Thursday, February 26, 2009


Remember that scene in X-Men 3, where towards the end of the movie Jean Grey - now Phoenix - lets her power run amok and destroys houses, trees, cars, buildings, people, in wonderful CGI effects? Yeah, I was feeling that last night and this morning. Here's the short version:

Yesterday afternoon, as my cold was getting worse, I dropped my guitar off at a recommended music store to get "set up." The idea was that if it had a little more TLC, it would play better, and I would become a better guitarist. They charge $35 for the service, and promised to have it back today.

On the way home, I got a call from the music store. "The neck is warped," they said. "Probably they used wood that was too green or wasn't cured properly. Anyway, you're best bet is to return it and get another one. We can try and patch it up as bets we can, but it'll cost $75."

So I go home and try to find all the warranty stuff, packing stuff, invoice stuff. Think I still have all that, after a month? I had some, but certainly not all. So I get on the phone with Musician's Friend, and try to see what we can do. They're policy is that there's a 45 day window, and that you can get an even exhange or refund, so long as everything is pristine and in perfect condition. Since I got the guitar as part of a combo pack with an amp, strap, etc. that means that I needed to pack and ship everything.

But of course now the combo pack is a discontinued line, so they offered me a deal - if I sent everything back (and it met their standards) I could pay a little extra and get an inferior combo pack. Needless to say, I'm not happy. Still, I requested that they send me a return label via email. As of this moment, it has not arrived.

I called the music store to get them to do the repair, and they gave me one other option. Call Gibson / Epiphone and see about getting the neck completely replaced. Well, I just got the response from Gibson. 1) they don't work on Epiphones and 2) necks start at $1850. Now I'm waiting for the store to open (at 11:00 - musicians apparently sleep late!) so I can order the repair.

Now, if all that mess wasn't enough, one of the dogs ate my cell phone again!!!!

There was trouble getting my time sheet submitted!!!!

My patients are getting on my nerves!!!!!

Netflix took back the movie that they had sent me and marked it "returned"!!!!!

And my cold is getting worse!!!!!

Okay, I'm done venting. Thanks for listening. I'm going home in about 30 minutes and going to bed.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'm a Geeeeeeeeeek!

I'm a Weirdo! (to the tune, of course, of Creep by Radiohead)

Yeah, I admit it. As much as I always wanted to be one of the cool kids when I was young - you know, play guitar in a garage band, be the bad boy that got all the girls, etc. - I have and probably always will be a geek, a weirdo, even, perhaps, a nerd. But never a spaz! Death first! : )

I've been feeling a tad nostalgic lately, probably because I've been getting friend requests from people I knew in High School (nothing like Facebook to make you feel old!) and following people's lives from the vantage point of cyberspace. You learn things you never knew (and sometimes never wanted to know!). Like the time a couple of weeks ago when I found out that an ex-girlfriend started playing Dungeons and Dragons a year or two after we broke up. Never would have thought that she would get into that, given what I recall of her personality and interests.

I, of course, loved D&D back in the day. Being a rather wimpy lad with my head perpetually buried in a book, I immediately took to the idea of being able to become a hero of fantastic proportions. And being a bibliophile, I also loved that I had to buy dozens of books to learn everything I needed to know about the game. Actually, I had to buy those books several times, because my mother was often convinced that D&D and heavy metal were going to send my immortal soul straight to hell. If she only knew how much her actions fed into the publishers' profit margins!

I don't play role playing games anymore. The manager at the bookstore where I worked a couple of years ago wanted me to join his game, but I declined. Sometimes you can't go back. You want to, but you can't. Plus the guy was a chain smoker and I figured I'd choke to death long before any character I'd invented did anything interesting!

So now I play the games on my PlayStation, whenever I feel the urge to get involved in a Tolkien-esque world. Right now I'm having a blast playing Final Fantasy XII. Good Lord, I had Final Fantasy I for the Nintendo. Now I really feel old! I also have Champions of Norrath for the PS2, which was fun. But I'm refusing to play World of Warcraft or any of the online games. I've seen too many people lose their social lives (if not their bank accounts!) to those things.

I still like to read about the games, though. Keep up with what's going on in the industry and what's out there on the fringe. Just don't expect to see me at any conventions or gaming stores anytime soon!

As an aside, I suppose I should ask if there are any other former and active rpg geeks out there who read this page. Anyone? Anyone? Or did I just out myself for no apparent reason? Sigh : )

Oh, well. In honor of my passing (or continuing) geek-dom, I've put up some more links to the right. Enjoy.

