Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

Didn't feel like a costume today. Jesse, our admin. assistant does a real mean "Pedro" (from Napoleon Dynamite) though. I put up a "Vote for Pedro" sign on the office door.

The office got me a birthday cake -- and now it really needs to go into the freezer until S. is home.

It's almost 8:30 -- about a half hour since the last trick or treaters, so perhaps they are done. (except for the 19 year olds who don't even bother with the costumes -- yeah, as if I'm going to give you candy! -- so I think I'll turn out the lights and curl up in a back room with a book.)

S. got me a "mighty mouse" for a present, since we didn't get my scroll mouse back from the burglary. (Sgt. Tate did try to give me an iPod, when I went to the station to pick up our stuff, but it wasn't mine.) Still trying to figure out the mouse -- it has a teeny tiny scroll ball, and it's supposed to go up and down and side to side. It goes up and down, but when I try "side to side", it goes BACK a page! Not good!

I did post on Navy Diary blog some tonight. The next entry will be the sinking of the Astoria at the Battle of Savo Island, so that should be on the exciting side.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Got a Letter From Ronnie Earle Today

Got a letter from Ronnie Earle today -- well, from the Victim/Witness Services division of the Travis County Office of the District Attorney. (This would be the same Ronnie Earle of the Tom DeLay criminal investigation.)

It looks like the case against our burglars is progressing:

State of Texas vs. Gary Z.
Charged with: Burglary of Habitation
Cause Number D03052341

The Victim/Witness Service just wanted to let me know that they "know this is a very difficult time for you and we would like to help you in any way we can."

Well, since we recovered most of the stolen items, and it has been a few weeks, and I'm not frightened when I open the door at home any more as well as sleeping better, I probably won't need their help, but it's nice to know that they are offering their services.

I guess it will be too much to expect that the citizens of Austin & Travis County will receive a letter from Victim Services in regards to the DeLay case. Well, what could they do? Give us back our districts?

(Guess posting this means I won't be selected for the jury!)

The Reality of Ecuador

Again another day of nothing to write about, so I'm revisiting the past -- a journey to Ecuador and the Galapagos. Click on the title of this link to read the introduction to my journal. Hope to add a few chapters to both my dad's navy diary (see below) and the Ecuador journal every few days.

Friday, October 28, 2005

What's Blogging Today

eh, nothing to blog about today, so I'm transcribing my father's WW II Navy diary at the link above. If I get some exercise and loosen up the shoulders and arms a bit, I might get started tonight on putting up my Ecuador journal. (Click on the "What's Blogging Today" title above to go to the Navy diary.)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Gilgamesh's Island

O.K., I have to restore S's reputation after that last post (My Technologically Impaired Spousal Unit), so here is a filk he did a few years ago that is sung to the tune of Gilligan's Island (and we'll probably edit this from time to time over the next few days)

From the Nord-Deutsche Hydraulic-Civilisations Komedieszeitung 4/1/69
(Scott Ingram with help from susanbrown)
(sung to “Gilligan’s Island)

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from this Punic port
aboard this tiny ship

The mate was a bold Sumerian
the skipper brave and sure. . .

Five passengers set sail that day for a 3-hour tour . . .
a three-hour tour

The weather started getting rough
the tiny ship was tossed
If not for the courage of the fearless crew,
The Sardine would be lost. . .
The Sardine would be lost.

The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle. . .
with Gilgamesh, the skipper too . . .
the moneychanger and his wife . . .
the hetera . . .
the Greek Magus and Mary Anne
here on Gilgamesh’s Isle

Now the skipper and Gilgamesh must do their very best
to make the others comfortable in their tropic island nest

No wine no lamps no chariots,
Not a single luxury

Like Enkidu the wild man, it’s primitive as can be . . .
It’s primitive as can be."

It's a riot when he sings it -- if you ever have a chance, ask him to sing it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My Technologically Challenged Spousal Unit

Last night I sent S. a text message that said, “This message was sent from a sweet little iMac G4 that is glad to be home.”
After giving him a reasonable period to respond (45 seconds), I called him – landline to landline.

“Scott! Go get your cell phone.”

“Uh, o.k.”

“You’ve got a text message – read it, please.”

Sounds of big thumbs fumbling on little keys. After about 5 minutes he was able to access the message, but once he got to the message, he immediately realized that this meant that we got the computer back. As well as the printer, pressure washer, 2 tv’s (one is going to the ranch), printer, DVD player, and most importantly, my mother’s guitar.

