Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pirate Bliss!

I was informed recently that the nautical museum Nauticus in Norfolk, Virginia is having a pirate exhibit while One Ring and I will be in Virginia Beach for the Christmas holiday. As I was doing the happy dance (a sight not to be missed), further research revealed that the traveling exhibit is of the Whydah - the same exhibit that I've been trying to see for quite some time. Why the Whydah (sorry, couldn't resist)? Well, for one, it is the only pirate shipwreck every recovered. She went down off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1717. And since I was born in Massachusetts, I feel somewhat close to this particular ship and her captain, Sam Bellamy. His story is quite unique among the Brethren of the Coast - he fell in love with an upper class woman, and, unable to prove his "worth" to her family via wealth, took up piracy until he could raise the money. Once he had the sum needed, he quit the trade (very un-piratical) and tried to get back to Cape Cod. Unfortunately, his ship was caught in a storm - possibly a hurricane - and sank with all hands. So, in a way, it's a Romeo and Juliet kind of story.

Well, I need to get back to work. I just figured I'd post a quick note detailing one of the reasons why I'm looking forward to my vacation!

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

It Arrived!

My early Christmas present came in yesterday, and it is beautiful! It's a Laguna LE300, and despite the lousy strings that came from the factory, it has an awesome sound. I spent the evening playing with the pickup settings (it has a 5-way switch), and continuing to work on my assignment from my lessons. I forgot to see if it could fit in my Epiphone case, though, so transporting it to lessons or to get the strings replaced may be a problem. I'll have to work on that tonight.

In other news, friends of ours had twins last night! It's a wonderful (obviously) event for them, made bittersweet only by the fact that this comes a little more than a year after they lost a baby girl at birth. But even with this in the back of our minds, we're all celebrating. One Ring and I will be heading over to the hospital to see the proud parents and meet the boys.

Well, group went off without a hitch today, and a minor crisis was avoided with another patient. This afternoon might get a little busy, but, for the most part, it will just be paperwork and cleaning the desk for an inspection that's supposed to take place tomorrow. The doctor comes back on Monday, so I'll have to write a memo to bring her up to speed on the chaos that's gone on while she's been in India and Los Angeles.

Okay, time to check on some other issues and get to work.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I was reading Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo last night. While it seems like there's a "Zen and the art of ..." book for everything under the sun (Although Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance actually IS about Zen and not fixing your cycle), most really don't seem to grasp - in my humble opinion - either Zen or the topic the writer is trying to link to Zen. Zen Guitar, though, is the real deal.

The piece that I read last night dealt with the whole concept of "Mu," which literally translated means, "No" or "nothing." However, that is only part of the meaning of the word.

Mu occurs several times in Zen koans, which are proverbs or stories which on the surface seem nonsensical but are actually keys to understanding concepts. The most famous, perhaps, is "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Anyway, there's another famous one, and that's where Mu comes in.

In ancient China, this monk walks up to his Zen master and asks, "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" In other words, is a dog capable of enlightenment? When I worked in the church, I was asked by one of my youth, "Does my dog have a soul?" While not exactly the same thing (and it would take far too long to explain the difference!), it's a good enough analogy for now.

So the monk asks his question, expecting a "yes or no" type of answer, because that's what everyone expects for a question like that. Either a dog has it, or the dog doesn't. No middle ground.

But the Zen master just says, "Mu." Now if mu meant no, the dog didn't have Buddha nature, that would be the end of it. But that's not what Mu in this context means. Here it means something akin to "no meaning." Or, in a quote I pulled from Wikipedia, "Your question cannot be answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions."

The goal of a koan is to open a door to the pathway of Zen. In this case it's to destroy the typical human habit of either / or thinking. Again, either the dog has it, or not. Either this is important, or it isn't. Either I'm working, or I'm not. But what Mu sets up is a way of thinking that removes either / or thinking. The dog has it and the dog doesn't, and it doesn't really matter either way. I'm working and at the same time writing this (There have been several pauses as I've written this to address various crises). Either / or thinking requires there to be absolutes - independent agents at work in the situation. Zen thought states that there is no such thing. "Dog" is an artificial construct; a name for a being that we gave it to distinguish it from other furry animals (of course, "furry" and "animals" are constructs as well, but bear with me!). "Buddha-nature" is also an artificial distinction between states of being. If one considers that nothing is independent of anything else, and everything came from something or a combination of things, which themselves have their origin in other things, then eventually one can go far enough back to see that "everything" just "is" and is connected to "everything else."

Take the guitar that I just purchased, which should arrive on my doorstep tomorrow (Joy!). When does a guitar stop being a guitar? When does a combination of wood, lacquer, wire strings, circuits and pickups, tuners and tremolo bridge, become a guitar? When assembled? When disassembled? Is there a difference? And more importantly, does it even matter? Follow the guitar through its coming into being, and you end up with trees, metal ore, and chemicals. Go back even further, and you have the big bang (or God speaking the universe into being, take your pick). So the guitar that's showing up on my doorstep tomorrow was in the big bang, as was everything else that is, was, and will be. Everything was connected, is connected and cannot be truly independent of anything else, for everything has its origin in everything else.

So, does the dog have Buddha-nature? Mu is indeed the right answer, for the dog does and does not exist at the same time, and Buddha-nature does and does not exist. It's a pointless, and unanswerable question, because to fall into yes and no categories is to miss out on what is reality itself.

What in the world does this have to do with playing the guitar? Well, last night I got frustrated with my level of playing. After practicing several times a week, and some weeks every single night, last night's lesson had some highs and lows. I'm still working on the second solo from "Comfortably Numb," where there's a lot of changes in terms of 8th notes, 16th notes, and 32nd notes. So I had to go over this one segment again and again and again, and occasionally came to feel like the cover of this Clash album:

But after finally getting it right, I came home, chilled out, and read the book I mentioned above. And in the section on Mu, there was this quote by Bruce Springsteen. I don't have it with me, but The Boss basically says this, "When you play guitar, you have to hold a lot of contradictory information in your brain and make it all work at the same time. On the one hand, when I'm playing, I'm playing like it's the most important thing in the world. And it is. On the other hand, I know that it's only rock and roll. And it is."

Both / And. Neither / Nor. Just is.

Hope this makes sense.

By the way, does anyone know where I can get a decal of the Japanese script that I put up here? I think it would look great painted on my Epiphone!

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Wish I Had This Shirt When I Was In Grad School!

Back at Vanderbilt, I ran afoul of an organization called the Campus Crusade for Christ. Rabid little bunch, they were. One of their members made it her personal mission to "save" me from my misbegotten ways - when actually I was pretty well behaved at the time! Anyways, there were theological arguments galore and name calling ("Blasphemer!" "Loony!"). Always are, in situations like that.

At any rate, I saw this shirt today while killing time before I get to go home. If only I had this shirt in those days. Probably would have driven the poor, naive thing to madness! And that's something this pirate can get behind!
In case you're looking for something to get me for the holidays, you can find the shirt here.

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This Pirate's Gone A' Plunderin'!

15 minutes until lunch, so I figured I'd fire off a quick note as to why I'm dancing a jig today. First off, I think my cold has just about passed, and the weekend went very well. Add to that a Christmas bonus arriving unexpectedly early, and today's cyber Monday shopping spree, and you have one happy pirate!