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More Updates on Updates

My meeting with the head of Chaplain Services yesterday went well. The short version is that there will be a position opening (probably) in June, as soon as a chaplain retires. He wants me to put in for it. If everything goes as planned, I should be a pretty competitive candidate, assuming that we don't have a disabled war vet with equal experience show up (which is what happened last time). Since then, though, I've learned a few tricks that should help - please start Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap by AC/DC at this time!

The Doom Buggy continues to have issues. The poor thing is 9 years old, and I've driven the hell out of it, but so far it's held up pretty well. I think the clutch is developing a problem again. If it could hold together until August, when the other position is announced, I'd be very happy. If not, well, I'm going to have to somehow make a car payment fit into our financial situation.

Oh, there's a new link over on the right hand side of the page. It's Ray Keim's Paper Model Purgatory. Some of you may recall that I have an as yet still unfinished paper model of the Haunted Mansion (Walt Disney World version). Well, Ray is the guy who created it, along with several other structures. All are related to the horror genre, and most are theme park attractions like the Haunted Mansions. Even if you're not a paper modeler, it's still a neat page to check out. I do have a completed model of the Conservatory Coffin, which was a lot of fun to build and display.

Well, time to return to pretending to work. I'm still fighting this head / chest cold thing, so I'd much rather be crashed out watching bad movies at home. Saw Starship Troopers last night. I don't know, there's something about being ill that makes me want to watch movies where I don't have to think at all. Must be my sinuses putting pressure on my brain!

On second thought, maybe I won't pretend to work. There's a few more links I want to put up. So more later.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

It seems (and how many times did my creative writing professor in college tell me never to start anything with the word "It!") that title is on the minds of quite a few people around here. One of my colleagues who gave me a ton of help when I first started in addiction medicine has decided to take a job down in Florida. And now this morning Drink Man informed me that he is indeed leaving here for better pastures (probably Charleston, SC). Of course, he's made this statement and recanted several times, which is why his ring tone on my phone is the aforementioned song by The Clash.

So today, after sitting through the chaos that is interdepartmental squabbling and dealing with patients who try my patience, I am having a conversation with the head chaplain here regarding my applying for an opening in their department. Not sure if that's the best path for me in the long term, but I do know that it's always good to have a plan B. I also don't trust the powers that be to give me a fair chance at the therapist job, so maybe I'll do better here.

So that meeting is taking place in about 40 minutes. I'll post the results when I get the chance. In other news, I had a good guitar lesson last night. I need to have some work done on my electric, though, but I kinda figured it was coming. Nothing major, just need to have it "set up" as those in the know say - I don't say it, only "those in the know" are allowed to say it, and apparently I'm not in the know, so I don't say it. Unfortunately, the place where I take my lessons ships the guitar off to have the set ups done, and it could take a week or more to do. So now I'm shopping around for other places to get the work done. More on that later.

The good news is that I'm making progress on "Don't Come Around Here No More" and barre chords. Even better, I gave my instructor a CD that had songs that I would like to learn. Among them are "Building a Mystery" by Sarah McLachlan, "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure, and "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent (just in case you were thinking I was growing soft in my old age!). I still have to work on my current project, but knowing where I am going is nice.

Okay, I'm going to pretend to work now. 30 minutes until my meeting, and I need to get some stuff done.


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Monday, February 23, 2009

Oh, Crud. Hell IS Freezing Over!

Pat Robertson, televangelist, former presidential candidate, and all around nutjob has taken a swing at someone on his own team - Rush Limbaugh. Yes, the man who prayed away hurricanes, blamed 9/11 on homosexuals, and predicted Jesus' return in 2000, is now saying that President Obama is a good guy, and that he disagrees with Limbaugh's "I hope he fails!" comment.

You can read the write-up here.

Just when I thought that man couldn't surprise me any more ...

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It is Done!

Today I finished my application and handed it over to the evil forces of Human Resources.

Yes, that rhymes. No, I'm not apologizing.

Now I just have to wait until - get this - AUGUST until they get around to deciding whether or not they want me to fill one of the three openings. The position is open now, they need the people now, but everyone will have to wait until August before HR gets all their ducks in a row. I'm just glad I have something that pays the mortgage between now and then.

In other work news, I got word that the head chaplain of this place will have an opening in his team when one of his guys retires in June. He wants me to take a crack at getting the job. It's better pay, but it would probably restart my existential angst that everyone has just suffered through, so I'm not sure I want to do that. Still, more money means more fun stuff in life ...

One hour to go, then it's home and on to guitar lessons. Barre chords still suck, and I suck at playing them. Hopefully that will not be the case for long.

