Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Of Birthday Parties and Pirates

Well, I'm back. Here at work after spending four wonderful days with family and friends, celebrating my nephew's third birthday and teaching my niece origami. I was able to see the ocean and feel the salty breeze on my skin. And most importantly, I was able to recharge myself enough to survive a surprise interview at the VA for an addiction therapist position.

And then there were the pirate battles. : )

Yep. Once again Sharkbait (my brother, for those of you just tuning in) shot off his mouth, bragging that he had created a fleet that would send me straight to the locker. Mind you, I had long since given my game cards away to Whirling Dervish's children, as there is no one near me who would even THINK of playing a Pirate ship game. Terribly sad, I know.

I had spotted some game packs at the local Target - which was highly unusual as online rumors had spoken of the line being discontinued and packs being unavailable in most of the stores near me. So I suggested that we head down and pick up some cards for me, and I'd be more than happy to take on whatever ships he would dare to sail. The game was on!

The first game was played at night, hence the darker pictures. My strategy was simple, given the fact that my ships were generally of poorer quality and I lacked captains (they give the player the ability to move and shoot on the same turn). I made a bee-line for the nearest islands and grabbed as much gold as possible, avoiding confrontations wherever I could.

Meanwhile, Sharkbait ignored the closer islands and tried to close with my fleet. He finally caught my wind catcher as it docked at a island. Which was when his second mistake caught him. He had loaned me a Firepot Specialist - a special cannoneer who could launch a napalm concoction. I employed it to spectacular use:

He managed to knock most of my masts down, but I started a fire that ended up costing him his ship. He continued to engage my ships, and managed to sink most of them, but by that time I had off-loaded the gold onto my home island. By the time we called the game due to the lateness of the hour, I had the lion's share of the loot. I went to sleep a happy captain of a very eclectic fleet.

On my last day in my family's home, we went down to the ocean front, where I enjoyed playing tourist and seeing the sights. I bought a shark tooth necklace - something I'd always wanted, but as a youth I felt that since I wasn't running with the surfer crowd I couldn't wear one. Now as an adult, I figured "What the heck." I also considered purchasing another ship in a bottle. I didn't feel like dropping the coin for Made in China quality crud, so I let it go.

Once we returned to the house, Sharkbait and I had one more battle. I used pretty much the same fleet I had the previous night, but he swapped out a couple of ships for better models. Once again he used the same strategy - seek and destroy. I employed the same strategy that brought me victory the night before. This time, however, he caught one of my ships. He had also kept his Firepot Specialist, which he used to get his revenge:

Still, I managed to wound enough of his ships to send them back to his home island for repairs. The die rolls really went my way, as I also made use of the whirlpools (which act as Warp Points for you Babylon 5 fans out there) to get away from his ships and make it to the islands that held the most treasure. Sharkbait gave me a sound beating, but I came out in the end, winning by 20 pieces of gold.

Of course, there's a lot more to talk about - my nephew's birthday, and teaching my niece how to fold cootie catchers and fish and sailboats.

But I figure I'll save that for another time. The day is almost over and there are a few more patients to deal with.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Late Post

I'm on my way to bed, but I figured I'd show everyone what I'm trying to work on. I printed out the tablature to "White Rabbit" but the notes didn't quite sound right. So I went on YouTube and found this lesson. Pretty cool. I might add, though, that this guy is not my normal instructor, and thus I cannot answer the all important question of whether or not the guy is wearing pants!

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A Short Update Before The End of the Day

I now have 40 minutes until I can leave the madhouse. And I do mean madhouse. Today has been weird in many, many ways, though I am trying not to dwell on them. Most of the weirdness centers around Annoying Coworker, who seems to suffer from an Axis II Narcissistic Personality Disorder (wow, it sounds so much better to say, "He's a complete jerk!" like that!) and Bored Clerk, who told me that no one around here cares whether someone is married or not before hitting on him/her. She's probably right, but it still made me shudder.

Anyway, moving away from office drama, here's your afternoon report:

Good news: I stand a good chance at getting the full time addiction therapist position. Bad news: I will be immediately transferred to Nashville when that happens. Apparently the only reason is that I live where I do, and not because of any skills or capabilities (or lack thereof).