After a brief misunderstanding regarding the allocation of gold with One Ring, I ordered a brand new guitar from Woodwind and Brasswind. Yes, I could have gone through Guitar Center, where I tested it, but I found out that Guitar Center is now owned by Musician's Friend, and after running into a world of frustration from them when my SG arrived with a slightly warped neck (and they wouldn't replace it due to it being a "discontinued item," but instead offered me a much cheaper model as an "even exchange." All of which is odd, since that was a year ago, and today I found the exact same package for sale!), I decided to go with another vendor. All of that to say is that the order's in, and hopefully within a week or so I'll be playing away on a guitar more suited for blues inspired rock (a'la Cream, Pink Floyd, and Eric Clapton). Here's a pic of the model I ordered:

Meanwhile, One Ring and I had one of our "craft dates," this time making things with polymer clay. We used to do this a lot, making Christmas ornaments and other things to sell at the church craft sale. But since we moved out here, we haven't done that as much. So yesterday we sat down. One Ring made a snowman (she loves snowmen!) while I continued my obsession with all things Elphaba (from the musical Wicked, in case you've missed a few previous posts). Here's the photos of my attempt and One Ring's success:

Anyway, happy cyber monday (get your online shopping done? I sure did, and picked up roughly half of One Ring's gifts!) And yes, I did pay for them, although the idea of pillaging, looting, etc. does sound good after trying to avoid crowds this weekend. Wonder what Wal-Mart would look like after receiving a few broadsides and being stormed by pirates? Ahh, what fun things to imagine!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yep, It's Like That

The President of the United States has just given all Federal Employees 59 minutes off today! Yes, 59 minutes. Not an hour, because apparently that would cause untold calamity over in accounting. So i am leaving in just over an hour! So despite the weirdness involved, I say:

Thank YOU, Mr. President!

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I Don't Want to Work

Not today, anyway. Had a rough night with the dogs - or rather, with just one dog, Kona. She has a habit of running outside (through the dog door) whenever she hears a neighbor's dog barking. Then she barks - loudly, I might add - for a few minutes until I guess she speaks her mind, then comes back inside. Normally this isn't too bad, but when I want to sleep, it's a pain. Especially when she does it over and over and over again.

So I'm here, at work, and on my second cup of coffee of the day. Nothing is scheduled, though I need to follow up on yesterday's clinic. Blech. I don't like some of my patients face to face. Now I have to call the ones that really screwed up on their drug screens? Double Blech.

I should have called this post "Attention Deficit Entry," because I've jumped from one thing to another when I should be writing this! Still, it could always be worse.

I was lucky enough to go guitar shopping last night while One Ring attended a meeting. I think I found one that will totally meet my needs / desires for the sound that I've been hunting for. I've really been influenced by blues inspired rock, a'la Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton (and every group in which he played - Cream, Derek and the Dominoes, etc.), and so forth. So I need a guitar that has at least two single coil pickups. I didn't want to sink the money into a Fender, since I'll never be able to afford an American one (over $1,000) and I haven't heard anything good about the Made in Mexico or China varieties. So I've been trying to find something with the right configuration for under $400 (the highest amount of money I can conceive that I can raise without hitting the credit cards). Here's what I found:

This is the Laguna 300AVB. It has everything I need - locking tuners, tremolo bar, single coil pickups (good ones, too!), and seems comfortable to play. Of couse, the finish isn't half bad, either. It's about $350, so it may take a few weeks to come up with the cash, but no worries. Rumor has it that I have a Christmas bonus coming, so I may be able to pick it up after the holidays. It's a guitar I can definitely grow into, since I forsee myself playing for some time to come.

And if that doesn't work, there's always this one. It's the Douglas (Chinese Clone of a Fender Fat Strat) SI-13. Cheap as all get out, but the reviews seem to be okay, and given my current skill level, might not be a bad choice. And at $109.95 - with a Floyd Rose tremolo and locking tuners, no less - it's ridiculously cheap. Probably too cheap, given that the body is made out of Paulownia wood, whatever the heck that is. Then again, maybe not. Here's what Wikipedia's entry says about some of its uses:

The fine grained soft and warp resistant properties also make Paulownia wood exceptionally suited for making wooden surfboards. Tom Wegener of Noosa, Australia, his brother Jon of Hermosa Beach, California, and more recently "Empress Surfboards" are amongst the shapers who pioneered its use. Unlike those made from balsa wood, the resulting surfboards do not need to be glassed.

More recently, it is used as body material for guitars . The light weight , and resonance of the wood make it perfectly suited as high grade tone wood .

And there you go. Well, I do need to get to work. Had a patient just walk in my office, disgruntled and blaming everyone but himself for his problems. Sheesh. Days like this make me wish I was back in the church ... almost.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Lots of Craziness Going On!

But today, thankfullly, has been quiet. Which is great, considering that the last two weeks have been plain nuts. Not all of it has been bad, though. Just very, very busy.

Not a lot, in retrospect, seems worth reporting though. I went to see Queensryche (and no, I can't figure out how to put an umlaut over the y - the existance of which makes about as much sense as Motley Crue's umlauts) in concert at a local dive. Great show, and I did take some pictures with the camera in my cell phone, and I'll show them in a bit. However, I realized just how old I have become.

For one, I was only three or four rows back from the stage, which was awesome, however it didn't do much for my desire to keep the three foot personal space boundary line intact! Yeah, I'm a "keep your distance" kinda person. But I put that aside for the show. I last saw them around '92 or '93, and they were just as good then as now. But after standing around for an hour to get in to the club, then another hour to wait for the show, then three hours of music, my feet and legs were killing me! And when you've reached the point that pain outweighs the desire to see a favorite band play, it's time to call admit that your wild party days are behind you!

The other thing that got on my nerves was the amount of drunk people crammed into a really small place. Guess I have a low tolerance, being that I work with them and used to be one on many an occasion myself.

But again, great show and I did have a great time. Here are the pics:

First blurry photo of lead singer Geoff Tate. It's amazing how little his voice has changed over the years. Great stage presence. He also did an awesome job explaining the story behind their latest album, American Soldier, which sampled portions of interviews conducted with hundreds of servicemen and women who are serving or have served in every war from WWII to the current Iraq and Afghan conflicts.

This is a shot of rhythm guitarist Parker Lundgren, who is married to Tate's daughter. Guess making him part of the band is either a perk of marrying into the family or a way of keeping an eye on him!

And finally, this is a shot of Tate and a little girl who was rumored to be one of his daughters (he has 3), during a duet from the American Soldier album. It was cute, and although she looked like she didn't want to be there for most of the song, she got a lot of cheers and applause when she was done her solo.

So that was on the 11th. I had to be at work the next day, so I hurt like all get out. It was worth it, though. One week later, on the 19th, I taught a class at Vanderbilt Divinity School on the relationship between spirituality and addiction. Basically I lifted up a theory I have that spirituality is the first casuality of addiction, and that pastoral care providers need to be both vigilant and prepare to help addicts with their spirituality during recovery. I thought it went very well, and One Ring and her professor (who asked me to come and speak) echoed that sentiment. I enjoyed it alot, perhaps too much, because now it's hard to come back here, where by and large any contribution I make is ignored unless I'm bailing someone out of trouble. Yeah, that's cynical but I'm a government employee. Deal with it.

I talked with One Ring about it, and she stated that if I enjoyed teaching and wanted to go in that direction, we could work on me getting the additional degrees and training necessary. I told her that I'd look into it when she finished her dissertation. For the time being, though, that's taking top priority.

In the meantime, I'm keeping up with guitar lessons and other creative outlets that help me keep my sanity. Yes, I'm still working on "Comfortably Numb," but I'm on the second solo now, having proven that I can keep up with the CD during the first solo and chord progressions. This one, however, is a whole different creature and a monster. I'm also looking at getting a second guitar, this one with single coil pickups (like a Fender Stratocaster, for example), so I can get a more bluesy, clean sound than my humbucker equipped Epiphone SG-310. In the store the lowest price I've seen for a cheaper guitar that meets this requirement is around $200, but I've seen used guitars for about half that. So we'll see. One Ring isn't too keen on my spending more money right now, but I may be able to win her over. : )

This is one of the candidates that I was looking at here. It's a Yamaha Pac112J. My guitar teacher recommended it. Despite the low price, the quality is amazingly high, and with the humbucker in the bridge position you are able to play just about every style of music out there. The used music store just emailed me some pictures of it. I'm concerned about some scraping around the jack, but if it turns out that there's no wiring damage, this one is a front runner.

