Sunday, January 29, 2006

My Brain

Lately, my brain has been nagging at me. It has been very thirsty, you see, and wants more and more knowledge. I guess this is what brains do.

Up until recently, it has been sidetracked by diversions such as continous pain and lots of work (the kind where you go someplace and do stuff in order to bring home a paycheck.. you know.. the mind-numbing, soul-killing sort of stuff... tedious, miserable, drudgery.... what fun!)

Lately, though, I have managed to take care of the pain, which is all but gone, finally, and thankfully!! No more plantar fasciitis and no more excrutiatingly tender toes! The nail has yet to grow back, but it is all coming along very nicely, and so long as I don't drop stuff on my foot, I don't even notice it. I cannot even begin to tell you what a pleasure it is to be able to walk about without pain. Sigh.

As for the work part, well... there's still that, but, work is work, and we do what we have to do, I suppose.

Back to my original premise regarding thirsty brains; My brain, the one that rides around in my head all day, is a sort of an oddball. (just like me!)

My brain wants to know stuff. Not just important stuff, though, certainly, it does want to know that, too! It wants to know everything, and it wants to know it all now!!

Obviously, this ain't happening, but, its my brain, and I have to try to keep it happy, or it keeps me up all night thinking about stuff!

I have decided, therefore, in addition to my up at 4:30AM plan of late, whereby I get my lazy ass out of bed and head to the gym each morning for an hour (I can train again, now that I can walk again!), I will also be training my brain. To this end, I have found college lectures that are available, either on disc or at the library, and I have taken out books in areas of interest that I have, such as Philosophy, Astronomy, Mathematics, Languages, Literature, History and Theology, and I have begun systematically devoting a number of hours per week to study.

I love this! I plan on continuing to do this for as long as it is humanly possible!

I have learned so much great stuff over the past couple of weeks, that I almost cannot stand it!! My brain is going a thousand miles a minute, trying to wrap itself around all of these new concepts, theories, systems, methods, and data!!


I only wish I could go to college... to a number of them, actually... Harvard, MIT, Oxford, and that College down in Charleston that offers a degree in Classical Studies!! Trinity College in Dublin, which offers courses in Irish, Irish history, and all sorts of wonderful things.... AAAAH!! I can't even get started on this, or I'll never quit writing this list!! They will find my poor dessicated body, hunched over the keyboard, my freakishly large skull lolling from my skeletal neck...

"Poor guy... looks like he was trying to compile a list of every college and university that ever existed... shame how his head exploded like that...."

That's what they'll say when they find me, years from now...

Anyway... I'm pretty happy, and extremely excited and enthusiastic about doing this. I already go to Gaeilge classes, and I love them!! I count the days each week until Thursday nights, when I can go to class. It seems that the time there just flies by, though, and before I know it, I'm on my way home again. Not that I don't like being home... quite the contrary, I love being home, but, you know what I mean... Speaking of which, the lads at the Scoil Ghaeilge Ghearóid Tóibín (who are a great bunch of guys) are very, very much deserving of my gratitude for the fantastic gift of knowledge that they bestow upon me each week. They are wonderful teachers, particularly my teacher, and they do this all as a labor of love. They don't charge a cent, and what they give is beyond price. Thanks so much, guys!

I can't actually attend college.. I don't have the money, and I don't have the time to spare from work in order to go. I suppose that I could learn whatever I learn and then test for credit, which I very well may do... but, to me, the learning and the knowledge is much more important than the piece of paper that tells me that I learned stuff...

So. In a word, I'm thrilled!

Tommorrow starts early, and 4:30AM comes around whether I'm ready for it or no.. so I had better get my ass into the bed so I'm not crying when the alarm goes off. (Who do I think I'm fooling?! I'll be crying in any case!)

Till next time.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Because I Can!

It is Saturday afternoon... I worked all day yesterday, then hauled ass to get to my next job because they have this perverse penchant for scheduling me to be someplace when it is impossible for me to be there because I am already committed to be elsewhere by my regular work schedule... so, I have to run around like an asshole and arrive all breathless and stressed out (well.. thats a lie, actually, because I don't actually get all stressed out and breathless... I am actually pretty much resigned to shit like that and I let it roll off my back... but the breathless part makes for a better blog entry, don't you think?) and have to run around like more of an asshole to get everything ready in time (this part is true, and, in case you haven't figured it out, I am going for the 'longest run-on sentence award' here...).

After a long week of long days (up at 4:30AM work till after five.. house chores and all the shit that you have to do before you can relax... I am now sitting here at my computer like a bump on a log, and I have reached a decision;

You see, I was planning on getting up fairly early, going to the gym, and doing all of the things that I am supposed to do that I only have time to get to on the odd weekends that I am not already working.

Well, I have basically decided to throw that into the bin... all of it.

Fuck that! I'm not doing anything that I am supposed to do today or tommorrow, unless I feel like doing it. Period.

This morning, I woke up, said, "fuck" under my breath... got up, went to the bathroom chiefly because I had no choice. I absolutely had to go now, and it occurred to me that this sucked, and greatly. I was muzzy-headed, and still half asleep, with that oddly disturbing chain of thought that is still half dreamlike... I was affronted that I had to do anything, and that my body would betray me by forcing me to have to get out of my bed to go pee. So, I got all militant and shit, and decided that I wasn't doing a damned thing that I am expected to do, and that it can all kiss my ass!

