|Thursday, December 25, 2003
01:31 - Working Christmas
"Did you hear about how we caught Saddam?" my friend asked me conspiratorially.
I was standing barefooted in the garage, reinstalling Windows 2000 on his computer which he had once in the mists of time (a year and a half ago) obtained from this household's good offices, cobbled together from parts from Fry's. I had been trying gamely to install a FireWire card into it that would allow me to hook up my old iPod to it and thus bequeath it to him, but three separate FireWire cards were unable to prevent the computer from plastering the screen with sequences of dialog boxes saying Unable to copy file from \Devices\Hard Disks\F\Apple Computer DH230P\Volumes\iPod Control\C13245; this data has been lost. Please try to save the file somewhere else, each one taking some three minutes to time out the system and appear, whenever I plugged the iPod in. Maybe a nuke-and-pave is what's needed. Hell, couldn't hurt.
I wasn't sure how to respond. This was a friend who fell into the Michael-Moore-may-be-a-little-dishonest-but-he-sure-does-make-you-think category, and his history of cleaving to Scandinavian allegiance despite having been born in Michigan of Chinese/Filipino and Jewish parents made me wonder where he was going with this. He did say we, though, not they, so there was hope.
"Uh... no?" I wasn't sure if he'd meant had I heard that Saddam had been captured, or if he had some juicy tidbit that I in my lotus-eating-media-addled sheeple-stupor had no doubt missed. It was the latter.
"The Kurds turned him in."
Really? I thought. I paused. "Really?" I said.
I hadn't heard this news. And I was unsure how to respond. He delivered it with a broad smirk, as though it was a deeply scandalous secret, but I wasn't sure in which direction I was meant to bristle.
He added, "And you know, none of the American news outlets have reported this, of course."
So it was evidently some source of embarrassment that the US Army would never admit, and that the gung-ho war-drum-banging Western news media would never let us hear, relentless as they are to give us the impression that the war is going well and that we are right to support our troops there, no matter how hopeless the fight. I wasn't sure why I should find this particular news to be bad, but I decided to be skeptical anyway, just to buy time.
"Um... where did you read this?"
He smirked again. "The Norwegian news," he said. "So far I haven't seen it picked up by anyone else."
Ah, I thought. Now, I like to consider myself fairly well abreast of the news, even though I barely even read the big media sites anymore-- I used to reload CNN.com obsessively every morning post-9/11, waiting for the next big headline that never came. But ever since Iraq, there's been nothing of interest to me there, and every bit of useful news I've heard has come filtered via my favorite blogs. A self-destructive and dangerous technique, I know, but one that's indicative of the times at the very least, yes?
"That's the kind of thing I'd like to see some corroboration on," I said, trying to keep the edge off my voice and sound appropriately disinterested. As I tapped on the keyboard, dragging files to the backup server (my G5 upstairs) and trying to keep Windows from going Eeee! There has been a sharing violation! You can't copy NTUSER, you numbnuts!, I racked my brains trying to figure out how the American soldiers being tipped off to Saddam's whereabouts by Kurdish elements constituted a scandal. "Tell me," I added after a moment's thought. "If the Kurds knew where Saddam was, why did it take so long to find him? Wouldn't they have been the first to jump up with the news, like months ago?"
"It was a tribal rivalry thing," he told me. "The Kurds had a score to settle with him."
Well, durn tootin', I thought. Still not sure why they'd have waited until December to go waving their hands at teacher and point accusingly into the septic tank. And still not sure why we should be embarrassed by this, or why the Zionist-controlled media agents should consider it a piece of dangerous morale-sapping agitprop unworthy of reporting to the proles. Not sure how he meant to spin it as a failure of what he would so chortlingly call "military intelligence"; after all, we had to get our tipoffs from somewhere, didn't we? It's not like we could just take a picture of Saddam-- including several bearded variants, worked up in Photoshop: Santa Claus, Saruman, Evil Twin Spock goatee-- and a recording of his voice, feed them into the orbital laser satellite network, and wait for it to report that it had detected a lifeform matching those criteria in a hole outside Tikrit... right? I'd always assumed that some Iraqis had been the canaries, and if they were Kurds, well, good for them, eh? So much the better. Why be embarrassed?
