Sunday, December 24, 2006

Holiday Spirit

I've been kinda out of sync with the whole holiday season thing this year.

Case in point, it's Christmas Eve and I spent most of the day painting one of the rooms in the new house and then went for a run before it got too dark. And now I'm sitting home alone at my computer (homes alone what with the new house also being unoccupied) trying to figure out what I'm going to make for dinner. I'm hoping to go out for drinks with some friends later tonight.*

It's just not feeling particularly Christmas-y except for the part where I have to take into consideration whether stores are going to be open and realizing that most people either aren't around or are off doing family things. (Like the SOOTTAD, who's already at the parental homestead.) I haven't been exposed to much of the commercial holiday onslaught because I don't really watch TV, haven't done much (any) shopping (at least in any kind of retail venue) or really been out and about in any kind of traditional/mainstream public space. It's a testament to the busy, I guess. In fact, the first time the whole Christmas music thing really was noticeable was at lunch Friday at a fairly mainstream "Mexican" restaurant in the area. (A regrettable meal, I'm sad to say.)

Anyway, it was an odd feeling seeing the decorated houses on my run (somehow seeing the Christmas tree through a window hits home more than the lights and decorations out front), noticing clusters of parked cars in some neighborhoods where a family gathering was probably taking place or the occasional family packing into a car, presumably heading off to just such a gathering, only elsewhere.

It's actually the first year I haven't flown back to California for holidays. In the past, I've always visited for at least a few days, even if I had to fly out on Christmas day or spent much of my time working at the computer.

But things were just too crazy this year. I knew we were closing on the new house in the middle of December and would have to deal with fixing things up before the SOOTTAD moved back. There was a possible business trip to Texas the week before Christmas. (It thankfully fell through, but still made travel planning difficult.) And I was also feeling a bit reluctant leaving the sick kitty to the care of others. (I trust my friends, but I didn't want to burden them with the frequent medication, supervised feedings, daily poop-scooping, and the general stress and anxiety caring for a ward whose condition could go quickly from bad to worse.) And when I'd normally be planning my flights, I was feeling overwhelmed dealing with the new work project, school demands, a sick kittycat, and new house details, not to mention trying to provide moral support to the SOOTTAD, all on top of managing the normal everyday business.

It was just too much to deal with, so I punted. It was probably the right decision, but it still makes me a little sad. And I've definitely been feeling it more the last few days. I kind of hoped that my parents would decide to fly out and visit me instead. Supposed to be a mild winter this year, y'know. But, no... and I didn't really try to push the issue.

Anyway, after my run I made my first active acknowledgement of the holiday season by putting on Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. I'm listening to Soma-FM's Christmas Lounge broadcast now.

During the run, I was thinking about all this. How I was feeling a bit down. A bit frustrated with the slow progress on the house. Bummed that the SOOTTAD had to leave yesterday afternoon because of filial obligation. That I was left to paint alone. That I couldn't drum up any friends to help me. That I had to fend for myself for dinner tonight. I was hopeful that I could at least hang out with some friends tonight, but that plan fell through too.

But... it is what it is, and I suppose it's as it should be. These little twists and turns, I assume, I hope, have some reason.

After all that, I still felt, I still feel, an underlying sense of gratitude. I'm kinda bummed right now, but in the grand scheme of things, life is good. I have a roof over my head. (Two, even, were I to need it.) I'm worrying about WHAT I'm going to have for dinner, not *IF* I'm going to have dinner. I'm not with my family right now, but I know they're there, and that they love me. I have many, many friends, new and old. The SOOTTAD will be back tomorrow, and actually, I'll be heading out to spend the day with her family.

When I finished my run, the sun had already dipped beneath the horizon but the part of the sky that was still light was still a deep amber and orange. I ended up watching it slowly faded into a sort of pale brightness, silhouetted by the leafless trees around the neighborhood. It was no idyllic, snowy New England winter scene, but it was still a beautiful sight.

Walking back home, I wished on a star.

I guess I'm getting into the spirit of things in my own way.

Happy holidays, folks.

* A friend of mine apparently has a long-standing tradition of going out drinking at Charlie's Kitchen every Christmas Eve with some friends. I was hoping to join them, but this year, one member of the group has a girlfriend who's hosting a dinner and it turned out that the dinner ran late and they had to bag it for the first time in several years. My luck these days, it seems.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pluses and minuses

Cat1 & Cat2, November 2006

Baloo, who I've been referring to as Cat2 here, has been very sick for the past several months and took a turn for the worse this week after the most recent round of chemo*. He seemed to have dramatically less strength and stability in his legs (than the already low baseline of the last few weeks), he wasn't really eating or drinking and was just hiding in the basement for a good part of the evening and following morning.

When I took him to the vet for his appointment the next day, he really wasn't looking good, and talking over the options, I was having a hard time keeping my shit together. Actually, let's be honest: I pretty much completely lost my shit while talking to the vet. I hate it when I can't keep it together. But yeah, he wasn't doing well. The vet remarked that he looked pale (possible low red blood cell count) and that he had a fever, and she talked about the possibility of hospitalization, more testing, antibiotics, a possible blood transfusion, all with a pretty poor prognosis. I was basically thinking that I wanted him to be home in a familiar environment, and wanted the SOOTTAD to be able to spend some time with him as she was flying in the next day (today) before, well, you know...

They left me alone to sob uncontrollably in peace, and I eventually got most of it out of my system or under control, or, well, something. While waiting for the assistant to return, I tried giving him reiki** just hoping that it might make him more comfortable. It turns out there were a number of uncharacteristic snafus including lost samples, and the vet being called into a meeting of some kind -- I was kind of shellshocked and it didn't really phase me at that point. In the end, we decided not to get the bloodwork test results rushed (STAT!), and I took him home with an IV bag of fluids that they had showed me how to administer and the plan was just to keep an eye on him and the vet would call when she had more information.

Through the afternoon, Boo settled down awkwardly on the bed upstairs. It raised my spirits ever so slightly that he chose the bedroom over the darkened basement, but I was still worried. Cat1 (Stimpy, named by the Ex, who for the present we will simply refer to as Tubby McEatsalot because he's been chowing down on all the food Boo hasn't wanted) spent the day with him, and I actually tried to work from bed for a while so I could spend more time with him.

The vet called with the test results: low RBC count as expected, high WBC count -- an indication of a possible infection. Instead of taking him in for more tests, we opted for prescribing a course of antibiotics, which meant another trip back to Angell. I went after dinner, and stopped in on a friend before heading home, and when I got back, he actually came downstairs, crying for food and drinking some water.

We'll take the small victories.

Of course, the downside to the feel-good experience of seeing the cat upstairs amongst the living, is discovering that while he was feeling well enough to want to sleep upstairs through the afternoon and evening, he wasn't feeling quite well enough to actually make it back downstairs to the litterbox. And finding a bed soiled with cat pee some time after midnight just before you're going to climb into it really isn't on my list of the best things in life. Yay, full load of laundry at 1am.

But, y'know? For now, I'll take it.

* Yes, he's getting chemotherapy. One of these days I'll actually get into all that.

** So, uh, yeah, I did a Reiki workshop last month. There's a story there too, but I'm not sure I'll get around to writing about it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A quick observation on Waltham demographics

During a brief stop at the local Shaw's Victory Hannaford's Supermarket down by Main St, I saw not one, but two other asian dudes over six feet tall.

Represent, yo.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Still here

AEM06 Day 8 -- flipbook
Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.


I hadn't really planned on doing AEM this year, but then I decided that I'd do it. And then I figured I'd quit because I had so much other stuff going on. (which was why I wasn't going to do it.) And then I found myself doing art everyday anyway. And then I tried to dial it back.

But it's been just little things here and there, and I haven't really had the time or inclination to post. I figured I'd just check in, say hi, and give y'all a peek at what I've been up to*, which has mostly been listening to this one Leo Kottke song over and over and over again (which surprisingly, hasn't gotten boring... yet), sketching some ideas, figuring out how to use Macromedia Flash. It's been a good break from work, but at times it's gotten a little distracting. (I'm only now starting to recover from staying up late Sunday night/Monday morning.)

