Friday, May 29, 2009

In Recovery . . .

. . . from a very painful week-long new employee orientation. Technically I'm not a new employee. In fact, I've been told that I'll be training the new employees in my division next week! But, for this week at least, they consider that my being hired as a full time / with benefits (not to be confused with "friends with benefits" which is an entirely different - and much more enjoyable - thing!) employee requires me to go to orientation.

Our leader in this new type of torture - those of us who sat in the back of the room wondered if this was a replacement for water boarding - seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice and would put in his personal stories about the hospital and previous places of work every 15 to 20 seconds. So what could be covered in a day and a half (at the most) ended up taking four days. And no, the other speakers weren't any better. Except the guy who was upfront with how unenjoyable orientation was. He got a standing ovation.

The worst part was when the main instructor spoke of the homeless as being a very dangerous patient population (in my experience, they aren't) who - get this - keep razor blades in the bills of their baseball caps! And if that weren't bad enough, he also showed a youtube video depicting a new type of gun that is disguised as a cell phone. He spoke of this gizmo as if it was being seen in the hospital on a daily basis. Fact is, no one has seen it in the United States at all. Ever!

Of course, this is coming from a guy who identified the first permanent settlement in America as being Plymouth, Massachusetts. Jamestown, Virginia was settled a full thirteen years prior and was never abandoned. In fact, the pilgrims were trying to make their way to Jamestown, but were blown off course by a hurricane and ended up on the rock.

But it's over. And I'm back in my office trying to figure out what's been done in my absence. Here's to hoping that next week is a whole lot better!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Abandon Ship!

After a day filled with infighting amongst the crew of this here sinking vessel, the powers that be have deemed it necessary that we here scallywags may depart forthwith and in all due haste no more than and no less than fifty-nine minutes early than the usually appointed hour.

In other words, I'm leaving. And I'll be in orientation all next week, so I may not be able to blog much. Unless something really interesting happens, and I post from home. We'll see.

To the life boats!

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Arrrrr! or Arrrrrgh?

It's Friday, and One Ring and I are about to head out to her parent's home in Birmingham for the weekend. One of her friends is getting married, so tomorrow I will be spending the day dressed up and uncomfortable. My only hope is that the catering at the reception is good.

A pirate in a tie? I'm rapidly going from Arrrr to Arrrgh!

I should be happy, but today started out irritating and weird. During our morning meeting, it was announced that due to a dust-up over some of my colleagues taking personal time and finding coverage (There really wasn't a problem with coverage - someone just tried to make a point over how another employee shouldn't have gotten a promotion and failed miserably), we were treated to a speach from on high and treated like a group of children. Thing was, the guy who starting the whole problem? Yeah, he's on vacation today and didn't hear a word of it!

If this drama interferes with my trip to Disney World in two months, there will be hell to pay!

On top of that, next week I'll be in orientation for the entire week. Yes, I have to be orientated to do the same job I've been doing since August. Go figure! Annoying Coworker looked over at me with this lost puppy look in his eyes and said, "I guess I'll have to get with you at some point today and see how you do your job, since I'll be covering for you." Which wouldn't be a big deal, except for the fact that before I came on board, he was doing this job! Then he added that he would be taking over my office while I'm gone, so that he could be closer to the doctor. Needless to say, I'll be doing some spring cleaning in here, since he's also known to go rooting through the desks of coworkers. I've caught him a couple of times in my office already.

Need coffee. I'm far grumpier than I should be this morning, even considering what's transpired.

10:06 Finally, I have coffee. Took me a while to get everyone out of my office. The doctor asked my opinion regarding one of our new patients - a long time heroin user who lacks stable housing and employment. Not a good candidate for outpatient treatment. Made me feel good that she actually takes my views seriously, considering how poor a footing we started out on. I'm doing the work that a nurse should be doing, without any additional training, so occasionally things get tense around here. But lately all has been well. But after she left, Annoying Coworker had to be forcibly evicted so I could get to the coffee shop. Don't these people know the danger that they're in if they don't see a coffee cup in my hands first thing in the morning?!? Good thing they have a rule regarding no weapons on display in offices (no lie, there really is one - guess too many people wanted to mount guns, knives and swords here!), otherwise who knows where my caffeine withdrawal would have taken me!

