Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Whiny Christian Resorts to Violence!

So there I was, minding my own business and reading PZ Myers' Pharyngula blog, when I came across a link to some whiny little shit whining in his overwrought little shit manner.

Yeah, I know, there's no news to that!

BUT...this guy says he will punch people in the throat if they don't make His Whiny Little Shitness happy:

The Next Person Who Says Happy Holidays Shall Be Punched In The Throat
Posted on December 26th, 2010
by Ronald Williams

How’s that for holiday spirit??

I’ve just about had enough of the minimization of Christmas. Political correctness, coupled with bitter, angry atheists, have all but destroyed any remnants of the reason for celebrating this holiday, and I am at an unprofessional boiling point. Yes, this shall be one of my rants.

Does anyone really believe our nation is better off without the true meaning of Christmas allowed in public places? It is already an over-commercialized financially crippling mess. We have created numerous fairy tales to detract from the true meaning. From a fat man in a red suit who sneaks down our chimney at night, to flying reindeer with red noses, to a very unmanly enchanted snowman (that’s right, I said it!! I hate Frosty!!), we will look to anything to not have to look toward or understand the true meaning of CHRISTmas.

Oh, he does go on--and his post would have the right vocal tenor if we could get Anthony "C-3PO" Daniels to do the voiceover. There should be a "Whiny Little Shit" font for people like him to rant in. How about Comic Sans? No one likes it anyway.

Like so many Whiny Little Shits (hereafter "WLS"), he doesn't know basic stuff like "X" being an abbreviation for "Christ"--and that the christers themselves came up with that. Nope, he just bitches about it, like a good WLS should.

He screeches about "political correctness," a term the professional hysterics and herds of WLS's use to scare each other with, but which otherwise simply means "people saying or doing things we don't like." He spits the word Kwanzaa the way a cobra spits venom, butthurt and bitter that other people would dare to take attention from his own imaginary holy day by celebrating their own.

He howls in impotent fist-shaking rage at "bitter, angry" atheist strawmen and their NERVE (and here he clutches his pearls like an hysterical June Cleaver sighting a mouse) at expressing their opinions publicly on public transit banners, then tells us that we believe in NOTHING (hey, what's one more religious imbecile who doesn't even know what an atheist is?)!

His WLS rant is just a childish temper tantrum, and nothing more than one would expect considering what passes for a conservative these days--though I bet this WLS thinks he's got a good Lewis Black-style rant instead.

Poor little kid. Yeah, he's got it tagged as "humor," but one never really knows what violence such people will resort to if their passive aggression doesn't get them what they want. Remember the Mohammed cartoons? If not him, there's always someone who would get violent over stupid things like the use of "Happy Holidays."

It's a few months early, but I'd like to tell this twit right now, since I will otherwise forget:

HAPPY HOLIDAYS...a$$hole. :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Kit Review: Space: 1999 Eagle 1 Transporter

I have wanted one of these since the late 70's, when I spotted one on a store shelf. I was about 10, on an allowance, short a few bucks...I got the Hawk fighter from the same show instead. I never saw another Eagle kit anywhere, other than an assembled one on display in a little toy & hobby shop in the mall.

I coveted that model until that store closed up, still hoping to find a kit, going by to "visit" it, studying details and then going home and trying to draw what I'd seen as a set of plans, the closest thing I had to having an Eagle.

Once I had internet access, I found a site detailing the restoration of one of the original 44" miniatures from the show. A bit more digging turned up a guy who made CGI models of the ships, which he put into vignettes of his own. I wasn't up for scratchbuilding one of my own, couldn't pick up a CGI model or put it on a shelf, and still didn't have an Eagle.

I finally found one at John's Models, a little shop north of town [I don't normally use real names in the Blog, but he deserves a nod for his shop; dude's got EVERYthing!]. I was originally going after the Revell 1:96 Saturn V kit.

But then I saw The Eagle.

New MPC/Fundimensions kit (1975). In box (a little sun-faded, no shrinkwrap). In bag. Instructions and decal sheet intact.

Sixty bucks. Six-zero. Ouch.

I knew it was a rare bird already, and I knew the mighty Saturn could wait a few more weeks. I took the $60 hit, then went looking on eBay to see whether I'd messed up. Nope! A new-in-box, in-bag kit (unassembled) was listed for about the same amount--but a new-in-box shrinkwrapped kit was running around $120.00! I'm afraid to assemble the thing, now. Opening the bag knocks the price down to $20 or so.

Everything's molded in white. There aren't many pieces, and the level of detail is disappointing, if typical for a mid-70's MPC kit. If you peek over at the 44" miniature you'll see an intricate space-frame forming the spine, forward and aft sections. The kit's got the trussed spine section, but only molded-in framing on the other two sections. The remainder of the ship is somewhat better, with basic geometric shapes instead of fine detail.

There's little molding flash on any of the parts and the plastic is of good quality (not soapy), but what detail there is isn't sharply defined. It's not an impressive "hero" version of the famous Eagle, but the 10-year-old me would have loved it. He just wouldn't have had the $60 in his allowance to get this one, either.

This one's staying on my shelf, in its expensive bag.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Movie Review: Tron Legacy (3D)

I'd have preferred a non-3D viewing, really, since most of the effects are subtle enough that they didn't add a lot to the film. Still, the 3D stuff was produced WITH the movie, as opposed to afterward, so it was better than it would have been if it were just tacked on to cash in. That said, I had to take the glasses off several times to ease the 3D headache.

Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprise their original roles as Kevin Flynn/Clu and Alan Bradley/Tron.

Flynn's gone missing. His son, Sam (Garrett Hedlund), goes looking for clues at Flynn's Arcade and soon finds himself fighting for his life on the Game Grid like his father did 20 years ago. Conveniently, he's fresh from leading the city cops on a high-speed motorcycle chase--so of course he's a whiz on the Light-cycles.

The discs are no longer so Frisbee-like, the fighting much more athletic and gymnastic (maybe these are 64 bit instead of 8?). The Light-cycles are pretty damn cool--and are capable of much more complex maneuvering (curves!) than their predecessors. When a Warrior is "de-rezzed"(destroyed) in battle, there's an intense liquid splash of tiny cubes. Very cool.

Instead of Alan/Tron's love interest Lori/Yori (Cindy Morgan), there's Olivia (House) Wilde's Quorra. She's a fighter, not simply in-distress eye candy.

There are plenty of little call-backs to the original, but not in the soundtrack. Daft Punk's techno/house music fits the flick nicely, reminding me of the original "Terminator" and Blue Man Group. They don't quote any of Wendy Carlos' music from the original "Tron," and that's too bad, but not a deal-breaker.

Overall, the look of the Computer World (the "Grid") is more refined than that of the original, maybe missing some of the wireframed primitive coolness and definitely feeling like more of a grown-up movie (none of the kiddie gags of the original). Going by the opening narration by Kevin Flynn, these changes are his work:
The Grid. A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they traveled through the computer. Ships, motorcycles. With the circuits like freeways. I kept dreaming of a world I thought I'd never see. And then, one day... i got in.

The CGI de-aging on Flynn/Clu is nicely done, though it's a little obvious at times in "real-world" flashbacks.

One amusing aspect of both movies is the religious relationship between Programs and Users. In "Tron," even Sark (David Warner) is afraid when he learns that Kevin Flynn is a User. In "Legacy," however, the fighting programs that face off against Sam Flynn relish the opportunity to destroy one of their "oppressors," mocking him as the 'son of our Maker.' Considering that his father was a hands-on creator, mingling face-to-face with Programs, I guess familiarity did breed contempt. I wonder how many fundies will see the movie and demand an apology for their bruised feelings at such a thing.

Overall, I'll give it an 8; 2 points off for the headachy 3D.

Here's the IMDb page.

FOLLOWUP (Dec. 25, 2010): Just back from seeing the 2D version. Better experience this time around--I wasn't fiddling with glasses or rubbing the bridge of my nose. There are really only a few solid 3D moments, anyway. The three leads--Bridges, Hedlund and Wilde--are fun!

Jeff Bridges-as-Flynn has a quiet Zen vibe that reminds me of "The Big Lebowski's" Dude, but dressed in clean Japanese robes. As Clu, he had a way of saying some of his lines that made me laugh, but I was the only one.

Garrett Hedlund gives Sam just the right amount of cockiness and fearlessness. We see early on that he's a thrill-seeker--the high-speed bike chase and a BASE-jumping scene that follows set us up for similar situations in the Computer World. I'm wary of conveniences after last year's painfully long reading of Mercedes Lackey's "Valdemar" series.

Olivia Wilde reminds me of a 1920's "flapper," probably because of her short-bobbed hair. Quora comes across as a veteran fighter but not world-weary or cynical. Quiet and low-key with a rare smile worth seeing.

Without the headache, a much more enjoyable film.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pic of the Day: Solstice Eclipse

I think this was my first lunar eclipse. I got lucky with the weather--not a cloud in the sky. I wish I'd had better equipment, though--like a digital camera with manual focus.

This is the best of a dozen attempts at holding my Fuji A345 4.1megapixel camera up to my telescope's eyepiece and tripping the shutter.

The pics don't compare well to the real thing, though. With the advancing copper-colored shadow slowly eating its way across the moon, the craters and seas stood out nicely. In the bright crescent, there were three large seas (Tranquility, Nectar, and Fecundity--keep in mind that this image is upside down!) that seemed to form a terrified face screaming as it was engulfed.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pic of the Day: Tank from "Tron"

Since the new "Tron" flick just opened--I'm going tomorrow--here's a tank from the original,
from 'way back in my high-school days in January, 1985. A few months later, I forgot about "Tron" and went nuts over "Back to the Future."

