Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A blessed? event

She's been in a delicate state for quite some time. But now, it's all said and done - the anxiety, the almost weekly checkups, the moodiness - they're all behind us now. On Saturday, her water broke after we got back from work and we rushed her in. That's right, folks, we're the proud parents of a new car!

What, you thought I was talking about something else?

For those of you unfamiliar with our recent troubles with Virginia, this has been a long time in coming. It started with some expensive and complex repairs at the beginning of the year. Then we had more fixes for the Safety and Emissions checks, a process which took weeks of going to Ray's on a daily basis (as described earlier) and left some major problems unresolved. On Saturday, after dropping Emilee off at work, I was staying with my friends Ryan and Becky Sultana who were going to borrow the car and take it to work, where Emilee would then retrieve it to come home. Little did we know that they would come outside to pick it up and see this: Calling it a mess would be a severe understatement. Orange/brown fluid had made a large trail under the car. This turned out to be bad antifreeze mingled with rust. The nearby mechanic told us the damage would take $600-900 to repair. I called Ray and he said he could do it a little more cheaply, but towing her back to Provo is out of the question. And so, the time has come to say goodbye to our little lady.

Virginia Seville Watson
1990-June 27, 2009
Rust In Peace

P.S. More pictures (and the resolution to our story) forthcoming.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The strangest dream

It's been a while since I gave you folks a good glimpse into my psyche, so I'd like to give you something new to analyze - last night's dream. What's particularly strange about it is that it had absolutely nothing to do with the book I was reading into the wee small hours - more on that later. This post may not hold much interest for most of you but I wanted to record this one for posterity since it's unique in several ways.

Chapter 1: Disney World
The dream opened with Emie, Dad and me at Disney World together. We passed by a colorful plaza and into a restaurant. I'm guessing that it was the Brown Derby, one of Dad's favorites, since there was a definite Hollywood atmosphere. The dream skipped ahead a bit to when we had been waiting a very long time for our food and we had been given some cookies to compensate for the wait. I decided to go enjoy Disney World since the food showed no signs of coming. As I left the restaurant, I noticed a sign board where you could order pizza by writing down your order and placing it on the board. I did so, thinking that it might be faster than the Brown Derby. Abruptly, the dream cut away from Disney World to . . .

Chapter 2: The Creamery
I worked at the old BYU Creamery for a semester shortly before it was torn down. In my dream, the old place was brought back to life and filled with nostalgic memorabilia, like a shiny pre-credit card cash register that looked like a miniature pipe organ - the whole place looked like an old fashioned malt shop, as though the clock had been turned back almost a century The place was strangely empty so I wandered around for a moment looking at everything. My old boss, Brian (incidentally, Facebook suggested him to me as a friend last night - there is no love lost between us, however, and I declined) showed up and told me breathlessly that all of his workers had called in sick and he needed my help. We negotiated my temporary wage and I told him that I had somewhere to be right now but that I would return once I was done. The somewhere I needed to be turned out to be . . .

Chapter 3: Jane Austen meets Charles Dickens
I dreamed that I (when I say I here, I mean it somewhat loosely, as I was apparently inhabiting a female host - the first time I've portrayed a woman in my dreams) was entering the garden of a lavish Victorian manor house where a man whose circumstances had prematurely aged him (he reminded me of Ebeneezer Scrooge but not as old in reality) sat outside grumpily. He had come outside to look at his flowers and the colorful pigeons (and I mean colorful - red, blue, green, etc.) for whom he had left a feeder. The pigeons, however, had become aggressive and were pecking at the miser and eating his flowers. I devised a solution to his problem (the dream kinda skipped over the details) and we entered the manor to figure out a solution to his other problem . . .

Chapter 4: The "Haunted" House
The old man had begun hearing odd sounds in his house at night and was convinced that the place was haunted. I agreed to spend the night in the fellow's room (on the floor while he took the bed) to observe. (The inside of his manor house looked like the inside of my church building in Santa Barbara. After a while, we began to hear the noises and I arose to investigate. As I turned a corner, I nearly collided with a kid whose arms were laden with the man's possessions. I looked through the lighted doorway beyond and saw a woman who I presumed to be the boy's mother also looting the man's home. I clamped a firm hand on the boy's shoulder and pulled out my anachronistic cell phone to call the police as the boy's parents fled.

Chapter 4.5: The Austenian Ending
The scene cut away and I found that I was reading the book in which the events of chapters 3 and 4 took place and had reached the ending, in which the man's youth and heath were restored by the woman's actions and she declared her love for him. "I don't even know your last name but it doesn't matter - I know your heart and I love you." I closed the book and found myself . . .