Well, all that remains for now is to lie low and let the day slide by. My boss has announced that she's leaving very early, and Annoying Coworker and the doctor both seem to have busy schedules. Drink Man is in Nashville today until lunch, covering for another colleague. So hopefully this morning will be quiet and peaceful.

If not, there will be trouble.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And Life Returns to Normal (Kinda Sorta)

I'm back at work; Annoying Coworker is back at work. The Doctor is back at work, and the patients are, sadly, back at work. My anniversary mini-vacation getaway is over, and I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things on day two of my readjustment period.

I'm listening now to the Doctor beat up a prospective patient. I can't really tell if she's angry at him, but given her nationality, her tone often comes across as highly aggressive. So sometimes I have to go behind her and translate for the patient - not linguistically, of course - but rather put her statements in a more neutral tone. Makes life interesting around here.

And it makes me wish I was back on vacation.

One Ring and I had a great time in Chattanooga. The B&B was wonderful, as it sits in the scenic Bluff View Art District. Our room was right above the Back Inn Cafe, where we had one of our meals - delicious! While there we spent a day at the Tennessee Aquarium, checked out the local art scene and independent bookstores, and made many visits to the coffee shop that was located way too close for us to curb our caffeine addiction!

On the way back, we met up with Whirling Dervish and his family at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. I came away with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was enjoyable to walk around and see the people who dressed up in various period outfits, not always historically accurate (there were quite a few people dressed as their favorite fantasy characters from Japanese animation or video grames). On the other hand, what was billed as "Pirate Weekend" had very little in the way of pirates. Sure there were some people dressed as pirates (always captains, never crew, and usually resembling Jack Sparrow), but there was very little else to suggest that this was the special event that it was billed as. Now if the pirates could interact with the Queen, or perhaps have a mock pillaging (or a real one, heck, I wouldn't complain!) of the vendor tents, that would have been nice. Alas, aside from one act on one stage stuck off to one side, there was little going on for pirate weekend.

Still, it was nice to see Whirling Dervish and his family. Hopefully we'll get back together with them soon.

Had my guitar lesson last night, and once again, Sarah McLachlan's music is proving to be much harder to pin down than I had originally thought. This time we worked on the solo portion of "Building a Mystery," as well as my trying to figure out the chord progression underneath layers and layers of guitar overlays. She's a creative genious, that's for sure. Hopefully I'll become proficient in it soon, but for now, jumping from a B minor chord to a G is slowing me down.

Okay, we have groups coming in a little bit. Time for me to catch up on paper work and get ready.

Sigh. I need another vacation!

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Sharkbait Update

I've removed Sharkbait's blog from the list of links over on the left. Not because he's torqued me off in some way, but because I can never tell if he's written anything on there - it's MySpace, which is blocked at work where I do the most of my blogging.

As a consolation / promo, I decided to replace it with a link to his photography business: Blue Seas Photography. He really is an amazing photographer, and has his first show from the end of June through August in Virginia Beach, Virginia. There's even a reception scheduled for July 9th. As you can see, he specializes in nature pictures, but he is also available for portraits, parties, and so forth.

Be sure to check out his website and order some pictures!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Huh? What? Did You Say Something?

Sorry, I wasn't awake. Didn't sleep well. Kona the dog kept waking up last night, so of course I woke up too. Not sure what's got into her, but she seems to be moving into a pattern of sleeping all day and waking up at night. I suppose that means that we'll be walking her more and trying to wear her out. So she doesn't keep on barking and carrying on at 2 am!

Not much to report today. I have a group session to conduct in a few minutes, then the usual paperwork to carry me through the day. Hopefully it will go fast. Without Annoying Coworker around, things have been far more pleasant. I imagine next week will be far different.