Anyway, I thought I might try to visualize how particular scenes would look by making little flipbooks rather than doing it directly in Flash so I went to Staples and bought a pack of scratchpads for the task. I haven't made a flipbook in ages and it's a nice change (along with the Flash stuff) from my usual pen and ink drawings and pencil sketches -- it's been fun.

So anyway, expect only sporadic posts. Hopefully I'll see you around.

* If you're curious about the Flash stuff, drop me a line and I can send you a link to the work in progress. I don't want to post it because it isn't done and I'm hosting it on my personal site that doesn't have a lot of bandwidth.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I listen to Mike, but he's kind of an dick

Mike-FM is one of those new 24/7 shuffle play stations that boasts about their lack of DJs and makes the claim that they "play everything." Whatever. As far as the DJ thing, yeah, they have no DJs, but they do seem to play a lot of bumpers. This becomes relevant later. And as far as the "we play everything" thing, they play everything about as much as Bob's Country Bunker plays BOTH kinds of music (Country AND western.) It's mostly 80's and 90's rock and new waves with some 70's R&B, disco and saccharine pop thrown in. As I said, whatever. I actually kind of like the mix they play, and when they play something that I don't like or find boring, I change the station. No big deal.

Anyway, you may have heard the news: Deval Patrick won the gubernatorial race yesterday. First black governor for the state. First Democratic governor in 16 years. I'm pretty good with all that.

So on the drive into work this morning, I was listening to Mike, and they aired a bumper congratulating the governor elect. Sort of. Backhanded compliment. I don't remember the exact wording, but it essentially suggested that Patrick won because he spent the most money on the campaign. ("glad to see that money talks" or some such.) I looked it up -- it WAS the most money ever spent by all the candidates on a campaign, but the biggest spender in the end was apparently the Republican candidate, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey. So, um, yeah. I guess some money also doesn't talk.

Yeah, that rubbed me the wrong way. (Duh, if it hadn't I wouldn't be here writing about it 12 hours later.) I thought about it though. I tried to be fair; I tried to rationalize it.

This is America, I thought, everybody is allowed to voice their opinion. Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution. (And let's not go into all that business about who controls the channels by which people's voices are heard.)

And it's a radio station that prides itself for it's irreverent style, and they're all about courting that world-worn, cynical late-thirty, forty-something demographic sweet spot. Of course, there's this pattern I've been noticing. I remember being annoyed in the past when they had a bumper making fun of Mike Dukakis. I mean, sure he looked kind of ridiculous sitting in the tank with that helmet on, but uh... that was like, what, almost 20 years ago? I think there's been a Kennedy bumper too.

And sure, this state is largely Democratic, so I can certainly understand that if you're going to be making politically-flavored snarky comments (and for the moment, we'll ignore whether or not it's appropriate to be making politically pointed comments in the first place, 'cos y'know, other broadcasters have suggested that you shouldn't cause controversy) you're going to target the people in power, the ones who hold the political majority. But we've had a Republican governor the entire time that WMKK has been around and I can't remember a single snip at Governor Mitt Romney, even when he was off on his Republican roadshow making fun of his "home state" of Massachusetts.

Not much of a point really, just mixed feelings about listening to Mike, although these days, I've been listening to CDs more anyway.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Playing with flash the evening and now it is about 2 hours until sunrise. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day. *sigh*

Friday, November 03, 2006

AEM06 Day 3 - Still Fighting It

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

I was listening to SUNNY16 on the drive up to work and thought that it might be fun to try and make a video for the song "All you can eat." Not a new idea (that is, I've wanted to make videos before for other songs) but nothing usually comes of it -- maybe an idea for a scene or two, maybe even a few sketches, but nothing more.

But who knows, maybe for AEM. We'll see, we'll see.

I get some propaganda email from amazon later in the afternoon, pushing... Ben Folds transcriptions. Hmm. Keeps Ben Folds on the brain today, at any rate.

Thoughts return to the video. I need to get the song onto my computer, but I've been having issues ripping CDs on my laptop (the last time I tried, the bundled software would only rip to WMV format unless I upgraded... no thanks) so I wandered over to the Ben Folds website to see if there were any free downloads there... and ended up watching videos. I'm a sucker for videos. I hope I can get back on track, but I'm rationalizing now. Maybe something will inspire me at least... and hey, I kind of like the composition from one of the scenes in the video for "Still Fighting It" so I decided to sketch it.

Voila, entry for the day.

As a side note, the title of the song resonates in interesting ways in my brain. It initially conjures up the constant struggle I've been having trying to deal with all the things that need to get done these days. It's overwhelming. And yet, here I am carving out more of my precious time to draw. (And there's struggle there too.) And then to blog. There is no time for blogging and yet ... here I am. Blabbity blah blah. Lots of things on my mind these days but, no time. I have to go to bed. But I recognize the need to create, the need to express. It's food for the soul.

And then the song itself is actually about growing up, or trying not to, and basically failing. And that too is interesting, having wandered over to Molly's site today and read some of her Prego Saucy writings. And I see the change from how she was before. And I've reflected on change and growth and identity. And today it seems that I'm thinking about it in the context of this growing up business that seems to be happening all around me -- new houses, weddings, babies -- all that adult, grown-up stuff. And I recognize that while I'm not feeling old, I am wondering whether maybe I'm doing something wrong, like I got off the bus a few stops early and while I've enjoyed hanging out in these here parts, I wonder if I was supposed to be somewhere else by now. And the question becomes: is another bus going to come along at some point or, to mix metaphors, did I miss the boat?

Honestly, it's nothing so dramatic as that. While things are crazy busy and I've been a little on-edge and cranky, I do think that things are coming together. I am buying a new house. I'm getting married (again). And well, yeah, we're talking about that other thing too.

Ok. It's late, and I gotta get up early for a frisbee tournament tomorrow morning. later.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

And so it begins...

Doodles Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.
Kat is doing Art Everyday Month again this year -- do art everyday for the month of November. (I guess that's kind of self-evident.) I really got into it last year but I've been flat-out crazygonuts busy so I really didn't plan on joining in on the fun this year. There's just too much stuff going on. I keep thinking that I'll write a post about the daily breakdown of my day, but there are at least 3 other posts that have been in the draft stage for more than a month, so I wouldn't count on it. Suffice it to say that on average, I have about 5 hours a day of official "free time" which (at least abstractly without any context) seems like a good chunk of time to get things done, but when it comes down to the brass tacks, and I'm cramming laundry, paying bills, exercise, classes and homework into that time, there's not a lot of wiggle room for general decompress time or social time with friends. I've finally started squeezing in time to read the bookclub book (because I've had the damn thing checked out of the library for almost two months), I haven't really played piano since spring. Picked up the guitar for about 15 minutes yesterday, and immediately felt guilty afterwards. So finding time to make art is definitely going to be a challenge.

So what the hell do I think I'm doing?

Well, for one thing, I know that, like exercise, it's good for me. It's good to get the creative juices flowing. In some ways, it's like therapy. I enjoy getting lost in the process, and even more often, the surprise at the outcome. And I think it's good to have something external provide the incentive to keep going once in a while. And really, sometimes I really do just need a kick in the butt to get me going.

The other thing is that it seems like a pretty good exercise to try out my new "failure plan." The explanation for which is in one of the aforementioned languishing draft posts. But if you're curious, you can probably get the gist of it from Steve Pavlina's article Are You a Failure Germaphobe?

Failure germaphobe? Yes, yes I am. And I'd talk more about it, but I've got a bunch of stuff I need to get done before going to bed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reflecting on the bad guy

So I'm feeling like I'm a bit more on an even keel today and was thinking about my post from the other day.

First off, I realized that there is actually an exception to my No Money For Phone-Callers Rule: students raising money for school programs, specifically, my high school and college, the college fencing team in particular. I remember the days we had to do an annual "Phonathon" for the fencing team. I hated it, but it was something we had to do (along with other unpleasant activities like getting up at 8am to clean up parking lots after football games) to raise funds, presumably because we didn't have that much funding -- I think the phonathon and gruntwork was actually built into the budget. I never stopped to wonder whether the football or hockey players ever had to do that kind of thing. For some reason, I doubt it (at least the early morning cleanup crew business), but you never know. Anyway, I always remember how awkward it was for me to call up random alumni asking for money so I try to make the process and simple and painless as possible.

