mail order

I was at Costco the other day, and the Cameron Hughes rep was there in the wine department. Terry and I have been big fans of CH since we discovered it a few years ago. They buy lots of premium wine the winery wants to get rid of and bottle it with just a lot number (Lot 128, for example), the grapes in the wine (Chardonnay, etc.), and the location (Napa Valley, Monterey County, or whatever). They don’t reveal the name of the original winery. By doing this they can sell a $30 bottle of wine for twelve or fifteen dollars.

I told the rep how much we enjoyed their wine and said we purchased by mail order. I realized the term “mail order” somewhat dates me. There is no mail involved. I order online through their Web site, and they ship via FedEx Ground.

Maybe it’s just an old phrase that has stuck around for lack of a better one. How recently have you talked about dialing a number and how long has it been since you’ve actually put your finger into the dial on a rotary phone?

Language is odd. It can be right there with the culture (“there’s an app for that”) while at the same time it can lag behind.

those two days

I sometimes think about how out-of-the ordinary things are so often grouped in bunches in our lives. That certainly was the case for me last week.

You may have heard about the disgruntled cement plant employee who shot ten co-workers Wednesday morning, killing three, and then drove across town, abandoned his car, injured a woman in a carjack attempt in the Hewlett-Packard Cupertino parking lot, and then hid out in the neighborhood across the street for more than 24 hours until he was finally located and killed after apparently threatening police.

That is the site where I work. They put the site on lockdown from the time of the attempted carjacking until Wednesday just before noon, when they evacuated and closed it. It remained closed until 6:00 a.m. Friday morning.

While I rarely go into the office, I had planned to be in that Wednesday for my monthly appointment with my spiritual director nearby. The weather forecast had called for heavy rain, however, and it being the first serious rain of the season I really didn’t want to deal with the commute. I rescheduled my appointment with my spiritual director. On Wednesday morning the rain had already gone through, but by that time my appointment was already moved out a week.

Whew! Guess there’re Someone looking out for me.

Then on Thursday we learned of the death of Steve Jobs. Now I’ve always been a PC kind of guy, though I’ve had my iPod for a number of years. Just recently I’ve become an iPad user, and I have to say I am hooked. And in any case I’m a long-time Silicon Valley denizen and fully appreciate how much influence he had not only on that culture, but on computing and consumer habits throughout the world. Jobs wasn’t perfect (thanks to Mike Todd for that), but he was a visionary who had a huge impact on the world we live in. Given my recent experience with my (not quite) Android phone, I’m also going the iPhone route myself when I can upgrade in November. We will miss Steve Jobs.

Another surprise on Thursday. We walked into a restaurant where we hadn’t been to for ages and found our friend Mam working there. She had worked at the Thai restaurant here until they could no longer afford her, when she moved to Gilroy’s storied local café. We went there one time and learned she had quit, but couldn’t find out where she went. Now we know. It’s pretty amazing to be greeted like a long lost relative. But we’ve always liked her, and certainly will be back.

Then on Thursday night the light in the stairwell burned out. Now that might not sound like a big deal, but it was. That is the original bulb that was in there when we bought the house new fourteen years ago in May 1997. It is very high up above the stairs, and we didn’t know how we were going to change it when it did go out. Shortly after moving in we had bought a telescoping pole with some attachments for light bulbs. We’d never had the occasion to use it until now. We discovered on Friday using the tool that the process was much simpler than we’d anticipated. Glad for that!

As I said, for reasons I don’t understand unusual things somehow come grouped together.


Yesterday was special.

When I learned that Bishop Mary’s visitation to St. John the Divine would be October 9 I immediately asked Father Phil if I could join the church that day. His response was that absolutely I could.

He said I could either be received into membership or reaffirm my vows. I thought it would be good to do the latter. That in fact worked out very well.

There were three of us yesterday, Robert & Joe and me. Robert and Joe are a gay couple who have been at St. John’s for about the same length of time as I have. In fact we both visited for the first time on the same Sunday at the end of May last year. The difference was that Robert and Joe stayed, while I finished up my obligations at Good Shepherd and returned in September.

Yesterday Robert was confirmed, Joe was received into membership, and I reaffirmed my vows. Bishop Mary laid her hands on me, made the sign of the cross on my forehead, and spoke the blessing for reaffirmation. She is a powerful woman in whom the Holy Spirit is strong.

I felt that something that was before incomplete was now complete. It is good.

Sacred Music Friday: Kol Nidre

To all of my Jewish friends, may your fast be an easy one.


