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Happy Sith Day!

Darth Vader: If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke: He told me enough. He told me you killed him.
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.
Luke: No. That’s not true. That’s impossible.
Darth Vader: Search your feelings you know it to be true.
Luke: Nooooo. Nooooo.
– Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Happy Sith Day!

If you have been living under a rock for the last month or so, then you haven’t heard about the latest Star Wars movie opening today, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. If you’re like me, though, you’ve been anticipating this movie ever since Darth Vader uttered those immortal words above. Fans throughout the world have been waiting to learn just how it was that Luke’s father became the Rebellion’s worst nemesis. The talk for years was whether or not this was true: was Vader really Luke’s father? If for no other reason, Episode VI begged to be made just to answer that question.

And now, the long awaited prequel has arrived to answer the question that lingered after Return of the Jedi was released: how did it happen?

I remember well the summer of 1977. The closest theater to our house at the time was about a half-hour away. We loaded up in the car, and headed out with showtime listings in hand. It was my first experience of standing in line to see a movie.

I was quite young at the time (not yet a teen-ager), and to stand in a line for longer than the actual length of the movie was unheard of! But it was well worth the wait. I had never seen anything like it. I can still remember the opening sequence, with the scrolling text and slow pan down from the star field to the horizon of planet Tatooine. And then, the small ambassador space ship being chased by the massive Imperial Star Destroyer. The ship was huge! The action intense! Next was the capture of the smaller ship, and the boarding of the Stormtroopers… then Vader. His black garb in stark contrast to the white Stormtroopers, the smoke and the light-colored interior walls. He spoke no words; he only surveyed the damage done by the Stormtroopers, and with just the sound of his breathing apparatus, he waded through the defender’s corpses.

What a rush!

As we all know by now, the heroes win the day, and the evil Darth Vader escapes in his damaged TIE fighter only to regroup and reassert the awesome strength and power of the Empire in Episode V. By the end of Return of the Jedi, our hero has grown up, achieved his goal (“I’ll never turn to the dark side…I am a Jedi, like my father before me”), and set all things right in the universe.

And so it was, but the back story still needed to be told. Back in the 70s and 80s, I read every magazine and novel I could get my hands on to know more of the stories and the characters. I have a copy of the Star Wars comic book (issue #1!) still in my meager collection. From stories and rumors, we all knew how Vader became Vader, but until the prequels, we didn’t really know who he was before he became Vader, or even what caused the transformation. Sure, Obi-Wan gives us a hint in Episode V (“Your father… was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true… from a certain point of view”). Yeah, I agree that this was a weak explanation. We fans wanted more! And with the release of Episode III, we now have our answers.

Older now, I haven’t the urgent drive or desire I had in my youth for long standing vigils, curb-side at the local cineplex. I already know the characters, the plot and the resolution, so I can wait for the waiting lines to die down. The anticipation of the inevitable battle between Anikan and Obi-Wan is the climax of the prequels (as was the battle between Luke and Vader in Episode VI). Even so, these movies still hold a great deal of appeal to me. Some have criticized how Episodes I and II are more dumbed down than Return of the Jedi (ewoks — need I say more?), and that the story isn’t as well written, not to mention awkward dialogue. These points may have some merit; however, to me I encompass the story as a whole and how the parts each pertain to the others. I, too, could have done with a less annoying Jar-Jar Binks, and the unrealistic manner in which Anikan grows up, but Padme still appears to be the same age (and then they fall in love? Ugh. C’mon, George, you should’ve cast a new actress for Padme like you did for Anikan). But the action carries the story along, and with the release of Revenge of the Sith, all of the parts will finally fall into place.

Now, if we can just get those last three movies made, we’ll have Mr. Lucas’ complete vision.

You can always try your hand against the dreaded Sith Lords.

© 2005 – 2009, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


School Is In Session

“If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.”
Edgar W. Howe

Yesterday was the first day of day-care for our daughter. We all thought that her mother would have a really hard time dropping her off, but our girl just snuggled up and went to sleep when she arrived. No crying, no tantrums. Just content to go back to sleep. The center is close to my wife’s office, so she was able to visit with our daughter during her lunch break, and everything seemed ok.

