Tuesday, February 26, 2002

John Parker sat in his car a defeated man. Twenty-five years on the force. Five times decorated for heroism in the line of duty. Having never fired his gun. A man who seemingly had everything. But nine years ago, he had stumbled into a convenience store robbery. He had stumbled into Blake.

One sunny afternoon he had stopped into a 7-11 to get some ice for his son’s soccer game. Normally his wife handled the snack time when it was their turn, but she was home ill with the flu. That left John with the task of bringing juice boxes, oatmeal cookies, and orange slices to the game.

That same sunny afternoon, James Lee Blake had decided he needed quick cash and chose the convenient method. Dash in and dash out without much trouble. However, his dash was broken mid-stride by John’s son Scott.

The ice machine was located in the farthest corner from the cash register; so John had been helpless to do much beside try to memorize the robber’s face. On soccer days, John left his service revolver, beeper, and phone at home. Those few hours with his son were a sanctuary from the rather seedy world in which he spent most of his days as a detective. John waited, muscles straining with the effort not to interfere in a helpless situation. While his training and instincts told him he would only make things worse if he tried to do something without so much as a nightstick for defense, he fervently prayed the store cameras were working and that the counterman cooperated. While the former was unknown to John, the latter unfolded before his eyes. The young man dropped some money as he stuffed the paper bag, but the robber simply motioned with his gun for him to pick it up. Scott had jumped out of the car to remind his father not to forget the Gatorade he liked, Riptide. Scott pushed the door into robber just as he tried to leave with his loot. In a flash, Blake slammed the barrel of his weapon against Scott’s temple and made his escape.

Scott died in intensive care three weeks later. A small body rarely wins against cold steel. John never had the chance to say good-bye to his son.

Chasing Blake became his life. His first quick search through his city’s database resulted in sheets from eight arrests for petty larceny. A few favors to Juvenile showed a record of crime that began with shoplifting in the third grade for Blake. He faxed the still shots pulled from the store’s video camera to every law enforcement office he could find. Months went by and inquiries made to other states came up with descriptions that fit Blake, but not names. Every lead led him to more crimes. Small stuff, really, until Scott. Blake just seemed to take what he needed instead of working. Several social security numbers, all from dead children, were tied to his activities in seven states.

After four years, John’s wife left him. Evenings spent with cold cups of coffee in front of the computer or phone or archives left little time for his wife. And he couldn’t let go. He couldn’t say good-bye to Scott the way she had. She loved their son no less, but she knew that he would not want all their lives ruined that day.

Nine years of hurting and searching led to this day. To this time. And all John Parker could do was sit in his car because he couldn’t face the unbelievable. He had found Blake. Nine years of sacrifice had brought him to a small house on the outskirts of Boston. In the driveway was a 1997 Honda Accord. A car with license plates that read “HUNT4ME.”

The arrogance of Blake. The senseless loss of Scott. A life of wronging others blazoned across a sheet of metal overwhelmed John. To Blake Scott had merely been a vanity plate.

While the hunter had found his prey, the final capture of Blake was cold comfort for the void still left in John’s heart. Seeing those plates told him he’d have no answers for Scott’s death. No pleas of remorse.

Fingers trembling, he dialed 9-1-1 . . . and waited.

Monday, February 25, 2002

When I walked into the woman's dressing room at the gym today, I saw a strange sight. This woman was standing in her underwear on the scale. Not so strange, I know, but what she did afterwards was.

The whole time I was changing my clothes, she would put on one article of clothing and then re-weigh herself. I couldn't figure out why she kept at it since she could simply weigh twice to get the weight of her clothes. But maybe she was trying to get to a particular weight and needed to know which clothing to wear to achieve that target weight. But then why try to add to your weight?

By the time I had finished changing into the workout clothing, she was gone, so I popped on the scale myself. After all, it has been two weeks since I last weighed. Having only gained weight over four months of sweating and straining at the gym, I'm not that eager to get on the scale.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the numbers...they read that I had lost 3.2 pounds! Yippee!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Three days without having to telnet in order to receive my e-mail. Such a pleasure... In case you are interested, you can forward any unsolicited commercial e-mail (e-mails selling services and merchandise) directly to uce@ftc.gov.

My apartment complex left a "new" addendum to my lease on my door yesterday, along with a letter saying that the changes would be enforced March 1st. What change did I notice? Somehow it is my responsibility to install wall-to-wall carpeting and padding at my expense.

Can you believe that? I'm torn between ignoring the changes since I have a lease with them until December and certainly do not agree to these changes and challenging them on their authority to make such changes in the middle of a lease.