Okay, the day's just about over. More later.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Crafts and Spirituality

It has occurred to me, now that Halloween is past (sob!) and life is returning to normal, that I haven't spoken much about spirituality, religion, or - gasp! - even piracy. While the latter could have been taken care of by mentioning developments in Somalia waters (kidnappings and continued harassment of shipping) or even my almost dressing up as a pirate for One Ring's colleague's Halloween party (that was nixed due to the outrageous prices of costumes and my constant nitpicking about historical accuracy), to be honest nothing much is going on in the pirate fandom world to warrant a post from yours truly. However, in the world of my crafts and hobbies, much has been happening, and since these can be related to spirituality, I figured I'd go off on that for a while, as it's Monday and I don't feel much like working (and I'm only working a half day due to a doctor's appointment. Woot!)

Back in the dark ages, when I was training at a Catholic retreat center in the art of Spiritual Direction, I approached one of my instructors with an issue that kept coming up. Due to my ADD, bipolar disorder, over caffeinated state, or just being weird, I found it hard to sit in silence and empty my mind of thoughts. In fact, there are many nights where I am unable to sleep at all due to "racing thoughts." For those of you blessed enough to not experience this, here's what it's like: Go to your the electronics section of your local Target, Sears, or Wal-Mart. Then turn all of the televisions and radios to different stations, remembering to also crank the volume up. Then sit back and enjoy the chaos. Yep. On a bad day, that's what it's like inside my noggin'. I say this not to inspire pity or sympathy, but rather to set up the wisdom of my teacher's instructions.

So what my spiritual director (all SD candidates had to receive direction while in training) told me was this: in order to quiet the mind, do something while meditating that will keep your hands busy. He then asked what I do for fun. I answered, "Origami and candle making." he said, "Great. Meditate while you're folding or sitting out there watching the wax melt."

And that's what I do. Now that the weather's cooled off a bit, and the candle shop / garage (after destroying two kitchens, One Ring no longer lets me melt wax in the house!) is tolerable, I've been setting things up for the holiday season. I made two pumpkin scented pillar candles and experimented with textures - one is mottled and the other is rustic in nature. This week I need to make some container candles for my in-laws to give as gifts, and one of One Ring's colleagues also put in a request for one or two. Add to that the ones that I want to make for the Christmas season, and I'll be pretty busy.

When I'm not making candles, I use origami to calm my mind. I've posted pics of some of the folds I've completed at work, and I've also posted the Haunted Mansion paper model that I've been building. Both activities have really helped me get the "monkey mind," as the Buddhists call it, under control. The concentration required keeps me in the moment, where I can experience life as it is, here and now, without being distracted by memories of the past and hopes and fears of the future.

So here's some of what I've done recently:

The lotus is, of course, a Buddhist symbol of enlightenment. I recently found the diagram online, and after a few days of making mistakes, finally figured out what I was doing wrong and got it right (origami works like that sometimes!). After doing a small one at work, I folded a larger one out of a 12"x12" square of mulberry paper that I picked up from the scrap booking section of the local craft store. The finished lotus was large enough for me to put a tea light holder inside. I thought it turned out pretty cool.

I had to convince One Ring that there was no danger of fire, since the candle flame did not come into contact with the paper, and paper won't ignite until it reaches 451 degrees F (Hence the name of the famous book, for all you trivia types out there!).

If origami is not your thing, Lord knows there are plenty of other activities that can calm the mind enough to allow the spirit to move. One Ring and I used to work with polymer clay and created Christmas ornaments and even a whole nativity set. For one reason or another, this activity fell by the wayside when we moved from one location to another. Probably the stuff got packed away and we forgot about it. We might not even have our clay and books anymore. But after seeing these on Deviantart by Shiritsu, I may very well give it another go! I love her cartoonish representations of movie and Broadway characters.

By the way, although crafts are good ways to quiet the mind, there's no reason why you can't do them with other people. One Ring and I regularly have craft dates or try to take classes at the local craft store, and as you saw recently, held a pumpkin carving party. It's a good way to connect with people as well as with your inner self.

Okay, back to faking work (or folding something!). Peace.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's Over! : (

Well, the Pumpkins were thrown out last night, leftover candy was sent off with my brother-in-law as a reward for his students, and One Ring is moving into her favorite holiday time of the year (Thanksgiving - apparently no gifts, no decorations, and working towards minimal drama makes it number one with a bullet). As for me, I'm in mourning.

It's not just that Halloween has passed us by for another year - and was once again almost eclipsed by the Christmas decorations which have been smuggled into just about every store I entered this month. It's just that, well, I think maybe I should have started the celebrations sooner, so I could have gotten more worked in. As it was, I spent most nights coming home from work, crashing, and thinking of what I would do if I had the energy, money, and time. Curse you, need for employment! You cause such a massive buzz kill!

So, I figure I'll do what other blogs seem to be doing in honor of the sad times: create a "best and worst of" list and talk about what I'd like to do if I get a promotion that's being talked about in mythic terms (It's coming, but we don't know when!). Here goes:

Best Movie: Trick 'r Treat. Close second, 1408. Both are scary without being gory -we don't do splatter horror. Unlike the chaplain with whom I work, the Saw movies are verboten in my house. Honorable mention goes to Ginger Snaps and Dog Soldiers. Both, in case you haven't heard of them, are werewolf movies. Le Pacte de Loupe (aka The Brotherhood of the Wolf) and Sleepy Hollow are also on my fave list, although I didn't get to them this year.

Worst Movie: Carnival of Souls. We actually saw this a few years ago, but it remains the worst horror movie I've ever intentionally seen during the Halloween season. The worst one we saw this year was The Innocents, followed closely by Let's Scare Jessica to Death - it was the ending that sent it straight into this category. Dishonorable mention goes to The Ninth Gate. Again, a confused ending and incredibly goofy glasses worn by the villian - played by Frank Langella - did this one in.

Geeky villians are so not scary! And his demise was one of the dumbest things I've seen in a horror movie.

Things I'd like to see more of in future Halloween celebrations: Better decorations. Yep, I'm one of those people who want people to decorate their yard in themes. I don't want to see someone's house look like a Big Lots truck overturned in their driveway! If you're going to have zombies come out of the ground, don't put a smiling scarecrow right next to them. And if you're going to spend the money on realistic looking headstones, try to make everything look realistic, and not place them side by side with cheap plastic ghosts.

I'm loving what people are doing in the DIY world of Halloween decorations (see links on the right), and part of the reason I love the Haunted Mansion in Disney World so much is that it's themed, and the quality of the displays is consistent. I think people should do the same. If you want a light-hearted theme, stick with it. Ditto with the gore factor.

Things I'd like to see less of in future Halloween celebrations: Ridiculous reality ghost hunting shows. Ghost Hunters (on the newly renamed SyFy channel) has been dinged repeatedly for faking hauntings, and I can only assume that all the other similar melodramatic programs - Most Haunted is by far the worst in my opinion (Hey, let's scream for no reason! That will help our ratings!) - pull the same stunts. Now we have Paranormal State and, get this, Extreme Paranormal, to add even more cheesy infrared camera shots and overblown stories of tragedies to our television diet.

Honestly, these shows come on every week, and every week they find "evidence" of ghosts and hauntings. Doesn't anyone out there find this suspicious? Sure, I could be swayed if evidence was found in one or two places every now and then, but everywhere, every time? With that kind of record, it stands to reason that ghosts and goblins and every other kind of supernatural being are crammed into every building, graveyard, nook and cranny of the world. Every person alive should be running into hauntings all the time. But we aren't. Which makes me wonder, with a very cynical mind, what's really going on here?