I opened the window, to get a little fresh air, and hopefully a nice cool breeze, climbed right back into bed, and promptly went back to sleep.

When I woke up, at around 11:00AM I found that I still had an attitude, and decided that for this weekend, I was making up the rules as I went along, and everything would just have to wait.

SO. Today I am lounging around for awhile, reading, listening to music, drinking coffee, and dicking around online. Perhaps later I will take Elysia (who is Marcheline) to a movie.. and after that?? Who knows... but I would imagine that it will involve getting herself into a compromising position somehow and taking advantage of that position to the fullest extent possible.

Insofar as I have a plan, that is my plan for this weekend. If I suddenly decide that it is all a wash.. then so be it. I don't care what my sense of responsibility says, I don't care what has to be done... it ain't gettin' done, at least not by me!

Should anyone have any complaints that they wish to lodge regarding this turn of events, I would direct them to the complaint department. To access the complaint system, please click here.

Thank you for playing.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Johnny Come Lately...

I was reading Cat's Blog today, and came across this post about a meme that my wife had posted on her blog. I instantly remembered two things upon reading this;

  1. I remembered having read this post on my wife's blog, and;

  2. I remembered that I had intended on participating in the meme, and that I never actually had! (what a dweeb!). As a general rule, I never participate in these sorts of things, though I'm not sure why (I just don't). This one seemed as though it would be a lot of fun to do, and, in fact, it was!! I had a blast, and laughed my ass off quite a few times! So. Here I am... only a few months late, and here is my response:

1. Town that I was born in:

2. Town in which I currently reside:

This is actually a photo of my street, taken at the end of the 1800s or early 1900s. It is still a beautiful street, but most of the trees are no longer there (which is sad..).

3. My first name:

And, no, my first name isn't "Ass".. (Just wanted to clear that up...)

4. My grandmother's first name (both of them):

  • My Mom's Mom:

  • My Dad's Mom:

5. My favorite food:

6. My favorite drink:

7. My favorite smell:

8. My favorite place in the world: (This is my second most favorite place (Korea!) - the most favorite place turned up no results at all. I sort of expected it, though.. my most favorite place is right here at my beautiful little cottage.. walking in the garden... and just being happy!)

9. My age:

10.The year of my birth:

11.My Pet's Names:
  • Widdershins

  • Jinx

  • Jack

  • Snowdrop

This last is the name of a little dove that is no longer with me in this world, but who will always be with me in my heart... (I miss you, little Snowdrop...)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Give us the Information! Or else!

For about the past two months or so, I have had an obnoxious situation to deal with concerning a bloody ingrown toenail on the big toe of my right foot, which, incidentally, I had been somewhat fond of until it decided to go all traitor on me and pull this happy horseshit! As for now, I would say that we are somewhat at odds with one another....

I sort of started the whole thing by pulling a pigheaded move, whereby I inadvertently opened a door over the top of my foot, in the process of which I tore a decent sized chunk of toenail out... leaving me with a rather painful 'hanger'. Naturally, I couldn't leave well enough alone and had to fuck with it and worry at it until I finally succeeded in tearing the damned thing off, leaving a sharp sticky-out bit back in there that eventually became this whole ingrown part. It got all inflamed, swelled up, and hurt quite a bit.

Apparently, the pain caused by this thing somehow coerced me to change my style of walking to the extent that I put pressure on the other side of the same toenail, which caused that side to sort of curl and fold in on itself and also become ingrown... of course, being the stubborn bastard that I am, I fucked around with that, too, until I managed to make it worse... and that friggin side got all inflamed and swollen and painful...

So. Now I had a toe that was approximately the size of Wyoming, getting caught on shit and completely freaking me out when it did!!

It sucked!

Eventually, it somehow became a twin and developed its own internal organs. At least I suspect that it did, judging by the heartbeat that I could feel throbbing away in there.

Since I have much grander visions of my physical toughness than it is healthy to have, I let it go.. and let it go... and let it go still further.. which, of course, is an incredibly stupid thing to do, because;
  1. It ain't gettin' any better...., and;

  2. It only gets worse... and quickly!

Naturally, it did get worse, and continued to do so until I was just barely able to walk properly. I was in a great deal of pain (some would say agony, but I still insist on being stubborn, and I will say it was mildly annoying... but that is a bold-faced lie, and I was in fucking agony!)

My wife, understanding the knuckle-dragging mindset refrained from getting overly involved, figuring that this was a self-correcting situation; when the pain got to be enough, I would finally get it taken care of. (She's a smart gal...)

Finally, I tossed in the towel, and asked her to call and make an appointment for me with the doc to have the damned thing fixed. (The doc is a friend of her mom's, so she generally calls and arranges these things for me... delightful woman!)

I had made some enquiries as to how this procedure goes with other folks who had already had it done. Basically, the story was something like this;

"You go in, he gives you a shot... that hurts! ... then he hooks the side of the nail with this thing, pulls it out, and cuts it straight. Then he does the other side, and now your nail is cut all straight, and it hurts for a few days, and then you're as good as new!"

Sounds like a ground ball to me!

We went there last night, and in I went.

