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I'm home, by the way. The east-coast trip was good, but tiring. I seem to be mostly or maybe even entirely over my cold.

House update: the painter I hired just before I left painted the deck and almost all the internal walls, and it all looks good. Unfortunately, the handyman(?) guy who was going to start working on the place while I was gone didn't do so, nor did he provide the estimates (written and by phone) he said he'd give me last week. I left him a message yesterday. Today I called another handyman, the one who was recommended to me previously but whose schedule didn't match mine before I left town; I'm hoping he'll be quicker to respond.

I went over and picked up mail at the new place yesterday. The previous owners were catalog shoppers; there must've been at least a dozen catalogs in the mailbox. Yesterday and today, I called all of them and asked for various names to be removed from their mailing lists. In almost all cases, the customer service people have been courteous and friendly about it. (I haven't seen or heard from my customer-service demon in months. I'm hoping that it's gotten bored with me and moved on, but perhaps it's just saving its energy for something really spectacular.)

As I waited to reach the customer service people, I sometimes paged through the catalog to see what was in it. I was half-tempted to order some luggage from the Eddie Bauer catalog. I want durable luggage, ideally non-leather, definitely non-velcro, ideally with metal zippers and comfortable shoulder straps and so on; the TravelPro duffel bag I've been traveling with is almost perfect for me, except that it doesn't have wheels. But I won't be traveling again for a while, and I don't need more Stuff just before I move.

In the Catalog Favorites catalog, I found an entertaining item: "Set of 3 Sterling Silver Celtic Weave Rings." They look reasonably nice, actually, and the set of 3 costs $19.95. The funny bit is the accompanying text, which says, among other things: "Worn separately or together, they make wonderful friendship rings or wedding bands." Now, I'm in favor of not spending a fortune on wedding rings, but it seems to me that $7 (or even $20) may be just a tad chintzy.

Let's see. I seem to find myself repeating things Arthur H. () points to a bunch lately; I'm going to continue that trend by pointing to a very disturbing (and quite well done) set of images of George W. Bush's face on female models' bodies. (Possibly not work-safe, depending on your workplace.) Some of them are remarkably well integrated.

Just so I won't end on that note, I'll mention that I'm v. pleased about today's big news in the computer world: iTunes and the iTunes Music Store are now available for Windows. Hope they do well. There are also a bunch of new iPod accessories, most notably the Belkin iPod Voice Recorder, which lets you record voice memos on the iPod. I have no idea what the quality is like, and I suspect it's not ideal for my purposes, but it's awfully tempting. What I really want is to be able to record notes, comments, and (ideally) fiction while I drive, and have it automatically transcribed into ASCII, but that would basically require speech-recognition software on a PDA, plus a microphone that can record usable speech in a noisy environment. But the iPod voice recorder might provide just enough of that capability to be useful; it would be just enough more convenient than my Walkman-sized tape recorder that I might use it. Unfortunately, it probably also requires holding the unit up to my mouth to talk into it; my tape recorder has a mic input, and when I'm taking long trips I used to clip a miniature clip-on mic to my seatbelt so I could easily talk into it hands-free.

All sorts of gadgety stuff feels like it's on the verge of being where I want it to be. I'm very curious to see what'll be available in five years.

Okay, enough for now. Off to look over my financial situation.

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