Now if I could just get rid of this sinus/cold thing that's been bugging me for the last couple of days ... Grrrr. Must not get sick!

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

For One Ring and Other Potter Fans ...

She doesn't get my latest source of mirth - The Order of the Stick - but that's okay. Perhaps she'll like this jab at one of her guilty pleasures:

I'm working on my resume for work. I hope to be finished by tomorrow. At any rate, I'll try to post more later.


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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Good Times, Bad Times

First, the good times. One Ring and I went to see Coraline yesterday. It was darkly comic and occasionally creepy. I loved it. Also had my guitar lesson last night, and though I still think all barre chords are inherently evil, I'm getting closer to being able to play "Don't Come Around Here No More" By Tom Petty.

Hmmm, I'm going to have to muse a bit on why I chose to learn that song. At first I thought it was because of the cool sitar opening lick. Now I'm beginning to think it's because I'm rapidly becoming anti-social!

I could go on and on about the bad times, as I had to work on Saturday and ended up getting played by the patients (addicts - even those in recovery - are notoriously manipulative). I could also go on about how I am consuming vast quantities of Valentine's Day M&Ms (Thanks, Mom-in-Law!) in order to keep from harming those same patients today. Chocolate - keeping murder rates low since the Aztec Empire!

The application process has slowed down dramatically. I'm hoping for an extended bit of quiet time today so I can get another section completed. I'm on section 3 out of 4, but I have this feeling that I really need to beef up the parts I've already written. It's funny. I printed out a job description for the position. Out of 8 pages, only 3 dealt with patient care. The rest had to do with record keeping, office work, and playing nice with others! Kinda shows where their priorities are.

Still, getting this job, whether it's a dream job or not (and right now it's not, but that's okay), is pretty much the only shot I have for keeping One Ring and me stable while she finishes up her work. Tennessee was ranked 13th on a list of 15 worst states in which to look for a job. So when my boss tells me that if I don't get this job, I'm pretty much done, it doesn't make me feel too good. She wants me to get it, by the way (and thinks that I'm qualified), it's just that because I'm a civilian that the odds are against me.

Dang it. Lunch break is over. Now I have to get ready for the chaos that is to come when this afternoon's clinic opens.

More later.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

First of the New Links

I found this comic strip today. Apparently it's been around forever, but of course I only just now discovered it. Oh, well. Shows how perceptive I am!

Probably most of you won't get it, but it appeals to my geeky former Dungeons and Dragons playing self.

Oh, I'm linking to the first episode. There are now something like 623, so we're talking a major time waster!

The Order of the Stick


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Updating the Link LIst

It has come to my attention that several of the blogs to which I link are either coming to an end, or are already defunct. So they're going bye-bye from the list.

I'm currently looking for new, interesting, and (probably) weird places to take their place, so if you have a blog, or know of a good one, let me know.


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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No, The OTHER Chronicles!

For the last couple of weeks, I've been reading the second half of Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber series. They've been out since the - I don't know, '80s? - and I've read them over and over again.

What keeps me coming back to the series is that it literally encompasses all of reality and a few quasi-realities (is that a word?) to boot. Picture a reality where everything imaginable is possible, all you have to do is go to the place where that possibility occurs. And if you're one of a chosen few who have the ability, you can jump from universe to universe, experiencing everything that you and your friends (and enemies) can come up with. Can you tell I'm having escapist fantasies and this series plays to them? : )

There are two polar locations, Amber and the Courts of Chaos. Amber is the "real" earth, from which all other earths (including ours) are copies with subtle and not so subtle differences. The closer one gets to the Courts of Chaos, the weirder things get, until everything vanishes into what appears to be a Black Hole (minus the gravitational pull).

Obviously, that's just the setting for the books (ten in all, five in each of two series). There's intrigue, adventure, assassinations, plots, magic, sword fights (gunpowder doesn't work on Amber or in several other "shadows"); the usual and not so usual fantasy fiction fare.

But what really sparks my imagination is Zelazny's use of Trumps.

Trumps, as the name implies, are cards, much like tarot cards or the Jack, Queen, King and Joker cards from a normal deck. Only on these cards, the pictures are of the novel's main characters and locales. Characters talk to each other, travel to different places, and can move from one universe to the next by concentrating on the picture depicted on the trump. Honestly, the first time I read this series (I was a kid at the time), I tried to draw card-sized portraits of my friends and favorite places. Sadly, this was long before digital photography and photoshop, so they ended up looking like stick figures suffering from various horrible mutations (yes, I'm that bad an artist!). All were thrown out to avoid embarrassment should anyone find them.