The other thing I was thinking about was the whole checkout fundraising thing. I have come to realize that when it comes to people asking me for money, I really would prefer to be left alone altogether. I don't like phone calls, I bitch about spam and I complain about junk snail mail. I guess I find the least obtrusive of them to be the snail mail, but I can understand how that's not a good option for underfunded local organizations. And really, the number of trees that die for junk mail is just absurd and depressing.

So how do these organizations raise money? Certainly my preference would be that they be publicly funded, but I recognize that it's reasonable to be concerned about a government that grows too comfortable spending other people's money, but what often seems lacking in that debate is properly making the distinction between charity and the investment in infrastructure and projects that benefit society at large and as a whole. But the question remains, how does an organization reach the right people who are interested and able to give to the cause?

I was thinking about this when I was checking out at the local Hannaford's where they had little coupons that you could use to donate money for breast cancer research. (apparently it's for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation which supports research and community outreach.) Frankly, scientific (and specifically medical) research does seem to be a perfectly appropriate place for the government to be spending money (seeing as the drug companies seem perfectly happy spending their own resources developing meds to help you keep your hard-on), but that's neither here nor there. The main point is that maybe supermarkets (and other businesses) are the right place to reach people. Certainly, it's a good place to provide information and help develop awareness of causes that are in need of funding. My personal preference would be that they just provide information that I could take with me so I could decide whether or not I wanted to write out a check once I got home rather than hit me up for a buck at the register, but perhaps I'm just not your average bear.

But in the meantime, I may need to rethink my default phone response.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Making myself out to be the bad guy

I have a thing about unsolicited phone calls.

If someone calls me up and asks for money, the answer will always be no. Period.

I don't care how good the cause is. I don't care if they just want me to "pledge" some figure that they suggest. I figure giving in just encourages bad behavior. I'll usually try to be nice, but the longer they persist, the more inclined I become to just hanging up on them.

So, just as I was starting to eat dinner tonight, the phone rang. I was hoping it was the SOOTTAD, but ended up picking up to the voice of a gruff voice asking for a Mr. or Mrs. SOOTTAD. At this point, my brain has already identified that somebody is calling the house off of some mailing list and is preparing to make this person go away:

There's no SOOTTAD here. (this has actually been an effective tool for other unsolicited calls since she moved away.)
"Is this [my address]?"
Yes, but there's no SOOTTAD here.
"What's the address there?"
(ok, so now I'm getting a little annoyed) Can I ask who's calling?
"Waltham Fire Department"
He says something about raising money for this and that and then actually goes off on how he can't read the writing on the sheet to properly pronounce the name (the SOOTTAD's last name) and how he can read his own writing but not this writing on the piece of paper he's looking at and then finally asks who I am.

The conversation takes a serious nosedive at this point, but he does get my name and I learn that the Waltham Fire Department (or rather, what sounds like the local union or lodge) is raising money for Waltham youth sports and some equipment (I think for both the aforementioned youths and the fire department themselves.)

I'm sorry. Youth sports? You mean for the kids I don't have? Like the youth sports that don't let me get permits to use the athletic fields in my town? Those youth sports? [To be fair, I'm actually okay with my taxes going towards schools and generally supporting education and after-school activities. I'll probably have kids of my own someday, but I also believe that it benefits society as a whole as an investment in the future. But that's neither here nor there. Just don't call the house and ask for money. Especially on a Sunday night when I'm eating dinner.]

And if the money is for equipment for the fire department, it begs the question, why doesn't the fire department already have the equipment it needs? Isn't that what my taxes are for? I mean, is this like the whole body armor thing?

And I hate to bring it up, but it really bothers me when public services ask for money. I've had the same feelings when police organizations have called. I'm sure it's a bad thing for me to even mention it, but in the back of my mind, I always wonder whether they keep tabs on these sorts of things and it might somehow affect the response time in the case of an emergency. Crazy, I know, but well... there it is: my brain going off and doing its own thing.

And fire department aside, what is up with all the businesses that are soliciting their customers to make donations for this charity, cause or what-have-you? There are a bunch of little orange cards (presumably shaped like pumpkins and bought for some nominal donation) taped to the inside window of the Staples down the street; the local Shawr's routinely asks me if I want to buy a [name seasonal paper icon here] for a dollar for [insert another good cause here]. Crickey, they even asked me for a donation in the Wendy's drive-thru for some education or children's charity fund. I think once upon a time, when a corporation pledged that they would give a certain amount of money towards a good cause, they'd actually DONATE THE MONEY THEMSELVES, not hit up their customers. Apparently these days you can get street cred by simply getting other people to give money for you. Bah.

But regardless, I hope there are no fires here any time soon.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Powerful choices

Some changes can be life-changing. Others, not so much.

Yesterday, I got an offer in the mail to change power suppliers. Dominion (a name that doesn't exactly give me warm fuzzies) is offering to provide electricity to Massachusetts residential customers at an 20% discount to NSTAR's residential basic service rate.

Hey, that actually sounds pretty good.

I guess that deregulation legislation is finally paying off. Almost 10 years later, but let's not pick nits here, some things just take time. It seems like we may actually have real competition here.

...except, that's not their regular rate, it's a special offer; you have to sign up by October 31st. And if that doesn't give you the sense that they want you to hurry up and act now! you might want to take note that they're only offering the rate to the first 25,000 customers who respond. Oh, and the rate only lasts through December 2006. (That's two months for those of you keeping track at home.)

Oh, and supposedly it owns one of the dirtiest power generation stations in the state. Company representatives have suggested that they've made efforts cleaned the place up, (kicking and screaming the whole way, but again, let's not pick nits) and switching to them will support "a company that is working to clean up the local environment through air quality improvements."

There's something to their argument -- it costs money to make those improvements, after all -- but at the moment, given the other issues I have with their offer, I think I'll let my inertia move me, and stay with being disgruntled about NSTAR.

It's too bad identifying another supplier wasn't more straightforward. I mean, the easy choice for me if I had it would be the green alternative from Mass Energy (who I use to purchase my heating oil), but they don't offer it to NSTAR customers.

Oh well.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Lightness against mounting darkness

My only hope right now is that the badness of the recent legislation (can you say arbitrary, unbounded detention and torture?) can be undone, either by the courts or perhaps a more rational legislature. (I hope I'm not being uncharacteristically optimistic or characteristically naive.)

But until then... Free Hugs.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ceding the floor to Mr. Wheaton

The debate over this has been troubling me for the past several weeks, and has aggressively sapped my spirit in the last day or so. It has festered. It darkens the world around me.

And it feels completely outside of my control.

I don't really like talking politics in the workplace -- I prefer to keep my personal life and my opinions separate -- but I vented with (at?) coworkers during lunch anyway. (It seemed to help a little, albeit only briefly.) I called my Senators; it felt empty, hollow. (Although I appreciate the words Kerry has spoken. But they are just words, not action.) And I feel powerless*. (And however cynical it may seem, I do believe that's sort of the idea.) Powerless and paralyzed.

And then I read Wil's Statement of Conscience:

"What the House did yesterday, the Senate looks to do today, and the President will surely enact as soon as possible, is a direct assault on American values, and contrary to everything our country stands for. Though cynically and cowardly enacted as a purely political tool during an election, those who supported this bill do not speak for me, do not act in my name, and do not reflect my values.

"Torture is not an American value."


Thank you.

Thank you for giving a clear and eloquent voice to my thoughts and feelings when all I could do was oscillate between sullen hopelessness and seething anger and frustration.

Ok, I'm going to try and pull myself together and get some work done.