"Well, he's like Little Miss Muffet-- he's always had Kurds in his way," I said uncertainly. He groaned, and we went back to tinkering.
Anyway, it's been a weird Christmas. Up at 6:30 this morning, to match the down-home schedule of my folks who work in the non-nerd sector; and besides, presents should be opened by the light of sunrise, with the Northern California fog standing resolutely against any attempt by the cold watery gray sun to burn it off-- not under the brisk clear light of midday, when I'm accustomed to getting up. So breakfast-- something I enjoy approximately once a year, oddly enough-- and gift-opening, and calls to brother and his wife in Atlanta, and walks around the house, and petting of barely-familiar cats, and examination of several bullet points on Post-It notes regarding odd behaviors of the venerable iMac which must be looked into with all my boundless Mac OS 9 expertise, and relatives popping by later in the morning, and chin-stroking examination of the redwood deck that my dad insists is infinitely crappier than my new one, despite the fact that it's still sound and sturdy after twenty years-- merch-grade wood nailed to joists or no.
And a couple of hours in the interim spent reviewing my final PDFs for the book-- yeah, yeah, I know, this has dragged on far too long for there to be any suspense left. It reportedly goes to print on the 30th, so I have until the 29th to get my revision notes in, and to cross my fingers and hope they are feeling the charity of the season enough to change "editable" to "selectable" on page 276, and many other such piffling trivial changes which in fact make critical differences in the meaning of the text. I've got three chapters left to check, and then I send in the file. And I'm home free.
I left at about 2:00, and by the time I got home the tryptophan from the midday turkey was getting to me; I hadn't even been able to properly enjoy the fact that on the whole three-hour drive back down south, I'd followed the last heavy raincloud from the recent storm as it lumbered its way down the peninsula, and as I crossed into the East Bay to skim down 880 it was the only dark spot in the entire sky, still determinedly dumping down a distant curtain of mist onto the hills that were lit face-on with the golden setting sun from off to my right, looking startled as though caught in the act of something sordid. As though to reassure the hills, the sun caught the high rain curtain and blasted it into the brightest, strongest, most long-lasting and complete rainbow I've ever seen, with a double and even a triple band, standing there off my left shoulder all the way from Oakland to Milpitas. Finally as 880 turned southwest I found myself facing directly into the sun as it ducked behind the long rolling cloud-bank rumbling over the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains at the southwestern edge of the valley, and it lit the back edges of the cloud bank with a lick of flame as the end of the Gandalf movement of Johan de Meij's Lord of the Rings Symphony played on my iPod. If you know the music, you know why it is that turning a wide bend on the freeway to face the setting sun as it shoots its dying yet triumphant rays through the nooks and crannies of a mattress of cloud, with the crashing chords of this music playing at high volume, is as close as you'll ever get to seeing end credits start to roll up the blue sides of the mountains.
I was pretty beat when I got home; so after some hazy gift-exchanging, I retired to try to catch up on the last few Bleats. And to give you some idea of just how out-of-it I was feeling by that point, when I read James' explanation that the superiority of the Krispy Kreme donut stemmed from the fact that it contained no fean meat, I nodded sagely and stupidly, like Arthur Dent, and kept reading. It wasn't until the end of the column that I stopped and thought, wait a minute, and went back to see what it really said.
Then I fell flat on my bed and took a nap. I slept gratefully through until 11:30, when I was awakened for Christmas steaks. Two nice thick broiled sirloins. Very tasty and tender, as a matter of fact.
Not fean at all.
(We never did get the computer fixed, by the way.)