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Thursday, January 25, 2001

You would have been proud of me yesterday, the way I resisted. All those things I want and can't have, all those things I've given up, called out to me, like the sea of faces in What Dreams May Come. (You know, I hated that movie so much, it makes me want to see it again. It couldn't have been that bad. I must have missed something.

It was my first real shopping trip since I resolved not to buy any new CDs, books or DVDs for myself this year. I was in Best Buy and didn't even look at the new music and movies. I was in Crown Books and bought just one book - for my cousin Nick, who turns twelve next month. (Of course, I'll read it before mailing it off to Iowa, but I didn't buy it for myself. I was really glad Nick was having a birthday, though.)

But I have to confess that I did spend some money. I was in Office Depot for the usual, copy paper, bubble-pack mailers, that sort of thing. But I knew what I really wanted before I even headed over there on my morning errands. I've been looking at new keyboards for weeks, because my space bar has been sticking. I've run so many words together that I nearly invented a new language.

And I've wanted an optical mouse since I heard they'd improved them. So I used the company charge card and bought us (me, that is) a fairly inexpensive Internet keyboard and a pretty costly mouse. Then I came back home and spent half of the afternoon installing them and programming the hot buttons and trying things out on them. It was like a vacation in one day. It was almost as good as Christmas. I have new toys to play with, and they make my job easier.

In fact, I had no idea how hard the old devices were making my job until I started typing on a keyboard that works smoothly and doesn't make me jam my thumb down on the space bar from about a foot and a half in the air, just so "just so" doesn't turn into "justso." It's like cruise control. It's like growing wings and soaring like a hawk, instead of plodding through the high weeds like a turkey.

And this mouse! There were cheap ones. Some were on sale. But I knew what I wanted. The reason I got the expensive model was for the programmable extra buttons. Right now I've got one of them set on F11 (so that I can toggle "Full Screen" on the browser) and the other one set to "Show/Hide Desktop." Whee! It's a festival of geekdom. (One of the minor festivals, though. It's the Cloverdale Citrus Fair, not World Expo 2001.)

But mainly, I don't need a mouse pad. I hate mouse pads. I've never had one that didn't get all grungy, and I've had only one that didn't cause the mouse ball to stick at the most inconvenient times. Optical mouse: no mouse ball. It slides across any surface that's handy, including the top of my desk and whatever happens to be lying on top of my desk. (Which is a good thing, because there's always a big pile of sludge on top of my desk.)

Oh, but I didn't waste the whole day playing with my new toys. Just half of it. The other half I wasted staring out the window with my binoculars in one hand and my Audubon Field Guide in the other. Three new bird species were welcomed into my yard today. New since I've lived here anyway, which is less than six months. But still. That's a lot in one day.

Okay, it might have been only two new species. I'm a bit flummoxed about the different kinds of sparrows. What I think is that I've been making the garden into a very comfortable home for a flock of song sparrows, and today a group of six or eight house sparrows decided to pay a visit. But it's possible these birds have been here before and I wasn't alert enough to tell the difference.

But I know for sure I've never seen a northern red-shafted flicker before. At first, by the size and some of the coloring, I thought it was the kestrel that's been hanging around. Then I noticed the long, sharp, decidedly un-hawk-like bill. I found it in the guide in the woodpecker section. I get a little thrill when I definitely identify a species according to the picture and description in the book.

The black phoebe is apparently a fairly common bird in California and the southwestern United States. It's just that it hasn't been at all common in my garden, until today. I got kind of excited when I saw the shape of the head and the color combination and realized it wasn't one of the birds I've grown accustomed to since I started madly thumbing through the field guide every time I spot a creature I don't recognize.

I need to take the garbage out. There's something in it that smells a little less like a rose with each day that passes, and it needs to go out. So why don't I remember to take it out in the daytime, when it would be a quick trip through the sunshine? Why do I think of it at night, when it's cold and dark out there?

Do you know how hard it is for me to go into a bookstore and buy just one book? And that one was a young adult paperback costing less than five dollars. But I guess that was the point of the resolution, to save money while not accumulating more books until I've read some of the dozens I already own.

I've been looking for a comprehensive bird identification site on the web, and while trying to sort out all the different kinds of sparrows I came across the Patuxent Bird Identification Infocenter, which is also where I borrowed the links above from. (And that sentence ends with not one but two prepositions, but it was the best I could come up with.)

Oh! And the new mouse? It has a red light that glows from underneath it, like something out of Roswell. Really cool.

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