Sunday, August 20, 2006

A 'Combat' Summer

This has been one hell of a rough Summer. This blog has been 'collateral damage' due to this.

The Summer started with a nasty surprise. Out of State developers, in an attempt to get their hands on hurricane relief funds voted by Congress, decided to parachute a huge, highly inappropriate development into my quiet neighborhood. Quite naturally, people were up in arms about this, as I was too. Although the people of the neighborhood won a couple of battles, we ultimately lost. It turns out that the developers were having secret meetings with local politicians. When it came time for the vote, big money and political influence mattered more than the voices of the people. It looks like we will have an ugly 'carbuncle' (as Prince Charles might say) and that is the end of it. As we like to say in Louisiana, 'we have the best politicians money can buy'. Boy, it that the truth!

The early Summer was also quite lonely, as my girlfriend was out of town on business. She would call me every few days to vent spleen, whilst I looked after her cat. So, with fighting developers, looking after cats and providing long distance phone support, my regular blog habits fell by the way side. What I did not realize then, was that this was going to be the good part of the Summer.

In July, I began traveling. Initially, I had to go to Europe to take care of some business. Now, some might say that going to Europe sounds like a vacation, let me assure you it was not. In addition, for various reasons, I kept finding myself in places where internet access was almost unknown. When I could find any access, it was expensive and slow. This too was bad for blogging.

Things really got bad though when I came back. First off, no less than five light bulbs had burned out in my house. When getting home in the middle of the night, this is pretty inconvenient, to put it mildly. Of greater concern was the fact that the air conditioning system had stopped working. To top it all, my workshop in the yard had been broken into, all my mowers, weedeaters had been taken, along with several power tools and hand tools. My girlfriend, who was feeding the cat, did not notice the large bit of wood stuck in the door, nor the bit of broken off door, nor the smashed out window frame. When I had called from Europe, she was fixated on the fact that the cat had pissed in the house (like that was my fault!) and with the freaks of the blogosphere. In the meantime, she had also taken it upon herself to reorganize all my papers, such that I still cannot find my house insurance policy! This was not a good way to return from a trip.

Replacing the air conditioning unit took a couple of days. I can provide first hand testimony that no air conditioning and jet lag is a very poor combination. The actual process of replacing the unit was a bit tricky too. It seems that the old unit had been installed using some highly unconventional engineering techniques. Also, working with equipment that weighs in the order of a couple of hundred pounds, when the heat index is over one hundred and five is pretty tough too. In fact, even putting in the new unit was tricky as the new unit was designed for a modern house, which mine is not. Eventually though, I got everything working, which was a great relief. Then just when I thought that my troubles were at an end, my girlfriend sent me an e-mail saying that she thought that we had 'incompatible lifestyles' (whatever that is supposed to mean) and that we were an item no more. It is curious that these 'incompatible lifestyles' had not been an issue in the last two and a half years. Oh well.

This final change in circumstance presented me with some very immediate practical issues. I had booked a trip, to visit family. I had booked the ticket through a far distant airport I would not have normally used, given flight times, etc., as my girlfriend had promised to drop me off and pick me up. The day before I was due to leave the radiator on my truck blew, so I had to get really creative.

I hired a car to get to the airport. That part was easy. The problem was getting back. My flight was not due to land until late at night. Almost all the car hire places were shut by the time my flight arrived. Eventually, I found a company that was open twenty-four hours, but getting this figured out was pretty tense as, until I found this solution, I was going to have to leave a hire car in an airport lot, at great expense.

I thought that once I got to the airport, life would get simpler. Boy, was I wrong. First I was selected for the third degree by the screeners, then when I got to the gate, I discovered my flight was delayed an hour. This was a bit of a problem, as I had quite a tight connection. After much talking on the cell phone, I took my late plane to Chicago, where I was promised a hotel room and meals, by the airline. Once in Chicago, I spent a good deal of time standing in long lines until, as promised, I got a hotel voucher, a voucher for seven dollars for dinner and three dollars for breakfast. So much for airline promises. I thought though that my troubles were over. By this point, I should have known better than to think this.

Shuttle buses are not things many people think about. You wait. They arrive. You get where you are going. Not in this case. After quite a bit of looking around I found the correct location. The hotel promised it would be there almost immediately. Apparently, in Chicago, that means a couple of hours. It was nearly midnight by the time I got to the hotel to be greeted by a check in line over one hundred people long. I just ran and got food, as I was famished. It was one in the morning before I got to my room, after an over priced sandwich.

I eventually reached my destination and had a nice trip, but again one in which the internet never seemed to be available. When I eventually got home (in the very wee hours of the morning), I was greeted by a new horror, my house had been burgled! Clearly the robbers knew what they were doing and they got quite a lot of the good stuff, including a University owned computer. The paperwork on this is, naturally, nightmarish. The neighbor who had been looking after the cat had managed to notice though and filed a police report. Most galling was the fact that the rest of my power tools had gone.

The following week should have been better, even if it did involve insurance companies and other horrors. The main item of business was to get my doctoral student through his dissertation proposal defense. Unfortunately, everything was complicated by my getting massively sick. Initially, I thought I had food poisoning. The illness lasted over a week, during which I was unable to eat very much. At points, I could barely keep water down. To add to the 'fun' my ex-girlfriend started saying some very nasty (and untrue) things about me on her blog. I got my student through his proposal defense, but it has been a week from hell.

These then are the reasons why I have not kept up this blog. Any day now, the semester is going to start. However, I will try and be more diligent, as there are many things that need saying. In the meantime, I am already aware that I have a class schedule conflict to resolve and the wrong textbook for another course. It is going to be one of those semesters. At least I'll have this blog to keep life on the straight and narrow.

The CP


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