Guitar lessons are going very well, and I'm acting like a kid in a candy shop finding songs to try and learn. I've been having fun with a couple of Pink Floyd songs ("Breathe" and "Shine on You Crazy Diamond") and am working towards Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery." Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More," is going MUCH better since I had my guitar set up / repaired, and I recently added Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" to my list of SONGS I MUST LEARN (yes, they're that important!).

In other music news, I found a cool pedal that, among other things, simulates the sound of a sitar. Why is this important? Well, several of the songs I would like to learn - including the Petty piece I'm already working on - have sitars in them. "Paint it Black," "All Along the Watchtower" (the version played in recent episodes of Battlestar Galactica), "Norwegian Wood" and a few others all have sitars or sitar-like instruments in them.

Is it vital to have this pedal? No, of course not. I can try to simulate it using the pedal I already have. Is it easier to do if I have the pedal in question? Sure. Is One Ring agreeable to it? No, since I've already spent a small fortune on guitar lessons, one pedal, getting the guitar set up, and so forth. So I'll just save my pennies and see what happens.

I'm going back to Virginia on Friday, so I probably won't post much between Thursday and Tuesday.

Oh, one more thing. Author and Zen monk Brad Warner is coming to Nashville on April 13th. Trouble is, it's a Monday, so I need to move my guitar lesson. But since I love the guy's writing - anyone who goes from being a bassist in a punk band to a Zen Buddhist while maintaining the same attitude towards BS is awesome in my book, and this guy's stuff absolutely rocks!

Okay, Annoying Coworker just came in an robbed me of 15 minutes that I could have been blogging. So now it's 4:03 and time to go home. More tomorrow (maybe).

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Geek Continuum

With all the talk going on around me about geeks and geeky things, I've often wondered about how geeks see themselves. I mean, yeah, I'm geeky about some things, but not EVERY thing. And there have been plenty of times when I've seen people get excited about something and gone, "Dude ... that's just weird!" Like this bunch, for example.

So if you've ever wanted to know where you stand in the various degrees of geekiness, here is a handy flow chart to help you out:

Obviously, you can click on the picture for a larger view.

Now don't you feel better?

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Ninjas vs. Pirates!

There has long been a internet debate over which is cooler, ninjas or pirates. Obviously, I find pirates to be the winner. Others disagree. At any rate, this debate has entered the real world! Well, sorta kinda.

The Japanese Navy has sent two destroyers to the coastal region of Somalia in order to combat the ongoing pirate attacks on shipping. So far, the international efforts (The U.S., France, Russia, and some other navies are all there) seem to be working, as attacks dropped from 37 in November to 8 in February. You can read more about this action here.

In other pirate news, the pirates are batting .500 in other places around the world. A Greek owned cargo ship was seized in the Gulf of Aden. Last month a similar vessel was taken as a prize in the same area. Meanwhile, the Turkish navy was victorious in a skirmish with pirates off the coast of Yemen. Here's the article. They also rescued a Vietnamese cargo ship that was attacked on the 14th.

So the battle goes on.

In other, more enjoyable, pirate news, One Ring has agreed to go with me to the ultimate in geeky excitement! The dates for the Tennessee Renaissance Festival have been posted, and May 16-17 is the "Pirate Invasion." Woohoo!

My day is very irritating at the moment, so I need something to look forward to. That and our trip to Virginia next week are really what's keeping me going at this point.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Going to Have to Work on This!

The parrot says I scored a bit low!

Would You Make a Good Pirate?

You Are 55% Pirate
Garrrr, yer a true pirate down to yer bones.Yer an originial sea dog, an' ye certainly have earned yer sea legs.No one be goin' to accuse ye o' bein' a landlubber. Ye got yer eye on the prize, an' yer willin' to go pillagin' fer some booty.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cthulhu Humor from The Onion ...

... And no, I didn't think there were enough people out there who would get the joke for The Onion to even try it!

Lovecraftian School Board Member Wants Madness Added To Curriculum

Enjoy the insanity!

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Geeky Humor

As a (somewhat) closeted lover of Godzilla movies, I found this cartoon to be funny. Hope you do too:

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Finally, Someone with Some Good News!