Done in drafting pencil, colored pencil and drawing markers on plain typing paper. Stuff like this is why I failed Drafting class--but I didn't do well in Art, either, because in both cases I was working on my own stuff (like this) instead of working on assignments.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Skatin' Hank and Collections Agents

Over the past few years, I've been getting messages from various bill collectors looking for the deadbeat son of "Hank," my crazy stepbrother. Apparently Hank, Jr. has been skating checks. No idea what Hank's part in this might be, aside from living with his son. I'm good with not knowing, given the trouble he caused all the time he was in this house.

For a few years, I didn't get any of those calls, but there were three waiting for me when I got home from the hospital Tuesday. The first two were pleasant-voiced automated messages, quickly deleted.

The third was amusing. It was from a Collections company based in Canada, the Takhar Group. It seems that they "represent" Columbia House (CD 'club') and some book clubs. This jackass was taking the tough-guy approach: "You are REQUIRED to call [whatever the number] or use our website at [whatever the web address] NOW." He went on like this for half a minute without so much as naming who he was after. I played it twice for the amusement value before deleting it--and I'm kicking myself for not recording a copy. Hope he calls back!

I did a lookup on Takhar Group and found that they've got a reputation for bullying and harassing people who don't even have a debt, let alone check-skaters and credit-defaulters. They like to come across as kneecappers and say they'll ruin your credit if you don't pony up. The Better Business Bureau gives them an "F."

Thanks, Hank. Even when you're not here, you're a pain in the ass.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Farewell, Neighbor...

No, he's not dead. The hospital's got some rules about a woman sleeping in a room with two men. Ever since I came in, Jones' wife or one of his daughters has been sleeping in the bedside recliner.

Apparently this creates a moral dilemma for the administration folks. As long as Jones and his wife or daughter are alone in a room, there's no problem. But add one other guy and HOLY CRAP there's gonna be misbehavin'.

The staffers pondered the matter, then moved him to a private room where he can sleep with his wife OR his daughter. Really, they could have moved me, since he was here first and I was the intruder.

I don't understand the thinking or rationalization behind this rule, but it's not my hospital.

10:30pm: Some staffers bundled him up and moved him half a hospital away to fix a nonexistent matter. The room is nice and quiet, but that just doesn't seem right.

10:35pm: I'm getting a new neighbor. They didn't even let Jones' bed get cold.

I forgot to mention that this room has TWO crucifi, one under each TV. Wonder if there's a message there?

Richard Holbrooke, 2010

I've been following this story since Friday: Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has died following a Type-A aortic dissection. This is the more lethal version to have, but either one can cause blood supply issues downstream in the kidneys, legs, or what have you.

He underwent more than 20 hours of surgery, most likely a partial aortic replacement in which a length of Dacron tubing is sewn in place of the damaged section. In this case, it looks like the replacement involved the arch and its connection to the heart and associated valve. The scariest complication in this case (before or after surgery) has blood being pumped into the pericardium, the sac in which the heart rests. If there's enough going in, it'll stop the heart.

I'd forgotten that John Ritter died of one of these things.

HAL-9000 works for the hospital?

It's 8pm; this is a Catholic hospital, so there are morning and evening prayers broadcast over the PA. I haven't been paying much attention aside from noticing that the morning woman sounds like an system, with strange...Shatner-pauses.

Tonight's reader sounded like HAL-9000; given the sleep-inducing nature of "2001," I got reflexively sleepy. I'm sorry, Dave.

Losing Weight, One Kidney at a Time.

All this time in a hospital room in the last week stems from a urologist appointment last Monday.

It hasn't really been determined whether that golf-ball sized "mass" (as the medical folks call it) is malignant or not, though my kidney doc says there's a 95% chance that it is, though it's slow-growing. Various doctors like the notion that it's causing my blood pressure problems and needs to come out.

January 7th, it's coming out. I'm not looking forward to the recovery, with all the difficulties I'm having now after getting a torn aorta. And now I've got one less week to get my crap together so things will be as easy as possible. I've been sleeping on just a mattress and box springs; no way I'll be able to get up from there, so it's time to put the frame back on it. Even worse, I've got to clean up my room! I'm hardly a hoarder, but I've got a lot of books for a 10 x 10 foot room.

5pm update: Now the vascular doc wants to get a full-length CAT scan of my aorta to see just how things are. The last one I had--Nov. 4th--is the one that shows apparent growth from 3.5 cm to 3.9.

7:30 pm: Stuck another night.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Me and Mr. Jones, 5

Yeah, yeah, yeah it's really Part 4. But it's Day 5, so nyah.

Jones is vastly improved. Still pretty weak, but he's alert, able to talk, and his fever broke Saturday. He slept almost all night without the groaning, moaning, and gurgling. Isn't science cool?

I've got a cold. BP came down to 103/something overnight. It was under 100 this morning. That's insanely low for someone who's used to seeing 200's.

Bored as hell, even with all the stuff I threw on the laptop and free Wi-Fi--but I wasn't bored enough to sit through the third viewing of the 4th Indiana Jones movie. I'll never be bored enough.

I might be going home tomorrow.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Me and Mr. Jones, 3

We're a hell of a pair. He's got a Foley, I'm going in a little jug and decanting to a larger one. Something for the lab folks to do.

He's vastly improved. When he's awake, he's able to speak pretty clearly. I envy him his ability to sleep--though in his condition, he can't really do much else. It helps that he's somewhat hard of hearing. I went to sleep around 11pm last night and was awakened at 11:45 for a blood pressure check. Then every hour after that, something happened: my neighbor tried to sit up, so the staff set a bed alarm; a doctor came to see me, for less than 2 minutes; the bed alarm goes off...then the BP tester comes again, a half-hour early, breaking the rhythm. I lay there for another 45 minutes before giving up and moving over to the recliner.

Nice & quiet for a few minutes, then Neighbor's wife discovers that the bed's soaked. His water pitcher got knocked over at some point. By the time the bed's stripped and re-made, it's 5am and there's no way I'll be able to sleep.

Still no real ideas for blood pressure triggers. It can't be as simple as sodium and caffeine intake, though, because my BP's been up in the last 24 hours. I'm on the hospital's cardiac diet, so those inputs are eliminated (and no, I'm not cheating--and yes, I'm taking the damn meds).

Meanwhile, that pocket in my aorta has grown slightly, from 3.5cm to 3.9cm. If it grows just 6mm (about 1/4 inch) more, I'm farked; I'll have to have surgery to fix it. The only two options are a stent or aortic replacement. The replacement has about a 20% chance of leaving me paraplegic.

I was hoping to be out today, but I'm stuck for another night. Hell of a way to spend a Friday.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Me and Mr. Jones, 2 (the first morning)

My roommate is much improved. His breathing is less labored, he's more able to speak (yesterday he was slurred and incoherent), and he's not coughing up as much junk. He's got that weird whine on the exhale that goes with crud in the trachea, but he and his wife got some good sleep in the night.

I didn't, at first. Starting around 10 pm I was hit with the worst migraine I've had in at least a year. Usually I'm in a position to shoot aspirin at it as soon as I feel it coming on, but I'm captive and not allowed to have aspirin. There was acetaminophen, but it won't even touch my headaches. Took a few more hours of sweating and nausea for that one to end.

But now I have a clue for what's been causing the migraines all these years: high blood pressure! I'm off my meds' schedule and dosages by a good bit, dependent on a platoon of medical staff. I'd never given it any thought--most people with high BP aren't even aware of it, let alone all the ways it can mess things up. (High BP: Is There Nothing It Can't Do?)

In my case, the BP caused a tear in the inner lining of my aorta. As blood kept flowing against that weak spot, it widened and deepened into a pocket between the inner and middle layers (a classic "Type B" aortic dissection). Hack me open, look straight down the pipe, and you'll see the 'pocket' taking up the left-front quarter of the aorta. I haven't had a followup CAT scan since July; no idea how well it's healing up. At least this kind of damage does heal, if slowly. If it had been a "Type A" I might not be sitting here listening to Jonesey's breath making that "woooooooo....." sound.

Back to the migraines. It seems like I've been getting these vicious headaches for about a decade. Can't say if it came with, before, or after the weight gain of the late '90s, or the breathing problems (allergies, mild asthma), or the beginnings of that tumor growing in my right kidney. Maybe it's all caused by that. I know the BP's been high for at least as long.

The Doc came in and he's convinced I'm shitting him about taking the meds, or maybe I'm not taking them right--maybe all at once? A full day's dosage once each morning? Come on, I'm not an idiot. "Three times daily" means once every 8 hours, and like that.

The meds obviously work, given that 141-over-something BP last week (the first drop below the 160's in months), and the 140's and low 150's I'm seeing sitting in thos hospital room, so something else is interfering.

I've pondered all afternoon and "diet" is the only thing I can think of. I'm not doing fast food 3 meals a day, but there's a lot of canned and packaged stuff that's probably high in sodium. That's the only thing I can think of. But I'm on a low-sodium diet here and my blood pressure is still high.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Me and Mr. Jones

I've been doing weekly followups at the doctor's office since late August. When I left the hospital after my aortic meltdown, I was instructed to keep it below 160 over something. Clonidine, Lisinopril, Hydrochlorothiazide, and Metoprolol were on the menu each day.