We didn’t get back the fax/answering machine. My little bit of schadenfreude is that it never worked well, and the darn thing has a 60 page manual that we still have in our file o' manuals. The .22 rifle wasn’t recovered, either.

So, after exactly one month, this chapter is pretty much over (there may be some trial or hearing dates, but perhaps not).

Our next task (and this should be yours too, if you haven’t already done so) is to:
1. record all serial numbers
2. mark your driver’s license number (TX 000002 DL) on everything that is mark-able. UTPD has engravers on loan (or free?) for members of the University community, and I’m sure many other police departments do also.
3. take pictures of all valuables and write the date & serial number on the pictures.
4. keep copies of these records and pictures outside your home – i.e. your office or a safe deposit box.
(Thanks to Detective Tate for some of these suggestions. And a big thanks to Detective Tate and everyone else on his team for the hard work they did in this case!)

We had serial numbers for a lot of the items, but not all in one place, so we spent a lot of time getting the information together for the police department and insurance company. Having everything in one place would have saved a lot of time and stress.

Other things we are doing:
1. S. put locks on our back door gates – if someone really wants to get in they can, but we’re not going to make it very easy for them. He's going to make one of the gates stronger too (or perhaps replace it).
2. Adjust the dog door so no one can reach up and unlock the deadbolt.
3. We’re going to bring the Ford Ranger that they aren’t using in Ft. Worth to put in the carport here. I’ll alternate between taking the Ranger and my car to work, so that it won’t look like we are parking a car there to make it look like someone is there. (When we lived on Barton Hills Dr., we didn’t move one of our cars out of the carport at all, and after 6 months, someone came to the door and asked if we wanted to sell the car. So people notice when cars just sit there.)
4. We used to keep the radio on when we were gone – guess we’ll go back to doing that. Perhaps there’s a way to rig it so that when someone approaches the door, the radio goes on?
5. Alarm system? Perhaps we should get some sort of alarm system?

I’m open to suggestions, here – just click on “comments” below and add your security ideas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Just wondering. . .

How did all of those footprints get on the parking garage elevator doors? If you stand in the elevator and look at the door, there are BIG footprints all the way up to the top of the door -- and not just one or two, more like 10 or 12.

Are people jumping up and kicking the door (but with their whole foot and not just the toe, the way normal people kick?)

Or are they taking off their shoes and pounding them against the door?

just wondering. . .

Saturday, October 15, 2005

New Favorite Word

For years, my favorite word has been "defenestrate" -- to throw something (or more apt, someone) out a window. From the Latin de- (off, or out of) and fenestra, window. Interesting is that the German word for window -- das Fenster comes from the Latin (at least I think -- haven't researched it and it could be a, a, uh, false cognate.) There is an old Germanic term -- Windlass from which English gets our window.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you have gone forever without hearing/knowing a word, and then you hear it once and suddenly it is all over the place? When we moved to Germany, we took a book (such a hard decision, which books to take and which to put in storage) by M. Hunstberger (?), The Quintessential Dictionary, and that's where I first came across "defenestrate."

When I visited Prague with some friends, we got to visit the sites of the "Defenestration of Prague". There were at least two defenestrations of Prague, but this was the one that kicked off the Thirty Years War. As an aside, wherever you go in central Europa, you will find a monument to the event that kicked off the Thirty Years War. In this defenestration, a couple of governors were thrown out of a castle window -- they landed on some manure and survived. (The defenestratees of the first defenestration weren't so lucky -- I think five or six of them died.) What is it with Praguers (Pragians? Praguites?) and defenestrations?

Now vying for position of my new favorite word is "snarky" -- it's one of those words that you just know what it means even when you have no context. Supposedly it is a contraction of "snide" and "remark". (and I haven't forgotten Lewis Carroll's Snark, either.)

They Killed the Cat!

When I was going through the house after the burglary, I looked up at a high shelf in the storeroom and saw a cat paw sticking out from the shelf. "Oh, no! They've killed and dismembered our cat!" I actually started to cry, and then I gingerly touched the protruding foot, and then Prince Genji stretched, trilled and looked down at me -- "well hello, what's for dinner?" What a relief.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

WooHoo Two!

Follow up to our burglary story --

This morning I had an appointment with Detective Tate to discuss our burglary. It seems that some people had burgled 3 homes in our neighborhood, 5 in East Austin, and perhaps another one somewhere else in Austin. One of them (we’ll call her “Miss H.”) took the loot to a pawn shop (perhaps more than one?) where the serial numbers were entered into a data base that the Austin Police check on a frequent basis.