I heard on NPR yesterday of a website that's been around for years, but has recently seen a huge spike in readership. It's the Good News Network, which was started by former CNN reporter Geri Weis-Corbley who tired of only chasing down "bad news" leads to the exclusion of anything positive. She was told, "Only bad news sells," when she complained to her superiors.

I'm posting a permanent link to it on the right, and suggest to anyone needing a boost during the day to check it out!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's also my sister's birthday. Sadly, though, we're not Irish. My maternal grandmother, God rest her soul, used to pride herself on being "pure blooded English." As if that was better than being anything else. My grandfather, in contrast, has as his heritage a big question mark. All attempts at genealogy have failed within one or two generations removed. It's possible that he was Italian. Sicillian was my guess, based on a possible corruption of his name. My grandmother didn't like to talk about his family, save to mention that they were "from the wrong side of the tracks" while she was a member of the garden club. Yeah, class warfare was brewing in my family!

And I certainly didn't help matters when, as the self-appointed family genealogist, I traced her family back to a knight who lived just outside of London, England, in the 15th century!

So, no, we're most assuredly not Irish. But hopefully some of the luck will flow our way! Either that or green beer; I'm not picky!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Some Days it Seems Like Everyone's Against You

And today is that day. My stress level is off the chart, I have a migraine coming on, and it's all I can do to keep from choking Annoying Coworker and a few others. One Ring has gone to refill my meds, thinking that is part of the reason for this bad day. That may be the case. I hate this aspect of my illness. In the meantime, I'm left asking one major question:

Why does this Friday seem so much like a Monday?

So before anything else goes screwy, I'm going to contemplate leaving early. I need to go with One Ring to see her perform at our church's Coffee House event tonight, so I really just want to hang out in a dark room for a few hours (or more).

Have a good weekend.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Okay, One More Thing

And it's a good thing. Remember the nitwits over at Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas? They're the losers who run around with the "God Hates Fags" signs and claim that 9/11 and all military casualties in the current Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are God's vengeance against a gay-friendly government (yeah, I'm sure my gay friends would all agree that our government is oh, so gay friendly!). Anyway, Westboro is at it again, by announcing last month that they were going on a tour of hate, first to Albany and then to Hyde Park in Chicago. Why they chose to attack those areas, I don't know, except for the fact that Hyde Park is where President Obama gave his victory speech and it's near the University of Chicago. They seem to think he's the anti-Christ.

At any rate, U of C was ready when the church bus (or mini-van; I never did find out how many nut cases showed) pulled up yesterday, and a wonderfully clever counter-protest was spawned. Here's my favorite picture from the event:

I do wish I could have been there. Looks like it was a successful event!

And with that, I'm calling it a day. More tomorrow.

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Quick Post Before Lunch

Crazy morning today. As in literally insane. Patient came in to see if he could get into the program and was unfortunately in a bad mental state. The coffee and cola he was chugging didn't help him either. Good news is that we got him calmed down and he's okay. Bad news is that I'm exhausted.

Oh, well, only 2 1/2 hours left in the day. Which I don't feel bad saying, since one of the head honchos mentioned that there were 7 1/2 hours left first thing this morning! The work is mostly done, and I'm finally in a good mood - for reasons that will become apparent in a moment.

But first ... updates!

First up, for those of you who are concerned about such things, today was the anniversary of the 1959 uprising in Tibet that resulted in the Chinese crackdown that in turn sent the Dalai Lama into exile. Last year there were demonstrations that turned violent. It is no surprise, therefore, that China has really turned up the heat in Lhasa, the Tibetan Capital, banning foreign tourists and journalists from most areas. Word is that there will also be "service disruptions" to cell communications, probably because last time protesters were able to send updates to the outside world via cell communications. This time, not so much. Here's a link to an AP article which pretty much says what I just summed up.

Next, I have good news and bad news regarding my quest for permanent employment. My boss just told me that I'm on the short list for interviews, and will possibly be selected for one of four position. So that's a huge relief. The bad news, aside from my paranoia that I will be disappointed yet again by a system that is as near to perfect at disappointing as any I've ever seen, is that I won't be on this campus. So Drink Man (should he decide to stay here) and the rest will have to make due without me. Plus some of the folks at the other campus can be difficult ... But I'll be ecstatic just to have something that doesn't come with an impending cut off date hanging over my head!