So let's tone those down, okay? And let's have the writers for those cheesy shows (and they do have writers, by the way - hmmm, wonder why?) create some scary fictional programming for us to watch. Just a thought.

Unfortunately, I need to get back to work. More later.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Best Horror Movie List EVAH!

Only a couple of minutes before chaos once again consumes my office and my day, but I had to post this ASAP. I heard a piece about this horror movie list today on NPR during my morning commute and decided that linking to it was a must. Why? Two words for you, my friends, "Martin Scorsese." This guy is so cool he even turned a top ten list into a top eleven list! How anti-establishment is that???

Anyway, courtesy of The Daily Beast, is the list to end all lists. Enjoy.

My only dispute is with #10 - The Innocents. Sure there were plenty of creepy moments, and I never read the Henry James novella upon which it was based, but there was a huge logic jump by the protagonist that was never explained - how did she figure out what was going on? - and the ending didn't make sense at all. I would have left that one off. But hey, I'm not Marty Scorsese

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Well, I DID Ask for a Quiet Day ...

Nothing going on. I'm all set for tomorrow's clinic. The only interesting thing is that Drink Man just IM'd me and told me that he was quitting to take a job in Charleston, SC. Of course, we've been on this road before and he's backed down / cooled off each time. So we'll see if he's serious. Probably be a good thing, since he's had a lousy attitude which has been bringing me down.

Nope, it's just been the occasional bit of paper work, getting ready for clinic, and this, which I guess qualifies as a different kind of paper work.

According to the book - Crane Origami (translated by Yoko Ishiguro) - this is a "good luck crane." Though, to be honest, I've seen similar designs referred to as peacocks. Oh, well. I made it and it's sitting on my desk below my small Buddha statue.

Time for some caffeine. Heading home in an hour, and One Ring informed me earlier that the in-laws made it into town. So I have to be awake and on my game when I get home!


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Halloween Pumpkin Time!

I am at work, and for once there is nothing going on. And there is much rejoicing. The Doctor is off doing her thing, Annoying Coworker hasn't shown his face too much since our last email battle over policies and procedures, and the boss is off at meetings. Even Drink Man is not in; he's stuck at home waiting on a plumber.

So that leaves me free and (relatively) stress free to post pics from last night's pumpkin carving party. The party was a huge success, although attendance was minimal due to illness and torrential rains - one friend pointed out that whenever One Ring and I host something, it pours. Odd. Still, we carved some awesome gourds, if I do say so myself. But first, a brag from yours truly - The Haunted Mansion model is just about complete!

There are a couple of cosmetic details that need to be added, and it would have been finished in time of the party, but what initially looked like two steps turned out to be roughly 24. So obviously the roof metalwork and some of the masonry was not added. Still, I was able to bring it out and show off.

That being done, it was time to carve up some pumpkins!

One of our friends decided to go old school, as in pre-Christian Celtic tradition of using turnips(the tradition changed to using pumpkins for Jack O' Lanterns when the Irish came to America)! We thought she'd be in for a fight, trying to cut faces into the little things, but she came out with an awesome trio of retro looking jack o' lanterns.

After a minor setback involving the gross discovery that his pumpkin had rotted from the inside and was now populated by a colony of fruit flies and other nasties, another friend switched to his backup - a "ghost" pumpkin. I had never seen one of these carved. Turns out that the interior is a light green, almost melon color. I have no idea if it tastes the same as a traditional pumpkin, and I wasn't about to find out. He followed another tradition - carving a face free hand with only his imagination and a knife.

One Ring joined me in chosing a design from this year's Pumpkin Masters books. I thought she did an excellent job, despite having a massive pumpkin that had extremely thick walls. I like the topic, as haunted houses and ghosts are a few of my favorite things!

I had trouble deciding which design to use at first; this year's designs were really good and there were a few from books we had bought over the last several seasons that looked great, too. But I finally decided on this one, which I thought captured the spirit of Halloween. When I imagine what a personification of Samhain (pronounced "Sow-win") looks like, this is kind of what I see. Of course, others have depicted Samhain in similar ways, so it's nothing original. Oh, I deviated from the traditional by using a craft pumpkin, which is essentially a styrofoam shell spraypainted orange. It is very thin, so carving is easier. The only downside is that I can't use candles in it, since it's VERY flamable.

All of these pictures were taken with my cell phone camera, which explains the poor resolution. One ring took several with our digital camera, and those pictures came out great. They're on my facebook page at the moment, and I'll try to copy them over here if I can remember.

Well, back to the grind. Hopefully more will be posted later.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yes, I Am Still Alive

Insert apology about not blogging and using this site primarily to locate bookmarks to other sites here. Add excuse about being exceptionally busy due to increased work load, fighting with annoying coworker (including an email war that ended late yesterday afternoon), and too many after work activities to list. Include rationalization that it's easier to put things up on Facebook than it is here. And sum up with a short dismissal, such as, "Sorry, but that's just the way things are."

So, with that out of the way, let's get back to the world that I know - it's Halloween time!

Tonight is our annual pumpkin carving party, and we're busy decorating, crafting, and preparing the gourds for destruction. The Haunted Mansion model is just about complete, with only one more, barely necessary addition required before it goes on display. We're expecting 6-8 people, and I'll be posting pictures when they become available.

Speaking of Halloween parties, if you get a chance, see Trick 'R Treat. I won't let on any more than this: we haven't been observing the holiday correctly, and Sam - short for Samhain, the spirit of the holiday - isn't happy. It's a collection of four wonderfully written intertwined stories that all have unexpected twists and turns. It's definitely the best horror film we've seen this season, followed closely by 1408 and Reincarnation.

I won't mention all the horrible films I've sat through this season, but I know I'm not alone in noticing that for every good horror film that comes out, there are hundreds of stinkers. Sad, really. You would think that film makers would invest in, I don't know, maybe scripts? Real scripts, written by writers who have talent? Doesn't seem to much to ask, but apparently it is. Oh, well.

Anyway, I'm going back to sharpening my sword, should Annoying Coworker decide to take another verbal swing at me. Just another day in paradise. I'll write more either today, should my schedule allow, or tomorrow, when I get the pictures of the party up.


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Friday, October 16, 2009

I Want Another Adventure ...

... but I'm too tired!

Seriously, I'm exhausted. I guess I didn't sleep enough last night, or maybe the weather (rain and cold for the last several days) is finally getting to me. Either way, my productivity is way low and my desire to leave work early is way high.

There's a lot I could be doing - not all of it work related. I need to make a copy of the sheet music I've been studying for my guitar instructor (we're on the second solo of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb!). I also smuggled in an origami book, mainly because I'm in desperate need of business card holders and paperclip boxes here.

Of course, there's always closing my office door and snoozing the next hour and a half away!

Today's payday, too, so that means online shopping for important items such as candle making supplies and various non essentials. Plus there's a bottle of rum that I tasted during last weekend's adventures in rural Tennessee (yes, Tennessee has a rum distillery! Only one, though). Trouble was, they couldn't sell it to me there (dry county, just like the one where they make Jack Daniel's whisky), so I need to find a liquor store where they sell it. So far, no luck, as the one right by my house only seems to carry Captain Morgan's, Bacardi, and Sailor Jerry. And since I want to drink rum and not set anything on fire, that leaves the last two brands right out! So it's off on an after work expedition to a couple of shops that I do not frequent.

Outside of the rum, though, there's nothing even remotely pirate-y going on in my life. And that's just too sad for words. Oh, sure I could dress up as a buccaneer for Halloween, but I prefer more ghostly related things for this time of the year. Oh, well.

