Friday, January 30, 2009

Time Wasters, Inc.

Today's one of those odd days here at the office. The doctor with whom I work is doing her rounds in the ER, and we do not have any scheduled patient appointments. So there's very little to do except meet with coworkers and discuss ways to improve things around her (I suspect that's why I was moved to this new office), wonder about downsizing or - as I am doing now - surf the net aimlessly.

This has become a bit of a hobby of mine lately. Jumping from link to link and seeing where I end up. Usually this means that I arrive at the conclusion that there are a lot of scary people in the world with a lot of weird ideas! Not to mention huge amounts of spare time ...

Then again, my interests tend towards the odd as well. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised when I end up on some Goth fashion or music page, or find myself trying to decipher the writings of an obscure cult group that is trying to channel the spirits of dragons (true story!). Weird, but fun. And a time waster.

Right now I'm listening to the soundtrack from the new Underworld movie - which, surprisingly, I haven't seen yet. Odd music. Not even sure how I would label it, since the songs are remixes (think techno / dance versions, mostly) of works by the Cure, Maynard James Keenan (of Tool and A Perfect Circle), The Deftones, Perry Ferrell, and several others of whom I've never heard. Dance meets depression? Kinda fits my mood, though, in a weird bipolar sort of way.

One Ring is showing up in about 30 minutes so we can have lunch together. I'm going to give her the tour and introduce her to some of my colleagues. Hopefully that will inspire her to complete her studies in record time! No, seriously, it could be a whole lot worse. As in unemployment, or slaving away at the coffee shop for $7/hour.

So for now I'm just chilling out here, looking up guitar tabs for random songs (Judith by A Perfect Circle, Wake Me When September Ends by Green Day, and Tom Sawyer by Rush were the last few), and waiting on lunch. After that, there will be four hours to kill and then it's off for the weekend. We have friends coming over for a (very small) Super Bowl party on Sunday, and last night we finally replaced our dying television. We'll see how much a 32" LCD improves our life. Probably not much, since we tend not to pay much attention to such things!

Okay, time to close this down. More later this afternoon.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

New Meme from Facebook.

Over on Facebook, several of my friends have been posting this little do-dad. So, just for chuckles, and for the sake of putting something a little more upbeat than my usual complaining about work, I figured I'd tack it up here. Enjoy.
Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

Or if you hate this kind of thing, just ignore it!

1. Several of the women I once dated have since friended me on Facebook. I find this oddly complimentary.

2. I know more about the Haunted Mansion ride in Walt Disney World (and other Disney parks) than any sane person should.

3. I have set foot on 15 foreign countries. Not bad for a homebody!

4. I didn’t really start drinking until I attended Vanderbilt Divinity School. Thankfully, I’ve cut back quite a bit!

5. I used to pass out during the drug education portion of health class…

6. ... which makes my being an addiction therapist an even odder occupation.

7. I have perfomed many, many weddings and funerals during the 8 years that I was active in the parish ministry and two years of hospital chaplaincy. I much prefer funerals to weddings (see below).

8. I lived in Siberia for three months. During the winter. Hello 40 below!

9. I’ve been told that I do good impersonations of Gollum, Grover, and Jack Sparrow. Oh, and Pepe the King Prawn from the Muppets, too.

10. I once officiated a wedding where the maid of honor beat up a bridesmaid at the reception. Hence my love of funerals.

11. I actually officiated a wedding in Las Vegas. And no, I was not dressed as Elvis!

12. I was a Russian Major at Old Dominion University and planned to be a spy.

13. I am finally learning to play the guitar, 22 years after first being offered the chance.

14. I once took a Dale Carnegie public speaking course. They told me I would be very successful – so long as I did not speak publicly. I then went on to 8 years of public speaking.

15. I decorated my car in a “Haunted Mansion” / “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme.

16. I have been studying Zen Buddhism off and on since college. Every so often I’m tempted to shave my head and run away to Asia.

17. When I was young, I participated in a puppet ministry and wanted to be a Muppeteer.

18. My first job upon my return to Nashville was working in a coffee shop at a Books-A-Million. My second job wasn’t much better.

19. I now am able to make an awesome latte, though!

20. When I was 12 I was hit by a car and (literally) knocked out of my shoes. Even today, I have a phobia about crossing streets.