In case you're wondering...the maintenance men never came back to prime and paint the two squirrel holes they patched. I would paint, but I'm not about to spend any more of my own money improving this apartment (I built shelves in the pantry closet, had ceiling light fixtures wired and hung in three rooms, and have been maintaining the flowerbed outside my apartment).

Last night...my neighbor informed me that he now has a squirrel running around in his ceiling...

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

I was joking with a friend about how electric I’ve become. She asked me why I thought so, and I replied that I shocked people and things with static electricity all the time now. In fact, I’ve shut down a few computers I’ve gone to work on and have to use a grounding strap quite a bit now.

Her response: Could it be that you shuffle step more now?

Suddenly my light-hearted jocularity about electricity turned sour. Shuffle step? Yeah, I do shuffle step more now that I use to do.

People with MS tend to shuffle step because they do not pick up their feet completely when they are walking, a combination of muscular weakness and loss of gross motor control.

Here I was thinking I might be something for Outer Limits when in reality this was just another quotidian reminder that I have multiple sclerosis.


Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Oh, the joy of it...I was able to check my mail this evening without having to telnet into the box to delete the pernicious spam that has been inundating my electronic existence...


Ellen sat at the table with the applications spread out before her. Biting her lower lip in concentration, she studied the fine print on the one she held in her hand. It seemed to be her best option with the ability to transfer up to three balances at the introductory rate, while all the others, only allowed her to transfer either only one or two balances. However, the introductory rate on the transfers was only for six months, not a full year.

Her eyes strayed to the catalogues lying with the other mail which had come that day. Ellen knew she should throw them in the trash without even opening them. But two of her favorite companies had come out with their end-of-the-year clearance catalogues, and she just knew that they were filled with great bargains. Closing her eyes, Ellen rubbed her temples and tried to think.

If I apply for a new mastercard and a new visa, I could transfer all five balances to new rates. I could use just one of the old card then, if I had to, while I work on those other balances.

Ellen looked at the applications again, noting the company name of the one she had held in her hand and sorted through the other applications to find one that accepted two balance transfers. Rising from the table, she went to the small drawer nestled in the deep center of her roll-top desk. That desk was her most prized bargain. She had not even paid for it yet since payment had been deferred for a whole twelve months with no interest. Many stores had gone to having sales such as one that allowed her to have the desk of her dreams. In fact, through “12 Months No interest!” sales, Ellen had gotten a new television, a VCR, a stereo, and new bedroom furniture.

Sitting in the comfortable swivel chair she had found in the bargain basement of a department store, Ellen pulled from the drawer the stack of credit cards she had long since stopped using but could not bring herself to cut up. Pulling off the rubber band, she thumbed through the cards to make sure none of them were from the companies of the applications she had picked.

I really got to stop this. I can’t keep transferring balances. Surely, there’s a limit to how often I can do this, she mused as she checked the cards. Ellen didn’t bother to count them. She’d rather not know.

Luckily, none of them matched the applications, so she returned to the kitchen table. Drawing the two applications towards her, Ellen began filling them out. When she came to the section which asked her to list the credit cards she currently held, Ellen chuckled. Do they want the ones I “hold” or the ones I use or the ones I want to be able to use again? She decided to put down the three she currently had in her wallet.

Her freshman year in college, she had gotten her first credit card application in the bottom of the bag from the college bookstore. Instead of throwing it away with the other circulars the bookstore had included, Ellen left it sitting on her desk. One afternoon, her roommate had told her that she could list her scholarship money as “other” income. In just three weeks, Ellen had her first credit card.

The next time she went shopping at her favorite store, she learned that by opening a store account using her new mastercard as a reference she could save fifteen percent on her purchases that very day. The store also sent coupons each month with the bills to give discounts on future purchases. Ellen soon discovered that most stores gave an initial discount for opening an account. When the store cards maxed-out, Ellen was reduced to stop shopping and took on a part-time job, resolving to pay off her balances. Her resolve lasted until the catalogues started coming, and Ellen realized how much easier it was to shop by mail for her friends’ and family’s Christmas and birthday presents.

Now, two years after graduation, Ellen had a pile of bills to match her stack of cards and an apartment full of all the necessities for her new home. She had realized over the years, the more you spend, the more credit you earn. The more credit you earn, the more you can spend. A convenience Ellen appreciated on her nurse’s salary.

Ellen finished the applications and pulled her wallet out of her purse to write down the account numbers from her “current” cards. When she finished, she placed them into the envelopes, put stamps on them, and walked the applications to the mailbox at the nearest corner to her apartment. Dropping then in with a sigh, she was relieved to have straightened out her finances once again.

Returning to her home, Ellen picked up the new catalogs and walked over to the couch. She sat down, curled her legs beneath her, and began flipping through the first catalogue.