Since our girl is only four months old, this transition shouldn’t be too traumatic. I think the worst part for her is us waking her up at 5:00am– talk about turning the tables! Just when she’s sleeping so well, mom and dad mess up her schedule. It may take a couple of weeks, but she should get the hang of the new routine.

I went yesterday and today for the drop-off, and must say that the place is rather nice. It has key-card security, and there are only two infants to each teacher. Our daughter has her own cubby in which to put things, and a drawer in a small dresser for spare clothes. The kids have daily and monthly goals that are set out for them, including learning to reach and grasp for things, and listening to a variety of music. They will work on face recognition, and other things like shapes, colors and whatnot. They even took a brief stint outside yesterday to enjoy the spring weather. At the end of the day, we get a written report as to how much she ate, how many naps she took and for how long, how her disposition was and all sorts of things like that.

Naturally, as parents we worried all day about her. Was she eating enough? Is she being fussy with her new teacher? Is she napping? Is she too hot? Is she too cold? Is she drooling everywhere? It’s enough to drive one batty with all of the worry. Finally time came to pick her up, and she was lying on the mat on the floor, staring at the ceiling and chewing on her fingers– just like she does at home. Her eyes lit up, and she gave Mommy a big smile, as my wife scooped her up. Crisis over, we packed her in the car seat, and headed home.

All in all, we think it will be good for her, because she is getting exposed to new people and new teaching. However, that doesn’t help to fill the void inside when we drop her off in the morning, all bundled up and drowsy. Like kids at Christmas, we can hardly contain ourselves during the hour drive home so that we can play with her.

And we are well rewarded with smiles, jabbering and a gob of drool.

© 2005 – 2009, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


Home un-Improvement

“Lowes, blows.”

Ok, it’s official. Lowes Home Improvement stores not only suck; they blow. Now, before you start flaming me about how I’m wrong, let me explain the last few shopping experiences I’ve had with Lowes Home Improvement.

Let me take you back to 2002. It was the dead of winter, and we were in the final throes of an ice storm. We woke up Wednesday morning with no electricity, and where we live, it was quite chilly. We went to work, and returned home; still no power. Thursday morning, with flashlight in hand, I called the local power company. When I told them what area I lived in, the customer service representative said, “Ohhhh… you’re in that area.” Not very encouraging. “We don’t expect to have power restored in your area until Sunday.”

Sunday? Crap. Now, we had to scrounge around for a generator. Imagine my good fortune when I found (online) that the local Lowes Home Improvement store carried generators. I called the store to verify that they had them in stock, and was told that there were four left. I immediately placed an order, and arranged to pick it up after work. How great is that?

When we arrived to pick up our generator, for which we had already paid, the employees were unable to find any more on the shelf. They hadn’t tagged it for us to pick up. After waiting for more than a half an hour, they found one that was on some other customer’s cart! Since we had already purchased it, they had to take it away from the other customer and give it to us.

Fast-forward to 2004. I placed another order on will-call for a kitchen faucet, again to pick up after work. Again, I waited for at least a half an hour until someone from plumbing could find one and bring it to the front counter. Hell, I could’ve walked to the plumbing department and pulled the thing off of the shelf myself, but the whole reason I put it on will-call was so that I could come in, pick it up, and leave. How hard is it to pull something aside and tag it for a customer? I’ve worked retail, and I can tell you that it ain’t rocket science!

Ok, now to the piéce de la résistance. You can read about our Mother’s Day issues with the water in our house, which I wrote about yesterday. As a result, our hot water heater died. We decided that we wanted to get one as soon as we could, and discovered that Lowes would be able to install it today! The caveat was that someone had to go to the store and fill out the paperwork before noon. My wife, still home with our daughter, packed everyone up and ran to the store to get the ball rolling.

Well, imagine this: they screwed up the paperwork at the store, and didn’t send out their contractor like they had said they would. My wife had to call multiple times to just get someone to finally admit that they screwed up, and that no contractor would be coming as they had promised, and was indicated on the contract my wife had signed. Then, she was told that although they had promised to have someone out if the paperwork were filled out before noon, that there was no guarantee.