Chapter 5: Back at the Creamery
I was in the creamery's back room where I found bright red and blue uniforms, again reminiscent of years gone by, as well as another employee Brian had managed to locate. I was again female so moved to the appropriate section of uniforms/costumes and selected one. As I began slipping it on . . .

Chapter 6: Return to Disney World - the Circle is Complete
I found myself walking across the same colorful square toward the restaurant. As I passed, a fellow at the pizza sign board called my name and said that my pizza was ready. I told him to wait a moment while I fetched my family and I hurried to the restaurant. I found my father and wife still waiting for their food, sitting together with a fellow who looked like Groucho Marx except that he had Harpo's hair. I told them that pizza was available outside and they began to rise.

Epilogue: Waking up is Hard to do
I awoke in my old room in Santa Barbara and opened my door as my wife opened the door across the way. I told her "I had a (I hesitated for a moment as I decided not to call it weird) great dream last night, and you were in it." "Was it about a cookie?" "Actually, there WERE cookies involved." As she smiled . . .

I really woke up. I came out of the bedroom and saw Emie on the couch. I told her "I had a (I hesitated for a moment as I decided not to call it weird) great dream last night and you were in it." "Was it about a cookie?" "Actually, there WERE cookies involved. And we had the exact same conversation in my dream."

Time travel, Deja Vu, gender bending, meta-fiction . . . quite the dream, eh?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Silly sites and dreams of the future

From a friend's blog, I decided to try out an interesting website - makemebabies.com. Put in a couple of photos and see what your future babies might, hypothetically, look like. So, meet the twins: Stephanie and Miles.

Disney-Pixar's UP in 3D

Pixar's scriptwriters have a way of tugging at your heartstrings. Toy Story made grownups want to run home and dig out their old teddy bears (or monsters, rubber ducks, sheep, etc.). The Incredibles made grown men want to run home to their wife and kids. UP makes grown men weep, hold their wives closer and keep every promise they ever made, no matter how silly.
But it's not all tears and soppy sentiment. The overenthusiastic cub scout, Russel, plays wonderfully off of the crusty, 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen. Carl manages to be simultaneously a dreamer and a sarcastic straightman as he unwillingly leads Russell on a grand adventure to the wilds of South America in search of his boyhood dream.

What truly makes UP unique is how realistic the characters are. I'm not talking about their physical appearance but, rather, their personalities. Russell is everything Pinocchio wants to be - a real boy through and through.
Dug the talking dog is a very real dog, with such memorable lines as "Hi! My name is Dug. I have just met you and I love you SQUIRREL!!! . . . . . . . Hi there!"

Needless to say, the visuals are fabulous. Unlike most 3D movies (I'm looking at YOU, Journey to the Center of the Earth - much as I love Brendan Fraser, please don't make him spit on me in 3D ever again), UP doesn't resort to a lot of what the Muppets would refer to as "cheap 3D tricks." Just the opening pan around Cinderella's Castle with the fireworks brought a tear of joy to my eye. The attention to detail is incredible, down to stubble slowly growing on Carl's chin as he neglects to shave through his journey and Russell getting progressively dirtier. No wonder Disney had previews/trailers for 3 other films "in Disney Digital 3D." The effect is astounding.
While the film does have a direct antagonist, Carl's real enemy, from the very beginning, is time. Time to do the things he wants to do, time before he goes senile and gets put in a nursing home, time before his balloons lose their lift and his house becomes immobile. This universal theme can appeal to anyone - if you are a human being and you can breathe, you should watch this movie.
Also, as a side note, the pre-film short, Slightly Cloudy, is destined to be one of the greatest Pixar shorts - just trust me on this one.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Of vehicles, forgiveness and the Atonement

Sunday, particularly Fast Sunday, is a time for reflection, for pondering the things of God and the blessing he has given us. Today, my mind turned to a recent tremendous blessing we received at the hands of a kind and honest man. Kind and honest are not words one usually associates with mechanics, but in Ray's case, they fit.
He offers a special "student discount," the amount of which is rarely expressly stated but which has always saved us a bit when we've taken our car, Virginia (named for a kind and generous aunt from whom we received the car), in for routine check-ups and oil changes.

Recently, Virginia's cruise control stopped working. This is an annoyance for Emilee, whose hour-long daily commute is made somewhat harder because of it. It was somewhat more of an annoyance during our recent trip to California. Considering our impending journey to Connecticut, we realized that we would really like to have it working. Since we were taking Virginia in for Safety and Emissions inspections (and the new tires and oxygen sensor needed to pass those inspections), we figured it would be a good time to have Ray's people look at the cruise control.