In the meantime, Miss H. and her bad-news boyfriend “borrowed” a friend’s car and drove to San Antonio. They didn’t return the car in a timely manner and the friend reported the call as stolen. They were caught with the car in San Antonio, and the boyfriend was incarcerated. Because Miss H. had used her own i.d. to pawn the stolen goods, she was of course apprehended when they ran her name through the system.

After a night with her mother (whom it appears somehow got some sense into her), Miss H. decided to cooperate with the police. She drove through Austin with them, pointing out the crime scenes and giving quite detailed information about each one. “We hit this one early in the morning. We entered by reaching up through the dog door and unlocking the door. We took X, Y, Z, and A, B, C.” (that was our house.) She was so detailed and thorough that Detective Tate asked her, “Why, with such a detailed memory are you doing this with your life? – there has got to be something better you can do with those skills.” (I'm thinking the same thing -- waitress, doctor, biologist, secretary, you name it, she could use those skills.)

Detective Tate did assure me that my mother’s Mossman acoustic guitar (with the Sitka Spruce top and the Brazilian Rosewood back) had been recovered. The Apple iMac was probably recovered too – they are still sorting through the detritus of 8 or 9 robberies. (and perhaps detritus isn't quite the right word, since we hope the stuff hasn't disintegrated and eroded. "the remains of 8 or 9 robberies"? "the odds and ends of 8 or 9 robberies"?) We now have to wait for the property hearings (which come after pleas, trials, and sentencing), unless the pawn shops are willing to sign waivers. Our detective assured us that he was going to try to do all he could to sweet talk the pawn shops into signing the waivers. (We're thinking that his "sweet talk" isn't what you think of when you think "sweet talk." Maybe some serious arm twisting?)

Detective Tate and the rest of the burglary team at APD rock!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

College Day

Last Friday morning I got a call from a high school student who said he wanted to visit our university today. We frequently have prospective students visit, but this one said something about our tour -- which we don't have. I explained that we were an advising office -- which major(s) are you interested in? He thought a moment and said, "Physics." He said that he was coming from a suburb near here and would arrive before 11:30.

At 11:25, this group of four high school students came in -- bouncing off the walls, to boot. "It's our College Day, they let us out for the day, we're supposed to be visiting colleges today!"

Since my office has 3 visitor chairs, and I had files and advising cards on 2 of them, and we weren't anticipating any other student visits before noon, I said, "Why don't I just talk to you out here in the reception room? What would you like to know about our school and physics?"

"Well, what can you do with a degree in physics?"

Perfectly good question, one of the more common ones (especially from the parents), so I went into my usual spiel about majors/careers/grad & professional schools/government/business/industry/teaching/etc. (and also how the job they may get 5 or 6 years from now might not even exist today.)

Then the girl pipes up -- "What time & where is cheerleading practice?" --- which, having been unceremoniously kicked out of pep club in high school, totally threw me for a loop, "Uh," I asked the other advisor, "do you know where cheerleader practice is?"

Two of the other guys are bouncing in and out of the room. A couple of similar questions are asked and answered.

One of the students has been studying the mass of students and faculty walking past our glass doors -- he looks at his buddy and then asks me, "Is there a dress code here?" (at this point I want to say, "Normally suits and ties, but this is casual Friday.")

Then the student who asked the dress code question has another one, "Can we walk around here?"

I know now what I need to do. They really don't want to be here -- they just got released for a day, and they want to have a chance to goof off a bit. Turning to the student who asked the only question pertaining to academics, I ask, "Do you need a letter from me to take back to your teacher or counselor?"

"Yes, but him and her are already out of school. Just him and me need a letter."

I quickly type out a letter and gave the two who weren't "already out of school" (does that mean they've graduated early? . . . or dropped out?) some information about our office and majors. "Well, I hope I see you back here in a year or so."

"Thank you, ma'am!"

(note, I've made it a point not to blog about my students or colleagues, but these aren't my students -- YET!)

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Tonight as I pulled into the driveway (late, as I'd gone to a lecture in the CS dept. -- more on that later), I felt my cell phone vibrating. (Mid-way through the lecture I'd realized that the ringer was set on LOUD -- Dr. Cline didn't look like the type to appreciate a roaring rendition of "Scotland the Brave" during his talk -- so I set it to vibrate, and forgot to switch it back afterwards.)