One Ring and I are heading off for our anniversary trip tomorrow afternoon, immediately after I jump ship here. First stop Chattanooga for the B&B and some sightseeing, then on Sunday we're hitting the Tennessee Rennaisance Festival for Pirate Weekend! It's supposed to rain all weekend, sadly, but I'm sure it will still be lots and lots of fun. Because there's pirates, of course! : )

Speaking of pirates, check out Bilge Munky's blog for probably the most ridiculous item ever tried to jump on the fan craze of the last ten years or so - Pirates for Jesus! It looks like what you'd expect when a patriarchal family with self-esteem issues (and a puppet that insults the captain!) tries to turn the "take all you can; give nothing in return" philosophy of the Brethren of the Coast into a sanitized mess. According to a post on another blog regarding the same ministry, the head of the ministry lost his hand and leg in a motorcycle accident. He then decided to create the pirate theme for his message. Be sure to go to that other post - there's a video of the captain and crew in action!

Okay, time for me to get to work. Assuming I can wake up!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Uhm, No. Not Funny at All.

Let me start this by saying that I am a major supporter of President Obama. Of course, I recognize that he's human, and he's going to make mistakes. But sometimes, even in times when he's expected to be funny and poke fun at people and situations such as last week's White House Correspondent's Dinner, he's going to fall a tad short of expectations.

Like this mock photo op, where he tied in his offer to meet with some of our less pleasant global neighbors, his receiving of a book from Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (in this case it was Peter Pan), and the pirate crisis off the coast of Somalia.

They went with speechwriter Cody Keenan to dress up as - who? Captain Hook? - the pirate in question. Are you telling me, though, that with the economy just now starting to climb out of the abyss that there wasn't one unemployed actor who could have done the job? What about all the pirate enthusiasts who dress up for festivals all over the country during this time of year? Surely someone other than a White house staffer was available!

Alas, the parrot was fake, too!

Here's the article. I got nothing.


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Mother, Mother Ocean ...

I'm having travel fantasies again - to the Caribbean, of course. Between the usual pirate history and fiction floating about in my life and the newly procured bottle of Cruzan aged spice rum in my kitchen (good with Coke, a little harsh straight up), I'm really wishing I could smell salty, tropic breezes rather than the giant landfill located a couple of miles away from the hospital!

In fact, I just called One Ring and said, "Cruise." Actually, what I said was, "Disney," followed immediately by "Caribbean," then "Cruise." But you get the point. Anyway, to my surprise, she said, "I think we can make that happen for next year."

So now it's down in writing for the world to see. I'm going to the Caribbean next year, okay? So if something comes up and I hear that I can't go, well, that would be going back on a promise, and we can't have that! The way work's been of late, I really don't care if I have to row there (and yes, that would be difficult, being that I'm in a land-locked state!).

Speaking of work, I'm now enjoying a brief respite before the patients come in at 1:00. I'm leading the groups all this week, since Annoying Coworker is in the freakin' Caribbean (no, I'm not okay with that)! It's good that he's out of my hair, and I have noticed that my stress level is somewhat lower. Still, having to stay on top of the added chaos is not always fun, obviously. I can't really go into more detail than that, since I'm referring to patients and treatment, etc.

Drink Man has been calling a lot of late, as he's been in South Carolina interviewing for a new position. He called me up - inebriated, I might add - saying that he was talking to his new boss and that everything was wonderful and that he was going to get me a job down there and out of my current location. Which was nice, except that he failed to bring One Ring in on the conversation. When I mentioned that there was the slight possibility of my being offered a job in Charleston, she was less than thrilled. Honestly, there isn't really much there and the cost of living is much higher. It does, however, have water and a strong and exciting nautical history - not to mention rumors of a pirate museum!

So all of these events have caused fantasies of moving on again. Call it Wanderlust, call it whatever the heck you want. It's not that things are bad here; actually this is the best year we've had for quite some time, in terms of job security and future outlook. Which is really odd considering the condition of the economy! I guess it's just when I look around me at the people and places 'round here, there's that little voice in my head that reminds me that I really don't belong. Not enough to settle down here for any longer than it takes One Ring to writer her dissertation, anyway.

In the meantime, though, I'm having fun with guitar lessons, which is one plus to living in the Music City. The guitar pedal project is still go, though when I looked at the "learn to solder" kit last night I admit that I was a little intimidated. Those parts are really, really small! I'm sure, though, like most things, once I get the hang of it, it will seem easy enough. Drink Man seems to think that it could actually lead to something, much like candle making led to a short stint as a craftsman. Who knows? I'd just like to get to the point where I can plug the pedal in and have it work!