The Doc kept tinkering with dosages and ordering by the month at first, but my BP hept hovering around 160 to 180 over whatever. He asks every single time whether I'm really, really, really taking my meds as I say; it's irritating, but I can understand his skepticism. Patients lie. But I really, really, really am taking them.

He started badgering me to let him admit me to the hospital, where he'd be able to tinker, poke and prod in a controlled environment. I kept resisting; he assumed I was worried about the cost (, but it's really just that I'm tired of the hospital experience. Really dislike it. Since there's no sensation associated with high blood pressure, there's no particular sense of urgency.

Last week--for the first time in years, perhaps--my BP was down to 141 over 80. This week, it was 210/100.

He pushed to admit me, so here I sit in a double room, laptop and all. I'm a hell of a lot better off than my roommate, an elderly man with atrial fibrillation, bronchitis, kidney failure, diabetes, a Foley catheter, and a small village of family and friends. The poor guy has been groaning and gurgling with each breath...and I've fought back the urge to throw up. I'm such a lightweight. Brought earplugs. That gurgling...

At least I got to plan ahead for this visit: laptop loaded with some "Firefly" scripts. If I'm reading the site correctly, a group of fans collaborated on building screenplays for "virtual episodes" to fill out the remainder of the show's single season, as well as a complete second season of 22 "episodes" based on the movie "Serenity." From what I've read so far, it's good stuff.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pic of the Day: The Great Appeaser.

Yes, I used Comic Sans on the pic. Sadly, it seems appropriate now.

I'm not as bitterly disappointed as many on the Left are at Obama's tendency to talk tough about standing up to the Goposaurs' demands and childishness only to almost immediately give the bastards what they want. Democrats are appeasers, not fighters.

So no, I'm not surprised at the lack of backbone, the dearth of fighting spirit. I've been pissed off at the Jellyfish Party since John "High Road" Kerry wouldn't defend himself against Fratboy's slimy Swift Boaters. Then he beseeched the country to move on, heal, grow.

Pelosi became Speaker and wouldn't go after Fratboy or his administration for the torturing, lying, or anything else. She wanted the country to move ahead, not look behind.

Obama should have immediately opened investigations into Fratboy's actions, but took that goddamned "high road" and mumbled words about looking forward rather than behind. Yes, he's accomplished some important things, but enough is enough! When the hell is he going to understand that bipartisanship only works when there are two compromising parties working together, instead of one bunch of screaming, greedy assholes demanding, demanding, demanding and the other doing nothing but handing them what they want?

Fuck's sake, dude, stop being a doormat. The Dems deserved to lose in the 2010 Midterms. Obama's well on his way to deserving to lose in 2012.

Update: (12-10-2010--Apparently, this is classic Obama, the tough-as-nails talker who hands the opposition the goddamn ball as soon as it's in play. On last night's "Countdown," they devoted a segment to the Caver In Chief in which Hillary supporter Tom Buffenbarger decried him as a poet, not a fighter. This morning, the blogs are discussing it. There's video of Buffenbarger's speech at the link.

Andy Borowitz delivers a smack, as well, though he probably shouldn't give Obama something else to concede.


I’m a “deadbeat,” as the right-wing assholes call non-right-wing people who go on Unemployment. Have been since early October. [ Update: That whack-job griftercrat Christine O'Donnell hates me and anyone else without a job. Says the Unemployment bennies extension is a tragedy akin to Pearl Harbor! ]

I wouldn’t have needed it, except that I don’t have a job, now. I haven’t even been back to work--or even visited the store where I used to work--since I left it for the Emergency Room and week-long stay at the Crucifix Hotel [a Catholic hospital, for the Goppers trying to read this].

The Company sent me some paperwork to fill in and send back, but in the weeks after I got out of the hospital, I wasn’t very conscious of things. Having a partly-dissected aorta, with all the pain and sleeplessness that goes with it, kind of changes how you look at things. My world was a brown corduroy recliner for more than two months.

I put The Envelope in an “Important Stuff!!” pile, and it and its important pile migrated when I did, from bed to recliner (where I’d fall asleep), recliner to bed (where I’d try to sleep and fail), over to the computer desk (where I’d fall asleep). I was desperate for sleep for the first month but would recline or sit or lie down for hours only to sleep for minutes. My heart would pound in my chest or jump at random, an unpleasant flutter…a ringing in one ear, in time with my pulse…waking dreams…pain as my guts tried to get organized again…exhaustion from simply shambling a few feet to the bathroom (and falling asleep sitting there) or moving from computer to recliner, recliner to bed, trying to get comfortable enough to do more than nap or lie there wondering if I’d wake up again. The Envelope didn’t seem important. Neither did food or much of anything else. Just those few minutes of sleep and a pair of Lortabs every 8 hours.

I misplaced it, at some point, The Letter. When I finally started getting some sleep more than a month later, I wore myself out looking for the thing. Didn’t take much effort to bring me to exhaustion. It's bad when something as simple as moving wears you out. Getting up to go to the bathroom and coming back to collapse into the recliner could take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes.

Finally found The Letter. Deadline was past. Called the number, was supposedly sent a "WTF?" note via certified mail, supposedly sent back “undeliverable” (I call bullshit--there weren’t many days when there wasn’t someone here and the Postal people are supposed to make more than a token attempt), so I basically got fired for not being at work. Not a single Corporate prick bothered to call to check on me--not the store manager (a good little Company boy and the pet of the Regional Manager), the HR folks, or the DM or RM. “Is he still alive? Did that torn aorta kill him? Is he crippled? Does he need anything?”

Very dickish, these dicks. This is how they take care of their employees. I got one visit from one co-worker. No one at my own store even knew where to find me.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get a note from the doc. “I need a note so I can go back to work.”
“I’m concerned about your blood pressure! Go to the Emergency room!!!”

Next visit. “I need a note--“
“I’m concerned about your blood pressure!”

“I need--“

“You don’t need a note to apply for a job. Here, go get more blood and urine tests. And an Ultrasound. And a CAT scan. And go to a kidney specialist. And a sleep specialist. Oh yeah, we need to change all your meds. BLOOOOOD PRESSSSUUUUUURE!!!”

Supposedly, I’m good to go back to work and have been since late September--except that this guy wouldn’t stop long enough to gimme a note so I could try to get re-hired. They’re going to want that note. They said so.

But then it occurred to me that I don’t want to go back to that job. I worked for them for three and a half years. The only raise I ever got was a nickel when my 90 days’ probation were up. I’m not counting the “raise” from the Minimum Wage increase. They paid that because they had to.

That lack of a raise wasn’t from being a bad worker; those Corporate pricks are constantly riding the store managers to cut payroll, declaring hiring and raise freezes. No one gets a raise--but those Corporate pricks get their bonuses for keeping costs down. The new District Manager went around bragging about his new $48,000 boat.

For the Corporate pricks’ whining about keeping payroll down and all the typical bullshit they whine over, I helped make them some $300 million in profits last year--me and all the other wage-earners who busted our asses and got stressed out. Look where that got me.

So now the Corporate pricks are paying out half of what I was making in Unemployment, and I’m looking for something better.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Piglet, Scumbag, and Mr. Perfect

I first wrote about Piglet back in April--that first love/first breakup that wrecked me for years.

December 3 will mark 16 years since our first weekend alone. Hard to believe it's been that long. I can still hear "Mystic Rhythms" by Rush playing on her stereo as I was pulling into the driveway.

I don't remember nearly as much of the phone call from April of 1995, when she babbled about my replacement, Mr. Perfect, the good little Mormon missionary ex-boyfriend who came back to her. Money, flashy car, and all the other stuff she claimed didn't really matter. Funny how that's all she talked about. Mr. Perfect was an angel--good job, good religion, all the things I apparently lacked.

But things didn't stay perfect; they were engaged in August, but then in March of 1996 another of her ex-boyfriends came back: the one I've named Scumbag. He was the opposite of Mr. Perfect, the Bad Boy women claim to dislike. She dumped Mr. Perfect--the love of her life, just like I was!--for Scumbag (who dumped his own fiancee' for her). Then she'd get pissed off at Scumbag and go running back to Mr. Perfect, then get bored and run back to Scumbag. I got to hear about the play-by-play because of that stupid "let's be friends" crap I was doing. By the time I wised up and booted her in late '97, I had lost count of how many times she went back and forth...let alone how many OTHER guys she'd gone to in the meantime. I sometimes wonder whether she's stopped with the pinball act, but finding out would mean having to look her up. That's okay.

This whole thing with the three of them and me is a freaking real-life soap opera! The best I can do to try to describe all the twists and turns is with a timeline:

October 29, 1994: I meet Pocahontas (she gets named Piglet later) at a Halloween party in Tallahassee. We talk, she flirts, but doesn't mention that she's engaged. I get her address, we write back & forth, but she doesn't mention her fiance' for a while. By late November, we're a long-distance item and she's dumped her fiance. I wonder how many times this has happened?

December 3: First weekend alone at her parents' house.
December __: Xmas party at her parents' house.

March 27, 1995: She casually mentions that an ex-boyfriend of hers has popped up, but don't worry, nothing will come of it! Yeah. I'm dumb enough to believe that, but everyone else and her dog all know it's about to hit the fan.

April 1, 1995: she goes out to a movie with Mr. Perfect.
April 8: The Phone Call, when she pretends that she's got a big decision to make, but it's obvious who she'll dump. I've never been through this before, so I think the "let's be friends" thing will really work.

