Vol. 1, Issue 2: December 1994

Welcome to the second issue. To start, I'd like to present a true story. I hadn't planned on making it quite so big, but I got started and just couldn't stop.

Why We Give Thanks On Thanksgiving

I guess I should tell you about Thanksgiving and the Trip To Atlanta. The story starts in Corvallis, Oregon...

Glacier's company, Rogue Wave Software, finished development and testing of DBTools.h++, a C++ class library for interfacing with big-ass databases like Oracle and Sybase. He was lead programmer. Unfortunately, all the typing did a number on his hands, and he wanted to give them a rest. So he didn't want to jump immediately into another large project.

Instead, he became Mr. Training Guy. He developed a set of training classes and will be teaching those to any company that can pony up the bucks. This will keep him busy through February. One of the duties is to fly around the country to those companies and give presentations, accompanied by a marketing guy: "Hi, this is our product, here are some of the really cool things you can do with it.".

His company lined up two of these presentations: one in Texas on a Thursday, and one in Atlanta the following Tuesday. Rather than fly out, fly home, spend a weekend, and fly out again, he flew to Nashville after the first one and spent the weekend with us. It was fun; he downloaded a lot of software onto our machine and we programmed side by side, him on his 100MHz laptop, me on the 33MHz. His machine ran rings around this one.

During that weekend he suggested that I go to Atlanta with him. "Why not?" says I to myself. So we left on Monday, for a simple 4-hour drive to Atlanta (which is about as far as Memphis). And then we discovered


By lunch time we were near Chattanooga. "Great!" says we to each other. "What do you want to eat?" we ask each other. Somehow we ended up with "Pizza, or whatever looks good.". And so started looking... and we drove around the city... and drove... and drove... and drove by warehouses... and some more warehouses... why are there all these damn warehouses?... WHERE IS THE FOOD?... IS IT POSSIBLE THAT AN ENTIRE CITY COULD BE ZONED "WAREHOUSES ONLY"?... What do they eat here?... Are they... cannibals?... Eating only strangers who wander into the spiderweb that is Chattanooga?... we wondered this as we drove past, yes, more warehouses... until we had almost cracked... and there, there it was... no, not a pizza place... not a fancy Chinese restaurant... it was THE STRIP... hotels and fast food joints... hail Burger King... bless McDonalds... and for a city that size, it was a very small strip... picture half a mile of Central Avenue, only cheesier... they must have... OTHER... sources of food... in the Horror That Is Chattanooga.

So we had lunch at Burger King and left before they ate us.

We hit Atlanta at rush hour. It's a big city. The closest I can compare it to is Manhattan. We were on a ten-lane road going in, and even that was crowded. The traffic reminds me of Washington, DC: wide roads filled to capacity.

Our hotel was downtown, and being there was like being locked in a turret of a castle. Nobody walks in downtown Atlanta after rush hour. Nobody lives there. Just tall, featureless buildings. There are (surprise!) no places to eat, not even a Mr. Subb. Okay, they don't have them down there, but even the Subway that does exist is hidden underground (or something like that).

We checked in. The marketing guy (Chuck? Steve? Bob? John?) hadn't checked in yet. It being the Monday before Thanksgiving, there was no one in the hotel but us. Really. They closed the main restaurant due to lack of patronage. So once again we had to FIND FOOD.

We did, in the hotel's alleged Rathskellar. Well, we think it was food. If you call lettuce "salad greens" and want to pay way too much for bad food, then it fell under the heading of food. At least the beer wasn't bad, but that wasn't their responsibility.

It was one of the worst food days in a very long time.

Feeling uncomfortable, we went back to the hotel room, which was on the 22nd floor. The hotel itself was huge, and yet somehow managed to be cheesy at the same time. The lobbies and hallways looked better than the rooms. Our room had a concrete balcony. You could see the south, and we watched the sun set. Other than that the view was generic "city skyscraper".

I discovered the hotel stationery, all two sheets of it. I used one to describe the trip so far to a friend, and the other to make a paper airplane and fly it out the window. I've wanted to do that for a long time. It flew for quite a while before landing on the low building next to us. It was a good flight.

Then, as we were trying to relax, it started:


First we heard a motorcycle on the streets below. And then, throughout the next two hours, we would see groups of 1-4 motorcyclists drive by the hotel in front of us every few minutes. Glacier recognized the sound of Harley-Davidson engines. Cool. We have no idea why they were there. Of course, we ambled outside to look most of the time. Out, in, out, in...