Most, in fact I would guess all, couples who have been together for any length of time have words and phrases that contain a very specific meaning. Terry and I have our share.

One of those is “shoes.”

It began some time ago when my gaze lingered a little too long on a very fit young woman in shorts and a skimpy top who was jogging down the street. In an attempt to recover I told Terry, “Oh, uh, I was just admiring the fact that she had some real high-quality running shoes.” To which Terry responded something to the effect of, “Yeah, right.”

But the term “shoes” stuck. As in “Were there a lot of shoes at the gym?” Or, “There should be a lot of shoes at the art and wine festival.”

The thing is, of course, that Terry gets the benefit when we get home.

distant signals

Some weeks back on the radio program West Coast Live, the host, Sedge Thomson, was reflecting on how at one time many radio stations signed off at sunset and when they did you could hear a more distant signal.

Like many of my generation, I was a television addict and probably watched way more TV than was good for me. But I also had a fascination with radio. I would tune in to our local hometown radio station at sundown specifically to hear them sign off, just because … well, just because I liked to.

When I was growing up the radio station at 740 AM on Santa Catalina Island was KBIG. They signed off at sundown and I could then hear KCBS in San Francisco. According to Wikipedia, that’s still the case today for KBRT, which now broadcasts on that frequency.

Likewise in the evenings I was able to bring in KSL in Salt Lake City. I remember listening to KSL often in the evening for a time, not because I liked their programming, but because there was something exciting and exotic about listening to a radio station 700 miles and two states away in a city I’d never visited.

It all seems rather trivial today with streaming radio on the Internet, but back in the 1960’s, when we used an antenna to get our 7 VHF television stations, it was an adventure.

Borowitz Report

I’ve always been a fan of Andy Borowitz and his Borowitz Report. I’d lost track of it for the past couple of years because I was reading it in my newsreader and the RSS feed stopped feeding. So thank you to Susan Russell for reminding me. And I’m happy to say that the RSS feed is feeding just fine again.

If you’re not familiar with Borowitz and his satire you may want to check him out, especially if you’re a flaming liberal like I am and like Susan is. For example:

According to a new poll of likely Democratic voters, if a primary contest were held today between the Barack Obama who ran for President in 2008 and the current Obama, the Old Obama would beat the New Obama by a margin of three to one.


At a rally in South Carolina, Gov. Perry explained why he was uniquely qualified to be President: “The way I understand it, the main job of the executive branch is executing people.”

Some of his humor, however, is a hoot whatever your political perspective:

Rocket scientists, long considered the gold standard in intelligence among all professionals, are not nearly as smart as originally thought, according to a controversial new study published today by the American Association of Brain Surgeons.

I love the laughter Andy provides when I’m reading my news feeds in the evening.

good-bye to an old (software) friend

I said good-bye to Eudora last week. Eudora has been my email client since I first opened my account with Best Internet back in Mountain View in about 1996. Not only did I use it at home, but it was a favorite of Silicon Valley start-ups that didn’t want to be beholden to the forces of evil at Microsoft and its Exchange and then later Outlook. We used it at Verity, at Interweave, and then at the VeriFone Internet Commerce Division, until the IT minions of Microsoft there made us move to Outlook.

At home I kept up with each and every upgrade to Eudora, and when they offered the choice between a free ad-supported version and a paid version, I kept paying. Then, in 2006, Qualcomm (yes, the same folks that made mobile phone chips) decided to focus on their core business and gave the source code to the folks at Mozilla. Although the Eudora developers came out with an unsupported Eudora (sort-of) lookalike on top of the Thunderbird email client, Eudora proper’s maintenance life ended with version

I kept using it, but the more time passed, the harder it was to live with. Some text symbols did not display properly and as HTML formatting of email messages has become more sophisticated Eudora just couldn’t handle it. Then there where the perennial Eudora annoyances, such as the program jumping on top of the window you were working on when new mail came in if you had forgoted to minimize it. Or it booting you out of the message you were composing when new mail arrived.

The end of the line came last week when I discovered it totally mangled the format of notices coming in from WordPress.

There’s not a lot of choices when it comes to email clients these days. Windows Live Mail, with limited capabilities. Thunderbird from Mozilla. Pegasus with its reputation for a lot of power and functionality but a clunky user interface.

I took the simple solution, in spite of the sell-out aspect to it: Outlook. Terry and I both know our way around it. We both use it in our work. It’s already on the  computer. I know how to set it up and how to create filters to direct emails to specific folders. It was the most straightforward and obvious choice.

But I’ll miss Eudora. It served me well over ten years.