The doc (who had been a bush doctor in Africa for many years, and is consequently a sort of 'spit & sawdust' kind of doctor) came into the room, had me hop up onto the table and asked to see the toe. I obliged, and he took a look at it, poked and prodded a few times (making me hop a couple of times, much to my consternation), and announced, "We'll just take the nail off.."

(We'll fucking what?!?!)

He gave me a couple of injections of local anesthetic, one on each side of the toe, where the nerves are.. then he left the room to do whatever mysterious shit it is that doctors do when they walk off and leave you sitting there... usually, (but, thankfully, not in this particular case!) with your ass hanging out, which is always great for your self-esteem.... (snort!)

After a while, he came back in, poked and prodded, presumably to make sure that the shit did whatever it was supposed to do to my nerves, and then he opened a drawer and started taking stuff out...

I was expecting a surgical tray, with scalpels, and forceps, and sutures, and swabs, and all the other geegaws, thing-a-ma-jigs, and whoozits that doctors use to perform these sorts of procedures...

INSTEAD... he simply grabbed a flat-headed pair of pliers, and a cotton swab!

(Hmmmm... I wonder what that's for??)

Without so much as a 'By your leave, good sir', he jammed one of the jaws of the pliers under my toenail, which looked very wrong somehow, twisted it one way, popping one side of the nail up and out.. then twisting it the opposite way, popping the other side out... (it made a wet, squishy, foot-in-the mud, nasty chewing-gum kinda sound, in case you were wondering and were just dying to know this part) and then, he put his other hand on the front of my ankle, for leverage, and literally tore the nail out, root and all!!

The whole thing took, oh... maybe three seconds!

Naturally, it began gushing blood, which he controlled by soaking the cotton swab in adrenalin, and holding it tightly against the nail bed. He changed cotton swabs as they got soaked in blood, until the bleeding slowed, and then he popped open an anti-biotic capsule, sprinkled the powdery contents all over the nail bed, slapped a dressing on the whole thing, and announced that he was done, and that I could put my shoes and socks on and go home.

He handed me an envelope full of pain pills, and, as a capping grace, handed me my toenail!! (this is very cool, since you never know when you might suddenly have a dire need for an excised toenail... perhaps when you are simply out of ideas for an eye-catching garnish on the egg salad??)

The local anesthetic lasted for maybe 20 minutes, and then my foot started really get into the spirit of the whole thing!! I could literally feel the line that traced where the actual nerve ran... it was vibrating with pain!!

Elysia and I stopped and had dinner, and then we came home, farted around for a bit, and headed in to bed. Apparently, my job was to make sure that the ceiling didn't wander off, and I did a stunningly great job by lying there and staring at it all night!

The good part is that once this initial phase is over with, and the bloody thing heals up, it won't hurt anymore... and on a good/bad scale - this is good!

So, anyway... this is what it looks like now;

Alright! Fine! It doesn't look anything like that at all! That isn't even my foot. Its still all wrapped up, and I don't have any idea what it looks like, but its getting better, even as I sit here now!

Hopefully, this will be all healed up within a few weeks, and I can happily forget about the whole mess!

In the meantime, I'm gimping about (yet again), and doing my best to not crash my damned foot into inaminate objects. (Or animate objects, for that matter!)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bad News...Good Ending

I was sitting at the computer, working on the previous post; 'Mindscapes' when Elysia came into NASA (what we call our computer room... long story, it was named thus by my brother-in-law.. just go with it..) and asked me whether I had lost my motivation to get this place completely cleaned up and squared away this weekend.

"No, but I sort of got involved in this right now... I'll get back into the swing of things as soon as I publish this post. It won't take all that long... I have a flow going on just now."

Obviously somewhat irked with me, she looked at me for a few seconds in that way that she has, and finally said, "Well.. the laundry has to be put away, the bathroom has to be cleaned, and the dirty laundry has to be taken to the laundromat. I was hoping to get this stuff done so that I can relax and, hopefully, so that we can relax together this evening. I wanted to have the evening to ourselves."

"Girl, I'll be done in just a little while. As soon as I'm finished here, I'll get right on it, I promise!"

She snorted, and began dressing to go out.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"The laundry has to be taken." was the reply.

"Do you want me to go with you?"

"Somebody has to stay here. I have chicken soup cooking on the stove. Please remember to check on it. Don't get all caught up in what you're doing."

"I won't."

I heard her go out, start the vehicle, and drive off on her errand.

Dutifully, I checked on the soup twice while she was gone, which, truthfully, wasn't really all that long.

Before long, I heard her drive into the driveway, shut the vehicle off, and come inside.

When I heard the front door close, I called to her, "I checked the soup twice! Everything was fine!"

No answer.

"It was just starting to boil over, but when I took the lid off of the pot, it went right down, so no worries..." I clarified... wanting to make sure that she understood that I hadn't let her down.

She came upstairs, with her coat still on, which was odd, and stood in the doorway to NASA, looking at me with an oddly calm expression on her face.... deceptively calm, actually, but I got no sense that I was in any kind of hot water with her... it isn't like that with us.

"What's wrong?!" I prompted... intuiting that something was terribly wrong, but not knowing what it could be....

"Jack is dead. I think he got hit by a car..." she began.

I surged to my feet, shocked to the core. I could feel my blood run cold, and hear the blood pounding in my ears... Jack?! Dead?!