Speaking of Ghostly things, I am almost finished with the scale model of the Haunted Mansion! Photos to come.

In the meantime, I'm going back to killing time and seeing if I can get off work in 30 minutes or less. It's like pizza delivery, only much better!

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Friday, October 9, 2009

New Additions to the Link List

Today was pretty hectic in the morning, but starting at noon it slowed to a crawl. So, naturally, I found ways to amuse myself by surfing the net and finding new links to put up. I took down several that were no longer fun to look at or had apparently gone defunct (I'm looking at YOU, Supernatural News!). In their place I put up several Halloween related sites that I happen to think rock - especially you're into the decorating / creating a haunted house side of the holiday. If you're just in it for the candy, then I'm afraid I don't have much to offer.

Here are the new stars of my link list:

Carnival of Souls is a blog that is also home to an awesome program called "Imagineerieing." Basically they've created a computer / video program to allow us non-tech geeks to have "magic mirror" effects ("Mirror, Mirror, on the wall ..." type stuff) on video screens that are part of displays. They also have a lot of DIY stuff that is cool to peruse.

Halloween Monsterlist is just that - a HUGE list of links to all kinds of Halloween decoration projects. Want to learn how to create moving ghost window displays? It's here. Want to make a backwards running 13 hour clock? It's here, too. Bubbling Cauldron? Bottomless Pit? Magical Fire? Yep, yep, and heck yeah.

How to Haunt Your House is a website based around a book. Or maybe it's a book that was written after the website. Anyway, they've got a book and an incredible site with video instructions and great ideas. Anyone who wants to buy me this book will be my friend for a long time to come.

And last, but not least, Ravensblight brings a couple of my favorite things together, Halloween and papercrafts. If the designs on Paper Model Purgatory are too complex (it's year 3, and I'm still not done with my Haunted Mansion model!), then you might want to take a look at Ravensblight. They have designs for toys, games, and party fortune telling games. They also have music, art, and short stories - all horror related and all free. Not a bad way to spend some free time this month!

So there you go. Now get out there and start creating something scary!

Oh, and if anyone can find a website that has Halloween and pirates covered, let me know.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Real Quick Note Before the Chaos Begins

I've got a patient coming in just a moment, but I figured I'd fire a couple of items into the ether first.

  • Last night One Ring and I watched Reincarnation, a Japanese horror film which was directed by Takashi Shimizu - the same gentleman who created Ju-On (known in the West as The Grudge). Awesome flick, and definitely disturbing. In one of the bonus features, the director said that he wanted to show that while American horror films often show that a gruesome death is the worst possible outcome, there are worst things - especially when you take Eastern beliefs into consideration. Yeah, this one was CREEPY! Go see it.
  • Over in The Vault of Horror, B-Sol conducted a poll of writers, bloggers, and other literary (and non-literary) types to come up with a list of the scariest poems (yes, he considered poetry), short stories, and novels ever written. The end result is required reading for the Halloween season. So get out to your library or bookstore and start enjoying your sleepless nights!

More later, once the Hottentots stop running amok!

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Yeah, These Guys Rock

Now if the rest of us can do likewise, maybe there's a chance we'll all get through this mess alive!

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I Know NASCAR Could Qualify as a Religion in the South ...

... but this might be taking things just a little too far.

I spotted this car in the parking lot of the hospital where I work. Not sure if the owner minds that I took a couple of pictures, but the way I figure it, if you turn your car into a shrine, you should be prepared for odd looks!

Click for the pics.

Part of me wants to look at the original car to see how accurately he (I'm assuming the driver is a man, but I could always be wrong.) got the sponsor stickers, and other details. But a larger part of me just wants to shake my head in disbelief at the amount of money that went into doing this!

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Doom Buggy 2.0

Yes, sadly, my beloved Doom Buggy and I are parting ways. Not that there's anything wrong with her - at the moment - but she's getting a tad long in the tooth (158,000 miles will do that to you!), and I've had to replace the clutch and felt that I needed to move on before anything more costly happens. Plus, I did some research and found that she's only worth about $250.00 as a trade in. And that's counting the new CD player I had installed!

But what was I to do? What car could possibly replace the Doom Buggy?

For the last couple of months, I've been tracking a used Toyota Yaris S at a local Toyota dealership. After all, I reasoned, what would be better for a daily commuter who happened to have a pirate obsession than a Yaaaaaarrrrrrris? So off we went.

Long story short, it was a miserable experience. The salesman knew nothing about the car, which was covered in cobwebs and dirt (seriously, if you're trying to sell a car, wouldn't you at least clean it first? It drove fine, despite having no pickup (105 horsepower at best) and a very cramped feeling interior. The weirdest part, though, was the reaction of the salesman when we expressed our desire to look at other cars. Despite the initial drop in price from the sticker (an outrageous $17,900) to the still too much "internet price" of $15,900, he dropped the price another $1,000. Then, after we told him that we'd think about it, he called me on my cell not 5 minutes after we pulled out of the lot and said that he'd drop it again and add some sort of leather package. I turned to One Ring and said, "What the heck is wrong with this car that they're dropping it over $3,500 without us even saying anything?"

She agreed that something was up, and we kept driving. At the next lot, we met the Doom Buggy's successor.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present, Doom Buggy 2.0!

She's a lovely 2007 Honda (I've moved up from a Hyundai to a Honda!!!!!) Civic with 30,000 miles. She was less than the Yaris, and gets better gas mileage despite being a much larger car. Huge amounts of power. Cannons not included, sadly.

And no, I will not be adding stickers or other graphics to the hood or body of this one. I'll probably move the Doom Buggy plate from the old car (or buy another), though. Oh, and the white marks on the hood and bumper are reflections of the clouds overhead. No damage here!

So I'm doing the happy dance as I prepare to get out of here for the weekend. 55 minutes and I'm home freeeeeeeee!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Department of the Weird

I spent most of last week at a convention for addiction therapists. Strange event, really. It seems that many of the people who were either therapists or aspiring therapists (attendance was open to those who wish to enter the field) went straight from needing help to providing help without working on their own issues. Sure, sobriety might be established and maintained, but the underlying psychological issues did not seem to be addressed with not a few of the people with whom I spoke. Even one individual whom I thought was quite sane snuck out of the workshops to have a fling with another attendee! I later told One Ring and a couple of friends, "What is this ... band camp?"

Still, the conference was not without its good parts, and I ended up filling up a notepad with ideas for a lecture I'm going to be giving at Vanderbilt sometime in November on the topic of Addiction and Spirituality. I'm really excited about that opportunity, as it affords me to once again return to my alma mater and simultaneously do something completely new and exciting. Even better, it will get me out of the way of the back stabbing nonsense that makes up much of my day (Today's quote from annoying coworker - not said to my face, of course - "I don't see how someone can get his work done and still have time to go get a latte from (the campus) Starbucks."). Makes me wanna hollah! as my yankee relations would say. Or maybe they wouldn't. It's been a while since I've seen them.

But wait, there's more going on here!

Halloween is rapidly approaching, and I am already in full readiness. I'm hoping to have the Haunted Mansion model completed by this year's pumpkin carving extravaganza, and the horror movies of choice are lined up on Netflix and ready to go. Last night we watched The Orphanage, which was uber creepy without being gory. It was, unexpectedly, also sad in a way that del Toro (who produced this picture) pulls off quite well in many of his pictures. Tonight (maybe) is a redo of The Ninth Gate, with Johnny Depp and Frank Langella. I tried to watch one DVD over the weekend, only to have it skip and jam in the middle. Hopefully Netflix sent me a better one this time!

Well, I was going to write more, but it's quitting time. To the Doom Buggy!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

I Knew I Liked Him for a Reason!