Oh, found the diagram for the dragonfly model. You can find it here.

Okay, I have a couple more things to do, then it's homeward bound. One Ring and I are heading out tonight for a lecture by one of her professors. It's on religious dialogue and a new view of the ultimate reality (in other words, God) based on information from a variety of religious viewpoints. Should be interesting. We're supposed to get thunderstorms tonight, though, and I'm concerned about the dogs being home alone. So we'll see if I stay home or not.

That's it for today, being that it's taken me about 6 hours to write this! More tomorrow.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

One More Try

New week, new attempt to get those origami pictures I promised. I'm still waiting for the coffee to kick in, so I'm going to hold off before writing a longer entry. In the meantime. Enjoy what my boredom produced on Friday:

This is the dragon model that I folded using the instructions found here. I didn't follow the ending exactly, as I didn't care for what the designer did with the wings.

And this is a dragon made by an origami master. I believe his name is Kamiya Satoshi.

There's a big difference between hobby and art!

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Return of the Dragons

Well, there was going to be a really cool post here about how boring my day was, and how I folded an origami dragon. But due to some technical glitches, I had to delete the whole thing and start over. So, being that it's quitting time, I'm outta here. Tune in on Monday to see how things turned out.


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Death, Pain, and the Desire to Escape Reality

I just received a couple of emails from my mother. Turns out they did put her dog, Haley, to sleep yesterday. And since the little girl has been spoiled rotten for the last 8 years, her passing has really shaken the family up. My brother told me the other day that he hasn't cried in a very long time, even when he was in pain from a knee injury and subsequent surgery, but for this he has cried so much that he doesn't think he will have tears available for the next decade. Or something to that effect.

At some point during the conversations my mother and I had in the days leading up to her decision to put Haley to sleep, I mentioned how One Ring and I had said that since we couldn't save our dog, perhaps we could save another at some point down the road. My mother's response was vehement and predcitable. She said that it had taken 20 years for her to get over the death of her first dog (which died when I was 10, by the way), and that she would never even think of getting another. I can certainly understand that feeling, and I think we've all had similar experiences.

Our natural tendency is to flee pain and rush towards pleasure. How we do that varies from person to person, but it's the reason we sit down with a half gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (or just the cookie dough) after a relationship goes sour. It's the reason we use addictive substances or behaviors when life becomes difficult - we want to kill the pain. And it's the reason we say things like my mother did. There's no way I'm doing this again, I can't handle any more grief and sorrow.

When I first got into Buddhism, I came across this interesting concept: non-attachment. The four noble truths talk about how suffering is caused by being attached to people, places, things, and ideas. So the solution to suffering, Western logic would suggest (at least my Western logic did) is to not be attached to anything. Thing is, that's impossible. Just about every serious religious or philisophical system (or even quantum physics, for all you science nerds out there!) states that we are in fact intimately connected to everything.

Or to quote Wesley from The Princess Bride, "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something."

What non-attachment means is that we need to realize that nothing lasts forever. Nothing, not even ourselves. Our ego wants to believe that we are invulnerable, and we don't like to think about our friends, family or pets dying, but we know that they will. So will we. But that truth is in itself painful. So when we hit suffering, we run. We say that we'll never enter into a relationship again, or never have another pet, or never do this or that again. Unfortunately, though, that behavior is not the way to a healthy and non-suffering life.

When we realize that nothing lasts forever, we appreciate it more. We appreciate our experiences, our relationships, and life itself more, because we are connected to everything. Life is life, in all it's similarities to heaven and hell. The only way through it is through it, and the only way to make it through is to embrace life for what it is.

One of my favorite Zen authors, Brad Warner, had this to say about it today on his Hardcore Zen blog:

Finally, I wanted to say something about attachment. I think I may have overstated the case when I said that Buddhism doesn't much value the idea of non-attachment. It does. But there is a problem when you get too attached to words like "non-attachment." What I'm seeing in America is that a lot of folks seem to view the idea of non-attachment as being the same as what we call detachment. They take the view that a good Buddhist should be almost like what they used to call a sociopath. They believe Buddhism asks us to cultivate an attitude of callous indifference and a kind of narcissistic aloofness. Very few people actually do this, of course. But the idea that Buddhism advocates this kind of attitude turns a lot of sensitive people away, and that's a shame.