Jack is our outside cat. When we first moved here, there were a number of cats who would stop by from time to time to visit, and we would pet them if they let us, or feed them if they seemed to need it. Jack came by one day, and never left. He eventually sent all of the other cats packing, officially adopted us, and has been a fixture in our garden these past six years or so...

More importantly, he is my buddy, and a part of this family, as far as I am concerned. I love him, and he loves us.

To lose Jack would be a terrible loss... He sees me off every morning when I leave for work, and greets me every evening when I return home.

No matter what the weather, Jack is waiting for me when I come home. Always happy to see me, and eager to let me know about it!

I could feel the adrenaline begin to pump through my body at this news, and more than anything, I needed to go to him, to see if it was in fact him, and to bring him home if it was.

I rapidly went down the stairs, heart pounding, put on some shoes... I don't remember if they matched one another, never mind if they were mine, or if they matched what I was wearing... they were shoes!! Good enough...

I turned off the stove, grabbed something resembling a coat, and blasted out the door, snatching the keys as I went.

Elysia, in a tone of command, declared that she was driving. Apparently, one death of a family member in a day was enough for her. Understanding that this was most likely a good idea under the circumstances, I handed over the keys, and got into the passenger seat.

As we pulled out of the driveway, turning right to head in the direction of the spot where she saw him, she explained, "I saw him on the way to the laundromat. I got out of the car to be sure. I am pretty sure that its him, but I can't tell... they don't look the same when they're dead...."

I wasn't sure if she meant just cats, or anything... we have both seen our share of death, and we both know what it looks like. We have attended autopsies together... when she says something is dead... its dead. Nothing and nobody looks right when they are dead... something changes.. and while you can recognize them... you also recognize that the one who had inhabited that body had permenantly and inexhorably departed... it is a very bleak feeling in the best of times, and a devastating one in other circumstances....

As we made the turn, I could already see a small tabby body lying against the curb on the next block...

"He's lying against the curb, just past the stop sign." Elysia explained, not realizing that I could already see the small still body lying there.

I thought to myself, "He doesn't usually go that far...." as we drove up to him, but there he was...

She pulled up alongside, and I quickly got out of the vehicle. Squatting alongside the litte cat lying there, obviously quite dead.

I quickly looked him over, not wanting it to be Jack. Tabby fur, white markings in the right places, and a notch missing from his ear. I gently lifted the head to peer into his face... It was Jack. My little buddy was dead. He had stiffened already, and his tongue was protruding slightly from his partially open mouth. I could see a few injuries on his body. I placed my hand on the cold fur, and my eyesight blurred with tears that welled up and spilled down my cheeks.

I couldn't believe that he was gone. And I wasn't around to save him from whatever had gone wrong. I felt terrible....

I opened the back hatch of the vehicle, and spread some newspaper out on the floor of the storage compartment. I went and picked up Jack, feeling the stiffness.. the deadness of his little body... so abused by whatever vehicle had struck him.. leaving him dead there on the side of the road. Gently, ever so gently, I placed him on the newspaper and got back into the passenger seat.

Without a word, Elysia put the vehicle into gear and pulled away.

The drive home was only a couple of minutes, but it seemed much longer. My throat was constricted, and I felt as though I had been punched in the solar plexus. Mostly, I felt empty inside. Jack was gone, and there wasn't anything that I could do about it. He just wouldn't be there any more. I would never see him sitting tall and gazing up at me in the mornings, when I looked out the back window each morning, tail wrapped neatly around his paws. No more Jack sitting on the window sill behind the couch, watching TV and keeping us company. He was gone.

I decided that I would bury him under the spot where he would always lay in the sun, alongside the backyard fence. He would have liked that, I suppose.

Inwardly, I shudder at the thought of shoveling dirt onto him... but I know that it has to be done, and I don't want Elysia to have to do it.

We pull into the driveway after what seemed like an eternity. I get out of the vehicle, trying to see through tears as I walk back and open the hatch again. Picking Jack up in my arms, cradling him as gently as I am able, I turn to walk into the back yard.

"Meow?" I hear, in Jack's distinctive croaking voice. I look down at him, and he is still and quiet and dead in my arms. I am losing my mind... this must be bothering me even more than I suspected.

"What the...?!?!" Elysia. Apparently, she had heard it, too!

I look up, and crouched there by the corner of the Cottage, in his spot by the front gate, is Jack!! Alive, and wondering what all the fuss is about!!

"Jack!?" I manage to croak, before bursting into tears.

Elysia rushes over, scoops him up, and holds him in her arms.

I walk over and place my forehead against his, in the local cat-greeting that all of our cats seem to prefer (except for Jinx, but she's a bit of a dim bulb, so we overlook it...)

We both stood there, Elysia and I... Her holding the alive Jack, and me holding the dead one.... overjoyed that our Jack was safe, and sound, and happy, and home, and alive!! It was more than we could have ever hoped for!

I looked down at the Jack that I was carrying, and then at our Jack. It looked like the same cat! Exactly the same cat. The only discernible differences were that the dead Jack was ever so slightly larger, and the notch had been nipped out of the left ear, where I noticed that our Jack had a notch nipped out of his right ear.

Our Jack purred and purred, thrilled to be the focus of so much obviously happy, loving attention.

The other Jack, sadly, was still very dead, and there was work to be done.

"C'mon, girl... bring him into the yard, and get the shovel, if you would; I'll bury this lad."