So here he is. Our President (hear me right wing birthers and tea-baggers? He's OUR PRESIDENT!) on the White House lawn helping Chicago get the nod to host an upcoming Summer Olympics. And what is he doing? He's fencing! With a light saber!

Okay, so maybe the light saber thing is a tad geeky - okay, VERY geeky - but fencing is cool. How do I know? Because I was a fencer for a good many years, and still have the gear in my garage should I be lucky enough to find a fencing club nearby. Yes, I have swords, so anyone who dares say that fencing isn't cool better beware. Any takers? Didn't think so!

In other news, I'm leaving in 45 minutes to go home and get ready for a funeral. Good to get off work early, but very bad to get off early so I can say good-bye to someone who went to my church. One Ring is singing, so we'll have to be there early. That's no problem, though. After that we're going out to dinner with some friends and then it's the weekend! And believe me, it couldn't come any sooner!

In more serious news, my mother was taken to the hospital today with chest and head pain. No word yet on what's going on; the test results haven't come in. I just got off the phone with my sister and her thoughts are leaning towards a reaction to extreme stress, and not an actual coronary event. Even so, I'd appreciate if you would keep my mother and my family in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks.

That's all for now. I'm ready to close down this flea circus.


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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crunch Time

I've got a group to lead in an hour, and I still haven't come up with anything! Arrrgh, cursed writer's block!

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The Doctor is out on vacation. My boss is on vacation as well. Annoying Coworker called in sick (again) on a clinic day. And now the substitute nurse - I'd say that she's a pit bull with lipstick if that line hadn't been already beaten into the ground By Sarah Palin groupies - is going home sick. She said,"I don't think it's H1N1, but I did have a fever over the weekend."


So I've got the clinic all to myself. Literally. Ten patients are coming in and I'm doing the group meetings, administrative stuff, drug screens, and any damage control (trust me, here there's always damage control!) that may come up.

Pray for me. No, rather, pray for Annoying Coworker when he comes back!

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Been A While

I haven't been posting like I used to, for a variety of reasons. One is that work has picked up quite a bit, and I used to be able to write during quiet moments (like today, when the doctor and my boss are both on vacation. Woohoo!). Lately, I've been picking up more responsibilities, which is good career wise, but bad, blogging-wise. The other reason is that I've been pretty much burned out of late on all the topics that I normally blog about. Religion, politics, current events, Disney stuff, and even all things pirate-y (gasp!) have become pretty much bland subjects.

I am still taking guitar lessons, still ploughing my way through "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd, and still playing City of Heroes, although the latter is starting to get repetitive in some respects. Every so often my characters seem to get caught where they are too weak to finish a mission, and need to spend time leveling up before they can go back and get things done. This means roaming through the city, finding muggers or mutants or whatchamacallits and beating the tar out of them. Depending on the level needed to finish the original mission, that can take a while. Plus, I didn't want to drop to the level of ultimate geekiness by reporting on my exploits in a game!

But there are some things going on around here ...

One Ring was out of town this past weekend, which meant that yours truly was once again enjoying some much needed introvert time. On a whim, I pulled out and dusted off the Haunted Mansion model that I started just before our Dachshund Peanut fell ill and died. Up until now it's been sitting on the bookcase in our spare room, neglected and in dire need of repair. So I reinforced one of the chimneys and then built and installed the central tower:

Not too shabby, I figure!

The weather vane attached to the tower was a royal pain, as was the cone. But after some determined effort, a toothpick, and not a little cursing, it went up and looks pretty nice. Now all I need to do is get the front staircase and the sunroom / greenhouse that goes on the east wing finished and I'll have a pretty cool Halloween centerpiece!

Speaking of Halloween, my favorite time of the year is approaching. I'm already on the hunt for good horror films, and, as always, my preferences (so slashers, little gore, well written plot) are severely limiting my choices. I'll probably end up buying 1408, mainly because that was the one of the last really good mess with your mind films I've seen - although a clergy friend of mine recommended Drag Me to Hell. Problem is, I've already read about that one on The Movie Spoiler (amazing how much money I've saved by reading spoilers instead of going to see the movie) so I know the ending. Might be one of those rare times when I wish I hadn't.

In other Halloween news, we're thinking of having our yearly Pumpkin Carving Party sometime between the 19th and 24th. I'm already pretty psyched about that, and am looking forward to the latest designs from Pumpkin Masters
and other carving websites that are out there.

Well, this post has gone on long enough, so I'm going to close it here, with 1 1/4 hours left until I head home and take care of a sick wife.


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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oh, No! Now a Trilogy ...

Disney is doing the unthinkable ...

They're bringing back Captain EO, a campy sci-fi 3-D film starring Michael Jackson. I'm serious. It's bad. See if you can sit through a viewing without wondering if they've started using massive amounts of drugs over at the Magic Kingdom.

First Marvel Captain EO?

I'm hoping - no, PRAYING - that this is all just a bad rumor. Or a bad dream. Anything but true.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Oh, No! Part 2.

This is just one of the drawings that has popped up on the internet since yesterday's announcement that Disney has purchased Marvel for a whopping $4 Billion. And fans are not all united in joy about the merger, either. I was talking with Tigger yesterday, and we agreed that this was a salvo aimed at Universal Studios Orlando, which has the Marvel superheroes plastered all over their Islands of Adventure park and will soon have the Harry Potter park up and running. The question now is whether Universal Studios will pay to use the names of the Marvel Characters on their rides, or simply rename them.

This is going to be interesting.

Meanwhile, and in keeping with the hero theme, my addiction to City of Heroes is holding steady. To be honest, I'm more interested in creating the characters and developing a backstory than I am in going on missions - which, at least in the early stages - seem fairly repetitive (go here, beat these people up, click on these objects, repeat). Don't get me wrong, the game is beautiful and there are plenty of people who have equally interesting characters running around. The only problem I'm having is that I'm finding that the names I'd like to give my characters are all taken, so I'm left with two choices: either figure out a creative way to write them (such as including an odd character or blatently misspell it as if I was placing it on a license plate), or using a really bad name (I saw one guy with the name Phar Ting last night). So far I've been using the former.

I had my guitar lesson last night (and while I'd like to say again that this is in keeping with the Hero theme - this time with me as a real life Guitar Hero - it's not and I can't). We started the first solo of "Comfortably Numb," and while my playing sounds REALLY rough, I am in the ballpark, and that feels good. I don't have a lesson for another two weeks, but I've been told to practice that solo A LOT. So I'll be spending a lot of time in the spare bedroom, it seems.

Okay, that's all from here. A couple of other things are going on, but it's just about lunch time and I need to grab a bite before more chaos ensues. And it's coming. Oh, yes, chaos is coming. By the way, the Spider-Mouse drawing was done by AngelCrusher, and was posted on the Deviant Art website.


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Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh, no.

I know that I haven't posted much this summer, and there's many a reason for that, starting with travel and visitors and ending with a new addiction and increased work responsibilities. So I figure I'll promise to write more when I can, and - for the time being at least - leave you with this very scary news from the world of comic books and all things Disney:

Disney To Buy Comics Juggernaut Marvel For $4B

My question is: being that the Marvel comic book characters are at the Universal Studios theme parks in Hollywood and Orlando, will this merger be the death knell for the "other park in Florida?" Universal will be opening the Harry Potter / Hogwarts area next year, but with Marvel leaving, will it be enough to survive?

"Curiouser and Curiouser," said Alice.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

For or Against - Can We Just Stop the Shouting?

I'm seriously over the health care debate. Not that the system doesn't need serious repair; it just needs serious people to think and talk and work seriously towards that goal. All the news seems to be showing are morons screaming at each other using terms like "Socialist," "Communist," and "Totalitarian," as if the ones trading accusations had any idea of what these terms mean.

I'm a firm believer in free speach; I just don't want to have it plastered all over the news wire if it is completely devoid of intelligent content.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Need a Dog Like This!