The e-mail that inspired the initial piece I wrote on the subject was from a guy who wondered if his love for his wife and kid constituted an attachment that he should try to overcome. But Buddhism isn't about not loving your wife and children! The non-attachment we're talking about is a different matter entirely. It's a realistic and balanced understanding that on one hand we are, in fact, very attached to everything. We, ourselves, are not independent at all. We are an expression of the universe. We can't possibly detach ourselves from that which we encounter. At the same time it's the understanding that all we are attached to will one day disappear (like Philip Jose Farmer did the other day). And it's an understanding that our specific attachments and preferences hinder our appreciation of the true nature of our existence.

Hope this helps.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

One Hour More

And nothing going on in my neck of the woods. Just finished the chart notes for the group I led this morning. Everything is all set for tomorrow (the doctor is in the ER, so I basically have the day to myself - think I'm going to call the Chaplain HQ in Hampton, VA and see if they still have my resume). Still no word on my mother's dog; I'll have to call either her or my brother and see what's going on.

While wandering about, I spotted this on a japanese origami website. As I cannot read kanji, I cannot credit the author. However, I can say that it's a leafy sea dragon, one of One Ring's favorite animals. I thought it was impressive enough to post here.

Unfortunately, I could not find a diagram for this model, so she won't be receiving this anytime soon!

56 minutes to go. Sigh. I hate it when time drags like this!

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Here's LaFosse's butterfly. Figured I'd fold one just to see how it looked like. I used an 8 1/2" square of ordinary notepad paper (the cheap, government issue kind). Now if I can only find where my dragon diagrams went ...

Come to think of it, I'm thinking that I like the Yoshizawa model better.

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Time to Think

Annoying Coworker called in sick today, leaving me to collect samples, run them to the lab, then lead his group and write chart notes. Needless to say, I'm a tad grumpy about it. While he may very well be on death's door today, I KNOW he wasn't sick yesterday. And if he was, in fact, ill yesterday, I'm even more peeved, because he hung out in my office like it was the place to get tickets for Michael Jackson's comeback tour! And no, I'm not excited - or even interested - in Michael Jackson's comeback tour. I just saw that on CNN and figured I'd reference that. I may be a geek (as One Ring pointed out AGAIN last night), but I have taste!

So I just finished lunch, and was looking for news about my mother's dog, Haley, who is actively dying and may be put to sleep today. My sister had to put her cat to sleep earlier in the week, so this is a really sad time for us all, pet-wise. Haley's been around 8 years, and was one of the friendliest Beagles you'd ever meet. She was the runt of the litter, though, and it seems that she inherited some health issues that have caught up with her.

While waiting for news (and the day to end), I've been surfing the net and looking for the patterns for the origami models I posted yesterday. In case anyone cares, the Yoshizawa butterfly diagram can be found here. I'm still looking for the dragonfly. Funny how you can locate something on the 'net, and then immediately forget how you got there!

There's another model for a butterfly, this one by famed folder Michael LaFosse, here.


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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Things Fall Apart

And this has been the season for it. I just talked to the mechanic, and it looks like my clutch line has air in it (unlike my sails, which have had the wind removed!) again. So now we're working on what to do next. Ordering parts from Korea is what it sounds like is on the menu. On the good side of things, my guitar is done, and I'm going to pick it up today. Hopefully it will be even more awesome than it was when I dropped it off. I'm using Drink Man's electric right now, but I prefer mine ...

Work is still boring the hell out of me, and I have an hour left. I need to prepare for tomorrow's group meeting and drug screening, but that's about as exciting as a root canal, so I'm procrastinating. No surprise there!

Still no word on my mother's dog, Haley, who is on the verge of passing from this world to the next. Looks like liver failure, pancreitis, and possibly cancer. Though she rallied a little bit this morning. I'm just hoping that there's a pain-free outcome to this for Haley. It's bringing back memories of everything One Ring and I went through with Peanut, which is helpful in providing support for my mother. It's also hard, of course.