Wow, look at that suit! It’s marked down 50%, and if I spend two hundred dollars I get an additional 25% off of everything. That makes this suit 75% off. I bet I could find Christmas presents for Mom and Susan in here and maybe for some of the girls at work. I’m sure I could easily make up the difference between the suit and the two hundred.

Ellen flipped through the rest of the catalogue and reached for the pad and pen by the phone at the edge of the couch. She started writing down items she thought she could order for presents and included a few extras for herself. When she added up the total, Ellen was surprised to see she had doubled the amount she needed to get the extra discount.

Oh well, Ellen thought, I can always just open a second new mastercard if I need to just to get through this Christmas. She picked up the second catalogue determined to just look. An hour later she had several pages of ideas and necessities she thought she might buy.

I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see what my new limit is and how much the current balances are totaled together. I ought check out and see which card the desk and computer are on to make sure I don’t use those again. Still, it ought to be easy to manage just these few things.

She sighed as she rose from the couch to start dinner. With a double shift to work tomorrow, she wanted to get to bed earlier than she usually did. A few double shifts might help pay those balances too. Things are just fine. Just fine, Ellen concluded. I have everything I want and will be able to get what I need as well. Easily.

Monday, February 18, 2002

You know, for someone with three degrees, two of the graduate ones, sometimes I just don't get it. I don't get why things that seem so very clear to me as I think about them and then talk about them appear to be so very UNCLEAR to the person with whom I'm talking.

This inability to get that which is in my head out for the ears of the listener is something I've battled with from time to time.

I mean, I'm a fairly good teacher. I've heard that from my students. And when I teach, I can take students to academic heights they truly did not think they could achieve. But when I am talking with others--not teaching--I find communicating very difficult.

Sometimes I inadvertently offend or give an impression that is the polar opposite of that which I had intended to give.

I just don't get it.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Remember the goat-in-a-dog's-body theory? Late last night Kashi ate a Combat roach bait. I was up most of the night wondering if he was going to get ill. I had him eat a bowl of Cheerios to try and absorb the roach poison. This dog!

Mr. Squirrel was removed from the premises. I now have a fifteen inch square patch on the wall. At least they patched the ceiling at the same time. I wonder when it will get painted?

Speaking of paint, I think I get to paint Paula's kitchen tomorrow night. More home improvement!! I just wonder of paint brush blisters will be in the same place as hammer blisters. My hammer blister is still making it's presence known.

Are you watching the ice skating?

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

It’s late…I know…but I cannot sleep. I hurt too much.

So, I thought I would give you a quick update on Mr. Squirrel. In short, I think he met his demise sometime last night. I had still been hearing him up until then, but the scratching gradually became quieter and quieter.

Then, this morning, Kashi shot like an arrow directly to a spot at the base of the wall directly next to the hole in the ceiling Mr. Squirrel created. It was all I could do to drag my dog away from there. He was sniffing all around—including the electrical outlet—and scratching the wall and the molding…whimpering, whining and barking all the while.

I had to lock him up in the bedroom all day. Once I got home from work, he went straight back to that spot.

I spent the entire evening battling Kashi over not scratching up the wall. I lost my temper. He lost his. Altogether it was an unpleasant evening.

How is maintenance going to get a dead squirrel out from the wall?

When will it start to smell?

When will something go right for a change?

Monday, February 11, 2002

Where have I been? Taking a break from life. I did so doing a home improvement project for a friend.

The best part about my job is that I do myriad things during the day. The worst part about my job is that I do myriad things during the day. I needed a Calgon day, so I took Friday off and spent it helping out someone else. All-in-all, I had a good time working, but not working.

In two days time, I helped Paula and her husband (us women did the lion's share of the work, I'd say) pull up an old floor, pull up the bad sub floor, put in a new sub floor, and then lay a new vinyl floor. I have two scraped knuckles and a humongous blister from the hammer, but I had a blast. And I didn't think about work much while I was working.

I also began the prep work on the walls for painting. I've been pushing Paula for a strong green that matches the tiles we choose. I've worried her a bit with the color, but I think it will be great. As she says, she is a woman of white walls. I want to change that! In the mean while, though, I would highly recommend waiting to patch holes in the wall until a new floor is completed. I had thought it would be better to do it while her husband was cutting the new sub floor so the spackling stuff wouldn't ruin the new floor. However, my patch job on the largest hole near the floorboard got messed up at least three times. I felt stupid for having already done the patch job, but perhaps I ought to look at it as practice for the real patch job.