Somewhere in between Harleys, Glacier called his voice mail at Rogue Wave and found out that some muckety-muck named Mary wanted to talk to him about an "opportunity" for him. He called and left a message on her voice mail. His speculation was that that it was a technical marketing position, which he didn't want.

Finally Mr. Marketingoid showed up. He was 24, clean shaven, and wore generic suburban clothes. After straightening out some room business, he asked Glacier if he had any materials to hand out at the meeting the next day. Seems that he'd forgotten his. Could Glacier put together something?...

Glacier, annoyed, took out his laptop and converted his Powerpoint presentation into a series of notes. Then all we had to do was find a Kinko's copy center. We left that for the next day.

What Was That About Nixon?

We found that there were eleven Kinko's listed in the phone book, but fortunately one was on our street: Peachtree. The next morning, we got up bright and early and had an okay breakfast with Mr.M-Guy in the hotel. Then we took our disk and went in search of Kinko's, knowing that the presentation was at 1:00.

Hmmm, that Kinko's was on NE Peachtree, and we're on NW Peachtree. NE Peachtree's a north-south street here. I was in favor of walking north, but Glacier wanted to walk south. We walked quite a few blocks before the number ran out and the street became... W Peachtree! So we headed back up, and found a map at a subway stop. It seems that Peachtree splits on the way north to become two streets - NE and NW. We had only been two blocks from it at the hotel. [1]

We walked all the way back up and found ourselves involved in street theater. No, not the pleasant kind, with mimes and clowns and performance artists yelling Ginsberg's "Howl" backward syllable by syllable: "I wass eth t'seb s'd-nime fuh I'm nush'ay'rennej...". Nope, in this Kinko's we found a woman with biblical quotes on a placard yelling for some kind of justice, and comparing the manager or the staff (I wasn't sure which) to Richard Nixon. [2]

She was somehow extricated, and ended up on the opposite side of the street looking malevolent. We, on the other hand, tried to rent one of the PCs there to print the document. It turned out we had to buy a card with ten minutes' worth of credit ($1.00) on it, and then use that. It took Glacier under two minutes to print it. Anyone want a card with eight minutes of Kinko's computer time on it? Then we had to wait around while it was copied.

We left, with a little more than an hour to go before the presentation.

Would You Break Security For A Dollar?

Yea! We're done! We can finally get some more food! But wait, it's approaching noon, so we should go back to the hotel. We find a note under the door from the Marketron, who's been in meetings all morning:

Will be back at noon and we'll have a quick lunch, then go over to the site at 12:30.

At 12:40 he showed up and asked "Have you had lunch yet?". We growled at him, and he said there was a Subway nearby. He'd pick us up something that we could eat during a break in the presentation.

Off we went, to the company whose name I could say, but Glacier kidded me about a non-disclosure agreement, so we'll just say it was a company that was formed in the wake of the biggest utility breakup in the country's history, and that it is the only company of its kind in the area, even though everyone deals with it or one of its siblings.

We got inside and I was nervous. Why? Well, I wanted to see Glacier's presentation, but I had no place there except as Glacier's guest. The presentation was being paid for by the company, and I was seeing it on their dime. So if there was any fuss, I was prepared to hang out in the hotel for the duration.

Sure enough, we get to the lobby and then find out that we have to get temporary pass cards before we can go upstairs. There's a problem with me, as I'm not part of Rogue Wave. The woman who scheduled everything started calling around, trying to get authorization, but nobody had returned from lunch. While they were trying to figure out what to do, I made the half-joking suggestion that I could be Glacier's porter and carry his notebook and overhead projector if he paid me a buck. He pulled out his wallet and gave me a buck, and the woman smiled. Problem solved: I was now employed by Rogue Wave - so I got the security pass and I got in.

Don't you love security regulations? [3]

We got to the room and began to set up the presentation equipment. There was Glacier's $5,000 notebook PC and a $12,000 projection system that plugged into the PC's video port and combined with an overhead projector to put a copy of his PC's screen on their screen. The thing has some whizzy guts, and it's portable too.

We started unpacking, and that's when Glacier found a problem: the projector's screen was broken. Shattered. You could see quite obviously where it got hit. $12,000. A presentation that depended on it. In ten minutes. Panic?... Not quite.