21. I tried to join the Coast Guard after college. They told me I couldn’t become an officer because I wear glasses. I didn’t sign up.

22. One day I hope to write the definitive book on the meaning of life. I suspect that it will be very short.

23. For some reason, my wife thinks I’m very funny.

24. I miss the coffee caucuses we used to hold with our friends in Virginia.

25. I always wanted to own a Beagle. A dog to call my own. A four legged best friend. So we got one. He loves my wife more than me. So I got my own dog. And found out she was pregnant two weeks before she gave birth to 8 pups.

Feel free to comment. Or not. Hope this was caused a chuckle.

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Monday Morning Doldrums

Since moving to my new post at work, I've had to deal with an odd shift in patterns of energy. By that I mean one moment things can be extremely chaotic and frantic, and the next work has ground to a halt and hours are wasted with nothing to do. In my old post, I would usually harass Drink Man or some of my other coworkers. Now, though, especially on Mondays and Fridays, there is literally no one on my wing of this office building. Which makes for great nap opportunities, but little else.

Still, compared to unemployment, this place is right next to heaven. Of course there are a few "except for"s in there, but oh, well.

I purposefully did not write anything on Friday, because I was fighting with the powers that be over my paycheck. The last battle was over the amount they withheld for federal taxes. Long story short, if they have to write a check, they do not look at the withholdings the employee requests; they just take 25% off the top and call it a day. So I ended up making about $400 less, and what was supposed to be a huge paycheck turned out to be less than what I normally make, including weeks with federal holidays built in (I don't get paid for those).

Needless to say, rage, threats to quit, and cries to One Ring to take me to Disney World (only a trip to "The Happiest Place on Earth" could make this better!) were the order of the day.

So I didn't write, out of fear of what would end up here.

Once cooler heads prevailed, though, the weekend went well. Nothing spectacular happened; I was just able to catch up on some sleep, run some errands, attend a Bataan Death March - like series of meetings at church, sleep some more, and practice the guitar. Sadly, no acts of piracy were committed during this time.

I did receive a nice compliment from a former chaplain colleague. She suggested that I go into chaplain supervisor training, saying that she thought I had the gifts for the job. However, given my turbulent theological and philosophical history, and my penchant for bursting into flames when I get around fundamentalist Christian bookstores (or any fundamentalist religious types, for that matter!), I really can't say that it's a good idea. To be honest, I simply don't know what I believe, or even what's worth believing in, at this stage of my life. But that's a post for later on today, as I predict that the doldrums will continue.

For now, though, I've been handed a series of urine drug screens that I have to get ready for tomorrow's clinic. Oh, how I wish I could go back to my old post!

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

You'll Live ... For Now

Just a quick note to bring some much needed good news to ye olde blogge. I just received word from payroll that they are cutting me a check, and I can pick it up on Friday at 8:30. So I will be paid after all, and the heartless bureaucracy will not cause me to eat ramen noodles between now and the next pay day.

One Ring is happy. I am happy. The dogs are happy, for they will be fed.

Wonder if I can spin this so One Ring will let me go shopping for a distortion pedal? : )

I'm going home. Still no word on the condition of the doom buggy. Hopefully the trend towards good news will continue, and I won't have to plunk down a ton of money.

More later.

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Primal Scream Time

Friday was the start of a three day weekend. On top of that, I was getting a bunch of overtime money for coming in on Saturday for a really slack work detail. I should have been happy; I should have been celebrating that finally One Ring and I were starting to turn things around financially. On top of everything, the guitar I ordered was due to arrive over the holiday weekend. And I won't even get into the ecstasy that One Ring and I are feeling with Obama finally taking over.

Then, to use a cliche, all hell broke loose.

On Friday there was a snafu (to put it mildly) with payroll. Short version: I'm not seeing my paycheck for another two weeks. I could elaborate, but my blood pressure is high enough as it is, and my coworkers are tiring of my outbursts. Suffice to say that there are a number of individuals to whom I would like to say, "You're alive. Consider that a miracle."

I was told to have an application in on Tuesday for a position that was all but promised to me. This promise was retracted, my boss didn't like the look of my paperwork and wants me to redo it, but she's out today and so can't tell me what she wants. She's trying to help, of course, and for that I'm grateful, but it's just one more thing.