"Comfortably Numb" is turning out to be a tad more difficult than I imagined, but it's still a very enjoyable learning experience. Drink Man is telling me I need to learn several songs simultaneously so I do not become bored. Must be the A.D.D. approach to music. I don't know about that, but he did call me last night and tried to teach me a few songs over the phone. Very weird, and extremely ineffective. Oh, well. He's recently purchased two guitars, and they should be delivered today. One's a Kramer, modeled on the '80s hair band preferences. The other one's a new model by Ibanez, and looks awesome (at least the pictures I've seen look awesome). Hopefully he'll bring them tomorrow.

As for me, I've promised myself that when I master "Comfortably Numb" and know it backwards and forwards - including the two solos, the second one I consider to be one of the greatest guitar solos of all time - I'll purchase the Fender Fat Strat that has recently caused me to drool. The owner of the music shop where I take my lessons has tried to convince me to buy one of the new Schecter models he's getting in (an Omen Extreme, in case you're curious) he's getting in stock. But my point is: I already have a guitar with two humbuckers, and a good one at that. Why would I want to drop $400+ on another one? If I do buy another guitar, it's going to be one that produces a completely different sound; one that can be used for different styles of music other than distortion laden metal (not that there's anything wrong with distortion laden metal! I love it!). I asked him if Schecters could do that, and he said, "Well, er, uhm, uhhhh, no. Not as such." So there you go.

Fortunately, with the financial situation that One Ring and I have found ourselves in, Drink Man did not follow through with his plan to buy a Fat Strat wholesale and then pass it on to me. It was one of those "I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy" kind of things. Good deal, but there was no way I could come up with the money no matter how much it was. So I'm glad that fell through. Plus I can use the goal of getting the Fender as motivation to learn the song.

Okay, time to go back to working with patients. : (

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Good Idea Goes Bad

First off, a position statement: I am for the legalization of Cannabis for medical use.

Now, having said that, let me clarify. Marijuana does have its good points, and I have seen those in action - reducing nausea, improving appetite, and easing pain - in cancer and terminally ill patients. However, there are other - legal - medications that are work just as well for people who are not in such extreme situations. I'm pretty sure that these individuals do not need to have legalized marijuana.

This is on my mind today because of what's going on in California with the whole legalization movement. Apparently you can fix whatever ails you with, not a prescription, but simply a recommendation from any doctor shady enough to give it. As this article shows, there are now parts of LA where Marijuana clinics outnumber McDonald's and Starbucks by 2 to 1.

Pot-Friendly California: Amsterdam In America?

Houston, we have a problem.

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Let's Put Some Perspective on the Debate ...

Saw this. Like it. 'nuff said.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yeah, I'm Still Here

Tired, but still here. Nothing major going on, just trying to keep awake as this non-clinic day winds down. Drink Man has been really uptight today, as Annoying Coworker is once again trying to make people look inferior (it never works, really, but that doesn't stop AC from trying!). So I spent my lunch break talking him down from the edge of rage and helping him put things in perspective. Since we both have degrees that allow us some mobility in the workplace, neither of us is trapped here. I'm particularly mobile, considering One Ring's going to be looking for work in a year or two. So why worry about AC, the boss, or anyone else's neuroses if I'm going to be heading off to unknown lands before too long?

So that's work. In other news, One Ring has taken two of her three comprehensive exams, with the third coming up on Friday. Two weeks from Friday is her verbal defense and her dissertation proposal. And from there on out, she's up to her eyeballs in research and writing.

Meanwhile, I'm working on the guitar (Current song: Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb"), just bought a new computer, and am playing a 14 day trial of City of Heroes. I'm probably going to get the full game and subscribe to COH once that runs out. I'm really enjoying it, and the alternative, Champions, has been getting some rough reviews on the Internet. Of course, the game hasn't even released yet (I think it comes out on the 17th), so all of that might not even be true. But I'm playing COH for the time being, anyway.

I've also been watching Season 1 of Supernatural on DVD. I caught one episode a long time ago, and thought it interesting, but never could remember what channel it came on (The CW, I later found - your source for melodrama and teen angst!). Anyway, the premise seems interesting, but it's quickly wearing thin. I like that they're using urban legends and mythology as sources for the creatures the characters fight (Bloody Mary was a particular favorite of mine, as was the way they combined the ghostly hitchhiker and the weeping woman of Mexican lore). But after reason some summaries of the subsequent seasons, I grew less and less interested. Characters seemed cardboard, the plots seemed thin, and the main characters seemed to always know exactly what they were dealing with and how to kill it. Maybe later episodes are different, but the ones I saw got repetitious quickly. Shame.

Anyway, that's all from here. My caffeine level is dropping and Annoying Coworker just came by to chat. So I need to get out. One hour and 30 minutes and I'm home free with the week half over!

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Friday, August 7, 2009

End of the Day, Friday Blahs

The Doctor called in sick today, which pretty much killed my work load. Seriously. Aside from one phone call from a patient, I have made all of three phone calls and led one process group. The rest of the time has been wasted - er - spent surfing the web, checking email, and chatting with coworkers. Even Annoying Coworker seems to have been having a case of the Fridays today, as he has spent today and much of the week away from my office. Hmmm, I would guess he's reloading, but even he shouldn't take that long!

One Ring is taking the first of three qualifying exams today. Once she passes those, then she'll have to work on her dissertation proposal and then the dissertation itself. I figure that should keep us here for another two years or so, and then we'll move to wherever she can find work. I've given her a list of my preferences - near the coast, cooler climate, blue state - but we'll go where the work is, I guess. I've also teased her that she's about to become my "Sugar Mama," and I couldn't wait until I could stay at home and watch TV and grow fat while she did all the financial heavy lifting! I believe I was hit by a heavy object at that point, though my memory is a tad fuzzy! : )

Tonight we're supposed to have dinner with a bunch of her long-suffering classmates, one of whom is taking her exams as well. After that, I suppose I'll work on the new computer or practice my guitar lesson. I've been pretty lazy about that of late. Not sure why, but I find that I'm easily distracted. I am excited about the song we're working on, as it's one of my favorites - Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. It has one of the greatest guitar solos ever written, and I've promised myself that if I ever master it, I'll consider getting that Fat Strat that I was looking at a week or so ago. In the meantime, it sounds good enough on my Epiphone SG-310. I just really want to have that David Gilmour sound, and Strats are excellent for blues inspired rock.

Okay, one hour to go, and I have one more chart note to write. Guess I'll amuse myself with that and get ready to fly out the door as soon as the clock hits four. Have a great weekend everyone!

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

One Ring and I finally got around to replacing our desktop PC, which had some parts at least 5 years old and the newest drives and chips no less than 3 years old. Needless to say, the difference was immediately noticable in terms of speed, graphics, and memory space. I dumped most of my old hard drive onto the new one, and it barely registered! Then again, considering the old hard drive was roughly 1/20th the size of the new one, I shouldn't be surprised.

So now I have all this space and power just hanging around. And what do I want to do? Buy games, of course!

In a burst of geekiness, I have been re-reading many of my old graphic novels (I would be reading the original comic books, but those I gave to a young member of one of my churches - they weren't worth anything more than sentimental value. Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post, I was surprised to see that Champions, an old pen and paper superhero role playing game that brought me hours of enjoyment as a kid, was making its way to the net. It debuts on September 1st.

After doing a little checking around, I found a second superhero online game already running - City of Heroes. So now it's a matter of doing research and finding out which one is the best value and will offer the best experience.

The irritating thing is that both charge a monthly subscription fee to pay for customer support and upgrades to the game. It looks like City of Heroes runs around $15 / month, while Champions hasn't listed any pay scale, save for a $60 for a 6 month subscription and $250 for a lifetime subscription.