Okay, 15 minutes to go until patients start coming in. I need to clean up and get ready for group. At least the afternoon will go fast!


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Is There Anybody Out There?

(With apologies to Pink Floyd)

Today the doctor is busy in the ER, so my office, and the offices surrounding it, are quiet. In fact, with Annoying Coworker and Drink Man both gone, there is absolutely no noise in this place. Which would be wonderful if 1) I had something to occupy my time, and 2) I wasn't fighting another round of allergies / cold / Bulgarian Swine Flu - Typhoid - African Sleeping Sickness - Bubonic Plague - Thing.

But, alas, #1 isn't happening, and #2 most certainly is. I was going to go out on my lunch break today to pick up some stronger drugs, but work actually interfered for a few moments and shot that down. So I may stop off at the drug store on my way home or after my guitar lesson. Yes, even though I don't feel all that hot, there is no way I'm missing that!

Speaking of my lessons, I'm still hammering away at Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery." No, it doesn't sound anything like the original. One Ring says otherwise, but she's supposed to! So tonight will probably be spent with my arm cramping up as I try to switch from a B-minor chord to a G-chord. I'm still at the stage where, now that I know a little about playing the guitar, everything that the pros do seems like magic. And I'm seriously regretting making fun of the garage band kids back in high school. I think the pain I feel in my hand and writst is some sort of karmic retribution for that! Oh, well, otherwise it's a lot of fun, so I'm sticking with it.

One Ring is spending the night at a professor's lake house / retreat center again so she can catch up on her Ph.D. work. I'm hoping to get some energy myself so that I can work on that "learn to solder" kit and get ready to build my guitar pedal. I sourced the parts with another company and found that I could save around $10-$15. Not a large amount, but still nice. Assuming all goes well, I'll be getting a $100 pedal for around $35. Not too shabby!

Let's see, what else. Oh, I bought another couple of packs of those pirate cards, and found yet another of the "super rare" Black Pearl ships. So I sent it off to Sharkbait this week. Hopefully it arrives in one piece.

Nothing new in the world of pirates. I did buy tickets to the Tennessee Renaissance Fair, though. Next week is "Pirates Weekend," and One Ring and I will be stopping there on Sunday following our weekend 10th anniversary getaway to Chattanooga. Not sure why they're having a Pirate Weekend at a ren fest held so far inland, but they are. Looks like fun, in a weird and geeky sort of way.

(Right now "White and Nerdy" by Weird Al Yankovic is going through my head!)

Wish I got Facebook here. The computer network blocks it. It blocks a great many things, thus making life even more boring here. But then, there are 56 minutes left in my day, so I can't complain too much.

More tomorrow, which I hope will be more interesting than today.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Boring Day

Yep. I'm bored. No patients to torment - though there are employees tormenting me at the moment! Alas, perhaps someday the tables will turn.

Annoying Coworker is on a high today, as he leaves tomorrow for a week long cruise of the Caribbean. As much as I am loath to say it, I'm jealous of him. He's stopping at some of my favorite islands, and I've spent the week dropping tips of places he should go and jobs he can apply for. Do you know that there seems to be growth in addiction therapist jobs in the Caribbean? Who would have thought? Actually it's a no brainer, but until now, there haven't been many. Probably being drunk out of your gourd is considered normal by many, just like in other touristy places.

Anyway, we'll see if he comes back.

In other news, a chaplain intern with whom I worked over a year ago has written a tell all book about her experiences and how horrible it was that her love for a patient was viewed as dual relational and unethical (which is was, in case you're wondering what I think). We're now laughing over the book, which was published by a vanity press and is poorly written and edited. I helped the Chaplain Supervisor publish a review of it up on, so at least our side of the events can be known by those who care. Which I can't imagine is that great a number.

Yesterday my "learn how to solder" kit arrived via Fed Ex. Now after I figure out how to put together the very exciting "European style light and siren" (I'm not making this up), I'll order the parts for the guitar pedal and get to work on that project.