And,to add insult to injury (another cliche, I know. Every English teacher I've ever had are now shaking their heads sadly!) our television is dying and the clutch on the doom buggy is broken. So my car is being examined as we speak and I am trying not to think about how much all of this is going to cost to fix and / or replace.

In other, perhaps ironic news, when I took the new guitar to my lesson on Monday, the instructor said that he was impressed with my choice. He then told me that the guitar was the same type used by Angus Young of AC/DC, and that he (my instructor) used to play in an AC/DC cover band that toured all over the country. So he threw out the scheduled lesson and taught me Highway to Hell instead.

I suppose more than a few people I know would find that choice ironic, given the recent events of my life and my career choices!

So that's what's going on. In the meantime, I'm trying to stay sane, and get some work done today.

Pray for me. I'm seriously beginning to think that Sartre was right.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Edgar Allen Poe's Birthday ...

is on the 19th. So in honor of the great writer (an enigmatic loon)'s 200th, here's an article about the big event and links to a couple of museums honoring him. One Ring and I went to the one in Richmond. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, in my humble opinion. They had a dramatic reading of The Raven by Vincent Price (on video, of course, being that Price is long dead), and an exhibit describing all the theories that have been developed over the years attempting to explain his mysterious death. Turns out the local medical school assigns the mystery to its seniors. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Think I'll read a few of his works this week, being that it's way too cold to venture outside.

Here are the links I promised, starting with the article.

Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia.

Edgar Allen Poe Society.

Poe House and Museum.

Selected Works of Poe, Including The Raven.


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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And The Winner Is ....

Today is a dead day. I've been here 3 hours and have only worked with one patient. While I'm still not sure what I'm doing in this department - not exactly, anyway - not having anything to do means not having anything to do. Period. And that leaves only one thing: GUITAR SHOPPING!

As I posted yesterday, my search had come down to the Epiphone SG-310 and the Schecter Omen 6. The Schecter is roughly $50-$60 more, and looked nicer, but other than that, they seemed similar - at least in terms of my playing ability. My next pay day is the 23rd, so I was content to let the matter rest until then.

Funny how life just won't work the way we plan. Today I went over to Musician's Friend, to check on sales, stock, etc. and I found that they had a clearance sale on the "value pack" for the SG-310 - Case, amp, cable, pics, tuner, and guitar stand - for the same price as buying the guitar separately! I just about fell out of my chair! So I fired off emails to both Drink Man (I wanted him to see if I had missed some fine print in the details) and One Ring (to consult with her on finances and my sanity). To my surprise, both said "Go for it!"

So now I am roughly 3 business days away from rocking out on my own brand new electric guitar, which should look exactly like this:

And I am left with one question: now that I've finally bought a guitar, what in the world am I supposed to do with my spare time at work????


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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

45 Minute Countdown

And yes, it's that cold here. Apparently there's a front moving through, because the walk from here to the rest of the hospital has become more and more painful as the day has gone on. Coffee has helped, but only so much. The fact that it's now dead quiet, and cold, and boring, has really made it a struggle to not shut my door, wrap myself up in my coat, and take a nap!

So, in an effort to stay awake long enough to clock out for the day, I am doing the rare two-a-day posting that used to be so common when I was a chaplain. Not that I really miss being a chaplain in a conservative state, mind you!

So read on and be entertained (I hope!).

First stop, guitar news.

Had my second lesson last night, and (in my opinion) did poorly. The reason for that is complicated - part of it has to do with my grandfather's guitar, part of it was my preparation before the lesson, etc. No biggie, just frustrating. Plus I had a friend whom I haven't seen in 20 years come and visit, so I was very distracted. More on the friend later.

Anyway, short story is that I'm now more determined than ever to purchase an electric guitar (they're easier to play than acoustics). I went out to the local Guitar Center and played several of the models that I talked about in an earlier post. Oddly, I ended up not liking any of them. One I played and did like was an Epiphone SG-310, shown here.

