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.