I just got off the phone with Drink Man, who is having a great time in South Carolina. He's looking to leave the campus where I work and head over to a better paying job either in Nashville or out in Charleston. He's really jazzed up about the prospect of working with people who respect his education, rather then get into ego-inspired turf battles. I'm staying out of those, and trying to avoid all conflict, since I'm probably going to be here for quite a while longer.

One Ring has emailed my sister regarding our family trip to Disney World in July. The children do not know about it, but the adults are excited as all get out. I really need the break, and can't wait until I can rest for a week or so. The last several nights I haven't slept well, mostly because of storms or because the dogs decided that they wanted my half of the bed. Thank God it's Friday! Maybe I can catch up on some rest!

Okay, that's all I can think of at the moment. More later.


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Pirate Ship for Sale

Ever want a ship of your own over which to hoist the Jolly Roger and put fear into the hearts of sailors everywhere? Well, now you can! A replica of The Black Pearl is now for sale in Honduras.

The ship is obviously not a full sized replica of the ship from the movies, as it will only hold 8 crew and 70-odd tourists, and is 27 meters long and 8 meters wide. By my admittedly poor math skills that is roughly 81 feet long by 24 feet wide. A large ship, to be certain, but with only 6 guns it's not going to deliver a massive broadside.

On the plus side, though, it does have two bathrooms and a galley.

Here's the link. It's only $1.25 million, so get out there and start pillaging!

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another Side of the Story, Perhaps

For a while now, I've been reporting on the Somali pirates and the international response to the threat. Okay, I haven't been reporting so much as I've been linking to news stories.

At any rate, I just came across an investigative report that claims that the pirates of Somalia aren't as bad as the Western media makes them out to be. In fact, there may be just cause for their attempts to drive shipping out of their waters.

The article is entitled, pointedly enough, You Are Being Lied to About Pirates, and appeared both in the Independent and The Huffington Post.

It is most certainly worth a read.

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Pirate Game Geek Awesomeness!

Whenever I get around to shop at Target, I try to pick up a pack or two (or three, or four ...) of the Pirates of the Cursed Seas card game. Even though Topps bought the company and then announced that they are discontinuing the line, the cards are carried by several stores in my area, and I enjoy replenishing my supply (I gave my old collection to Whirling Dervish's boys) and preparing to send Sharkbait to Davy Jones' locker whenever possible. Now that Dervish is coming back into town (Huzzah!), I need to be ready to defend my honor against his brood, as well.

So yesterday, with One Ring out of town (and buying Pirate cards that much easier!), I headed over to Target to accomplish a couple of other, much more practical errands. Along the way I picked up a couple of packs and received the following:

It's the "Super Rare" Black Pearl from the Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean line! A cursory glance shows it to be very similar to the regular Black Pearl (the undamaged version), with the major exception that this is printed on a transluscent plastic sheet, giving it a ghostly appearance. Along with the ship came a small sheet that announced that I had the rarest ship in the fleet! I am now in awe of my own piratical awesomeness.

And yes, I've already called Sharkbait. No, he doesn't already own one. Heh, heh.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Blackbeard vs. The Highlander??

Back in the day, one of my favorite movies - and later a television series - was Highlander. The basic plotline was that there was a race of humans who could not die except by beheading. Over time, these immortals would meet one another in combat by sword with the ultimate goal of being the last one standing. There's more to it than that, obviously, but basically it was an excuse for a lot of gratuitous sword fighting. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

The only other thing that you need to know about Highlander was that both the movie (as far as I'm concerned there are only two worth watching - the first one and Highlander: Endgame) and the television series have as their main characters members of the McCleod family - Conner in the movie and Duncan in the show. They are from the highlands of Scotland, hence the name.

Well, in a case of life imitating art (or vice versa), I just finished reading a biography of Edward Teach, better known as the pirate Blackbeard. As you may or may not know, Teach was killed during a pitched battle off Ocracoke, North Carolina. He had sustained over 20 wounds from swords, and 5 musket wounds. His head was removed from his body and displayed on the bowsprit of one of the British ships that had tracked him down.