It was Scott on the phone (he's the only one who calls me on the cell anyway) and I said, "I'm in the driveway."

"Oh," he said, "I'll come out and talk to you like a normal person," and within a few seconds he was by my car. "There's a message on the answering machine that you should listen to -- it's the second one on there."

Could it be -- I couldn't bring myself to think it, but yes, it was a Detective Tate, who said, "We caught some people in San Antonio who were responsible for the burglary of your home. Can you call me on Monday to set up an appointment to give a full statement? And can you get me an itemized list of what was taken?"

WOOHOO! They caught them! Now, if only they still have some of our stuff -- in priority order, we'd really want my mother's guitar, the computer/printer, and Scott's rifle. (We want the other stuff, too, but those are the most important/valuable on several levels.)

We haven't felt this good in a couple of weeks, so we went and celebrated with enchiladas (w/verde sauce) and a Mexican martini. (o.k., Scott celebrated with a diet coke, since he is the designated driver.)


Monday, October 03, 2005

Being Burgled

It's taken me a couple of weeks to recover from this experience -- I was physically ill for a couple of days -- nauseous, etc.

I came home one Tuesday at noon -- not my normal routine, but I needed a break after surviving the first couple of weeks of add/drops at school.

The patio door was slightly ajar, which raised a bit of an alarm, since I'm pretty careful about locking doors, checking doors, rechecking doors. I pushed the door open with my toe, and knew right off something was wrong, since the armoire and store room doors were open. "OH NO!" -- ran back to the "Room of Music and Contemplation" (most people would call this a living room) and the computer and printer were gone.

(And in retrospect, I probably shouldn't have gone into the house as soon as I noticed things were amiss -- what if the burglars were still there? Of course, there weren't any cars around.) I went out into the yard, just as one of our retired neighbors pulled up -- they'd been gone all morning and hadn't seen anything. Another retired neighbor emerged -- same thing -- didn't see a thing.

Called the police -- 311 -- someone took the basic info and said that someone would contact us to get us a case number and take fingerprints. Called S. in Ft. Worth -- "You have GOT to come home NOW" -- he was there by 5 p.m.

At some point I went down the hallway -- an old, small tv/vcr was missing from my "clutter" room. All of the drawers in our bedroom had been rifled through, and the canvas baskets in one of the closets had been overturned. Nothing was missing from the bedroom, though -- not even my mother's squash blossom necklace and some other Indian jewelry.

Other things missing -- a larger TV, perhaps 8 years old -- the color was always sort of washed out, and we could never get it adjusted properly; a fax/answering machine that came with a 60+ page manual (which they didn't get) which never worked well -- you could never set the answering machine for 4 rings; a Karcher pressure washer (brand new, with special release fittings added by S.); an old DVD player that we'd never hooked up; and worst of all, my mother's guitar -- a 76 Mossman Great Plains, which needs a lot of expensive work to be playable. (I've already contacted the manufacturer, and need to contact some other repair places, although the one place I had look at it in Austin recommended that we have the manufacturer work on it.)

The police never came that first day, and I was too sick/stunned to care. S. realized a rifle was missing, so I called them the next day and told them that -- they apologized profusely, and S. said someone was at the house within an hour to take fingerprints -- he said they spent more than an hour on forensic stuff.

We did have the serial numbers for the computer, gun, printer, power washer and guitar. I don't care about the other stuff -- in fact, I get a secret joy knowing the hassle they are going to have with the fax machine -- you can't even use it as a printer anymore, since something I did to it the last time messed it up. It was in the storeroom until we had a yard sale.

We're not 100% sure how they got in. I'm so sure that I locked the patio door -- Scott thinks he may have left the kitchen door unlocked (yikes, for two weeks), but I think I would have noticed that. There is a BIG dog door in the kitchen door that we were using for the cats -- the detective said she could crawl through that if she didn't have her belt & gear on. Someone could have reached up through the dog door and gotten the deadbolt key -- in fact, that key was missing, so we rekeyed all the locks. We also put locks on the backyard gates -- someone could still break in if they wanted too, but this will make it a little more difficult. S. made the dog door smaller, too.

The woman we bought the house from told us once, "Oh, there's always people coming in and out the house -- we don't even lock the patio door, and I always keep a key on the kitchen window sill." The first thing we did when we moved in was change the locks, and the first thing we did after the burglary was to have the locks rekeyed.

Well, off to check Craigslist, eBay, pawn shops, etc.