Gym Update: Okay, we won't delve too deeply into specifics, but I've been torturing myself at the gym for four full months now. I just had my measurements done again and to date I have gained four pounds, but lost 4.3% body fat. I guess that measly accomplishment in the body fat department is something I should be proud of, but I can't believe I've GAINED weight. It's just not fair. I'm sweating, heaving weights, drinking protein shakes, guzzling at least 66 ounces of water a day, trudging uphill on the treadmill, NOT eating french fries, and eating salads, vegetables and chicken and chicken and chicken. Again, it's just not fair.

And about things not fair, I went to the doctor this afternoon and she used the A word with me. Arthritis. I was stunned, but then not really. For two months now, I have found myself getting stiff if I stay in any one position for any length of time. Sitting through a movie is great, but getting out of the chair afterwards is excruciating. As much as I moved around on the floor at Paula's house, I still moaned and groaned through much of the work. Fortunately, she just ignored my non-verbal, but audible complaints and let me work away on her floor.

It's hard to describe really, but one example is that my lower back often stiffens up and it feels as if a dozen or so vertebrae are temporarily fused. If I move through the pain, I can regain the flexibility, but the price is sure high. My ankles, knees, wrists, and lower back are most affected. Sitting means getting stiff in a bent position. Standing means getting stiff in a straight position. I'm practically living on motrin, but I am trying to be careful about not overdosing.

Anyway, I now have to meet with a specialist and see what she has to say on the state of things. Who knows when I'll get in for the consult....

When I left the doctor's office, I wanted to head straight for Wendy's and just go ahead and eat those fries, but I stayed on the road to the gym. When I went to get my chart though, my evidence of the past four months of sweat and heft, it was missing. That sheet was my trophy.

So much for my first day back from my break! I have to go now and telnet into my e-mail for the umpteenth time. ARGH!!!!!

P.S. Are you wondering about the squirrel? He's still with us.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002

I came home. The ceiling has not been repaired. Neither have any of the holes in the wall of the HVAC closet on my balcony been closed off. Just how long until the apartment complex finds my squirrel problem to be a problem? I would think the surprising amount of joist the squirrel has chewed off would be a concern, but then again, what do I, a mere tenant, know?
Yesterday, I was feeling ill all morning at work. In the afternoon, I had to go to the post office to mail some letters certified mail/return receipt. I ended up throwing up in a trashcan while standing in line. You could pretty much guess that I was miserable and embarrassed.

I left work and looked forward to showering, slipping into my pajamas, and sleeping for a few hours.

So....imagine my surprise when I found plaster on the floor in front of Fancy's cage. I looked up and discovered a HOLE in my ceiling! I was dismayed to discover that I have a squirrel's nest there. The maintenance man cut an even larger hole and cleaned out heaping piles of debris. I was nauseous all over again.

Then he rather blithely informed me that he was working on a larger project and could not get back to repair the ceiling and search for the entrance holes until tomorrow (today). At least he put a temporary cover over the hole in the ceiling.

All evening I heard the squirrel scratching around. He seemed none too pleased to find his home destroyed.

And then, when I thought I would finally get some rest, I looked over at Kashi and found a trembling dog. You see, I had moved Fancy's cage away from the hole. Kashi was quite upset over that move. He whined and whimpered and trembled the whole evening. The only time he calmed down was when I held him, but only if I was standing and held him. He would pace back and forth in front of her cage, fretting the whole time. I was stumped as to his behavior and exhausted before I finally took us both to bed.

What do you think the odds are that when I come home today, the ceiling is actually repaired? I've already been warned several times to make sure the squirrel is not shut up inside as his dead body would surely produce a noisome, fetid smell. Oh, sure, I thought upon hearing those words, now that you've warned me of such a possibility, that's exactly what the rather lackadaisical maintenance crew will do.

I need a vacation...

Monday, February 04, 2002

So…last Wednesday, I came home and collapsed on the couch…the usual for a weight day at the gym. Finally, hours later, I dragged myself up off the couch and to the shower. When I spun the knob for the shower, I heard a horrible thaw-wunk in the pipes. And then…there were only dribbles of water falling from the showerhead.

Do you KNOW how HARD it is to wash long hair with a dribbling shower? In case you don’t…it is next to impossible. However, getting down in the tub to wash my hair is out of the question. I’m too stiff these days.

Well, Thursday night I came home expecting maintenance to have repaired the shower. Only more dribbles awaited me.

But, alas, I finally have a good ending to an apartment maintenance story: I came home Friday not only to a REPAIRED shower, but also I found that the blast that hit my body was the extreme opposite of dribbles. For once, something was repaired to a state BETTER than the original condition.

NOW…if I could only have success against those dratted messages that keep blocking me from receiving e-mail!!!!!!!!!