*I'm trying to work on some personal growth stuff right now, so this statement doesn't sit well. In my mind, I'm thinking of it as a rhetorical device because I think it's important that I know that I'm not powerless. I have control over my life, and the hard part is trying to navigate how things affect me, how I affect them, how identity is defined and how I define it. And all that.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Late, lately

Late tomatoes
Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.
The tomatoes have come late this year, partially due to me being so distracted and discombobulated this past spring that I didn't really get a chance to deal with the garden until very late into the planting season (one might say past the planting season, and then not really dealing with it properly), and partially due to an oddly cool and rainy spring and early summer. The melons got a similarly late start, but it looks like they'll be ready before the first frost hits. (Sadly, the yield looks to be about one melon per plant, but hey, I HAVE MELONS!) I did manage to get proper grapes for the first time which was pretty exciting as well as ample carrots and long beans, but we may get only a handful of fruits from the volunteer tomato plants, if they ripen at all. (So far, I've eaten two small yellow pears that ripened sufficiently.)

But, anyways...

I wasn't really thinking about the garden so much as about the general discombobulation of everything right now. I keep planning to post something, but life stuff gets in the way, and by the time I have enough time to gather my thoughts and set virtual pen to virtual paper, the thoughts have gotten listless and wandered off to find something more interesting to do. And once I've stopped writing for enough time, I start questioning whether or not whatever it is that's currently occupying my mind is worth taking the time to sit down and write about it. ...if I could find the time, of course.

So yeah, feeling kinda discombobulated. It was probably just a shock to the system -- the structure and workload vacuum over Labor Day weekend and the listlessness that accompanied it, followed subsequently by the inevitable return of work and the commute and schedules and school and homework and practice sessions, and fall hat starting and... Cat 2.*

Anyway, discombobulated...

We're in the last semester of school, but at the moment, I'm not feeling particularly excited about finishing, I just want it to be done. I'll probably get back into the swing of things, but for now -- eh. It doesn't feel like there's enough time to do the things I want to do, the things I need to do.

Speaking of which, I need to get to bed. Class tomorrow and all.

* Cat 2 was throwing up a lot this year. I was kind of registering it in the back of my head, but it wasn't until the school term was almost over that I actually articulated that he was throwing up pretty much every day. Sometimes more than once.

Vet time.

The diagnosis has progressed from Inflammatory bowel disease to GI lymphoma to possibly some mono-something-or-other to multiple myeloma. In other words, we've been going through a lot of testing and I've been making a lot of trips to Angell in JP, which is a bit tiresome, but still necessary as far as I'm concerned. but hey, I now know how to get to JP from Storrow via the Fenway and Riverway.

So that's been kind of a bummer for most of the summer, but what can you do, y'know? We're just trying to nail down the diagnosis so I can give him the right meds. Things haven't gotten any worse -- he seems to be keeping food down reasonably well and seems alright other than being skin and bones. It seems like he's always hungry which is a good sign, I think.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fear-mongering + Racism = Irony

And of course, this time it's in the U.S. at JFK:

Man not allowed to board plane until shirt with the words "We will not be silenced," written in Arabic and English, is removed or covered-up.

I'd say we've hit a new low, but sadly I think it's entirely possible for him to have been treated even worse.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Raising my Ire

I have another post in the works, but this news report I caught today just ticks me off:

Mutiny as passengers refuse to fly until Asians are removed
Thank you, you fear-mongering bastards.

Now, not only am I supposed to be afraid of hair-gel bearing terrorists, but now I have to worry about some *other* passengers or, potentially worse, some poorly-trained security drone down the road thinking *I* might be a terrorist if I happen to be checking my watch too frequently or am wearing a heavier coat because I didn't want to deal with a larger piece of luggage. I guess that lack of fluency in another language is really paying off for me right about now. And ditching the long hair, too.

Some Good commentary at The Mahablog.

Ironically, I deleted a post on fear and terrorism and never got back to a post I was going to title "No Escape" on how I couldn't get away from all the recent political bullshit flying around since the Connecticut Democratic Senatorial primary and the latest terrorist plot (and conspiracy theories on the questionable timing of the announcement -- does anyone remember the last time Pakistani intelligence led to a premature raid in the UK? Oh right, Here's a reference, it was about a week after the Democratic National Convention in 2004.)

And for what it's worth, I think it's entirely reasonable that Joe Lieberman is still running for re-election, despite losing the Democratic primary -- he is the senator for the entire state of Connecticut after all, not just the Democrats. Forcing him to withdraw because he's not towing the party line feels like something out of the playbook from some Cold War era totalitarian state ...or the Republican party. Which doesn't change the fact that he's a hypocritical, sycophantic lapdog serving an evil and corrupt administration.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ok, that's wie-ud

It appears that my last post somehow had enough keywords in it to get it listed on Computerworld's IT blog watch. That's kind of embarrassing. I guess the folks over there need to work on their filtering algorithm.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pay Attention to me!


So, my office just switched over to a Micro$oft Exchange server for our email. Apparently our previous mail server was homegrown from postfix, and as the company has grown, they've decided that it would be prudent to switch over to a (presumably) more stable, commercially available and supported product to prevent potential problems from popping up further down the road. Cool, whatever. The main guy who takes care of the IT stuff, who also happens to be the lead designer and the primary developer of the verification infrastructure that we've been using (there is also an unverified rumor that he can ride a unicycle while he simultaneously juggles large knives and plays the eukelale), came by my cube this morning to switch me over. He had licenses for a the latest version of Outlook, but it was apparently fine for me to continue using Thunderbird as my mail client -- cool. While showing me the URL for me to get to my email over the web, he tells me that the interface is more full featured if I bring it up in Internet Explorer.

Let's just take a moment for me to mention that I really hate IE. Yes, my working computer is a laptop running XP Pro and I admit that it's much more stable and usable than XP Home ever was. And really, I'm stuck with it because that's the environment that they use at the office. (I've got better things to do than to try and blaze trails and figure out how to do all the things I need to do on some other platform, and besides, they were able to give me a bunch of software for free, that wouldn't have done me any good if I was adamant about running on a mac or on linux.)

I've gotten used to it, but I continue to have bad experiences with all of Microsoft's f'ing "feature"-leadened integrated products, like the last time I listened to a streaming radio feed using WMP and ended up with more pop-ups and random bullshit "enhanced content" than I knew what to do with. I'm sorry, I wanted to listen to music while I was working; do you mind NOT opening up a bunch of fucking new windows -- and switching contexts stupid*grumble*click-to-focus*grumble* -- while I'm trying to get work done here?! And why are you wandering off connecting to all these other websites anyway? I find IE to be clunky, not particularly intuitive, and even though they theoretically have added pop-up blocking, I still don't trust it.

But whatever, I decide to give it a chance and check it out, so I hunt down the path to IE (I've removed it from my desktop) and fire it up. The interface does seem to have more active features than what comes up in Firefox (gee, an interface developed for a web browser that's been tightly integrated to the operating system that has more features than when it's run in a competing browser, go figure. Frankly, it still kinda sucks. And it loses points based on perceived level of difficulty.) Anyway, I figure I'll keep it around and try it out for a while. I figure there's no harm: it's not like I'm going to use IE for any actually web browsing -- I'll just keep it around for email. Seems fine. Although still, having to bring up IE is already strike one, just by default.

So when I got home tonight, I brought up the IE window to check my email. Eh. Still unimpressed. And I still have to log into the VPN, but only in the one window. But even though the interface seems to have more active buttons and folder navigation, I'm not actually finding it any more useful than the Firefox interface. It has the appearance of being more useful, but functionally speaking, that usefulness seems to be effectively zero. As far as I'm concerned, that's strike two.

So I'm surfing around, watch today's show with zefrank. And as I move on to watching "Jon Stewart's Plan for Peace in the Middle East" over at TruthDig I start noticing this strange clicking sound that seems to keep happening every so often.


This happens for a while, and it finally gets annoying enough that I have to hunt down where it's coming from. Do you need more than one guess?

I open the IE window and it appears that it's reloading the page about once every ten seconds. And apparently, every time it does this, someone decided that it was important for you to know that it was off reloading the page. So they made it make a noise. Which I can't seem to figure out how to turn off. And it's about as helpful having somebody sitting at a computer next to you with a web browser open to your inbox constantly hitting the refresh button and yelling "HEY, LOOK I'M CHECKING YOUR MAIL! HEY DUDE, I'M CHECKING YOUR MAIL AGAIN! STILL CHECKING YOU EMAIL! HEY, LOOK AT ME! I'M CHECKING YOUR EMAIL!"