Glacier examined it. It turned out the part that was shattered was a piece of protective glass over the actual guts. He removed all the shattered glass, plugged it in and it worked. Whew. [4] The presentation was on!

The M-thing gave a lame-o introduction [hint do not make ZZ Top jokes when there are two men with long beards around], and then Glacier did his thing. He's pretty good at it. The product's really nifty, but if you're not in database development, then it's a little hard to explain. In a nutshell, it makes it easy to write programs so you don't have to care about the specifics of which database you use. With DBTools.h++ you can change databases whenever you want.

Some people asked really good questions, and some people didn't have a clue. But Glacier handled it well.

Part way through, the M-a-roni ducked out and came back with a bag from Subway. He got two footlongs with everything, including mayo. Blech. I did drink the soda, though, and Glacier wolfed his sub.

It ended, and we went back to the hotel. The M-unit flew back to Oregon that evening, and Glacier and I went to dinner with J and Buddy May, friends we'd met through Goat and/or Bros. It was in a cool place with Caribbean cooking, in Atlanta's version of Lark Street.

Then we went and saw J's house. It's not very large, but I'd been wanting to see his bathroom, as he'd described his renovation of it when I first met him last year. We saw it. Wow.

A Throne Fit For A King

J has outdone himself. Even more than the tiny sauna he's added to the back of his house, that bathroom is wonderful. It's not large, but it makes great use of the space it's got. There's a good sized tub that is surrounded by plants. The plants are next to a large window that looks out on the back yard. There's a skylight. He's even put Christmas lights behind frosted plastic, running around the edge of the ceiling. With all the lights out but those, it's just stunning. Soft colored lights, the stars above... I can just imagine it when the fireflies are out. It's a bathroom that would be proud of itself in a house ten times its size. [5]

After dinner we hung out with J and Buddy May for a while, and got in a little Thanksgiving shopping. The health food store there was pretty cool, but then again, most are. At J's place we looked at some photos taken during the Bros gathering at our place. Woof!

Sometime that evening, J told us that there were a number of Peachtree streets in Atlanta. A few dozen, I think he said. It's as bad as Boston's obsession with the name "Harvard".

After the visit, we went back to the hotel, and went to sleep.

That's Why We Give Thanks

The next morning we woke up late. The restaurant had closed for breakfast, so we just checked out and left. We figured we'd pick up some fast food on the way home. So where did we have to pass through first? The county in Atlanta that passed an anti-gay ordinance! There was no way I was going to eat there! So we kept on driving, with our stomachs rumbling, with four miles to go, three, two, one... Look! A Shoney's! Maybe we can still make it in time for the all-you-can-eat breakfast bar! We could, and did. Aaaaah. Cheesy food again, but the absence of all food makes even fast food look good.

We made it back to Woodbury. Goat had gone up to Indiana to do some work while we were away, and wasn't back yet. This was the day before Thanksgiving. We weren't sure whether he was picking up a turkey and everything or not, so we did: all the makings and a pot to cook it in. Lesson: check the size of your stove before you buy! Fortunately, the pot just fit.

Goat got in later, without any food. We went home and went to sleep.

Thanksgiving dawned. We got to work making the turkey and everything, even though none of us had made one before. Glacier was smart enough to pick out a turkey with one of those pop-up cooking gauges. This was fortunate because it popped sooner than we expected.

The meal was great. The food was good - turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, that green beans in cream of mushroom soup dish which Glacier calls "mucus beans", and sparkling cider. It was definitely something to give thanks for.

There was something very special shared that night, and I hope that Goat, Glacier and I can be together next Thanksgiving.


Post script: Glacier still hasn't been able to get in touch with Mary to find out what the "opportunity" is! She's very hard to get a hold of. In the meantime, he's had a number of people in Rogue Wave interested in joining their groups.

[the Curmudgeon's Cave]

Go visit the Curmudgeon's Cave

I forgot to mention two things in the last bulletin. Both of them add a little color to living on the ridge.

The first is the animal life in the woods. Aside from the goat, I've seen quite a variety. Deer, buzzards, large snakes, pileated woodpeckers, owls, hawks, ornamental pheasants, raccoons, oodles of small birds, lizards, and a blue heron (on Christmas morning). Everyone around here keeps horses, and there are lots of herds of cows and goats. Not many people keep the goats for milk. They are mostly used to keep brush down.

