talking to you and you have your glasses on, they see your eyes instead of their reflection." And it does something with computers. And somehow takes the glare off cars. So, basically, I'm being charged $75 or whatnot for polarized lenses. So other people can see my glorious eyes and not their ugly face. I bought a pair of polarized sunglasses from REI for $20 recently. Something doesn't seem right here.

"I don't want that. Don't do that to my lenses," I say.

"But that puts your lenses under warranty. If you don't do it, they're not under warranty. If you break your lenses today or tomorrow, for example, then you'll have to pay $65 to get new lenses." 

"So you're saying that I can pay either $75 now for a warranty, or $65 should my lenses happen to break?" I'm not making this up. Stoker pointed out that with the $75 you do get the better lens, but still! It's absurd. And in any case, my insurance was only going to pay a $20 of that.

The girl did try to convince me a bit more to get the better lenses, but I won! It was a hard fought victory, too. Those people have a way of making you feel like you don't understand how stupid you're being for not getting the most expensive crap in the world.

Stoker claims I had a deer-in-the-headlights look about me during the battle, but he understood why. When someone talks to you with auctioneer speed and then wants to take your money, there's a level of discomfort. I might have fallen for it two years ago. But I'm older now. Older and wiser.

p.s. Even if I manage to break my lenses next week, I will still be the winner.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Return, Bad Smells, and Other News

 I've been out for a couple months. Guess I have a problem with being faithful to my blog. I write it for myself, so I shouldn't feel too guilty when I neglect to post...but I do. Don't worry, my unfaithfulness stops with the blog.

First of all, what kept me away was generally feeling like crap. After being married for five years and putting off the inevitable as long as possible, we are going to have a baby. In June! Yep. So of course I was miserable the first few months because as many women will tell you, the first trimester is hell. It's all kind of hellish, but there are days when it's not so bad. The last thing I could do during that time was write. Sitting up was hard too. Reclining was about the only time I could manage to not want to die. But even then: I wanted to die.

I don't want to dwell on all that because it's best when forgotten. Remembering the early misery of the pregnancy makes me want to throw up again. Not that I had too much of that, but enough. Even now. Just the other day I woke up and went into the kitchen. It smelled horrifying in there. It was a siege against my sense of smell. I went to the sink. The drain? I thought, running the water and taking a cautious sniff closer than what might be considered wise.

It could have been the drain. It was hard to tell. The dish cloth? Could have been the dish cloth. The smell permeated the entire room. Finding the actual source was pure detective work. I went to the stainless steel Simple Human garbage can and lifted the lid with the foot lever.

There was no question. A sour cloud of rot engulfed my face and jerked protective tears into my eyes (otherwise my eyeballs would have shriveled like salted slugs). I began gagging immediately. I made it to the sink in time to heave there. "Stoker," I managed through the gagging. "Bleh, bleh, bleh [that's the sound of gagging], Stoker, can you come take the bleh bleh bleh, the garbage out? Please." More gagging.

He came into the kitchen and started laughing but also, he felt bad. I could tell. The sin was his. The night before he made dinner for us (like a sweetheart) and threw out some rotten beans and corn to free up some Tupperware space* and forgot to take the trash out. I think I gagged up the amoxicillin and water I took before leaving the bedroom, which I'd been prescribed for strep throat the week before. If I still have strep, I blame the beans and corn.

Anyway, I might vomit again, recounting that story. Moving on.

Two of my short stories are up for sale on for Kindle devices and another will be live tomorrow sometime. So that's really cool. Life Feeds and The God Machine. Stoker designed the covers (but we got the art from a stock photo site), and I have to say, the kid's a genius. The cover of the next story is my favorite by far. I can't wait for it to show up.

I never want to stop writing, you know. Even once I have kids. I'm definitely looking forward to a new phase in my life, but I don't want to forfeit these things that help me find edification of another type. I love the chance to explore ideas and character through writing stories. It gets easier as I practice and since I think that life is about illumination and understanding, it matters to me to continue, because that's where I find the most insight into the human condition.

*We don't have a garbage disposal, and right now a compost bucket in the house is a BAD BAD BAD IDEA. We had one before the pregnancy.