I picked a spot in the very back, where the afternoon sun shines, and quietly buried the poor little creature that we had brought home with us. I knew that some family somewhere would be wondering where this lad had gotten off to, and figured that the least I could do was see to what was left of the poor little sod.

I couldn't bring myself to look as I shoveled dirt back into the grave that I had done until I was certain that the wee fellow was completely covered.

I spent the next half hour hugging and petting a decidedly happy and very lively Jack.

Poor Elysia kept apologizing and apologizing, obviously feeling that she had somehow misled me into believing that Jack had been killed. Honestly, though, even comparing the two of them side by side, the resemblance was uncanny. I can't help but wonder if this may have been a brother to our Jack. If Jack was born a stray in the neighborhood, then I would guess that his brothers and sisters may still be around... or at least some of them. I suppose anything is possible.

Honestly, the whole episode upset me quite a bit, even now, as I type this, my fingers are tingling, and I feel sort of wiped-out... but I am so happy that wee Jack is okay! Many thanks for that....

After we came back inside, and washed up, we had a belt of some good single-malt scotch!

"Here's to Jack!"

"Long Life to the Lad!"

I suppose that every once in a while, the Gods decide to give you a wake-up call and remind you of what is important to you. Even though something, or someone may be important to you, the threat of losing them forever has a way of putting things back into perspective for you.

I wouldn't have thought that I needed such a wake-up call, but now that I was forced to imagine what it would be like without the little lad running about the place, I will definitely go out of my way more often to let him know that he is loved and appreciated, and that I am damned glad that he is okay!


My wife gave me a very cool yuletide gift this year; a Proteus™ Mind Machine!

This is a light and sound therapy machine that is very hard to explain without allowing the reader to try one of these nifty little things for themselves. Utilizing light and sound pulses at a specified frequency, these machines stimulate the mental activity in various ways, essentially leading their minds from the waking state to a variety of altered states of consciousness. Like I said, its a bit hard to accurately describe how incredibly cool the experience is when you are using this thing, you sort of have to be there. I guess you'll have to take my word for it!! If you should ever get a chance to give one of these a try, by all means, give it a go!! You are bound to find it unique, enjoyable, and most likely a very different experience than anything else you have tried.

Personally, I absolutely love it!! I look forward to taking a little time and just flying around inside of my head for a while.

Here is some information that I copied from a selection of websites about this device:

Light and sound stimulation systems--often called mind machines--generate precisely timed patterns of modulated sound and light which can gently lead your mind into a variety of interesting and beneficial states of consciousness. These powerful tools can help you relax deeply, experience less anxiety and fall asleep more quickly. They are also favored by those who wish to explore alternate states of consciousness such as meditation, trance/shamanic states, lucid dreaming, "magic journeys," etc.

  • Relax more deeply

    Ever have trouble silencing your "monkey mind?" Light and sound stimulation uses completely natural forms of stimulation to gently lead your mind into slower, more tranquil mindstates.

  • Experience less anxiety

    Use of light and sound machines has often been compared to "electronic meditation." Regular use of our products can help reduce anxiety and other common responses to psychological stress.

  • Fall asleep more quickly

    One of the most powerful and effective applications of light and sound stimulation lies in its ability to rapidly induce deep, refreshing sleep.

  • Enhanced creativity

    When you're in the "twilight" state, you can access the power of your subconscious mind and use it for solving creative problems. You may even find your enjoyment of music and art increasing, with regular use! Discover why Writer's Digest called one of our systems the "idea generator"! Also, see our new art section to see how light and sound have influenced the visual arts.

  • Improved visualization

    Flickering light activates your visual processing mind much more strongly than does ambient light. That's why it's easier to visualize scenes while using our products than normal. In fact, most people will "see" a stream of colorful, dreamlike or kaleidoscopic images during a session. If you rely at all on your visual imagination or memory, you'll find our products especially beneficial.

  • Accelerate the learning process

    Light and sound stimulation can help you improve your school grades, boost verbal IQ, reduce mental stress and focus more clearly on your studies. If you are interested in this application be sure to see the recently published study which demonstrated a significant increase in college Grade Point Average following regular use of our technology.

While I don't know whether all of the benefits that are ascribed to this machine are valid or truthful, what I can attest to is that, for one thing, when I use my Proteus™, I have incredibly vivid and colorful visual experiences, and when I use the program that is designed to promote a deep and restful sleep; It knocks me out like a light!! I wake immediately when the program ends, turn off the device and put it away, and when I close my eyes, I drop off again immediately and sleep until either the alarm wakes me, or I wake on my own. Now, this is saying something, because I usually wake constantly throughout the night, get up to use the bathroom, etc., etc. I have only been using this thing for a very short time, and already, I am totally hooked!!

Apparently, this technology is all based on a phenomenon called 'Brain Entrainment', which is a natural process by which the brain waves will synchronize themselves to light and/or sound stimulii. In times past, this was used by many cultures, through drumming, chanting, or through the use of long lines of dancers circling a fire to a beat; the observers outside of the dance circle would see the fire being repeatedly blocked from view and then revealed once again by the movement of the dancers... causing the brains of the observers to become 'entrained' to the beat of the drums and the dancers movements!

I find it to be a very relaxing and enjoyable pastime, and have hopes of being able to explore various altered states of consciousness with my new toy!