Ugh. Shut the fuck up.

Strike three, you're out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Updates and Observations

Just back from Chicago, visiting the SOOTTAD for her birthday. Great trip, felt kinda stupid flying back Monday morning rather than staying an extra day. I think the idea was that I'd get back into Boston a little after noon and actually get in a half-day's work. It turns out that I probably could have gotten more work done if I had just staying in Chicago and worked remotely -- somehow the flight totally drained me and I ended up just kicking around the house reading a book rather than working -- I'll have to mention that to the senior partner of the group... right after I let him know about my new nap schedule that I'll be taking up at the office. Right.

So anyway, great trip. We ate well: a fabulous meal at Blackbird (although the one bottle of wine and split glass of port totally schnockered us -- geez we are such lightweights) and then another overindulgent frenzy at HotChocolate. I am amused that in both instances, we were complemented by the server on our manner of dining (lots of apps, lots of variety), and only in the latter occasion did it seem like he was being gratuitously obsequious. I would very much like to go back. HotChocolate, in particular, which seemed like the perfect place to just spend a long leisurely afternoon and evening drinking and snacking with friends. Hopefully the SOOTTAD will write something up about the meals sometime soon.

Of course, the whole getting up early thing went out the window with the hangover Saturday morning. And then sleeping in Sunday, was just, well, nice. Maybe I've never really given this early-rising thing a real chance at taking root, but in my experience, I've been able to feel awake: conscious, alert, ambulatory. Whatever. I'm awake. But I don't think I've ever felt rested. Sunday, getting up around 11, even though it was clear that I could have rolled over and gone right back to sleep, it was really nice to feel rested: refreshed, recharged. Sadly, I want more, but I had to be up before 7am to catch my flight, and now I'm back home and I have to readjust again to get up for work. I haven't decided whether I'll try to get back on that horse or just switch over to a slightly more constrained naturalistic approach. We'll see what happens as the week progresses.

Cat2 hasn't been doing that well recently. He was puking pretty much every day and I finally got him to the vet a few weeks ago. The diagnosis came back Friday (right before I flew out to Chicago) Severe Inflammatory Bowel Disease. He's been prescribed Prednisone and Flagyl, which has been a challenge to administer. They're both pills, the Flagyl cut into quarters, and I'm no stranger to pilling cats (Cat1 was on heart medication for a number of years), but Cat2 has an uncanny ability to disgorge pills even when I get them into the back of his throat, which isn't supposed to be possible. (I guess this figures for a cat that was vomiting daily.) The trick? Put fresh wet food in the bowl, pill, hold mouth shut, then distract with the food. So far, so good. We can only hope that his attention span is short enough to prevent him from catching on.

So, recent observations:

  • On one of the previous visits to Chicago (a rainy weekend, as I recall) we had noticed several large intersections where the traffic was being directed by the police, even though the traffic lights were still working. They seemed kind of redundant at the time. So on Friday, after exiting the train station, I wait at the first major intersection (Division and Ashland, I think) waiting for the light to change so I can cross. I'm not paying particularly close attention to the lights, just observing the traffic patterns, so it takes me a while to realize that the traffic lights are out. Oh. So basically it's a free-for-all and I just have to pick a moment, go, and hope for the best. I make it across without too much difficulty (hey, I've lived in Boston for 15 years) and notice that the power still seems to be on -- it's only the traffic lights that are out. Huh. And then I see a police cruiser reach the intersection. I wonder if they're there to bring some order to the situation. Nope, they find an opening, cross the intersection and are gone. Huh. Chicago is a very odd city.
  • Charlie cards are coming. (Actually, more accurately: CharlieTickets) They were installing new turnstiles at Alewife when I left and they were letting people in free at Maverick when I came back, the old token turnstiles being out of commission (and who knows what was going on at the Airport stop -- the terminal shuttle busses took us to Maverick). I still find it odd that they chose to name the new card system after the character of a song who got stuck on the T and could never get off. And the irony that the song was written as a protest over fare increases and that the new card will actually make fare increases easier to implement is also not lost.
  • We learned on our Oakland trip that Jambong (a favorite Korean noodle soup dish we used to routinely get at a local restaurant in Lawrence) is actually a Chinese dish. At least, that's what my Korean friends told me. I wasn't really having any of it since the only places I've had it have been at three Korean restaurants around the Boston area, and zero Chinese restaurants. Well, I had a hankering for Jambong (did I mention the hangover?) on Saturday and well... wouldn't you know it, all the Korean restaurants we visited that afternoon kept telling us it was a Chinese dish. And then one sent us to the Chinese restaurant that served it. (I may eventually write about the experience over at Foodnerd.)
  • Tomato plants seem to be growing pretty well. Sadly, they don't seem to be fruiting. They're making flowers, but the flowers are just dying off. I'm not sure if it's because of all the crazy rain or if there's a problem with the soil that I need to address. Unfortunately, not a lot of time to hit the garden store these days.
  • The grapes and raspberries, on the other hand, are doing quite well. My only concern is that the critters don't get to them before we can enjoy them.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bad news for the SOOTTAD

"Blast Furnace Heat Sets In"

She was commenting on the weather just yesterday, and then this morning (up at 0700, go me) I hear on the radio that they're issuing heat warnings in several cities across the country, Chicago amongst them. (And thankfully, not Boston -- here, we only have to worry about tunnel collapse.)

It's not a good sign when your weather makes national news. Hopefully it'll break, or at least ease up, by the time I get there this weekend.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A few thoughts on sleep

So it's day 2, and I'm already wondering if I'm doing this thing right. The grand plan was to try to get myself waking up, well, getting up earlier -- I already wake up several times in the early morning, something which I actually find kind of annoying, but it'd be nice to feel well-rested and alert while getting up at an earlier time. It's entirely possible that I'm actually chasing a fantasy here and even people who successfully adapt to being morning people still feel like ass when they wake up in the morning.

So I got up yesterday at 7:45AM and basically did the same this morning, despite going to bed around 1AM last night. I did wake up at 6AM, but I figured, why push it? A quarter-of-eight seemed perfectly reasonable. Except that when I'm getting enough sleep, I'm usually up by 8 or 8:30, so am I just being stupid here? Leaving my body to its own devices (and letting it get enough rest), I'll probably be back on my usual schedule by next week. But now that I'm sleep depriving myself, who knows? Generally, when I listen to my body, it's done me right. This tack may be inadvisable and fraught with peril.

And if I'm really trying to change things, I probably should be shooting for a wake up time closer to 6AM. At the moment, I'm rationalizing that I'm nudging myself in that direction by under-sleeping and getting up at my "usual" time, and that will help me get to bed earlier so that I can work my way towards the new target time.

So far, I've felt like ass both mornings. I've also gone for a run shortly after getting up, to try and help sync my body clock to the earlier time. The runs haven't felt particularly good, but I do tend to feel a bit better afterwards -- it's probably just a good thing to get the blood flowing, but it's also a kick in the ass telling my body: "no, I'm really not kidding about this waking up thing; it's time to get moving." Tangentially related because I say so, I'm attributing my not having fun at the dance last night to being generally cranky from the lack of sleep. (And the SOOTTAD being in Chicago, but that's really a secondary issue, more of an inability to recover problem.)

So it's morning, I'm up, and I basically have to force myself to not just go right back to bed. I go for a run, do stuff around the garden. Mmm, bed. So I surf the site of the guy who wrote the original early-riser article, and end up reading about his experience with polyphasic sleep. And the things that resonates are the bits about dreaming during short naps and the feeling refreshed afterwards. I also buy into the idea that naps provide mental breaks that can allow the subconscious to go to work, problem solving and improving creativity. Naps good.