According to an article in the Boston News Letter, written shortly after the fight, though, things happend slightly differently:

One of Maynard's (the lietenant leading the British forces) men, being a Highlander, engaged Teach with his broadsword and gave Teach a cut in the neck, Teach saying, "Well done lad." The Highlander replied, "If it be not well done, I'll do it better." With that he gave a second stroke, which cut off his head, laying it flat on his shoulder.
- qtd. in Blackbeard by Angus Konstam, pg. 257
One can almost hear that Highlander saying, "There can be only one!" right before the killing blow! : )

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Why Pirates?

Every so often, some one asks me what's so interesting about pirates. Usually it's after I've opened my trap and offered up some (admittedly) obscure bit of trivia that no one has requested. The other night, I mentioned to One Ring that I might be interested in taking a trip to Charleston, SC. Her best friend lives there, and initially thought that my offer was out of a desire for a reunion of sorts. However, knowing me as long as she has, she paused for a minute, then asked, "Why would you ever be interested in going to Charleston?"

"I think they have a pirate museum there," I answered. "Did you know that Blackbeard blockaded the port of Charleston for several days in 1718, mainly because he needed medicine and a doctor to treat his crew for syphilis?"

She groaned audibly and then, rolling her eyes, exclaimed, "What is it with you and pirates?"

It's simple, really.

As (Captain) Jack Sparrow put it in the first of the very unrealistic Pirates of the Caribbean movies:

"Wherever we want to go, we'll go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom."

Sure everything they did (just about) was illegal according to some government (I'm lumping privateers in with pirates here, even though there are some major differences). Sure some of the pirates (like Roche Brasiliano, Fran├žois l'Ollonais and others) were sociopaths, responsible for murder, torture, and even cannibalism in order to strike fear into their victims. Then again, "Black" Sam Bellamy attempted to use his ill gotten gains to improve his social status in the Massachusetts Bay Area so he could marry his beloved - a young woman of a much higher societal class. He died while trying to bring his ship - A converted slave ship named the Whydah - back to Cape Cod. And Stede Bonnet was a plantation owner who turned pirate when his marriage went sour and he had an early "mid-life crisis." He made a horrible pirate, by the way, and was hung (at the age of 30) more for his association with Blackbeard, who held him prisoner for a number of years, than for his own crimes.

So the group of individuals that we lump together and call pirates were a diverse lot, some good, some bad, most ugly (I mean, have you seen those drawings???). But they did have many things in common. For one, pirate ships were run as democracies. The crew voted on their actions, with every person getting one vote. Captains could be stripped of power if the crew so decided. Merchant vessels and naval ships, in contrast, were almost always barbaric in terms of authoritarianism. Captains could, and did, execute crew members for a variety of reasons. Flogging was common, the pay was horrible, and the life expectancy of your average sailor was very low. Officers did well, but sailors did not. The pay from just one pirate action would provide more money than most sailors saw in their lifetimes. And they were much better fed and treated by the others in their crew. Blackbeard's shooting of his mate, Israel Hands, is legendary for the outrageousness of his action, not because it was common.

If you were a common person, with no hope for advancement, virtually (and some times actually) enslaved by a system that promoted by class and family status rather than by merit and ability, why not turn pirate? The temptation must have been fierce.

That's the romance of it, of course. As I sit here in Tennessee, finally safe in the knowledge that I have a job and One Ring can finish out her studies without worrying about our finances, yet full in the knowledge that this job is not one that has any hope of advancement, the allure of the pirate image is great. We all have fantasies of escaping from our drudgery and heading off to points known or unknown. I have them all the time. It's just that once I finally went to the Caribbean, and saw the clear blue waters and sailed about on a variety of ships (okay, cruise liners and all of one schooner!), my personal fantasy took on a more focused tone. I grew up on the coast of Virginia, after all, so it's not surprising that there's a connection between me and ships.

Maybe this makes sense, maybe not. Doesn't really matter. I'm going to sing "Yo, Ho! A Pirate's Life for Me!" with the best of them and drink my rum and plan my island retirement and dream of learning how to sail. It's a nice fantasy, and a fun time period to read about, a time that's very different yet in some ways very similar to our own.


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