Pretty cool guitar, although it looks way too similar to my Guitar Hero controller. That's no accident, of course, since the GH controllers for the PS2 are supposed to be Gibson SGs anyway. So I'm a little hesitant to purchase the Epiphone, if only for a silly reason that it looks like a toy (or a toy looks like it - whatever).

Last night I asked my instructor what he recommended. The store where I take my lessons sells Schecters, and he pointed out an Omen 6 that he likes to play in his spare time. At first I thought it looked a little too gothic or metal for me (yeah, that's possible. Go fig.), but the more I look at it, the more I like it. It's about $50 more than the SG, and money's an issue ... but here's what the Schecter Omen 6 looks like:

Anyway, I still haven't completely made up my mind. So the jury's still out. But I may just cough up the extra bucks and get something that I know looks unique and unlike guitars my friends and colleagues have. More on that later.

In other news, my best friend from high school drove through my part of the world yesterday and crashed at our house. It was great to see him, since we had lost touch 20 years ago. Last I heard, he went up to Alaska to work on the crabbing fleet. Then he popped up and found me on Facebook, while he was serving in Iraq as part of the Nevada National Guard! So last night was spent celebrating and swapping stories. Not enough time, of course, but definitely a good time. It brings to mind a song by Rush - Time Stand Still:

I turn my back to the wind
To catch my breath
Before I start off again.
Driven on without a moment to spend
To pass an evening with a drink and a friend

I let my skin get too thin
I'd like to pause
No matter what I pretend
Like some pilgrim
Who learns to transcend
Learns to live as if each step was the end

(Time stand still)
I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
(Time stand still)
See more of the people and the places that surround me now
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Experience slips away
Experience slips away

And with that, I'm going home.

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Two Posts in Two Days????

Gasp! Shock! Unbelievable!

But here I am, having a quiet moment as the staff has their lunch break (I had an early one). We only have a couple of patients today, so the work load is light. So light, in fact, that I've been able to work on some personal issues that are so ridiculous that to even mention them would probably cause uncontrollable and near fatal laughing fits.

But I'll tell you anyway.

Yesterday my boss comes into my (new! improved!) office and gives me some most excellent news. She says that there's a new full time position, with benefits (government benefits, no less!) that is mine for the taking. The only thing I have to do is a) fill out an application, and b) - this is the kicker - get a letter from a medical doctor, preferably a psychiatrist, saying that I am nuttier than a fruitcake and incapable of working in this field if I were not being treated for my condition.

How's that again?

Okay, I freely and openly state that I have bipolar II (We're number 2; we try harder!). Normally, it's not a big deal. I take my meds, I went to my counseling appointments back when I needed that kind of help, and life goes on. But for reasons that I will get to in a moment, I need to prove that I could apply for disability benefits (probably a stretch, and I'm certainly not going to try, but there you go) and would be incapacitated if I did not abide by my medical regimen.

Apparently for me to move from a contract, almost mercenary, position to a full time government lackey requires me to show that I'm a vet, disabled, or already employed by a connected medical facility to get preferential treatment in the selection process. Well, I'm not a vet and I haven't worked for any other hospital connected to this one. So that leaves the disability angle. Grrr. The fact that I don't consider myself to be disabled apparently doesn't matter much. I want the job so I have to play by their rules.

Yesterday I called both my psychiatrist's office in Virginia and my doctor here in Nashville. Then today I wrote a letter that I wanted my doc here to sign off on and put on his letterhead, faxed that over, and am now waiting to get the signed copy back. Hopefully that will be enough to get me the job. If not, I'm going to have to stay in this contractual, no benefits work situation for a while. At least until One Ring gets to the dissertation writing stage. I can't think much beyond that.

There's more going on, from having a friend whom I haven't seen for 20 years drop visit to more guitar drama and lessons. But I'll save that for a little later today. Have to spread my work out. Especially on boring days like today!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Anywhere But Here

I'm now fully moved over to my new office, which is located in the same building where I used to have my chaplain office. I've come full circle, as one co-worker put it. I can't print what I told him. Walls are still bare, but I hope to have that changed in the coming week or so. And while I'm enjoying my new space - bigger office, a tad more job security, and a newly remodeled building - I find I miss my old space.

Drink Man has been giving me grief about how I'm going to turn into a 400 pound narcissistic jerk (a combination of two of my colleagues in my new department). But that's not the big issue. The main problem is that it is just way too quiet here.

