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Saturday, August 03, 2002

The Wonders of American Culture

As I may have mentioned, I am now home in the US. I returned on 7/29 (note American-style date) to beautiful Silicon Valley---which I left three years ago---where the evening air is crisp and the mountains rise majestically above the cities.

No, sorry, that's a heat-induced delusion. I actually returned to steamy, sweaty, aggressively flat Houston, where I am sponging off my generous and long-suffering boyfriend "Niles". "Niles" is not Niles's real name, of course. I'll call him that because I know he would not want his real first name used, and because it's too depressing to call him "Neville". Also, he does resemble Niles Crane from "Frasier", if Niles Crane were to take some damned tranquilizers and relax. Niles's real name is famous; many of you would recognize it as a name that inspires loyalty and loathing throughout at least one continent.

Of course, that's not my guy. That's some other guy with the same name.

After three weeks of packing and schlepping boxes, disposing of furniture, and making phone calls---not to mention 21 hours of being confined in flying tin cans---we finally made it back to Chez Niles. Exhausted from our travels, I took him in my arms and whispered tenderly into his ear those words I had been longing to say:

"Honey, show me how the DSL works."

Returning to the US is like coming to Oz (er, wait, bad example). I can't think of an apt example. In Australia, personal computer equipment was kind of hard to come by (especially if you didn't have a car), and expensive. I had a horrible time finding a Linux-compatible modem. When Niles---in a highly uncharacteristic fit of dimwittedness---blew my power supply on Christmas Eve by plugging it into the wall without switching it to 240V (oops), it took us five days to find another, because most of Australia shuts down between Christmas and New Year's, and the computer stores that condescended to open during that time mostly didn't sell power supplies. (The computer store nearest my house I saw open exactly one time the week before I left, as it only opened on weekdays from noonish-to-sixish-or-whenever-we-get-around-to-it, when I was at work. I walked by it many times, and it had the same sun-faded computer game boxes in the window for three years. It was a bit of a shock, that final week, to see the lights on and people inside. This sort of hole-in-the-wall operation was typical for Sydney.)

And DSL is a rarity in Australia. When I left I mentioned to my boss that I could still continue our work (I'm an academic scientist, and being unemployed is no damned excuse to quit working) because of DSL, and he spoke of it as an interesting thing that might be worth having. I told him we were mainly hampered by the lack of a router, which we will need if both of us are to use the internet at the same time.

"A router," he repeated. "You mean, for inside the house?"

Indeed. Muahahahaha! It's good to be back in civilization.