Add to that the cost of purchasing the game itself. City of Heroes has been out for five years or so, and has come out with several expansion modules. Each one contains the original game in addition to the new content. The latest one, City of Heroes: Architect Edition, is available on Amazon for $20 (and $19.99 at Best Buy), and is probably cheaper elsewhere. The architect spin is that you get a program that allows you to build and upload missions to the game. Champions is currently available for pre-order on Amazon for $46.99 (and at Best Buy for $49.99), and there is talk in some of the forums that players will have to pay for things like changing the name of their character and adding bits and pieces of costuming.

So if I go with playing an online superhero game, which does sound fun at the moment, I'll probably go with City of Heroes, unless Champions changes its pricing structure and loses the nickel and dime routine.

Has anyone out there played either game? I'm curious to know if it's worth it.

And yes, I do know that there are several pirate MMO games out there. Disney (obviously) has a Pirates of the Caribbean game out, and there is also the Pirates of the Burning Seas, just to name two. But I'm thinking of moving in a different direction at the moment.

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Never Got into World of Warcraft

Or anything else like it. But I just heard about this, and I just might not be able to resist the temptation - especially considering the new computer I'm getting this week!

I used to play Champions as a kid - it was/is a superhero pen and paper role playing game. But apparently as that type of rpg is fading into oblivion (curse you children for preferring video games to your own imagination!), Champions is now moving over to the MMO world. I'll have to keep an eye on this!

I also took a quiz:

You walk a mystical path, and are a creature of the spiritual and the supernatural. You are introspective and self-reliant, but nobody will ever question your bravery or commitment to justice.

Take the quiz!

Not sure what this says about my masculinity, casting me as a female character ... but I like the description.

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A Minor Choice

I've finally decided what design to use for my tattoo, should I ever get around to having ink done - and should I ever be able to convince Pooh to go along with my plan when she comes out to visit One Ring and me a day before her husband Tigger joins us! It's called an Enso, and is a type of Japanese Zen calligraphy. Usually it stands for enlightenment, oneness, realization, completeness, etc.; all the things that I'm working towards understanding in life. Enso come in all sorts of different styles, some are closed and some, like this one, are open. I chose this one because I like the visibility of the brush stroke and the way the circle doesn't look like an oval, as do many of the designs I've seen.

Oh, and I'm not adding the characters to the right and lower left of the picture. I have no idea what they say, and I'm really hesitant to ink something I can't read!

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Crap, it's my birthday

And the coworker formally known as Drink Man has everyone at work believing I'm 40! Grrr. I'm only 39, and I deserve to have my year before the big four - oh. Not only that, but he's 41, and is now trying to pass himself off as 40. I'm sorry, but you can't take one of your years and add it to mine!

Work has been non-stop today, in part because Annoying coworker called in sick for the second clinic day in a row. From one perspective, that's been absolutely wonderful. From another, it's made for extra work and people scrambling to cover his duties. In both ways, though, it makes me look good for being flexible and hard working, so I'm happy.

Last night Formerly Drink Man and I went out to look at guitars at the local music shop. I fell in love with an arctic white Fender Fat Strat. It was the "made in Mexico" variety, so it was roughly $500, as opposed to the Made in America $1,200 kind. Despite the urgings of friends on Facebook, I did not purchase it, mainly because it will be a long time before One Ring and I recover from her not working during this summer due to her exams and our trip to Disney World. Also, ahead on the list of must buys are a new car and a replacement for my computer. So I must remain separated from my new love for a while. Barring a winning lottery ticket or a very generous friend or relative, this will be a while!

Meanwhile, One Ring is taking me out to dinner tonight. I'm trying to finess a trip to the local game store and see if I can get something out of this. Or maybe something guitar-related. We'll see.
Okay, 30 minutes and then I'm gone.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tired of Complaining ...

... because there are far worse jobs than the one I currently have!

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Back to Reality

Actually, I've been back for 2 days now. It's just that Monday was my first day of substituting for Annoying Coworker (how's that for irony?!?) and we were slammed. 6 patients for one on one counseling, plus my normal clinic duties made for a serious headache. Fortunately, Annoying Coworker called in sick yesterday, so I was able to get caught up and get things relatively back to normal in the office. Bad news is that he's back to work today, so I'm expecting some sort of conflict to start brewing soon. It's sad, really, that this thing is dominating so much of my time, energy, and capacity for stress. Hopefully things will get worked out soon.

But on to happier topics! Like my 3 year-old nephew stating emphatically that he wants to be a pirate! He even told Ariel, of The Little Mermaid, that he was a pirate and not a prince (for some reason, Disney World characters like to call all the children who visit either "Prince" or "Princess." Must be a marketing thing). My nephew corrected this particular Princess, although it must be noted that she recovered quickly and said, "Well, I hope you're a good pirate!" Like I said, it was a proud day for my clan!

I did get a chance to poke my head in the Pirate's League face painting / costume shop, which is located next to The Pirates of the Caribgean ride at the Magic Kingdom. While I seriously doubt it's worth the hefty price tag, it does look like fun. We saw four adult men dressed up, and I have to say, it looked like the make-up artists did a good job. I pointed them out to my nephew, who quickly wanted to know if they were "real pirates." Too cute.

My niece also had the time of her life, although at 8 she's now at the age where she's questioning the Disney magic. Several times she asked if one of the characters was "the real" one or "just someone in a suit." She's figured out that Mickey, et. al. are people in suits, but she was thrown off by the princesses. I was able to put off reality for a little while by saying things like, "Well, it's Cinderella's castle, isn't it? Why would they put a fake Cinderella in Cinderella's castle?" I imagine that by the next time I see her, though, she'll have everything figured out. They grow up so fast!

The kids really enjoyed collecting the character's autographs. We gave each a book and pen at the start of our trip, and each time we saw someone (which was almost constant!), we got out the books and sent them over. My niece's book is almost completely filled at this point, and since each page has a place for a photo of the character in question, she should be left with something that will hold her interest for years to come. Maybe. Hopefully. It's hard to tell with kids.

As for the adults - One Ring and me in particular - let me tell you that travelling with children is way different than going solo to Disney World. We got home Friday night, and by the time Saturday rolled around, my body felt as if I had aged sixty years. Fortunately, by Monday most of the stiffness and pain had subsided, though I'm still trying to recover the sleep I lost. How children can keep going at full tilt for so long is beyond me. Maybe it's because we pushed them around in a stroller. I'll have to try to get this level of treatment the next time I head down there. The weather was way too hot for a grown man to have to walk around on his own!

I forsee myself looking something like this:

Well, back to work. We have a clinic tomorrow and I need to get back up to speed.


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Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Always Darkest ...

Before I go to Disney World, apparently.

Yesterday the situation with Annoying Coworker escalated to out of control proportions. Following a meeting in which I expressed doubts as to the accuracy of some information he was presenting, he confronted me in the hallway and started shouting. In front of the doctor and a patient, I might add. So today has been spent trying to set up a meeting with my boss' boss in order to make sure this never happens again.

I didn't post yesterday because I was barely able to contain my rage and professionalism. Drink Man was very supportive, as was One Ring, and I have been avoiding all contact with Annoying Coworker for obvious reasons.

So that's the work situation. I'm sorely tempted to burn some sick time so I can get home, go to my guitar lesson, pick up some meds at the pharmacy, and get packed. I talked to my mother today, and was told that my niece and nephew still do not know anything about the trip. They won't know that we're going to be there until they arrive at the resort tomorrow. Awesomeness will ensue!

Okay, time for me to do a process group. Might do anger management. Let the irony roll on ...

By the way, we're leaving before dawn tomorrow, so don't be surprised if you don't see a post before the 27th. Then again, I may post from WDW, as One Ring is bringing her laptop. We'll see.

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