August 12, 1995: I move to Tallahassee. People think I'm going there to try to win her back, but I hardly ever SEE her. Looking back, I'm not willing to give her any credit for my decision.

August 20 or so: she's engaged to Mr. Perfect. I already knew it was coming.

January, 1996: I meet a guy at work who seems pretty cool...then I find out that he dated/was obsessed with Pocahontas during high school--to the point of camping out in her front yard after she dumped him. By late February, I'm renting out his living room (my previous roommate was making things unpleasant).

March, '96: Scumbag earns his name by going sniffing after Pocahontas. He dumps his fiancee'. Within a few weeks, she tries to kill herself. Everyone blames me. Pocahontas earns her replacement name: Piglet. She dumps Mr. Perfect for Scumbag.

Over the next few months, the only constant is Piglet-as-pinball...a Navy guy, some Air Force guy, I think someone from Special Forces. Several others, and the original two. I don't know what I did to keep myself from being one of her "go-to" ex-boyfriends, but I'm glad it never worked out like that, given what I learned about her as "just a friend."

The last I saw of her in late 1997, Piglet had finally settled down with Scumbag. Then Scumbag went to prison, but that's another story.

Nicknames and Tone

I wish I had more stories for some of the nicknames I've come up with. I've tried to make the nickname fit the person, just the right amount of snark or contempt or whatever to give the reader an idea of what that person was like--I'm too lazy to flesh things out all the time and I like the mental picture that pops up with the proper nickname.

I came up with some really good ones--like Sergeant Allstate, the insurance salesman by day, sergeant for 1 weekend a month, the cheap and kind of slimy salesman--or Farmboy-san for one of the blackbelts back in my karate days; he really did have a farm, and the whole country-boy thing, but without being your Larry the Cable Guy redneck. But those are pretty much one-story guys. I didn't spend a lot of time around either of them. It's a shame--those nicknames took a while to work out (Farmboy-san only occurred to me this morning!).

Then there are Pocahontas/Piglet (first ex), Number Two (second ex), Scumbag (haven't written much about him, aside from the "Saving Whitney" post a few years ago), Hank (the insane stepbrother) and the Old Man (stepfather), some of whom are regular topics.

Lots of snark. It seems at first glance that I don't have a lot of happy stories. But I intend them to be at least partly funny, rather than just a collection of angry rants.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Karate, Exercise, and Me

I've been thinking about my karate days, 'way back in the early 1990's, and how that missing grandfather of mine might have made a difference in the outcome.

I've never been into the regular athletic stuff. What I remember of the softball, soccer and touch football games of middle school in the early '80s is being the last kid picked. I was typically passed off to the other team--"Eh, you can have him." I was used to being the kid no one wanted; I didn't want to be there, either. PE was more punishment than pleasure.

I'd stand way out in left field, ignoring the game, wishing I had a book, wishing the class would END already. Every now and then a batter would lob the ball out into my real estate and I'd mosey over to its general area, pick it up, and throw it toward whomever was waving the hardest, not really caring whether the ball got that far or not. Payback for picking me last. Should have been nicer to me.

Once I got up to bat, though, I put everything I had into hitting the ball--but not to help the team. I just wanted to hit something.

Soccer was fun that way, too. Last one picked, put with the other outcaste kids at the goal, ignoring the game and just hanging out. Every now and again, the ball comes our way and I run all-out to intercept it. Then I'd kick it as hard as I could downfield, not bothering to aim for any of the arm-waving jerks. It was fun to watch both teams suddenly reverse course and go barreling after the ball. Payback for picking me last, etc. Soccer for the passive-aggressive!

Fast-forward to college in the early '90s. I fell in love with Shotokan karate from the first class in 1990. It was exercise that didn't feel like exercise, wasn't boring even for being repetitive, and was individual instead of a team thing. I kept my enthusiasm going for years, never in a hurry to get that black belt, because I was having so much fun in the moment.

I wasn't a prodigy, some reborn Bruce Lee. There were plenty of techniques to learn and some of them came easily. There were some--especially roundhouse and spinning rear kicks--that I couldn't seem to "get" no matter how hard I worked at them and it aggravated the hell out of me. I'm a perfectionist about the damndest things.

Apparently some of the higher-rank folks misinterpreted my enjoyment as arrogance. I didn't know it at the time, but they thought I had an attitude, that I was acting above my rank, wouldn't listen, and stuff like that. That's not how it really was, but I can see how people would think that of a socially-inept kid (25 is still a kid). I tried to explain that I was frustrated with those kicks, or that my left ankle didn't have quite the same range of motion as my right.

It all came to a head--and an end--in 1992. It was a good class and we were working on spinning rear thrust kicks. I was utterly failing, spinning too far or not getting my kicking leg up, juggling a thousand little things in my mind, trying to get it right this time and getting more and more aggravated.

Sensei stopped the class and called for a circle so he could demonstrate the kick with one of the black-belts. I must have muttered something, because the guy I was partnered with (both of us green-belts) asked what was wrong. I told him I was frustrated. No big conversation. But across the circle, one of the black belts--Farmboy-san--saw me talking. A breach of etiquette. After the class was over, Farmboy-san pulled me aside, stood me at "attention," and bitched me out: "If you ever do that again I'll kick your ass!"

All in that moment, it wasn't fun anymore. I gradually stopped going. Within 3 weeks, I was done with it.

I've looked at my journal for that month. I can't relate to the 20-something kid I was then, furious and scared, freaking out over being yelled at by someone with no real authority. It looks like I was back in middle school, ranting about one of the bullies.

I wish I'd at least given him some of his own--a simple, calm "You can try" in reply, or maybe just one of those Looks Clint Eastwood used to be known for. I don't doubt that my grandfather would have grinned his shit-eating-grin and fed Farmboy-san his belt.

I don't particularly believe in karma, but I learned that within a year of all that crap, Farmboy-san slipped on a ladder while doing some roof work and damaged his knee. No karate for him, at least for a few years.

Every once in a while I'll pull out my karate notebook and folders to see how much I still remember, what I can still do. I've got a few books on Japanese language, some on the culture, a crapload of martial-arts movies and anime. But right now, I can't do most of the karate stuff: ever since that aortic dissection hit me, I've been warned to avoid any stress or strain, or anything that might raise my blood pressure, which has stayed in the 160 to 180 range while the doc tinkers with my meds. I finally got it down to 141 over something in the last week. In the four months since I left the hospital, I've regained only a little of the muscle tone I lost in both legs; a short walk or shorter bike ride is about the most I can do, but it occurs to me that I can work on the basic karate stances as low-impact therapy, if I can get my knees to handle it.

All I have left is two sets of karate pajamas and my green belt that are more than slightly smallish, fading memories of the things I learned, and a slogan I thought up back when it was fun: "Two years of karate, and all I can do is get my ass kicked in Japanese!" The karate class didn't make fighters out of anyone. We weren't learning self-defense. It was Art Karate, or Tournament Karate, aerobics, exercise, form over function.

Even so, it was fun. I miss that most of all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It must be mine!!

Okay, this is now the coolest thing I've seen all year:

...though the Death Metal Rooster is still a close second!

I wouldn't let that bus near my classic vinyl, but I loves me some old Volkswagens.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Characters: King Love

The first interesting person I encountered in Tallahassee was King Love. It was my third day in town and I'd stopped in at the Publix on North Monroe Street to cash a traveler's check. As I was walking toward the exit, I was passed by an older guy with a Santa Claus beard, regular street clothes, a red cape, and a crown.

From then until I left in 1999, he was part of the furniture of the city, usually holding court at North Monroe and Tennessee Streets, where he would hold up signs or props, howl and speak through a bullhorn. It's really too bad that I never paid much attention to him--no photos or video of my own. Aside from that short brush with His Highness in 1995, I was only close-up to him a couple more times, once during services at the Unitarian Universalist church, then a year or so later at a Hungry Howie's. Both times, he came in and disrupted things, scared people with His Kingly wrath, and amused me. But I never knew his name or his story until after I moved away.

Before he was King Love, Kamal Youssef, born in Cairo, Egypt, was a medical doctor in South Florida. His wife died, he broke, and the King was born.

Just a couple of months after I moved away from there, the King died of a heart attack (if I remember right) in 1999, about 2 months after I left.

I've got one of his bullhorns! He had a lifetime warranty with RadioShack. The one I got had a damaged power switch but was otherwise functional, so it ended up on a clearance/damaged table. I think it went for $20.00.

Amazingly, Number Two had never heard of The King, though she'd lived in Tallahassee all or most of her life. I thought _I_ was sheltered.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's October! Time for Sucky Slogans!

I blame the Germans or whomever it was that brought us "Oktoberfest." Now every October, we get to hear the results of slack-jawed marketing wonks' brainstorm sessions as they try to play off of that.

Rock radio stations give us...ROCKTOBERFEST!!

In the UK, it's Scotstoberfest.

But those marketing sessions don't always work out. Last year, the folks at Mini Cooper announced that it was..."Motortober." Motor. Tober. Sad.

With that in mind, I made my own list of ways to celebrate this month:

Sharktoberfest. Why only have "Shark Week" on the Discovery Channel? Why not an entire MONTH of shark reruns?

SPARCtoberfest. Show Scalable Processor ARChitecture some love.

Sparktoberfest. All spark plugs & tune-up parts on sale!

Croctoberfest: A full month of Steve Irwin on "Animal Planet."

Shocktoberfest. A Texas-style execution party in which all pending executions are moved up to one a day. Everyone MUST GO!!