I don't mean just quiet, as in "Gee, I can hear the air conditioner over the usual office noise." I'm talking quiet, as in "Gee, no one has made a peep in the last hour - is anyone alive in this building?" Sometimes it feels like an odd Twilight Zone episode, where the main character has discovered that time has stopped but he's still moving, or that the whole world has vanished, leaving him at his desk, alone. Plus there's this oppressive cloud that seems to hang over this place. People are nice, but it's hardly the atmosphere of joking and kidding that exists in the other building.

Plus my work load has dropped dramatically. Today the main doctor is in the ER, and we do not have patients coming in. So there is nothing for me to do today. Maybe two phone calls, some chart work, but that will take up at most 30 minutes. The rest of the day will be spent either trying to be proactive and prepare for tomorrow and Thursday (the only busy days we have in this department), or surfing the net and trying to get past the blocks set up on our system. Happy, happy.

But there's good things going on, as well today. The big news is that I have a buddy from high school rolling through my area this afternoon. We lost track of each other following my freshman year of college. He managed to track me down on Facebook just a month or so ago, and is now moving from Nevada to Virginia. And since we're on the way, he's crashing at our place tonight before moving on. I'm pretty excited about catching up, although discovering just how much we've aged over the past 20 years may be more than I can handle!

Then there's my guitar lesson later on tonight. I'm really getting into this, although I have found that it's a lot harder than it looks. Seriously, I'm regretting making fun of all the garage bands that formed during my high school years. This is probably my karmic retribution!

Drink Man and I went guitar shopping last week. I'll post a pic of the one I picked out later on. Turns out it's not one of the three I mentioned last time. Go figure.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year, New Job (Again)

On Wednesday, we were informed at a morning meeting that one of the nurses was being transferred to a different program. Now she's not a popular person - frankly she bugs the heck out of everyone. So no one was that sorry to see her go. That was at 8:00 AM.

At 10:00 AM, I was informed that I would be taking her place. Mind you, I'm not a nurse. I do not have any medical training at all. And I still get queasy at the sight of needles. So where am I going? To the clinic that treats opiate addiction (heroin, oxycotin, hydrocodone, and all those sorts of drugs). In other words, to the one place where I really DID NOT want to go.

Still, I can understand my boss's reasoning for putting me there. She's looking out for me, saying that it will take 6 months to a year to back fill that position. So there's some job security there. Plus she stated that I'm probably the best suited for dealing with difficult people of all the people with whom I work. That's a dubious distinction, but a nice compliment. Anyway, it will keep me employed while the economy continues to do its tailspin thing.

Funny thing is, my training for my new position has been one of the weirdest experiences I've ever had. There is no job description, so I've had to go from person to person asking just what I can do in this job that does not require a medical license of one kind or another. After two days of training, I've ended up playing therapist for both the person I am replacing and one other colleague. Unfortunately, I couldn't charge them, otherwise I'd have enough for the new guitar I hope to purchase sometime in the next couple of weeks.

What guitar, you ask (well, if you didn't, tough luck. I'm going to be talking about guitars now!)? It's come down to two:

The first is the Epiphone Les Paul Studio. It's the same model as the one that I borrowed from Drink Man, and thus far I'm enjoying its playability. This one is done up in a satin black finish, and it's called the "Goth" model:

The second is the Ibanez Art100. According to the reviews I've read, it's actually supposed to be better than the Epiphone, but right now I'm loving the styling of the Epi. They're both the same price, so we'll see. The finish I'd like to get is the silver:

And then finally there's this beauty, from SX guitars out of Spain. I couldn't post something without tying it into pirates, so here's the PEG-3. Sadly, there's only one or two companies that carry SX guitars here in the states, and none carry the PEG-3s. I found one on eBay, but it would cost $120 to ship it to my house from Australia! Obviously, that's not going to happen. But perhaps one day I'll pick one up should they land in the states. Here's what it looks like:

Okay, that's enough silliness for now. I've got to pack up my office and get ready for my move. Plus I have a group session to lead in about 20 minutes. The good news is that after everything is said and done at work, I have my first guitar lesson tonight. I'll post about that tomorrow.


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