I just discovered that there was a comic book version of the first book of the series created back in '96 (I think). I may just have to hunt that down for giggles next time I end up with extra money in my pocket. I'd love to see how things look through someone else's imagination.

This series ranks up there on my list of "books that need to be made into movies" (hmmm, seems like an idea for a future post! If they did it for Tolkien, why not Zelazny???

And on that note, I'm going home. Peace.

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I'm Trying. Honest to God, I'm Trying

... to work, that is. It's just that today is so ... irritating. No, that's not the right word.

Life-sucking? Mmmm, maybe.

How about uninspiring? Well, that will have to do until I can come up with something better.

I'm having fantasies about running away. From what I understand, that sort of thing is common in this place. I even heard at this morning's staff meeting that a surgeon has written a tell-all book that blasts the entire hospital staff and the government. Last anyone's heard, he now lives in Barbados, which probably says a lot. I checked it out on, and it's a vanity press publication. Which, again, probably says a lot.

Other than that, it's been more of the same 'round here. Patient problems, getting used to the new department, and wondering how long this job is going to last.

Right now I'm supposed to be working on an application for the position that I currently have. Yeah, mull that one over for a minute. Any normal corporation would probably say something like, "Hey, we like what you're doing. Here's a permanent position so you can keep doing it." Here, though, even though I've gotten high raves for the work I do, I am actually somewhat of a long shot to keep this job. Preference is given for veterans, people with disabilities, and (above all) veterans with disabilities. If you're a non-disabled civilian, forget it. At least, that's the message I've been getting here. It doesn't matter how talented you are. That's just the way things roll here.

So, in order to have a shot at this, I had to get my doctor to write a letter stating that if I failed to comply with my treatment for my bipolar-2, I would be unable to do the job. In other words, I have to prove I am incapable of doing the job, in order to get the job.

And then there's the paper work. There's a lot of it, and I really should be working on it now. It's just that I feel completely exhausted at the moment.

1 1/2 hours to go. I want to blog about something other than work, for a change, but today has been one of those "get under your skin and make you itch big time" kind of days.

More later.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Just Got Back From Guitar Practice ...

... and I'm working on a new song. I didn't intend to switch to this song from the workbook I've been using, but I was playing with this after I found the tab in a songbook at the local library. So I asked my teacher a question. Next thing I knew, I've got a whole lesson plan being worked out based on this song. It's going to be fun, but I can already tell that F chords are going to be the source of many a migraine!

Here's the song:
(it's not the best version on Youtube, but I couldn't imbed the others. Lousy Youtube censors!)

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Very Busy

Today is just all kinds of chaos. The Doom Buggy went into the shop today (more problems with the clutch), my paycheck is again incorrect, and I need to get to work on my application for the VA positions that were just posted. Oh, and I need to work with patients, too.

But, in the spirit of lunacy, here's a wonderful post I just came across discussing ten ways Christianity is causing itself a world of grief. Enjoy. And pray for me. It's going to be a very trying day.


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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Well, The Pirates Got Their Way ...

Remember those Somali pirates who hijacked that Ukrainian ship that happened to be loaded full of weapons? Well, that little bit of drama is over. Something like $3 million was dropped onto the ship. The pirates departed, as promised, shortly thereafter.

It wasn't the $20+ million that they were after, but the solution to this event definitely wasn't a deterrent, either. Expect plenty more attacks in the future.

Here's the write up.

I still think these guys are nothing compared to the pirates of old, though. Shoot, they've been sitting on that ship since September! And to get just over 1/6th of their demands? Bart Roberts, Blackbeard, et. al. would have done a much better job of it - and probably kept the cargo, too!

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This Post Does Not Involve Existential Angst, I Promise!

There's more going on in my world besides my concerns about the ultimate reality (assuming there is one). For one, I had a good guitar lesson last night, and learned a blues shuffle and a challenging two string arrangement. Challenging for me, that is. Most people could probably do it in their sleep. My comment to my instructor was, "Well, now we see if I have any rhythm!"

Drink Man just emailed me with an interesting tidbit. He shops around on Craigslist for guitars and equipment when he's bored, and found an awesome guitar pedal that sells new for $299. This guy is selling his for $75. Ironically, this is about the same amount I was about to drop on a similar pedal this weekend. So now I'm debating whether or not to work through Craigslist for this one. Drink Man is heading out to the location - another odd coincidence is that his girlfriend lives in the town where the pedal is being sold - one week from Friday, so he may be able to pick it up if I decide to go for this. Not sure at the moment, though.