The other source of variety is the fungal wonderland. I've seen some amazing specimens here: puffballs, fairy rings, hundreds of mushrooms in clusters, boletes like crazy, coral fungus, and really strange species that look bizarre and disgusting. There are even species that don't fruit until November. I've added quite a few species to my notebook, which hasn't had any additions since a few years ago. Witches' Butter, stinkhorns, you name it. We've got a lot of odd things here.

By now, it's cold at night. Instead of the racket of insects at night, it's finally quiet. The only sounds we hear are the trickling of the stream in the hollow below and the sound of the wind in the trees. There is the occasional owl call, and a "beh-eh-eh-eh-eh" if Rasputin hears us. He's doing fine in his new pen, and has his winter coat.

There is a bit of bad news. Goat rents a one room schoolhouse for use as a wood shop. We just found out that the person he rents it from has sold his place and decided to move in at the beginning of the new year. So we have to move all Goat's equipment out and find another place. We might try to rent somewhere else, or we might build on our land. It would very convenient to have a woodworking shop less than a hundred feet from where we're going to build our house.

The holiday season has been very quiet. We successfully avoided malls, which isn't hard when the nearest one is over thirty miles away. Our shopping was for all practical purposes non-existent. This isn't a trend I plan on continuing, but finances are rather tight at the moment. Employment should ease things a bit.

We did attend a party given on Christmas by a friend of the Short Mountain Sanctuary. It was fun, although I can't recommend the film "Vegas in Space" unless you like bad films. Goat ended up with even more cookie making supplies. Now all I have to do is get him to make more chocolate crinkles (AKA chocolate pixies) and snickerdoodles and maybe I'll finally put on some weight.

Warning: I found out from reading a video catalog that there is more than one film in the "Ilsa" series, mentioned in Issue 1. I repeat: DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY AND TIME. IT'S NOT WORTH IT, MY FRIENDS.

Here are the top music spins of the past few months:

davidbyrne - David Byrne
John Henry - They Might Be Giants
Wrong Way Up - John Cale & Brian Eno
"Louder than Bombs" - The Smiths
Us - Peter Gabriel
"Black Hole Sun" - Soundgarden

...and we're anticipating enjoying these new releases:

Bright Red - Laurie Anderson
Nocturnes - Joe Jackson
Monster - R.E.M.

There's a radio station down here that's surprisingly good. It plays "alternative" rock and throws in a mix of stuff from the past fifteen years that I like. The B-52's "Quiche Lorraine" followed by The Cranberries, and few commercials. Now if they'd just do their station ID well, they'd be almost perfect.

Actually, I've been surprised by what's available on both radio and television. MTSU, the local large university, runs a jazz/NPR station. [As far as I know, Albany didn't have one!] And Nashville's public television station runs Freedom Speaks, an weekly hour long panel show on First Amendment topics. In recent weeks they've had discussions about [pornography and free speech issues on] the Internet, the media's fairness doctrine, and the Freedom of Information Act. It's involving and challenging. Write to your local PBS station and ask them to pick it up. [It's made at Vanderbilt University's First Amendment Center, in Nashville. And I thought Nashvillains didn't have lives!]

As usual, comments or questions can be addressed to the editor at:

Editor, Life in Tennessee

We can also send and receive fax via our PC. However, we don't run fax server software unless we know something's inbound, so please call beforehand if you want to send something. We welcome submissions, half nelsons, etc.

Our best wishes to all. A particularly strong wish this time for Spencer: I understand what you're going through, I really do.


[Image of goat and half]


Mark L. Irons

End notes

[1] More on this later.

[2] Living first in Albany, and then here, I forget how expensive real estate is in cities. The Kinko's in Atlanta had probably as much capacity as the one in Murfreesboro - it had more micros - but it was in less than half the space. It was quite a claustrophobic place. Add to that an unstable, shouting person, and it became really uncomfortable.

[3] I saved the dollar and put it in the Rogue Wave Tools.h++ manual that Glacier gave me. If I ever get a job there, I'm going to frame it, hang it on my office wall, and if anyone asks, I'll say "That's the first dollar I earned from Rogue Wave, in cash, working for less than minimum wage. And look at where I am now.".

[4] That piece of glass, a rectangle with a black paint border, cost $90 to replace.

[5] If you think I'm making too much out of what is, after all, a bathroom, keep two things in mind: 1. You haven't seen it, and 2. I can only take five minute showers when the weather isn't too cold. The bathroom is beautiful.

Last updated 8 June 2000
All contents ©1994-2002 Mark L. Irons

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