We had the misfortune to be placed under the management of Randy, Ray's number two in command. Randy has a politician's smile, a salesman's smooth talk, a coal miner's handshake and an unfortunate tendency to neglect to call you when he says he will. After several hours of examination Randy told us that we needed a whole new engine computer and that we could either find one ourselves or he could procure one for about $200.

A quick search on eBay revealed an appropriate part for $45. We ordered it, got it in and handed it to Randy. Blake, the beleaguered mechanic who actually did the work, spent a couple of hours prying open our car to get at the engine computer and said, "This isn't the right engine computer - the color coding doesn't match!"

The person from whom we acquired the part refunded our payment without any hassle. I quickly found (using part numbers this time instead of just a description) a correct computer, ordered it and presented it to Randy. Blake confirmed that it was the right part and proceeded to spend a few hours installing it.

It didn't fix the cruise control.

Randy said, at this point, "Well, we've only been able to have a few hours at a time with your car so far - if you let me have it for an entire day, we'll be able to get it fixed." Accordingly, we left Virginia in Randy and Blake's care for over 8 hours on the following Monday, which Emilee happened to have off of work. The word now was that we needed a new Cruise Control Module (Question here: Why skip the Cruise Control Module and go straight for the Engine Computer when you're trying to fix the Cruise Control? Maybe it's because I'm not a mechanic, but that doesn't make much sense to me . . .), with similar options for acquiring one.

At this point, Emilee and I decided to cut our losses. As a friend took me to Ray's, I began a fretful calculation in my head of the number of hours of labor for which we would be charged and the hundreds of dollars we would have sunk into a wild goose chase. When I arrived, I found Ray behind the counter - Monday is Randy's day off. Ray had familiarized himself with our situation and said, "After everything Randy's had you do to try and fix this problem, making you find your own parts and everything . . . I'm not gonna charge you for the labor."

Now THAT'S what I call a Student Discount! Instantly, through nothing I had done, just the simple kindness and generosity of one man, my debt was forgiven. I was elated as I brought Virginia home, feeling truly blessed.

I reflected today that we, as a human race, spend much of our time broken in a spiritual sense. We stumble about through life, looking for help to get fixed but, in the end, no earthly power can truly fix us. The worst of it is that, the longer we're broken, the more spiritual debt we rack up. In the end, though, after all we can do, the great Mechanic of our souls says to us, "After all you've done, I forgive your debt - you owe me nothing. Welcome home." And then He fixes our cruise control anyway.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Status Update

I'm sure there's at least one person out there who is eager to know why my blog hasn't had any posts lately. Alas, life really isn't very interesting right now. Emie's job continues as planned and I don't have a job - who hires somebody for 2 months, really? So, I've been devoting my time to cleaning up in the apartment, personal projects and, of course, gaming which hardly make for interesting reading. I've washed the dishes a few times, packed up a box of stuff from our bookshelf, rewritten a couple of pages of my short story, started setting up my old computer to get some prized files off of it, started making contacts in CT and . . . well . . . played a lot of games. Not much to report.
The only really noteworthy thing of late is that we've had to send in our Wii for repairs again. Back in February, we sent in the Wii for repairs - the standard cleaning so it can function with Super Smash Bros. When is came back, I noticed that the top cover - the white flap over the gamecube controller slots and memory card slots - was missing. This was not a major concern at the time, since we usually have it open anyway, since we keep our gamecube memory card plugged in.
A couple of weeks ago, for the first time since then, I decided to play one of my gamecube games and discovered a more serious problem - memory slot A no longer reads my memory card. Slot A thinks that the memory card is some other device. Slot B works, but many of my games will only look at slot A (E.G. Twilight Princess, the one I was trying to play). It worked perfectly before I sent it for cleaning. I don't know why the technicians felt it necessary to mess with that part of the Wii if all they were doing was cleaning the lens, but there's obviously something wrong here. I recently sent it off to get fixed and now I miss it.
The worst of it is, since the lady on the phone claims that they've never heard of this problem before, they're probably just going to replace the unit. This, in and of itself, wouldn't be so bad except for the probability of losing our saved game information. Emie and I have spent many hours on Animal Crossing, for example, a game for which the memory won't transfer to an SD card for safe keeping. We've recruited my brother and his wife to hang on to and tend our many virtual flowers while we're away but it would be sad to lose the rest of it. Many thanks to them as we hope for the best.

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