Cocktoberfest. International Porn Month. OR...

Cocktoberfest. Celebrate chicken in all its varied forms--wings, fried, baked, with dumplings, with rice...

Crocktober. It's all about "Fox News."

Proctober. National colon health awareness month.

Nocktober. Archery month!

Spocktoberfest. Sci-Fi (oh, sorry--"SyFy" *yawn*) does a Star Trek marathon.

Mocktober. Happens any other month.

Arktoberfest. We found Noah's Ark--for real this time! Honest!

Chocktoberfest. Chocolate on sale, leading up to Halloween.

Shaqtoberfest. Shaquille O'Neal gets to program one TV channel for the entire month.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another Crisis!!

I was sitting at the computer, barely listening to the hustle and bustle of "Trauma: Life in the ER" on TV, when I heard my sister running into the bathroom, crying hysterically. Then she headed for the kitchen, making so much noise I was sure the house was on fire, or Mom fell over dead. Eventually, she got enough of a breath to wail, "I'm sorry!! I didn't mean to!!!!"

Seriously, I hear this from her almost constantly. Rain on your wedding day? "I'm sorry!" Bad day at work? "I'm sorry!!" She apologizes for things she has nothing to do with.

She doesn't freaking let you know she's taken your mother to the emergency room, but calls in hysterics to tell you to walk her goddamn dog?

No apology for that, no.

This has been going on for a bit over 20 years. She's in her 50s, now, but up until her mid-30's she was independent, self-sufficient. I don't know what happened, but she broke. By the later '80s she was on the phone to Mom at least 3 times a day for crisis management. If no one answered the phone (she was living in Georgia, south of Atlanta), she would let the damn thing ring until someone picked up--either that or go for 15 minutes, hang up for a few, then have another go. It never occurred to her that the parents were still at work at one in the afternoon. It never occurred to her that I was unplugging the phone, either. Hard to study.

It's really hard to be sympathetic. She's got several health problems--diabetic, significantly overweight, bipolar...every few months she crashes in some way and has to go to the Emergency Room, gets put into mental care for a few days, then comes out "cured." She tosses out all the junk food and soft drinks she's not supposed to be having, loads up on diet stuff. Within a month, she's sneaking junk food and soft drinks (right on schedule, this happened in mid-August; she's already broken the "diet"). It won't be long before she's buying and consuming Coke by the case. She just stops trying.

Now she's living with me and Mom; at first, she was helping to take care of the Old Man before he died. The upside is that the damn phone doesn't ring all day. The bad news is that she's here, so there's no delay when she has another crisis. She's stuck inside that head of hers, and everything in the universe is in orbit around her.

I'm not the sympathetic ear in the house. I'm not going to play along. That dog-walking stunt isn't anything new. She did the panicky-hysterical "It's important!! Call me as soon as you get this!!!!!!" shit while I was in a movie a few months ago. She left two messages on my phone, and when I didn't call back she called my friend (sitting right there in the theater next to me) to tell him to tell me to call home.

She wanted a Whataburger.

She was recently diagnosed as bipolar, the same thing that affected my less-favorite ex, "Number Two." I don't know if this is in addition to whatever's causing her panic attacks, but they're all working together to make her someone I just don't want to be around--and we can thank her and Number Two for that.

Back to the present. She's wailing hysterically, and I can only make out "car" and "door" and "purse." She dropped her purse near the car? Wail, wail, "IM SORRRYYYYYY!!!!!" and by now I'm just telling her to settle down, get a grip, take a breath. Honestly, by this point I don't even care what the "crisis" is. I just want her to shut up.

She left her freaking purse at the store, and they had called to say it was there. That's all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Kit Review: Revell 1:96 Apollo-Saturn V

This beast set me back $115 a couple of years ago. It's easier to store than the real thing, but a four-and-a-half-foot plastic model lacks the towering scare-the-neighbors quality of a 365-foot-tall rocket stack.

Even at 1:96 the size, this is a big model, standing around 4 feet. It was originally produced in the 1960's, with re-issues by Revell Germany from time to time. Mine is boxed for 1994, the 25th Anniversary of Apollo 11. Kind of sad if it sat in various warehouses before I bought it in 2007. Even the dust is historic.

The kit's primarily molded in white; some parts that are supposed to have a "natural metal" finish (the Command Module, Service Module, and Lunar Module) are done in a dark silver-gray. There are four styrene sheets that get rolled into cylinders to form sections of each of the three booster stages; these come pre-printed with roll patterns, flags, and "USA" or "United States" insignia. Two packs of "Bare-Metal" foil are included to get the proper natural-metal finish on some of those silver-gray parts.

Assembly is easy, with a small amount of easily-trimmed flash on some pieces. You'll need to do some careful filing and trimming on the join-lines on all of the rocket engines, the Lunar Module, and the Service Module. Because of that silver-gray plastic, the joins are especially visible on the latter. Detail is reasonable for an entry-level off-the-shelf kit.

The three booster stages--the S-IC, S-II, and S-IVB--are each built up by rolling a styrene sheet, pinning the edges between parts that simulate external pipes, then cementing endcaps to each open end. The first stage uses two such sheets and three "caps." The second and third each use one sheet and two caps. Detail and fit are good, but those styrene sheets seem flimsy and thin. If you're not looking to super-detail the kit (just assembling it straight from the box), paint the inside surfaces of the sheets and the end-caps black to keep any back-lighting from showing through. I'd prefer that the exterior markings and insignia had been done as decals so that the whole thing can be painted the same color, but I'm lazy enough these days that I'd rather just put the thing together with the least amount of fuss and financial outlay.

One big howler common to most of the Saturn V models on the market: the black bands of the S-IC roll pattern extend halfway up the length of the stage. This was only seen on the 500F Facilities Integration Vehicle, not any of the actual flight ships (Apollo 4's first stage did have them originally, but most of the black was painted over).

The Command Module is too detailed if you're building the kit in "launch" configuration; the actual CM has a protective cover over it which is jettisoned a few minutes after the rocket has left the pad. Revell's CM doesn't have the cover. Fortunately, The Google can find aftermarket detail sets that will help make the beast more accurate. There's a detailed description of what's in the resin-and-etched-brass detail kit at Ninfinger Productions.

Another issue is that the Command and Service Modules are Block I items. Think of them as working prototypes not intended for manned operation. The correct Block II items are significantly different.

If you're really serious about detailing, you could end up replacing most of the Revell kit with aftermarket pieces. It'd make more sense to just buy the detailing kits and scratchbuild the rest. Either way, a visit to Rick Sternbach's Saturn V Clinic will give you more than enough to do.

If you want one that flies, you could scratchbuild a 25-foot beast like the Arizona Rocketry Team's 1/16 rocket (shots of the Command Module being built here) or shell out $450 for an EMMR 1/48 scale flying rocket kit that'll take up less room than theirs but still be twice as large as Revell's. And it'll fly. Did I mention that it flies?

Overall, the Revell model isn't a bad kit. It'll take up lots of room on your workbench, require plenty of rubber bands, clothespins, cement, paint, filing, filling, and all the other tools and skills you need for a model--just more of it.

Just don't detail it the same way whomever built the kit on display at Pensacola's National Museum of Naval Aviation; theirs is the same 1/96 kit with a sloppy white paint job (done with a house brush?) and a bright red escape tower (also sloppily painted). It really looks bad, especially given their modest space display that includes the Command Module from Skylab 2 and a moon buggy.

Pro: Impressively big; easily assembled; pre-printed styrene sheets simulate the original's black & white roll patterns; better detail than the smaller 1:144-scale model.

Con: Expensive; the solid pieces and the styrene sheets aren't the same shade of white; poor mating between some significant parts, leading to lots of time prettying it up; big footprint (you're gonna need a bigger desk); first-stage roll pattern matches the 500F; poor detailing or incorrect detailing on significant parts of the stack; no decals for camera targets, fin or stage markings.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pic of the Day: Lightning at Stennis Space Center

This is a screen-capture from a camcorder; not the best but still pretty cool.

This was at Mississippi's Stennis Space Center in January 2007. There was a storm off to the south, near the rest area/Welcome Center. Museum nannies made everyone go back inside the museum: can't have the little snowflake taxpayers getting hit by lightning, right? I hung out on the front porch and aimed my camcorder toward the sounds of thunder and hoped for something interesting. For once, something interesting happened.

Goposaurs should all be Removed from Office.

Starting with this imbecile:

On the one hand, I don't expect any better from conservatives. I never have. It always seems that they're on the wrong side of some important social matters--race relations, gay marriage, pretty much anything civil rights. McCain's stupidity comes as no surprise: it's an election year, and the only way for a Republican to win is to become more of an asshole, crazier, more wrong, lest one of those batshit Teabaggers win instead.

On the other hand...they've already lost on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and gay marriage. The former is increasingly unpopular; the latter already has toeholds in a few states. As the white-hairs who oppose things die off, the youngsters pushing change will push their stupid policies aside.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"O" Crap.

Christine O'Donnell's got one scary "O" face.

This one's an example of some good reasons I'll never vote for or support a Republican. The party continues to put up batshit insane right-wing fundie morons, racists, wild-eyed anti-abortionists, secessionist traitors, war-mongering empty suits, and rich assholes who don't want to pull their share of the tax load; and as long as they continue to cater to batshit insane right-wing fundie morons, racists, wild-eyed anti-abortionists, secessionist traitors, war-mongering empty suits, and rich assholes who don't want to pull their share of the tax load, they can get stuffed. The party's "politics" have devolved into things the government shouldn't be getting into at any level--gay marriage, religious crap in publicly-funded schools, abortion, Teri Schiavo. It's all about hot-button things to scare people into voting Red. PANIC! Commies under your bed! PANIC!! Look at those hippies! PANIC!!! Muslims! PANIC!!!! ATHEISTS!!!!!!! AUGH!!!!

