Tuesday, November 25 2003
I finally put the dashboard of the Honda Civic back together again today, and while I was at it I installed the other CB radio I bought some months ago on eBay. When Gretchen left in the early afternoon to visit one of her clients, I kept in contact with her from the CB radio in my truck to see how far the signal reached. It easily reached down to the bottom of Dug Hill Road, but I lost her as she traveled along the base of the hill on Hurley Mountain Road. She re-emerged again briefly in downtown Hurley, but I lost her after that, only to hear her voice occasionally as she motored around in downtown Kingston. Though she was affecting a ridiculous Appalachian accent (how else can you talk on a CB radio?) I could still tell it was her because she was using words like "pamplemousse." I tried to respond with references to "Snorrabraut," a street we'd seen in Reykjavik, but she evidently couldn't hear me. I think her antenna is better than mine.
Later I worked on making my second copper pipe menorah, this one to give to Gretchen's brother and sister-in-law when we visit them for Thanksgiving. Work progressed much faster on this menorah than the one I'd built a month ago - now I knew what actions to avoid. The design of this menorah was rather different from the first one I'd built, and it ended up being easier to adjust geometrically than that first one. The only failure in planning on today's menorah was that I made the base too small and not centered on the menorah's center of gravity. In fixing this design flaw, I managed to screw up many features of the menorah's geometry. It took me some time to get everything back in order. In the end, though, I had damn good menorah.
Later on I was drinking vodkatea and talking to Gretchen about a hypothetical career as a menorah maker as opposed to the good old days when I had the easy life of a web developer. Gretchen was suggesting that I should make menorahs and sell them to one of the precious overpriced bric-a-brac shops in Woodstock, but I said that I didn't think it would be a healthy occupation. The fumes from the acid solder flux and the unpleasant effects it has on hands are the sorts of things that might ruin the health of a craftsman as sloppy as I am. In my mind I compare the possible life of a guy who spends his life fashioning menorahs from copper pipes to the brief dotcom life I lived (writing code in Microsoft SQL and VBScript) and there's no doubt how I'd rather spend a nine-to-five existence. Even when I was programming my ass off, the work didn't seem to tax my physical or mental health. I'm not a touch-typist, so I never suffered carpal tunnel syndrome. I run my monitor at the finest resolution possible, but I never get headaches or eyestrain. Back when I worked at Collegeclub.com and Launch.com, I'd come home after a hard day of work and I'd be ready to party. This menorah making is fun, but it leaves me with a solder fume tickle in my lungs and it temporarily ruins my hands, and it's also oddly exhausting.
There have been different swaths of good old days in my life, but those dotcom days, those were the good old days. Mind you, they might not have been quite that good had Clinton's wise fiscal policy not rescued our country from a now-forgotten economic dip that happened in the summer of 1998.
I got my first dotcom job at the very beginning of the Fall of 1998, and that was the beginning of one hell of an economic bubble! A year later the staff at Collegeclub.com had multiplied by ten. Respected economists were suggesting that old economic rules no longer applied. The CEO of our CollegeClub.com (who turned out to be little more than a local representative of a pugnacious but inept branch of the Iranian mafia) would give stirring Monday morning speeches in which he'd tell us how we were going to take over the world. First we'd buy StudentAdvantage.com, then we'd move on to lay siege to Yahoo.com. With leaps of faith and cult hynotism, it all made sense. We commanded the eyeballs of college students, a demographic hitherto unreachable by any other form of media. We would shape their buying habits and give them brand loyalties that they would carry with them for the rest of their lives. Each member in our database was worth thousands of dollars, and we had over a million of them. This logic didn't just work with the employees and the shareholders, it also worked with fat cat Wall Street investment houses that should have known better.
And then it was all gone. CollegeClub.com declared bankruptcy and ended up as a small part of StudentAdvantage.com. (The news from StudentAdvantage.com hasn't been good.) My subequent employer, Launch.com, went through a tough time and was ultimately acquired by Yahoo.com, the company that should have by then already been a CollegeClub.com subsidiary. I was laid off at the end of 2001 and haven't found a job with health benefits since.
Pre-assembled parts of the menorah I built today.
Note the old Mac SE in the background. My makeshift
high-temperature workbench consisted of a piece of
WonderboardTM on top of an old metal
cowboy-themed trashcan. I also put a piece of plastic
over the smoke detector.
The base of the menorah is at the far right.
The menorah, finished. I've had to extend the base to increase the menorah's stability.
Clarence and Eleanor snuggling on the couch.
A more frequent
sight is one of the them terrorizing the other Osama bin Laden stylee.
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