Other than that, nothing is goin on. A few errands to run tonight, a church meeting, and that's about it.

More later as events unfold.

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Your Tax Dollars at Work

My job, as it stands now, is pretty slack. Actually, it's painfully boring. I show up, attend a meeting in which people try to figure out how to do the least amount of work while simultaneously looking as if they are star performers, and then trudge off to my office. Once there, I try to look extremely busy - usually by typing furiously on the computer - until the doctor whose office is next door leaves. Then it's off to the coffee shop or wandering down to a coworker's office to gab. Occasionally there's a moment of furious activity, but those are usually short lived. The rest of the time I spend fending off Annoying Coworker, who likes to talk about "back in the day, when I was a (amateur novelist, phone therapist, unemployed telemarketer, peon in the Department of Social Security)." Yesterday he went into his dating history, which was almost enough to make me throw myself out the window. Yes, it was that bad.

So that leaves me with only one choice:

The time waster of the day!

Today it's origami, my perennial hobby that seems to surface every other year or so. Origami is perfect for office time wasting, as it requires only a square sheet of paper. My office is filled with little squares of paper, just begging to become something more interesting than what's written upon them. "I'm sorry, you were looking for that patient's next appointment? Uhm, I think it's in the frog. Or maybe the fish ..."

Just be careful what you're using to fold!

Post-It notes are perfect, since they're already square, but I did these two with some blank note sheets after trimming one side.

The butterfly is a design by Yoshikawa, while the dragonfly is a traditional design. Ths Smurfs have nothing to do with anything, outside of the fact that I work in addiction medicine, and they can represent temptation and resistance. Or they're a holdover from my chaplain days. Whatever.

I folded the dragonfly from a diagram I found online this morning, but now am having trouble finding it again. Sigh. However, I've added a link on the right to a blog by an awesome folder. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

For My Father-in-Law and Other Math Geeks

Happy Square Root Day!

Apparently this is a rare occurrence, happening only about 9 times a century. 3/3/09 or (3x3=09) is the first one in over 5 years, the last one being 2/2/04. The next, I assume, will be 4/4/16. So mark your calendars!

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Boredom and A Moment of Geeky Excitement

Absolutely nothing has gone on today. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Nichevo. No patients, no meetings, no paperwork. My only task is preparing for tomorrow's groups, and that will take about 10 minutes. It's so boring here, in fact, that I actually welcomed a conversation with our new chaplain in which she tried to sell me on a gig at a medical center closer to Nashville. I don't think I can make it work (too much time requirement, considering I'm already working 40 hours a week), but being thought of as a good choice was nice.

Not as good was the "how great I art" conversation that another therapist subjected me to. Really, when people begin a statement with "I'm not trying to blow my own horn, but ..." the beatings really need to commence!

So today is a dull one, to be certain. But there was one small gimmer of a thrill that occurred during my wanderings through cyberspace.

I haven't spoken of my history of swordsmanship in quite some time, mainly for the reason that I don't do it anymore. There simply are no nearby places for me to fence - either European or Kendo, I've done both - so I don't. Sad, but true. I still get emails from my old group in Virginia, and every so often I feel the pangs that come with memories of buckling my swash and wiping the floor with some kid who fancies himself Inigo Montoya.

So today I came across a new DVD entitled Reclaiming the Blade. It's a documentary into how swords still affect modern culture, even though we don't carry them around and use them anymore (sadly!). It stars Viggo Mortensen and is narrated by John Rhys-Davies. I've watched the trailer, and it looks absolutely awesome. Mostly it deals with stage combat, but there are segments that involve historians and re-enactors who wish to either recapture or document the martial arts of the historical eras that involved sword combat.

Needless to say, this is going on my "I want" list. Advance shipments are going out on March 30th, with iTunes download available the same day. Regular DVD sales begin May 5th.

As an added, geek, bonus, the website can connect you with local fight clubs. I checked into it, and now realize just what those odd looking people are doing in the park with those foam covered sticks! And no, I don't plan on joining them anytime soon!

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