Thanx Elysia!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Just Do It!

Over the past few weeks and months, things here at the cottage have become, um... somewhat disorganized. (Yeah... disorganized... sort of like after a massive airstrike).

Since neither of us are working today, we have decided to spring into action and get to it; cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing, organizing and basically doing our best impression of a white tornado.

We have to... we are tearing our hair out. (Well... I don't really have all that much hair to tear out, since I keep it about 1/16th of an inch long... but, you get the picture...)

While we love our little cottage, the main problem here is lack of storage space. Every closet is poised to explode its contents all over the room as well as the hapless individual who has the poor foresight to actually turn the doorknob..

Every horizontal surface is therefore a storage space candidate... which can lead to some rather odd questions at times...

During the holidays, we like to put a large tree in our living room. This necessitates a campaign of furniture rearrangement that would put most moving companies to shame.

Feng Shui experts have learned not to come anywhere near Thistlebright Cottage during the holiday season for fear of ending up in a shock induced coma.

I am personally hopeful that we will come across Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhart someplace in the house, under a pile of clothes or behind some books or something...

I am fairly certain that there is actually an extra room behind one precariously large pile, but I haven't been able to fight my way past it yet.

When Elysia asked me what sorts of cleaning supplies we might need, I suggested a backhoe, and she wrote it on the list without batting an eye.

For the last two weeks, we have had to don blindfolds prior to actually entering the house, and we simply feel our way around with our hands. To actually look around causes severe brain contusions and my eyes are still bleeding from the last glimpse.

It is my goal to restore this place to a state that fosters serenity, peace of mind, and mental relaxation. As it is right now, one would think that a pair of slavering, barking lunatics live here.

The bright side of living in a small, cozy little cottage is that it takes a relatively short time to clean it up and whip it back into shape.

So. That is my plan for today. I have to steel my mind and deepen my resolve to be brutal when it comes to culling out the unnecessary shit and tossing it out on the curb. I am notoriously bad about this... wanting instead to save pocket lint and the little strips that are left when one tears a page out of a spiral notebook rather than actually throw something away!!!

We really can't afford to keep much in the way of un-needed crap here, though... we simply don't have anyplace to put it, and I, for one, am becoming somewhat tired of having to sleep on top of the silverware!!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A Turn of the Wheel

Well, here it is; New Year's Day - 2006. Happy New Year to all of you! I wish you all a wonderful, safe, happy and prosperous new year!

Last night I tended bar for a New Year's Eve party. After I had arrived and began to set up for the night, each of the bosses (there are three) ran up to me seperately, each in a state of abject panic, and announced that the other bartender (a new guy) wasn't here yet, and that they couldn't get ahold of him, and that I had to set up two stations. I said, "Sure boss, no problem..". This seemed to freak them out even worse, I suppose because to them, I wasn't displaying the proper level of panic and unrest. What they forget is that for every single job other than this party that takes place once per year, I have to set up two stations as a matter of course - the cocktail bar, and the regular bar. Many times, I also set up a cordial bar. This was a simple task that wouldn't really be all that much to do at all. The next thing that I got was a peppering of questions regarding the relative difficulty of making various drinks, and whether someone could learn to make them on the spot. When I enquired into the reason for this line of questioning, I was told that if worse came to worse, one of the bosses would be tending bar beside me... great.

Half an hour later, the other bartender came walking in, with three bosses surrounding him, matching him step for step, and each of them squawking at him how he gave them a heart attack, and how worried they were, blah-blah-blah, yammer-yammer-yammer... I took one look, made eye-contact with the new guy, and we both cracked up simultaneously!! Apparently, he had gotten a flat tire, in the rain, and he wasn't able to call on his cell-phone because either his battery was low, or he was in a bad coverage area. He changed the tire in a tuxedo and still got to work looking presentable, and not really all that late. I think he made a good show of it, personally.

As it turned out, I had most of his stuff set up, and gave him a quick rundown of what was already done and what needed to be done, and we got everything set up and ready to roll with half-an-hour to spare and absolutely no duplication of effort.

The bosses calmed down, at least with regard to us, and began haunting the DJs, asking them every two minutes (literally, folks.. you could time it to the second!) whether they would be set up on time until one of the DJs had a melt down and screamed at the boss, saying: "HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!! YES!! YES!! WE'LL BE SET UP ON TIME!! WILL YOU QUIT COMING IN HERE AND ASKING US EVERY FUCKING TWO MINUTES!! GO FIND SOMETHING TO DO!! IF YOU SAY ONE MORE WORD TO US... ONE MORE.... WE'RE PACKING UP AND LEAVING... AND THEN YOU'LL REALLY BE FUCKED, WON'T YOU!!" The entire room full of wait-staff, roadies and bar-staff went totally silent at that. The boss turned and walked out of the room, and true to his word, the DJ was set up and ready to go with time to spare. Valium, anyone??

When the party got started, we were literally jumping through our asses!! I have never made so many drinks, or run out of booze, ice, juice, glasses, and everything else as many times in a single shift as we did last night!! We were cranking, but we managed to find a rhythm and keep it flowing rather flawlessly throughout the night.