Are you panicking yet?!

Sorry pricks.

Honestly, I thought President Fratboy was the bottom of the barrel, the worst the Goposaurs could manage. Damned if they didn't move the barrel bottom down a few feet when they found Sarah "Caribou Barbie" Palin. Then all hell broke loose--and the cesspool of Republican offerings has only gotten deeper--and this O'Donnell critter is the new bottom. Mice with human brains?! She wouldn't lie to Hitler to save Anne Frank?!

Funny how in that video she supposedly hates, hates, hates dishonesty--but she's been caught out lying--and brilliantly called out on it by this guy.

It took men like Lincoln to make the Republican Party mean something. It's taken right-wing idiots a few decades to shred the party and piss all over Lincoln's legacy while trying to dress themselves up to look like him. The teabaggers are simply finishing the demolition that began in the mid-1960's, when racist pricks abandoned the Democrats in the wake of Johnson's signing the Civil Rights Act into law.

The Party of Lincoln? Nope. The Party of O'Donnell.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Geetar Hank!

So while Hank was on his 6-month house arrest (briefly explained here), he decided to learn to play guitar.

It's my fault. I was teaching myself to play, learning Rush songs and those of lesser bands.

Hank didn't have anything else to do. Couldn't go out, couldn't drink. I bet that hurt, given that it's been the bedrock of his existence for much of his life. So he got himself an acoustic and a chord book and started watching MTV because that's where the rock stars go. He was gonna be one, you know, because that's where the money and girls are and because he had music in his soul, like Hendrix and Van Halen.

But first...he had no music background. I had to teach him the basic strum pattern everyone seems to learn first. For the rest of his house/jail time, that one pattern is all I heard. Since he couldn't read music, he played the chord book, so I'd hear him strum an F Major barre chord (first fret)....then there was a long pause while he rearranged his fingers to play an F Major barre chord (8th fret)....another pause...another F chord (minor, diminished, augmented, whatever)...pause...chord...all night long. He never seemed to get any better.

Keep in mind that a chord book's not a music book, it's an aid that shows the different fingerings for a variety of chords. A basic book will show you hundreds. I've got one that claims 5,000! Ask any guitar probie what it's like trying to remember just the basic "beginner" chord forms, then imagine Hank just going page by page through his book, making noise instead of music.

I wonder if he ever got better.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Emergency!! PANIC NOW!!

I'm about the calmest person I know. I'm not sure how that worked out, given my family, with the bullying father figure, his insane son, a mother who is on medication that makes Swiss cheese of her short-term memory...and this sister of mine.

She's prone to panic attacks. I don't know if that's what makes the Universe a big circle with her at the center, but simple things just pass her by.

You know. SIMPLE things like maybe waking me up last week to tell me that she's taking Mom to the Emergency Room. Never occurred to her. I don't need to know stuff like that.

So I'm asleep, they're at the hospital, and my nephew calls long distance at 2:30 in the afternoon to relay a message from his mother to call her at the hospital (but not which one)...because she doesn't have my cell number.

I call. Her phone's turned off. And I don't know which hospital.

Into the kitchen. Answering machine tells me there are four new messages. Two of them are from her, panicky-sounding, call-me-as-soon-as-you-get-this!!!!! style, a few minutes apart. She actually thought to mention which hospital and room it was.

Phone book, ringy-dingy, automated one, hold, hello? A live one! Room 11, please. Just a moment, hold, hello? Another live one, room 11 please. Just a moment, hold...and finally, my sister.

She mentions that Mom's getting a CAT scan, blah blah...and quickly gets to the vitally important emergency that required all this drama:

She wants me to take her fucking dog out. That's all.

Shotgun Hank!

I know I've never written about "Hank," my crazy stepbrother. He's the natural-born son of my stepfather and he is, as I mentioned, batshit crazy.
Hank's always been an aggressive ass and a bully. The apple didn't fall far from the tree, there, but since he spent most of his time at his mother's house instead of ours my life was a lot simpler.

I'm not sure when he started getting crazy, but I know he did it to himself by boozing heavily, driving drunk, and demolishing cars. He took a few head injuries in the late '80s and early '90s. As I understand it, the head trauma triggered some changes in his brain that led to him being diagnosed as paranoid psychotic.
One of the drunken car wrecks led to him being placed on 6 months' house arrest. In our house. Thanks, Dad (step-pops talked the judge into that instead of 30 days in jail--he never seemed to let the bastard face the consequences of his actions, but he'd whip the shit out of me for relatively minor stuff).
Hank took to muttering to himself--"goddamnmotherfuckindrinkinproblem" was a favorite--and pacing around the yard like Jason Voorhees working as a mall-cop. He carried a sledge hammer around for a few weeks, always leaving it at the back door when he came back inside. I decided that it needed to disappear so he wouldn't hurt anyone, and I'm still pretty smug about how I did it.
As I was heading into the house from a coffee run, I grabbed the thing, hoping to sneak it into my room before he came outside--and damned if he didn't pick that moment to open the back door. I'm holding the sledge in my left hand by the end of the handle (he always leaned it head-down against the house by the door) and quickly moved it so it was hidden along my left leg. He came out to my right, never even seeing the hammer, and I moved it around to the front of my leg, walked into the house, and closed the door. Scared the crap out of me. I don't know if he ever figured it out, or whether he blamed the neighbors.

He started carrying a jack handle, instead. Oh, well.

When his house-arrest was finally over, he went back to live with his mother. Instead of the jack handle, he started toting a 12-gauge shotgun or a rifle, pacing along the property line and shouting at passers-by to get off his street. Yes, they were loaded. Step-pops finally got some backbone (it always took him a while to man up and deal with Hank) and took the guns away from him. The rifle went to Hank's son. The shotgun came to our house, where the Old Man kept it in his closet. Yes, it was loaded.

In the next 10 years or so, Hank would cycle between living at his mother's house, living at ours, and staying with his son or sister out in Mississippi. By the late '90s, his mother was so terrified of him that he ended up with us when he was in town. In 2006, when the Old Man had the stroke that brought his Alzheimer's into full play, Hank had to go.

I was picked to clear the guns out of our house, since no one really knew what the Old Man would be like when the Alzheimer's took over. It was a good idea, as it happens, since he freaked out over mirrors and photos of people and was convinced that my mother was an impostor.

I found the shotgun in his closet. Yes, it was loaded. Safety fucking OFF. That's scary enough, but the ammo it had in it was a couple of triple-ought buckshot shells and two one-ounce deer slugs. That's what Hank had been toting around.

It's a wonder no one ever got killed.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pic of the Day: Heroes.

Another September 11th is here. The History Channel has been running documentaries.

Caribou Barbie and Beckerhead are holding a "rally"-for-pay in Anchorage, Alaska in a typically tasteful display of conservative religious 9/11 fervor. I'm surprised they didn't set up a stand in the middle of the World Trade Center site--but I'm not surprised they're whoring themselves out to make a buck on the dead of September. That's what Newt Gingrich is doing today. This is what Republicans do, now.

The assholes at Fox are using a map of human remains to show how a Muslim community center is on "hallowed ground," and so shouldn't be built.

Instead of burning towers and enormous plumes of smoke and dust, I decided to make my own statement by focusing on the guys who saved a lot of lives that Tuesday, and more importantly the guys who gave their lives that day.

No idea whose picture it is, but these are the people we should be honoring on this day--the firefighters, the police, the first responders who ran towards the flames.

Friday, September 10, 2010

John Wayne and Mythology

I recently sat through John Wayne's 1956 "The Conqueror," widely known as The Movie that Killed John Wayne.

In an epic disaster of mis-casting, Wayne plays Temujin, the Mongol chief who's more famously known as Genghis Khan. Imagine that stilted manner of speaking you've heard in Western after Western coming out of the mouth of the terrible Mongol as he fights the Tartars!

His is not the only lily-white face, either. Imagine Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, William Conrad, and Lee Van Cleef. Not so much as a paleface-in-Asian-makeup to be seen. Really, the only ethnic folks have names like Gomez and Armendariz.

The film was shot in 1954 out in the Escalante Desert near St. George, Utah, about 100 miles downwind from the Yucca Flats nuclear test range, which had been active for the previous 3 years. Eleven nukes were lit off in 1953 alone. Apparently the cast and crew knew about possible radioactivity: there are photos of Wayne toting a Geiger counter!

The movie premiered in 1956. Seven years after that, director Dick Powell died of cancer. By the early 1980's, 46 of the 220 people who worked on the film were dead of cancer, including John Wayne, Agnes Moorehead, Susan Hayward, and Pedro Armendariz (who shot himself in 1963 upon learning he had terminal cancer). A total of 91 people had contracted cancer to some degree.

Producer Howard Hughes was horrified by the apparent link between his movie and the deaths of cast & crewmembers. He spent $12 million to buy up as many copies of the film as he could and for 17 years--until 1974--kept it out of circulation.