Maybe I'm really polyphasic? Or I should at least consider trying it? Probably not, given that I sure do seem to like those big blocks of sleep at night as well. So perhaps biphasic sleeping? It's mentioned in the wikipedia article I linked to above. The sense I got was that it meant sleeping fewer hours at night but effectively getting you nap on sometime during the day, but when I Googled it, it mostly came up with people who were trying to get an extra couple of hours of wakefulness by spliting their sleep time into two shorter periods. Not really the same thing, and I don't really think I have the discipline for the latter, or interest really, since the sacrifices that you have to make to your schedule (not to mention reports of feeling tired or outright failure) aren't worth it to me. What? You mean I can get an extra 2.5 hours of wakefulness (awakeness?) if I go to bed at 8:30PM and get up again at midnight... uh, why would I want to do that? However, it did come up with an interesting article on a slightly different pattern:

This new view of a natural night's sleep in two phases is based on an old view of human behavior - pre-Edison. Before the invention of electric lights, darkness was mankind's companion during long nights, and sleep was typically punctuated by an hour or two of what sleep experts call "quiet wakefulness."

Dunno. Maybe I was on the right track when I just let me body do what it wanted. It was something I picked up in a psychology class way back when in high school, where there was this idea that when you were falling asleep during a lecture or while reading a textbook it wasn't that it was boring, but that your body was tired and needed sleep. (Because maybe it *was* boring, but that wasn't why you were drowsy.) It's one of the reasons I try to avoid caffeine. (within reason, of course.)

Of course, I'm still not sure how to work in that afternoon nap in when I'm at the office. (Does anyone think this will ever fly?) Man, do I miss those days of working from home. (and not working, from home -- by which I mean unemployed, not "working" from home.)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Experiment

A few weeks ago, I came across this post on "optimizing your life" which I found somewhat intriguing. It's been a year of exploration and change for me -- I've been doing acupuncture, trying to get regular massages and trying other forms of therapy in addition to my usual "get as much exercise as you can and sleep until you feel rested" approach. And I buy into its basic premise:
Many years ago an old friend and I were discussing the meaning of life. He said, "I don't think the point of life is to accomplish a certain level of external success. I believe we're actually here to acquire and enjoy experiences."
If you're going to spend most of your time experiencing rather than accomplishing, then perhaps it makes sense to focus on the quality of your daily experiences and not merely on the heights of your accomplishments. It's nice to have a truly fantastic day where you accomplish something wonderful, but what about your normal days?

When you realize most of your life will be consumed by normal days rather than extraordinary ones, you may feel motivated to raise the overall quality of these normal days.
It sounded right up my alley: the zen-like being and experiencing -- valuing the moments -- but also somehow working to enrich those moments. After reading it (and re-reading it to write about it), I think most of what seems to resonate with me are the things that I already try to do or that I agree with but which have fallen below the radar or by the wayside.

I don't buy into the audio learning thing, especially while exercising (generally speaking, exercise intrinsicallynsicly high-quality experience for me), but that's just part of my priorities -- he even says that it's about the overall concept, not the specific menu items. (I also don't think self-employment is for everyone, whatever.) But I remember my initial take being somehow... off, something which nagged at me until I was finally able to hash it out while talking to the SOOTTAD.

What it came down to was the wayside. You know: the things that I recognized as things that I thought had value, but my brain was too occupied with the other stuff that I had to get done so I forgot, or I just didn't get around to doing them, because, well, it was late and I was tired, so, you know... bed.

It kinda reminded me of Stephen Covey's "big rocks" -- the thing where you make time for the important things first (the big rocks), then fill in the spaces with the rest (very small rocks, gravel, sand, germs, etc.). Except that I've got this massive pile of big rocks.

I actually had a meditation practice for a while there, probably doing it for a month or two. What happened? I got back from vacation and I had a million and six projects to finish and I needed to be in the office for work because we hit a schedule crunch and frisbee season had finally hit its stride. Stopped reading and playing piano, too.

There are just so many hours in a day.

But Dude, you say, change number one is "getting an early start."

Well yeah, there's that. He even links to some of his other articles on becoming an early riser and how to train yourself to get up to your alarm (pretty cool, actually). I'm actually familiar with the always-get-up-at-the-same-time concept that he talks about, but I must admit that I'm a bit skeptical. I mean, I buy into the concept at a theoretical level, but logistically, when it comes to real-world implementation, there are definitely some issues, at least for me personally. We're not all created equal, after all.

For one thing, I've actually tried it before -- I think the last time was a few years ago and I got to the end of week three and came down with a massive cold.

Yeah, that went well.

The other thing is how my body responds to the lack of sleep, which is to say, not well. When I'm tired, my brain and/or body pretty much shut down. That's basically the idea -- you don't get enough sleep one night so then you're all tired and stuff the next day and you go to bed earlier. The problem is, that next day I still need to be functional, generally speaking, and generally speaking, I'm not. I played this game last Wednesday when I got up at 6AM to drop off Cat2 at the vet. I was up late the previous night working, so I was operating on maybe 5 hours of sleep. And by 11AM I was having a hard time concentrating at the office. By 2PM, it was an effort just trying to stay awake, let alone actually get real work done. I slogged through the rest of the day, and barely stayed awake on the drive back to the vet around 8PM when Cat2 was finally ready to be picked up. I got home around 9:30PM and, at that point, I had to eat dinner. And after talking to the SOOTTAD (we considered trying this getting-up-early business just for shits and giggles since she had to be up for a meeting herself the next day) I got sucked into some work and ended up going to be late (past 1AM) again. The next morning, I woke up at 5:58AM, realized that starting a day at the office at that point was going to be an egregiouslyiously bad idea and went back to sleep.

The real world has an annoying way of throwing wrenches into the works.

It's back to the big rocks: Is work a big rock? Talking to the SOOTTAD? At some point, you run out of room and you have to start reclassifying your rocks. And that doesn't even include the other things that I would consider to be part of the experiences of a life well lived: spending time with friends, going out dancing, seeing a show... things that I'd like to plan to do, but if I'm operating under go-to-bed-when-I'm-tired, there are a lot of things, a lot of important things, that are going to get jettisoned.

When I read the article, I see the author going to the gym (iew), listening to personal improvement audio broadcasts, meditating, working in his home office, reading, journaling, talking to his wife, spending time with his family. There may be more, but that's all the insight I get. And honestly, that's probably a life well lived. And within that life, it doesn't seem that difficult for him to say to himself: "gee, I'm feeling a bit tired this evening, I guess I'll just call it a night." There's a certain flexibility there for that.

In my life, the life I am currently living, (and enjoying, for the most part, mind you) things don't fall into place so easily.

But, that being said, I'm going to try to see if I can make this work anyway. An experiment, of sorts. Clearly, this wasn't going to start on a workday. (After vet day, I got up so late on both Thursday and Friday that I didn't get into the office until after 10:30am on both days. Whoops.) However, I figured that I could afford to be a little non-functional during the weekend. So today, when I woke up at 7:45AM, I got up. (went to bed close to 2AM last night -- going away party for some friends, talked to the SOOTTAD on the phone and then puttered around on the interwebs while eating some real food. Did I mention that I had two glasses of Kir Royale and a slice of chocolate cake for dinner at the party?)

However, there is another issue, which is that when I'm tired and I do have the flexibility to respond to my body when it tells me it needs sleep, I'll just crash. At, like, two in the afternoon. (actually, today it happened around 4:30pm.) The SOOTTAD seems to think this is some kind of adapted behavior from ancestral hunter-gatherer days. Something about hunting in the morning resting during the heat of midday and then resuming activities again in the late afternoon/evening. Yeah, maybe that, or some kind of whole siesta thing. I dunno. There are also historical records of me getting to bed early (say 8-9PM) after not getting enough sleep the previous night, where I've just woken up at midnight or 1AM, unable to get back to sleep. And then there's that whole thing where I keep myself awake when I'm overtired and I end up getting heartburn the next day. (usually this happens on roadtrips, or when there's a significant time change involved, but it's also been known to happen just from, well, slogging through a couple of days back-to-back without enough sleep.)

Anyway, I know there are going to be challenges, but we're gonna give it a shot. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dead Flies and Circle of life

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.
I'm not sure what the deal was today, but it was like a plague of flies. I must have caught and/or killed nine or ten14-15 in the house in the last 24 hours. And they pretty much showed up all sudden-like sometime last night. I was wondering if I had left some food spoiling in the trash under the sink or something but it turned out my friends RB and MJ were experiencing the same thing in their condo downtown, so I guess it's just some weird thing going down in the 'ham. Happy Fourth with-the-flies!