The crowd was different than what we usually encounter. At weddings and such, everybody knows everybody else, and they maintain a certain degree of decorum (well... hmmmmm...) because they know that they will have to deal with one another in the future. This crowd consisted of various small groups, couples, and singles who simply wanted to have someplace to go and ring in the new year. They all had their own personalities and preferences, rather than the group-mind that a wedding, engagement party, company Christmas party, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or Sweet Sixteen party usually has... and it was utter pandemonium! Nobody even tried to stand in a line... rather, they all clustered around the bar and yelled out to us what they wanted. It was total chaos, and it was a blast!

The same boss that was haunting the DJ came up to me and started screaming at me at one point, saying "Will you move fucking faster?!! It would be nice if just once this evening there wasn't a long line at the bar!!"

I completely ignored him, and continued working, not having even a second to spare in order to acknowledge him, answer him, or devote to him at all.. I just let him stand there, glaring at me, and the crowd answered him for me, by yelling; "Get outta here! Leave them alone! Go soak your head! They're doing fine! Fuck off, asshole! Go count your beans! You're a dick!" and so on... he looked around, and for the second time, turned and left without a word. It was pretty funny! He's actually a really good guy, but he was coming out of his friggin' tree last night, and he was crawling up everyone's ass and making a general nuisance out of himself as a result. I understand it, but it didn't make him any less of a pain in the ass at the moment.

We were slinging drinks as fast as we could move, but it was going as smooth as glass, and although I had only met the new guy that night, we managed to move in the cramped space behind the bar without getting into one another's way. We dealt with shortages of whatever we ran out of, a total breakdown of the gas system (the gun that dispenses the sodas, sour mix, tonic, etc., took a shit and went tits-up partway through the night). I sent the other guy for a wrench, and new tanks, and began serving drinks by using the bottled sodas that I had stocked the bar with 'just in case', and when he got back and took over serving, I had the gas system fixed and back up and running in about six minutes! I'm glad that I had the forethought to predict that this might happen and respond to it proactively or we would have been right-fucked!! It worked out well, though, and we kept the drinks flowing smoothly and everybody had a great time. It was a good night.

When I got home, Elysia and I ate a big steaming bowl of home-made beef stew with huge hunks of rough bread slathered with butter (my concoction.. I made it the other night..), and we watched 'The Blob' with Steve McQueen. Partway through the movie, one or the other of us concatenated " - in the crack of my ass!" to something that one of the characters said, and after that the whole thing degenerated into gales of laughter as we both found ways to add this to just about everything that anybody said. It was just what we both enjoy the most; senseless, random, stupid humor!! Afterwards.. at around 3AM, we staggered up to bed and were both asleep within seconds.

I woke up today at around 11AM. My back is killing me, I suppose from carrying all the stuff last night. It's a bleary, bleak, grey wintery day... and it is the very first day of a brand new year! So, as I am sitting here, I am contemplating this blank canvas that is set before me, and wondering what triumphs and horrors this new year will bring.

In my case, this will be the 46th (going on 47th) trip around the sun... I have changed quite a bit since the first time around, and I can't help but wonder who and what I will be this time next year.... or, for that matter, whether I will be at all!!

As far as work is concerned, up until recently, at least, I have felt like an outsider of sorts.. not completely... but in a number of different ways.

I understand this, intellectually; I am a new addition into a group that has worked together for years. They have all worked in this industry from the beginning of their professional careers, to the exclusion of any other career field, many of them have worked together as a team for a number of years, and they each have a somewhat narrow view of things as a result, which is understandable.

Now. Here I come, with a skill-set that is almost completely outside the realm of everybody else's. Nobody knew me from Adam. I am a completely unknown commodity. I have no experience in this industry (at all!), and have worked a widely varied number of capacities in my lifetime. To everyone else, however, I am simply an unknown ingredient added into the mix, and they have no idea how this is going to affect the equilibrium of the group. I think that the owner wanted to instigate some change in the office in order to introduce some fresh ideas and habits, and by hiring me, he achieved that. The thing is that people don't necessarily like change, and he never really asked them how they felt about it; he simply hired me and tossed me into the pool. And, as I said, folks don't like change. Not even change for the good. So... I was met with a mixture of hopefulness, apprehension and resentment, I think. My views are very different in a number of ways, and most likely looked upon as bizarre in many instances. Not only in my professional mindset, but also in my personal views.

For instance, there is a gambling sub-culture in my workplace. Every day the guys roll the dice, bet on sports events, bet on when a particular shipment will arrive, or on which driver will be driving the truck. They bet on who will or will not come into the shop on any given day, on who will choose what food item for lunch, who will lose or gain weight, or on just about anything else under (or over) the sun. Some of the bets are small... a dollar, a gyro. Others are large; There is currently a $500 bet going between the owner and FatCat over who will lose the highest percentage of bodyweight between December 22nd, 2005 and February something (??) of 2006.

Five. Hundred. Dollars!

The owner has been constantly putting plates of heroes, potato salad, doughnuts, brownies, and just about anything else that can be eaten on FatCat's desk in an attempt to undermine his resolve. Its funny, but its also slightly disturbing.

Insofar as this sub-culture is concerned, I am a complete outsider. I never bet or gamble with them at all. This marks me as being weird.

The guys all have this thing about bad-mouthing their wives or girlfriends to one another, or discussing their various sexual practices or preferences. They also hold a common concept that cooperating with one's wife in any way marks one as being 'pussy-whipped'. How much of what they spout is true and accurate and how much of it is utter bullshit (depending upon where the wife is, I'm sure) I have no idea.