Here's where the mythology comes in. It was easy to find gossip about this Hollywood Horror; I picked the Straight Dope website, where someone asks, "Did John Wayne die of cancer caused by a radioactive movie set?" Cecil Adams replied at length, laying out the story of the shoot and its nearness to the test site, laughing at Wayne's line delivery, and noting that:

Experts say under ordinary circumstances only 30 people out of a group of that size should have gotten cancer. The cause? No one can say for sure, but many attribute the cancers to radioactive fallout from U.S. atom bomb tests in nearby Nevada.

I didn't give it much thought the first time through, but during a later search (while watching the movie) in which I wondered how radioactive the area is today, I found a site with a deeper focus on the question of whether "The Conqueror" killed John Wayne.

Michael D. Shaw wonders, "Was The Movie The Conqueror Really Cursed? A Look At Radiation Paranoia." He sketches out the back-story quickly, then looks at the expert claim of Dr. Robert C. Pendleton:

With these numbers, this case could qualify as an epidemic. The connection between fallout radiation and cancer in individual cases has been practically impossible to prove conclusively. But in a group this size you'd expect only 30-some cancers to develop. With 91, I think the tie-in to their exposure on the set of The Conqueror would hold up even in a court of law.

Pendleton was quoted in a People Magazine article. Shaw says,

This sounds impressive until you do some basic research. According to the National Cancer Institute, at the time the article was written, the overall incidence of being diagnosed with cancer in a person's lifetime (age-adjusted) was about 40%. As it happens, this number still holds today. Thus, in a cohort of 220 people, 88 would be diagnosed with cancer at some point.

I have no idea how Pendleton came up with his "30-some." If anything, given the heavy smoking habits of many in the movie business at the time, including Dick Powell, Agnes Moorehead, Pedro Armendáriz, Susan Hayward, and John Wayne at five packs a day, 91 is completely within the expected range. The only "astonishing" thing is that the People article did not mention the smoking habits of any of the deceased stars.

It makes the story less sensational, doesn't it? We humans like to look for big conspiracies and causes. It gives an otherwise mediocre movie a veneer of risk and mystery: Was this the scene where he got his fatal dose of radiation?

The Movie that Killed John Wayne? Not so much.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pic of the Day: Yippee!!

This was the 5,000th P-38 Lightning built. It was given a bright red paint job and a giant YIPPEE along the bottom of the wing, then taken out for flight demonstrations to put down some early notions that the Lightnings were pilot killers. By the end of World War 2, some 10,000 of these fork-tailed devils had been built. They were declared obsolete in 1946 and many of them were scrapped or abandoned in place on tiny Pacific islands.

Surviving planes were still in use as late as 1965 in Honduras' air force. Others were used in air racing and mapping, but today there are only 8 in flyable shape.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pic of the Day: Discovery Shuttle night launch

STS-63. The shuttles aren't as cool as the Apollo missions, but they do make for spectacular imagery.

It's a shame that their missions will end in the next year. I never got to see a launch "live." TV isn't even close.

Pic of the Day: Gemini 9 launch

A few years ago, some awesome guy uploaded a ton or so of good NASA pics from the various space missions. It was heavy on Apollo, and I was stoked, since that's my favorite era of man in space.
But there were some eye-popping pics from the Mercury and Gemini missions as well. For no other reason than the fact that it made my jaw drop 2 years ago, here's Gemini 9 just taking flight, still several yards from clearing the tower, with engines blazing:

Super cool.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The more they stay the same...

Why can't religious pricks just leave others alone?

I've been reading about the Virginia army officer prick who's established his own little glee club called the Spiritual Fitness Concert Series and the troops who got punished for not being on fire for the Lard.

I am so pleased that I got the hell out of the military before this shit got as bad as it has. It's bad enough that one can't escape the stupid fundie zombies who shamble around or stand on street corners, desperate to infect others with their idiocy. But here we have such an asshole with the power of military rank (what amounts to the weight of government backing of the asshole's religion) and the ability to penalize troops whose religious beliefs (or lack thereof) aren't acceptable.

This fundie shitbird needs to lose his commission and get drummed out.

I got lucky. The Army I and the guys I trained with wasn't as infected with the fundie sickness. There were a few run-ins with overzealous NCO's, like the moron who frog-marched my entire company of Basic trainees to a gospel concert, the idiot who confiscated my deck of Tarot cards to "save my soul" (I got them back in a couple of days from a higher-ranking guy), and the goofball who told me that Jeeebus is my Lard and Savor when he found out I planned to play rock music with my shiny new guitar.

Yes, there's a lack of respect for rank. That's another reason I am pleased to have left that crap behind 20 years ago. I firmly believe that rank should go to those who are worth a shit--and not to useless morons who turn that rank into a megaphone for their own little agendas, political, religious or otherwise. I've seen enough of such people in the workplace, in the dojo, in the family, and elsewhere that I go for contempt first and respect later--when it's earned. Not really a team player.

We didn't have the resources to fight this creeping religious stupidity that are available to the troops today:

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation's going to be an uphill fight to bulldoze all the stupid out of the military. One of my favorite lines in the original M*A*S*H movie sums it up for me: "Goddamn Army."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Goodbye to a beloved old friend...?

I know it's just a piece of code, a little DOS-based text-editing program, but I've been using QEdit for more than 20 years.

Until now.

Every computer I've ever had 'till now would run QEdit, from the elderly-but-still-cool 8088 PC I was running until 1998 (green mono monitor, DOS 5.0, a 2400 baud modem) to the 386 with Windows 3.1 that replaced it to the 486 that followed to a little Pentium II with Windows 98 to the asshole Sempron and Windows XP that deviled my every waking moment from 1995 until the last days of June.

A friend knew a guy selling an evil black box with all this in it:
Windows 7 64 bit
Athlon x2 dual core 2.9ghz - new
3 gig of ddr2 667 ram
160 gig sata hard drive
Dvd/rw disk drive - new
Hd3850 video card ati (over clockable) 512 ram msi
5 cooling fans
500 watt power supply
Brand new motherboard

Three hundred bucks. *droooool* I'm not wild about some of the features--screamingly bright blue LED's in a couple of the fans, more blue LED's on the motherboard that flash like beacons when the CPU is thinking, and even more blue LED's on the front panel that look like blue neon on a jukebox. I don't like a lot of light in my room when I'm trying to sleep, so I disconnected what would disconnect and cover the thing with a towel to keep the motherboard beacons from FLASH!! waking me FLASH!! up in the FLASH!! middle of the FLASH!! night during FLASH!! overnight downFLASH!!!loads.

Something to really like about it: the fans and hard drive are all whisper quiet.

This was a few weeks before my aortic meltdown, and I was all over the opportunity to be rid of the worst computer I've ever had--the one that shat itself several times over 5 years and took a hard drive or two with it each time, losing all my data and making my blood pressure skyrocket to computercidal levels.

So far, the Black Box hasn't killed my data. It's got some maddening habits to amuse itself with, though. A few weeks ago, right in the middle of a Blog post, the screen went black--just a little hyphen in the upper left corner--and attempts to reboot got me nothing but "Disk read error. Press CTRL-ALT-DEL to reboot." Turns out the SATA cable had worked itself loose.

Before that, the thing would randomly start up without the keyboard or mouse (one or the other). I don't know HOW it has anything to do with it, but jiggling the connectors to the front panel (power & reset switches, status LED's) fixes the problem. [UPDATE--It was caused by a couple of extra standoff screws between the motherboard and case. They shorted something at random and kept the system from recognizing USB and keyboard.]

But this wonder of technology, this marvel of silicon and copper and lead won't natively run QEdit. I used that program for EVERYTHING from writing my [as yet never published] book to coding to putting together MP3 and other index entries. All the keyboard shortcuts can be assigned where you want them, there are some very useful text-management functions that make stripping a standard DOS-style directory listing down to just the parts I need. Sure, I can do it in Word, but in more time and with more cleanup. I just like QEdit.

But wait. There's hope: DOSBox!! I'm saved! The Mighty Q is back, and working more smoothly than it did with WinXP's clunky DOS emulation (up through Win98, we had a proper pure-DOS environment; with XP, you got a weaker simulated DOS shell).

I never thought about my old "Star Wars: Dark Forces" game not running on the Black Box. Might be time to try running it, too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


If a simple shower was enough to make me feel elated a few weeks ago as proof of recovery, imagine my pleasure at being able to walk for minutes on end without falling apart like I did a few days out of the hospital.

In the last week, I've put some mileage on my legs that would have been impossible just days before.

Still not sleeping as well or as long as I'd like, still kind of tired, but much much much better than I felt last week. I'd say I'm about 70% of where I was before the torn aorta...still not recovered enough to go back to work, and I couldn't go back anyway without a doctor's note.

I'm Gonna Stop Going to Doctors.

Back in May, I went to a urologist. He took a look at my blood pressure (290/150!), freaked the hell out, and sent me to the Emergency Room.

Yesterday, I went to a new doctor, a basic family practitioner sort. He looked over my records, looked at my blood pressure (180/110), freaked the hell out, and sent me to the Emergency Room.

Fuck's sake. I've checked my BP half a dozen times, keeping a record of it (mostly because of this new guy, so I can soothe his hysterics), in the past 48 hours. It hasn't changed from 160/80 in all that time. If this second doc had noted a few details, he might have been more relaxed:

1) I drove to the office in a car with no air conditioning. It was in the 90's outside.

2) I hiked across a parking lot and along several hallways to get to his office.

3) I'm on a beta-blocker which limits my heart rate to 60-70 beats per minute, and it doesn't speed up like it should when I'm doing something like walking on a hot Summer day across a parking lot.