I was having a hard time catching them until after my run this morning, when I was finally able to take out my first one with a quick swat of the hand while stretching on the floor in the living room. I didn't really think much about it, and I hit a few more around the house as the day progressed, eventually finding several around one of the windows in the kitchen. It was at this point, two dead fly carcasses lying on the windowsill, that I noticed something odd. The ones there had already been somewhat remarkable in that, on more than one occasion, My blow had simply stunned a fly -- one would initially look as if I had killed it, its body motionless, legs angled skyward, but a few moments later, it would have righted itself and begun moving around the local area before I was able to finish it off with another frenzied set of whacks.

Anyway, another fly that I thought I had killed seemed to be moving, albeit somewhat strangely. And then I realized that *it* wasn't moving, it was that there were other things moving near it. And leaning in... oh god -- larvae*. Maggots. There was a whole ball of them writhing en masse away from the body. Still more were accumulating under the fly itself, moving it about haphazardly as they writhed their way out of their parent's dead body.

Fascinating. But exceedingly high on the ICK factor.

And then I remembered the other flies that I had swatted, and left, around the house...

I went back to the living room and took a look at the dead fly's body as I took it outside. There didn't seem to be any activity there. But when I returned and took a closer look around where it had laid, I could see them: tiny little squiggles, slowly spreading out across the living room floor. I wiped and squished, and, holy crap, I really hope I got them all, or a whole new wave is going to show up in a few days. Not to mention that the whole concept just totally gives me the jibblies: I'm sorry, your whole body filled with offspring, ready to burst forth as soon as you take any kind of injury? And if that doesn't happen, presumably at some point they're just going to decide that they're coming out, and well, thanks mom, you've been swell, but we gotta move out on our own.

Have I mentioned, iew?

And now I'm afraid of killing them, for fear of them spreading and multiplying -- I've been catching them and chucking them outside. And I can only hope that they're not finding their way back in.

*Actually, poking around online, they actually look more like eggs, which would make more sense... except that they're autonomous, which would make them even creepier. I don't think it matters. It's just gross.

Life change, crazy-go-nuts

Hey, Happy Fireworks everybody.

Sorry for sorta disappearing like that, but y'know, sometimes life is like that.

So I must have been totally delusional to think that things would have settled down right after I got back from vacation. For one thing, it's catch-up after being away for almost a week and a half. And then, between the final push of projects in the last month of the semester at school, a ramp up of schedule pressures at work (no more working from home -- *sigh*), not to mention frisbee season hitting its stride, there really wasn't much time for this blog business on either the reading or posting side.

And then there was the added bonus of a sudden, renewed interest in househunting, so we've been surfing the real estate listings, scheduling viewings and checking out financing. (The SOOTTAD even flew out to check a few places out so we could both have more tangible points of reference.) And then there's been all this craziness trying to find a reception site and... um, oh yeah, did I mention that the SOOTTAD and I got engaged?


So, uh, yeah... things have been a little crazy recently.

Perhaps I'll really be able to get back to writing, but work is still really busy (it's a holiday weekend and I've billed 16 hours, and counting, since Saturday) and there's still the matter of needing to finish a case study for school that's now 2 weeks overdue.

So, hopefully I'll be back eventually. I'm pretty sure it'll be before Labor day, but no promises.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

On Moral Certainty

Miniver Cheevy: Hitler

[via Monkeyboy's Links]

After reading this post, another example came easily to mind, but I figured it was obvious enough that I didn't need to belabor the point here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Just back from an awesome trip to Yosemite and the Bay area. Should be back in the saddle or on the wagon or whatever in a few days...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Beaten Down

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

The weather this past week and a half or so was pretty brutal on the psyche. Gray and shadow all around, the rain forcing practices to be cancelled and making it hard to go out and exercise in general.

But the rain really beat the crap out of the lilacs. They should have been in full bloom and going strong right about now, filling the air with their rich fragrance, but instead there are still a few half-open buds and even those that are open look beaten down, much of their scent seemingly drowned and washed away by the recent deluge.

More Korean Food

Towards the end of this afternoon's acupuncture appointment, Mr. Kuwahara, the director of the clinic, asked me if I was a vegetarian. Ha, funny one. I think I had a vegetarian 36 hours last week, which I think was more out of laziness than either health or ethical concerns. (Really, who wants to take the time to defrost chicken? Especially when you're hungry RIGHT NOW. It makes me wonder why I bother buying it ahead of time and putting it in the freezer in the first place sometimes.) I eventually thought to inquire as to why he had asked. Apparently, he often notices a drop in energy in vegetarians this time of year... which is to say that he told me that he had observed a drop in my energy.

So, it registered that he was talking about a relationship between diet and the internal energies, which seemed to provide the perfect opportunity for me to ask him what kinds of things I could eat to help things out. (I've been reluctant to ask him too much since he seems kinda busy checking in on multiple clients. Plus, sometimes it's hard to understand what he's saying, what with the thick Japanese accent and all. And of course, there's always the off chance that he'll tell me to do something that I'll have no interest in doing... and then I'll feel guilty about it. Sometimes best to avoid the whole thing altogether and just stick with the program they've already given me.)

Anyway, his answer: fermented vegetables. Miso, natto. (um, no. Notto not gonna happen.) Scallions, onions, garlic. (Well I could probably get myself to eat more garlic, but onions/scallions can be a bit unfriendly...) He then suggested checking out the asian markets for various preserved vegetables, especially some of the Korean varieties.

Korean food?

"Yes, Korean food," he helpfully confirmed.

Hmmmm. I've just been told I need to eat more Korean food. Yes, I think I can handle that.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It's still important

I mentioned it before ...but at least now you can have a laugh or two while you're feeling outraged: on Net Neutrality
[via BoingBoing]

Save the internet.

Actually, I had them all cut...

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

It's been cold and rainy the last few days. Our game was even cancelled last night -- kind of a bummer. It's supposed to be like this through the weekend.

I didn't think it was supposed to be *that* cold today, but for some reason I was feeling unexpectedly chilly; even wearing a fleece jacket in the house, I was slightly uncomfortable and it felt like my hands were going numb all day. And then I remembered -- oh yeah, I got a haircut this morning.

Put on a hat... problem solved.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Friday, May 05, 2006

I feel dirty

Why We Fight
(1h39m) via Cardhouse

It makes me sad.


On so many levels.

People lying. Powerful people lying.

People being mislead. People dying.

And I feel complicit.

Not just because it makes me recognize the extent of the "military industrial complex" in this country that Eisenhower described in 1961.

But also because for the first time in my life, as an independent contractor, I'm actually working in the Defense industry.

I feel dirty.

And I wonder if I'll ever be able to walk away.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Gravel is not my friend

Originally uploaded by tallasiandude.

Monday night hat league games in JP are played on a turf field, which is awesome -- it's springy, you can play on it in the rain without worrying about tearing it up, and generally speaking, it's nice and level without the typical hazards of a "grass" field. Of course, as a dual use field for football and baseball, there are actually small patches of gravel around the bases and the pitcher's mound.

The regulation ultimate frisbee field is 70 x 40 yards with 25-yard deep endzones on each end, giving you a grand total of 4800 square yards of actual playing space. That's 43,200 square feet of hazard-free turf. Within that field there was maybe a 15x15 foot patch of the aforementioned gravel. That's less than 0.9% of the actual playing space.

Guess where I ended up laying out for a disc?

UPDATE(02May2006): hand is healing up alright, but ended up ripping up my left elbow and knee on the same spot in last night's game. Bah.

Friday, April 21, 2006

This is important

Save the Internet []

No, seriously:

Hi, how are you?


So yeah, it's been a while.

I'm doing ok; just back from Chicago visiting the SOOTTAD since we had this past Sunday off from school due to the Easter holiday. Kinda crazy busy, and not just from the traveling. April marks the beginning of frisbee season -- I'm playing in the hat league on Monday nights and my club team has practices Tuesdays and Thursdays. And we're still trying to play pickup on Saturdays. And somewhere in there I need to squeeze in two practice sessions for school, not to mention the studying in general.

Oh, and we have a deadline at work this month such that they said it was ok for me to bill an additional 8 hours of work... if I wanted.