So, here we are, yet another day without hot water. After several more calls to the store, and speaking to the manager-on-call, they told us that the contractor would be out tomorrow between 12:00 and 1:00pm. Folks, that’s 24 hours after the paperwork was filled out. The reason we went with Lowes was because they could install it on the same day; everyone else would be the next day, which is where we now find ourselves anyway. We demanded a discount only to be denied one because, again, it “wasn’t guaranteed.” With the way we had been put out, waiting around for someone to call, and it being their error, you’d think a large, chain-store could afford some restitution in the name of good customer service. Apparently not. Apparently, they’re only interested in our money.

I don’t normally set out to disparage a business, and am usually good about giving companies the benefit of doubt, because I have worked retail and I know that sometime, stuff happens. However, the customer is the reason that the store is in business, and by practicing good customer service a company assures itself of staying in business. Regardless of my opinion, and this musing here, I’m sure that Lowe’s won’t be losing any money, and will continue to do business as it has been.

But they won’t be getting any more of my hard-earned money.

Update: the contractor came in around 11:00am and finished the job in an hour! Great guy, according to my wife, and quite professional. Still, they’re just the contractor, and their performance has no impact on my feelings toward Lowes.

© 2005 – 2009, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.


Happy Mothers’ Day!

“My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.”
– Jack Nicholson

Happy (late) Mother’s Day, to all mothers out there. I apologize for making this an after-the fact entry, but maybe after I explain, you’ll understand.

First, let me say that our little girl’s mom had an o.k. Mother’s Day. No breakfast in bed or anything like that– although, we did go the the local town’s Main Street and had breakfast at their little cafe/diner. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

On Friday, we discovered that we had a leak in the water pipe leading to the water heater. It was a small leak, so we didn’t get flooded out or anything; however, it was most persistent. We ended up shutting off the water main, and draining all of the water lines in the house. This discovery was made late in the evening, so we were in pretty good shape for the night.

Saturday, we woke early, and set out for my brother-in-law’s house in the next state– about an 1½ hour drive. I was going to be setting up a network in his office, so we decided to leave the water off, so we wouldn’t have to worry about the leak getting any worse during our absence. We packed to stay overnight at his home, baby and all. Once again, I’m glad I have the truck!

Well, the network installation took all day, and our little girl fussed all day for being in a strange environment. We decided to bag the overnight trip, and take her home to sleep in her own crib. I tried to perform a repair on the pipe, but after a long day and all that, it didn’t work out.

Sunday, we headed into town for Mom’s breakfast. All of the patrons at the cafe “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” over our baby, and she soaked it all up, gifting everyone with smiles. We called my sister-in-law, who lives about 20 minutes away, and explained our lack of water situation. It was decided that we would all pack up and head to her place for dinner and much desired showers. Before heading over there, we stopped at the local hardware store for some pipe-repair compound, and then shopped at the best SuperFresh around (I love this store, too!). We returned home, and I tackled the pipe with the compound, and let it stand for more than the recommended time. While I waited, I moved the remainder of the wood from off of the corner of the driveway, and stacked it behind the house for next winter.

Dinner at my sister-in-law’s place was Popeye’s spicy chicken! We had a coupon for buy 11 pieces, get 11 free… can they really make money that way? Showered, fed and relaxed on the deck was the best feeling we’d had all weekend. Even our little one got a bath, which she still seems to enjoy. Finally, by the time it got dark we made it back home.

So, you see, it was a long, drawn-out weekend, full of so many time-consuming variables that there was just no time to finish this Mother’s Day update. What, you may ask, has all of this to do with the opening quote from Mr. Nicholson? Absolutely nothing. I just liked it. It is so Nicholson.

I hope that all mothers out there had an enjoyable Mother’s Day. Despite all of our problems and traveling around, my wife assures me that she enjoyed hers. I hope so, because the actual day differed so much from what I had envisioned for her. She told me that she still doesn’t feel much like a mother yet, but that perhaps she would feel more so once she gets that first macaroni necklace, made by our baby’s own two hands.

At least I know what to get for her next year!

Also, Happy Birthday to my brother! He is, once again, four years older than I. =P

© 2005 – 2009, Kharmin's Small Piece of the 'Net. All rights reserved.