I, on the other hand, never have anything bad to say about my wife. I think she is fantastic. Actually, she is my single most favorite human being that I have ever been acquainted with in all of the world in all of my life. I love her, I honor her, and I worship her. She is my very best friend, and to her and only to her I am soul-naked. In my mind, there is she and I, and then there is everyone else. So, bearing this in mind, I never have anything bad to say about her to outsiders. If we have difficulties, or if there are things that she says or does that bother me or outright piss me off... well, that is between her and me, and not a topic of discussion in my workplace or anywhere else. I may share some things of my choosing, but these guys say things that I know would hurt their wives feelings should it ever get back to them. So, this quality also marks me as being different.

Then there is the matter of different qualities of intellect.

The guys that I work with are very smart when they are doing what it is that they do. By which I mean their work, their hobbies and interests, etc. But, we differ in one respect. While they tend to limit the focus of their attention to a rather limited sphere of influence - making money, having fun, etc., I tend to be interested in learning simply for the sake of learning. There isn't much that I don't have an interest in to some degree. When it comes to music, well.. I listen to anything and everything. I like some things more so than others, but I don't shut anything out. The same is true regarding food, literature, and just about anything else. When I say or do something that lets the other guys know that I have, or have had an interest in some topic that they do not, especially if I reveal that I possess knowledge about a topic that they consider to be either geeky or eggheadish, or something that is in their collective estimation either flaky or otherwise esoteric, they react negatively to it, whether it involves an opinion, the knowledge of a fact or facts, or even the use of a particular vocabulary word. In their minds this marks me as being strange, odd, weird, bizarre.. or whatever.... but it hasn't stopped them from approaching me on numerous occasions to settle arguments, mediate wagers, or answer questions. Maybe my knowledge is useful to some degree after all, ay??

Lately, I think that they have come to accept me as being part of the team, one of 'The Boys', my oddness not withstanding. Many of the guys have said things to me that let me know that they valued my contributions, and that they are glad that I am there doing what it is that I do. Not only my co-workers, but customers as well.

Somewhere along the line, we have managed to gel and mesh and learn to work together rather seamlessly into a single cohesive unit. We get the job done, no matter what, and we look out for one another. There is a great deal of ball-breaking, catcalling, ass-grabbing and verbal abuse, but, in the end, we do what the boss pays us to do, even when the odds are against us, and we do it well. There is some degree of satisfaction to be derived from that, I think.

So it appears that I have somehow wormed my way in to the 'insider's track' and have become a vital part of the team. Honestly, I don't really care one way or the other in my heart of hearts. After all, I work primarily to earn a paycheck, and so long as I am doing that, I consider my work efforts to be a personal success... but, being accepted and liked as a part of the group makes life that much easier, and that much more fulfilling. So, it would appear that I have something to be thankful for in that respect.

In terms of my inner-self, I would like to walk a deeper path, spiritually, and also to continue to spend more time doing the various things that I consider a major part of my life; Play music on my bagpipes, cook and bake good food, spend time outside 'faoi an spéir' (under the sky) - working on my garden, training, breathing, and contemplating trees... I want to be able to take as much of the troubles and worries that I can off of my wife's head.. and I would dearly love to be able to find the time to simply sit and breathe now and again.

Regarding other stuff... I have slacked off, fitness-wise, over the past couple of months, caving in to the pressures of the holidays and such, and I desperately need to get back on track in that department. Tommorrow I plan on getting my ass back to the gym, so, that is the first step to be taken there... come hell or high water!

This house looks as though it has been the focus of a detailed search by an inconsiderate group of gangsters or agents... or as though a bomb has gone off... I want to get it straight, and get our living space back to a condition that fosters serenity and peace of mind rather than migraines. The focus of this past year has been almost exclusively on work. As the situation stands, that isn't likely to change much in the coming year, and everything else will necessarily have to take a back seat to getting the bills paid, but I dearly hope that we will be able to find some way to achieve this while still leaving time to enjoy our lives while we are young enough and healthy enough to still be able to enjoy them... I'm not sure how that will work out, but I leave it in the hands of the Lord and the Lady.

In a grander sense, I wonder what the year will bring to us all. I wonder how many of the guys and gals that are in harm's way 'over there' will not come home... and how many will! I wonder what wonderful discoveries will be made, and what tragedies will befall some of us or all of us in this coming year...

The road ahead sits before me, like a great big empty canvas. Today I sit here, contemplating where the road will take me, and what sorts of things I will do and see in this coming year. I am excited, pensive, filled with expectation, wonder, and apprehension... but, I also realize that I am not alone. I have my beautiful wife at my side, always, and a circle of family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintences around me. Out there are a bunch of people whose paths will intersect or join with mine this year; new friends, shared laughter, momentary kindnesses exchanged... plus I have all of you guys to share it all with here on this blog.

Sitting here.. alternately looking out of my window and into my own thoughts, I am thinking that I am in pretty good shape, all in all.

I don't honestly know what this year will bring to me, but as far as I'm concerned.... I'm ready for whatever comes at me... I will find a way to deal with whatever I have to deal with, I suppose, and I will enjoy each and every moment that I can when I'm doing it. So, although I don't know what the year has in store for me, I say,"Bring it On!"