Um, yeah. I kinda took that to mean that they'd like me to work an extra 8 hours a week, although I wasn't really sure where I was going to find them. That's how my mind works, at least. And sure, technically I could skip frisbee, but I've come to think of it as therapy. Self-care. The difference in how I feel -- my mood, my demeanor -- is quite tangible.

I admit, I often feel guilty about it. It feels like rationalization, like I'm finding excuses to play instead of work, like the lazy grasshopper. It's like I'm taking sick days to stretch out a long weekend or something. Anyway, after the first two weeks where I was basically burning the candle at both ends, I ended up talking to the senior partner who had made the original option known, and it turned out that he really did mean that it was just an option (although he'd certainly be happy to pay us the extra money and have us pull in the schedule.) Can I tell you how great a gig this is? It's still work, but they're really a good group of people to work with. And I know how lucky I am to be able to pull this off.

Still, even without the extra hours, things have felt pretty crazy. Things seem to have settled into a rhythm, and I only hope that I can keep on top of things as school projects and papers start coming up.

Anyway, Chicago...

It was good to have a chance to spend time with the SOOTTAD, although the day I arrived, the SOOTTAD had just started coming down with a sore throat. Kind of a bummer. It meant that the whole visit was a little more low key which is cool, but I did miss having the opportunity to hang out late at a local bar and catching some music or something. We did hit the California Clipper and had a dance or two to Susie Gomez but even that night I think we were still home before midnight. Anyway, here's a quick rundown:

  • Pho at Tank. A proper pho, as opposed to what was offered at the local not-really-Vietnamese-place. I went with a beef and tendon pho. The SOOTTAD had a chicken noodle soup to try and help her throat.
  • Dinner at Hachi's Kitchen. Quite a fancy joint, modern with an artsy logo and everything; a bit on the loud side. Clearly several couples on dates were observed. Quality of the sushi was good -- very fresh and moist -- but a little on the bland side, which was kind of disappointing.
  • The aforementioned visit to the California Clipper. The only downside, none of my bourbons of choice, and no Old Style.
  • Brunch at Flying Saucer. The SOOTTAD seems a little critical -- I found it quite enjoyable. (although slightly disappointing to discover that their shake mixer appears to be for show only -- no shakes on the menu.)
  • A spontaneous decision to go and see The Devil and Daniel Johnston - a cool documentary about certifiably crazy (ticking timebomb, not ha-ha) cult singer-songwriter, Daniel Johnston. One of the first gifts the SOOTTAD ever gave me was a CD which including his song "Walking the Cow"* off the album Hi, How are you: the unfinished album. I had heard about the film a while back and just assumed that I'd forget about it until after it left the theaters. That worked out well.
  • Hot pot at Lao Sze Chuan. All you can eat for 17 bucks -- oh yes. Did I eat too much? Oh, yes.
  • Watched SPL on DVD. OMG. Sammo Hung. Donnie Yen. Bad guys. Good cops. Bad guys doing bad things, good guys doing bad things. Dark and gritty. Setup followed by serious action. Awesome.
  • A return to Woo Chon Restaurant. Still thwarted from getting the duck, but good overall. Although also a little disappointed that they didn't give us any rice or soup. The SOOTTAD thinks it was entirely because of the uppity server that had given us the hard time about ordering the duck. We need to return bolstered with greater numbers.
  • I went on a few runs while I was there -- exercise therapy, dontcha know -- and some of the graffiti around the neighborhood caught my attention. I saw at least three "you have nothing to lose..."s, three "i love you..."s and one other phrase that was written in the same style that I can no longer remember. Poking around for the images, I found more than (this) one person think that it has something to do with the communist manifesto, but it doesn't jive with the "i love you..."s unless there's something in the manifesto that I don't know about, which it entirely possible. The third message was the key, but of course, it's already forgotten. (It was on West Chicago between Damen and California on the north side of the street -- can anyone out there tell me what it said?) Still, it seemed more like a message of affection or camaraderie than a call to arms and uprising, but clearly that's just my take on it.

I'm sure there's more, but it's late and I gotta get to bed so that I can get up bright and early to go to work. So I can get home early to work on a practice client. And then maybe afterwards, I'll do some more work. Or study.


* Actually, my mind is apparently wandering off into La-La-Land itself. The song on the CD is actually a cover of "Living Life" done by K. McCarty. I had "Walking the Cow" on the brain because the SOOTTAD downloaded a copy of it onto my laptop sometime ago and has since gotten some regular playing time in the WinAmp shuffle.**

** The WinAmp shuffle being the functional equivalent of an iPod for those of us too behind the times or too cheap (or both) to actually get with the program and buy an iPod.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Unsolicited, Unwanted, Unending

About a month or two ago, the amount of spam I receive on a daily basis seemed to take an exponential leap, like some mass of wandering email address harvesters finally found their way home and unloaded their payload to the mother-spam-ship. It's only gotten worse in recent days, from a few a day to thirty or more. I can barely fathom the millions upon millions of this bullshit that is clogging up the world's bandwidth. I have to assume that at least some of them are viruses. But most seem to be trying to sell me software or meds I don't want, although sometimes it's hard to figure out exactly what they're selling given all the tricks they're trying to employ to evade spam filters. For example:

From: Tye Cuellar <>
Subject: Re: aaBam89 news

k C o I p A d L t I s S
b V r A y L h I y U w M
v V f I m A y G r R f A

B nt uy your k M y e q d w i e c w a v t g i h o d n o si nline at half
e p k r s i c c b e [Deleted Evil URL]
<Deleted Evil URL>

Or perhaps this one, which, while somewhat entertaining in its bizarreness, is still annoying when you get 3-4 of them. A day.
From: Martin Gray <>
Subject: Last offer- Discount special for PE patch almost over!

flowers sick funeral after orphans visit widows
fatherless write letters invitation condolence establish
Maybe it would make more sense if I saw the included images, but I use a text mail reader, so I guess that's my loss.

The other day, I took a moment to think about it, and the question that came to me was: do these people actually think I want to buy any of this crap?! I can only assume that some of this is due to people trying to MAKE MONEY FAST! with that sweet stay-at-home interweb marketing gig they saw an ad for in the recycler paper on the T. But c'mon, WTF?

Coincidentally, I saw this comment on Techdirt. And I suppose the answer is right there, truth stranger than fiction: there are actually some assholes out there that are actually buying this shit. [Here's an article on the economics of spam.]

So, to you out there, though I am sure you will never read this, to you I say:

Cut it the fuck out.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Democracy in Action

Fresh off the AP (but linking to because their article archives don't disappear):

Afghan Clerics Demand Convert be Killed

"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hard-line regime was ousted in 2001.
Hmm, irony. I could have sworn that irony was dead.

Anyway, the article continues:

Afghanistan's constitution is based on Shariah law, which is interpreted by many Muslims to require that any Muslim who rejects Islam be sentenced to death.

Hamidullah warned that if the government frees Rahman, "there will be an uprising" like one against Soviet occupying forces in the 1980s.

"The government will lose the support of the people," he said. "What sort of democracy would it be if the government ignored the will of all the people."


You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

And somehow, I can't help but think that part of this is our fault. We, and not just the members of our current, rather fucked-up administration, sure pay a lot of lip service to democracy, but is that *really* the cornerstone, the foundation of the strength of our country, our society? Rock the vote! I'm not even talking about the unspoken controversy of voter irregularities or the apparently deep divisions between vast swathes of the country. We put gravity on the ideal of "one man, one vote" and yet the reality is that in many ways, our individual votes don't seem to amount for much these days. It is a representative democracy, after all.

What does seem important is our freedom, our rights as individuals.

And somehow it feels like that whole concept is getting lost in the shuffle somewhere. There is occasional lip-service (terrorists "hate our freedoms," "Freedom will find a way"), but it feels like that's all it is. Attacks on our right to privacy. The effort to ban gay marriage. Blocked access to birth control.

It's not like we're trying to kill people because of their religious beliefs, but sometimes it sure feels like there's at least a tinge of religious intolerance, if not outright fanaticism in the air these days. And this country is no stranger to capital punishment. I mean, are we sending mixed messages here?