It only makes sense that my blood pressure would go up despite the meds I'm taking, and that it'd take some time for it to come back down. When I had the same high reading last week during a doctor visit, that doc nodded and said it made sense. He didn't freak the hell out. He just told me to keep an eye on the BP, try to keep it at 160/something or below, and have a nice day.

New dude wanted a CAT scan and blood samples and all this other stuff because my kidneys could be failing from lack of blood and I could die right there in the exam room, EVERYBODY PANIC!!!!!!1!!!

I'm getting tired of the freak-out-and-rush-me-to-the-ER stuff every time I darken the threshold of a new doctor's office. Sheesh. Now I'm scheduled for an aortic ultrasound on August 24. I can see the need for that--but this will be ANOTHER new doctor. Maybe I should call ahead to the ER and have them reserve my regular room.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I've made it through a second week out of the hospital. They've been long, each day only marked by what's on TV but otherwise the same; little sleep, long stretches of sitting in the dark or near-dark and wondering if my leg or innards took any permanent damage, or whether I'll wake up. There's been little depression or fear; I tend to just take things as they come and worry about things when I need to.

I wanted information about my condition, but those numbers cut both ways when you're feeling a new pain. One site tells me there's a 25% chance I'll die within the first weeks out of the hospital. Another tells me that it's 40% I'll make it more than 10 years.
Even as I find small improvements--walking a little further, feeling less run-down--my mind wanders, making lists of who should get what when It happens.

Really, though, it'd be a shame to go while my little silver car needs me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Song of the Day: One Little Victory (Rush)

I forgot all about the July 29th anniversary of Neil Peart joining Rush.

This song is the opening track from their 2002 comeback album "Vapor Trails." In 1997, Peart's daughter Selena was killed in a car crash. Barely a year later, he lost his wife Jaqueline to cancer.

Peart recuperated by getting on his motorcycle and riding more than 50,000 miles across Canada to Alaska, down through the western U.S., and then on through Mexico and Central America. He wrote about his ride in Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road.

Eventually, he joined up with his old friends again and Rush came back from Hiatus. Given that Peart writes the lion's share of the band's lyrics, it's not surprising that much of "Vapor Trails" is about his ordeal of the previous few years--nor is "One Little Victory" misnamed.

One Little Victory

Taking a shower doesn't seem like much of an event, but ever since I went into the hospital a simple shower has been an effort...until today. Even if it's not a big improvement, it's something to hold on to. It's the only thing in almost 2 weeks I'd call an "improvement."

I'll take it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Chair worth fighting for

During that week in the hospital, I had the standard motorized bed, a recliner, and a regular chair. I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn't going to be able to sleep in that bed. It was comfortable enough, I guess, but I couldn't breathe through my nose; it felt stuffy. I'd nod off, then startle awake, feeling like I was suffocating. On top of that, the bed was automated: every time I shifted, trying to get comfortable, the damn bed would start grinding and inflating and deflating the mattress, trying to help. I never did figure out how to stop it.

So I slept in the recliner. I still wasn't getting a lot of quality sleep. Every four hours someone would come in and take my blood pressure, temp, and oxygen readings. On a different 4-hour schedule, the nurse would come in to drug and medicate me. Around 4:30, someone else would grab a blood sample. At 6:30, one of the doctors would pop in, look things over, and move on (and I'd have to claw my way out of that chair to close the damn door). Seven a.m., breakfast. Seven-thirty, housekeeping. Over the rest of the day it was busier. No one really sleeps in a hospital, it seems.

Once I was cut loose, I spent the first week in my room trying to pile pillows on my bed so that I could sleep sitting up. I still couldn't breathe lying down. It didn't work the way I wanted, so I started looking for a recliner.

Montage: teaming up with a friend, me hobbling on a crutch as we went to thrift shops and Good Will, up and down the Flea Market stalls...checking used furniture stores...the cheapest one we found was $150. Nope. I ended up utterly wrecked; my freaking leg wouldn't let me go more than a few hundred feet at a time before giving out.

Craig's List, put in a few details to limit the search, and *VOOM!* There's my chair. $35.00, just what I was willing to spend. Picking it up and getting it home was the easy bit...but I had to bulldoze my room to make space for the thing, and I damn near killed myself getting it into the house (no one around to help). What took the seller a minute of carrying the thing out to the car took me nearly 2 hours from car to room, with frequent stops for 20-minute rests. I was wrecked all over again, stubborn idiot that I am. This is the "worth fighting for" part.

It's not perfect, but I've gotten something closer to "through-the-night" sleep in the last two nights than in the last two weeks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Week With Jeesus!

My leg went away July 12th.

It started with an intense fiery pain across my shoulder blades shortly after I got out of bed. This was followed by me nearly going unconscious during my usual morning cough. Nothing else happened until I got outside.

As I was hopping in the car to go to work that morning, my entire leg simply went numb; it felt like the femoral artery went empty, clamped off without warning. Didn't last long, a few moments, about as long as it took for me to jump back out of the car. I put a foam cushion on my seat and got back in; it helped a lot, and by the time I got to work it was almost back to normal. Still twingy, uncomfortable. It's 8 a.m.

I made it across the parking lot, but by the time I found a computer terminal to clock in, I had to lean hard on the counter. My leg felt like I'd been running without rest for hours. In another few minutes it was numb again.

Montage: Call a friend, get a ride to a local clinic, sit and wait. It's 9:15 a.m. now.

Within 15 minutes, there was a solid, grinding bar of pain spreading from the middle of my back just above the kidneys and wrapping around to the front. It felt like everything in my abdomen was cramped up all at once, guts, kidneys and all.

It took more than an hour before I was called to an exam room. By then I was panting, unable to take a large breath.

Montage: Doc asks a few questions, calls in his boss, and they both tell me to go to the ER. Call friend back, get ride, hit ER. Sign in, sit and wait. It's 11:15 a.m.

Brief bits of activity: they call me to an exam room and take BP, temp, blood ox, send me back. I sit and pant. My sister calls for the third time, asking questions I can't answer because I can barely breathe, but this never occurs to her. I turn my phone off and wait and pant. They call me to another room, put me on a quickie heart monitor, draw some blood, and get a chest X-ray...then wheel me back out to the waiting room. It's almost 1 p.m.

Some guy is ranting about the hospital not helping the invalid woman sitting with him. I try to remember what breathing feels like.

They come get me and install me in an exam room, give me one of those backless gowns, and eventually start hooking me up to stuff--an automatic BP reader, heart monitor, pulse ox reader, a saline drip, and another IV thing that doses me from time to time and bitches at me if I bend my arm. Then they shoot me off for two CAT scans. Now it's almost 3 p.m.

And now we have a cause. The scans revealed a tear inside my aorta from diaphragm level down to the femoral arteries' branch. Over time, high blood pressure opens a tear in the inner lining of the aorta, gradually making it bigger, and then tears the lining away. My leg went numb because the tear ballooned out at the lower end and blocked that branch. All that pain was sympathetic: your innards don't have their own pain receptors, so my brain was interpreting the damage to my aorta as gas pain at the upper end, kidney pain a little lower.

The good news is that I don't need surgery. Just keep the BP low and controlled and the tear will heal itself.

So now it's 4-something and they won't let me move. I have to lie on my back, keep my arms still so the BP cuff and IV won't be obstructed, and I still can't breathe. The exam room is stifling and I lie there sweating, eyes wandering from place to place. There's a crucifix on one wall near the door. I couldn't think of anything snarky or ironic, let alone be amused at the depiction of a long, torturous death in a room full of healing technology.

Somewhere down the hall was a steady, low groan from what sounded like an older man in pain. All I could think was, "I'm with you, man."

Five hours later (nine-something), they sent me to the ICU, where the air conditioning was on and I finally met some friends named Lortab and Dilaudid who made the pain go far, far away. The Dilaudid kept me amused by making the room roll and spin slowly for a bit. A crucifix hung next to the door, but now I was too loopy to be amused by the torture/healing thing. They brought me the finest nectars--simple apple juice and a cup of ice cream, but it had been 24 hours since I'd had anything to eat.

Other than the new comfortable digs, it was all the same--heart monitor, BP, pulse ox, IV's, don't bend your arms. They kept me there from late Tuesday to Thursday morning, then put me in a regular room until I left on Tuesday the 20th. Yes, there was a crucifix. I was off the IV and BP machine (but someone came around every 4 hours to check), and they started in on the pills, looking for the right mixture of them to bring my pressure down and keep it steady.

The best thing was the very comfortable recliner, the only place I could get any real sleep. I kept the phone unplugged: it only rang when I was trying to sleep.

It's been almost a week since they let me out. At least one of the meds has me so dried out that my nose feels swollen shut, so I can't sleep deeply--I keep gasping awake and feeling like I'm suffocating. The only way I can sleep is sitting up, but I'm still stuck with cat-naps. My appetite is returning a bit at a time. My right leg still won't take much walking. Just going to a convenience store leaves me in pain and huffing like I've run a marathon. I feel worn-out, exhausted, lethargic.

This ain't any fun. Well, the vivid waking dreams (a side effect of one of the meds, or maybe sleep deprivation) are fascinating and sometimes interactive. I wish I could remember them all; some of them have been utterly cool, looking like animated Frank Miller artwork. There have been a few where I was trying to pick something up, only to wake up and find my hands still reaching for the item. I've had brilliant fireworks displays, glowing samurai doing battle, and a skeletal pirate ship.

It seems like there should be an ending here, but I can't really thing of anything.