Just got back from having yet another cup of coffee. Man, I am tired today. Serious nap action happening later. One Ring promises to not bring up any deep topics anymore close to bedtime. I think that's a good idea.

Good news is that all the work is pretty much done for the day. I did the lab run (don't ask; it ain't pretty!) for the department, and I don't have any paperwork to speak of. Most everything else can be accomplished tomorrow. 1 1/2 hours and I'm outta here!

There's a lot more to talk about, serious and not, but I'm running on empty. So I'll close here and try to write some more tomorrow.


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An Explanation, Of Sorts

Basically all of the whining in the last two posts are due not to the questions that I'm asking in and of themselves, but where the questions lead. In other words, the conflict between traditional faith and personal experience leads to questioning the nature of ultimate reality (is there a god? what is my place in the world? is there any meaning to existance outside of the meanings that we assign to it?). You get the idea.

The questions lead to some pretty scary places sometimes.

"The ice is thin. C'mon, dive in." - Sarah McLachlan, Ice from Fumbling Towards Ecstacy

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Religion, Faith, Etc. continued.

Back from lunch, and trying to dodge coworkers who seem to just want to vent about their personal issues. I, for one, would kill for a nap. But that's just me, and it's probably why my last post seemed so disjointed. At least it did to me. But anyway, I promised I'd continue, so here we go.

So after One Ring and I had our discussion regarding my issues with implicitly treating what I interpret as non-factual, mythological stories as accurate depictions of real life events, we then talked about how I left the Tibetan Buddhist temple in Nashville after only three visits. "Same problem," I said. "Instead of talking about one God who protects and helps the faithful, they were talking about a whole myriad of divine beings who would do the same thing. It's the same thing, just different packaging." So that took the discussion off in the direction of naming the differences between lay religion and monastic traditions in Buddhism.

Yeah, we actually talk about this stuff at night.

The view that I seem to have right now - and this has been created out of my experience as a chaplain in hospitals and as a parish minister, where in both places I've seen more than my share of horrific events - is that the stories told in the Bible regarding a Supreme being who intervenes in human events simply aren't true. Sure there's ways of working around it; God inspires people to act in his (or her) stead, or God is the basis of reality (Tillich's ground of all being). But these theologies do not always mesh with the scriptural stories that have formed the basis of faith for countless generations. So what do we do with them?

And, more importantly in my opinion, how would this view - one that places experience over tradition - affect religious life, both mine and others? I mean, existentialism (I think that's the proper philosophical term for this view. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong)isn't new after all. But the struggle to find a way to bring tradition and experience together isn't easy, even after 12 years of doing this thing, most of them professionally and full time.

I'm glad I left that career. Ethically, I couldn't be in this place and continue to provide religious leadership to others. And examining other religions, though fascinating, hasn't really gotten me any closer to the answers I've sought, though I have to admit that Zen seems to be the most compatible. Of course, Zen is more a philosophy than a religion, and it's been watered down and Westernized from its Indo-Asian origins.

Well, there aren't going to be any answers today, so I'm going to get back to work. But if any of you wondered what's on my mind, and why I didn't sleep last night, now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Speaking of that, the GI Joe movie comes out this summer. It's live action. Scary, huh?

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Faith, Religion, And Other Things That Keep Me Up At Night

I only have a few minutes before my lunch break, so this post might not be much longer than the title. I need to devote more time to posting, not because I think my thoughts ought to be read by the public, but rather because there are many things sloshing around in my brain, and I really need to process them out. Writing has always been the best way for me to do that, and this space often seems to be the easiest medium to do it. So bear with me. Or just skip this post altogether. Won't hurt my feelings, I promise! : )

Last night One Ring told me of a passage in a book she's reading by Sarah Vowell. The story is that a missionary in the early colonial days of our country went to talk to a tribe of Native Americans. Although they were very friendly to him, he would not be satisfied until he converted them to Christianity. Well, he told them the story of Jesus, and they sat and listened politely. Until he got to the part regarding the bodily resurrection. At that point, one of the Native Americans stood up and loudly proclaimed, "There is no way I'm going to believe that!"

And therein lies my (seemingly) eternal struggle, and one of the reasons I'm glad I don't do parish ministry any more. Simply put, I cannot believe that many - if any - of the stories in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures ever happened.

No problem, some might say, just look at them as myths - stories that are not historically or factually accurate, but point to a much larger "truth." But again, if even that truth does not match with the reality that I experience, what then? What does that make me, as a person, as a member of a church, and so forth?

Okay, Drink man just called and it's now officially lunch time. So I'm going to have to continue this when I get back. 'sides, this stuff needs to percolate some more.


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