Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wednesday Weigh-In 20081231

I can't believe I still weigh less than when I started this Wednesday Weigh-In, despite recent gut-busting visits to my wife's aunt's house, the local Steak House and to the German Restaurant. And there's all the desserts that continue to jump into my mouth.

I'm not eating much at night before bedtime, and I'm exercising more frequently. Maybe that's preventing growth in pig-like proportions.

Waist = 37 3/4"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Follow Up to "Police Officer" Post

Obviously that previous post was loaded with sarcasm.

One thing I'm truly grateful for is that *I* was the one who was caught driving the car and not my wife. With her health problems, the last thing my wife needs is that kind of stress.

A side benefit is that the experience provided fodder for YALWP (Yet Another Long-Winded Post).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dear Police Officer

Dear Police Officer:

Thank you for taking the time to remind me that my car's registration expired. I understand that you set aside personal safety -- passing other cars at high speeds and stopping on the two-lane highway -- in order to issue me the written reminder, a "citation" I believe you called it. You also provided me a way to supplement our state's income by suggesting that I mail the citation back with a donation of $93. I am more than happy to oblige in these difficult times.

I especially want to thank you for calling a towing service on my behalf to remove my vehicle from the road. Clearly, it was necessary to stop driving it while it was unregistered because it might have turned into a dangerous weapon of mass terror during the lapse.

I really appreciate the personal service. Most other entities I do business with merely mail to me an impersonal reminder to remit payment. Not you. You worked extra hard to make sure I had a most memorable experience when I would otherwise have been frittering away my time at work.

Best wishes for the New Year!


Square Peg

Dream: Invasion of the Tee-Pee House

Two boys overheard a plot to invade their house.

Now they are home alone on the night of the invasion. They are scared. They know the secret structure of the house. There is a pole that runs from the basement all the way up to the roof, with many floors in between. They're on one of the top floors, so they decide to escape by climbing down this pole.

They begin climbing down. The pole is about ten inches in diameter and its surface is very rough and uneven -- almost tree-like with thick vines running along the length.

The invaders (an evil man and his henchman) are aware of the pole and start climbing up. But large snakes appear on the poles, and they hamper the invaders more than the boys. The invasion would appear to be foiled.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dream: Cartoon Convention

I'm driving a motorcycle. I arrive at a gravel parking lot in a very wooded area. I notice our two bicycles, mine and my wife's. I comment to a guy there that I know, "They biked here? They're not going to want to bike home." ["They" refers to my wife and me.] The guy responds, "They'll get a ride from _____."

I try to park the motorcycle, but it's not staying upright. The kickstand seems to be too long, so I spend a long time finding the right surface that will allow the bike to stay standing. Finally, I'm satisfied, and I walk to the event.

I enter the building and the large room. This is a cartoon convention, but it's more like a classroom. My wife and I are in the back to the left. I walk in that direction intending to sit with them. But I get distracted by some kids who are waving at me. So I walk in their direction. At first I intend to sit among them. But then I see it will be difficult to maneuver my way past the other people in the row, so I just sit at the end of the row.

I feel popular and am soaking up the attention. Also, I'm not at all bothered by the fact that I'm late.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Winter Beauty Affirmation

My daughter made this for my wife. It reads, "Snowflakes are unique and beautiful. So are you!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wednesday Weigh-In 20081224

My weight is dropping despite my getting assailed with irresistible dessert treats that pry my jaws open and pop themselves into my mouth, more or less. Perhaps I owe this remarkable weight loss to my new exercise regimen that consists of shoveling snow for three hours straight. Or maybe it's just a scale malfunction.

Waist = 38"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Weather

Our winter is off to a great start thanks to two snowstorms that blasted through our area on Friday (9") and then again on Sunday (6"). I enjoyed shoveling our double-wide driveway by hand, even though I was bothered by a sinus infection.

Please don't read sarcasm into this. I really did enjoy it!

So many elements come together to make it a special time for me.

There's solitude. All my neighbors have snowblowers and prefer to wait until the morning to clear their driveways instead of going at it at 7:00pm to 10:00pm. And the busy bodies in their cars, minivans and SUVs have abandoned the roads, leaving them desolate.

There's Nature's dominance over Mankind. No matter how smart we think we are, and how much control we think we can exert over our environment, Nature demonstrates that She's The Boss. We are completely at the mercy of the elements.

There's unpredictability. All our carefully crafted plans are swept away. As an abjectly poor planner, I feel strangely vindicated by this.

There's the beauty of the snow-covered tree limbs, the sparkling icicles, the gentlest hiss of falling snow. We get a bit closer to Nature -- the secret lives of wildlife are unveiled in the tracks in the snow.

There's the exhilaration of intense exertion in the pushing, lifting, hurling of snow. And from the sting of cold pellets of snow assaulting the face. Yet, I'm sweating from the workout. I shake the ice and snow from my coverings before I stomp inside, and strip off everything, because it's all wet, either from melted snow or from sweat.

Ahhh, my weekend was awesome! How was yours?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Today is our Winter Solstice. I like to watch the Sun rise on this day. But today, our skies are so heavy with snow-laden clouds that I could not do this. Besides, I slept late.

When I see the Sun so low in the Southern sky on this day, I like to imagine that I'm living ten thousand years ago. I know nothing about Earth's inclination to the Sun and how Earth orbits the Sun. I worry that Sun is leaving. Do I perform a sundance to entice Her back to me? Or should I go follow Her before I lose Her for good? What did I do the last time She started to leave? I must do it again.

I look forward to the longer periods of daylight that each coming day will bring.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dream: The Re-Enactment

I'm at an outdoor gathering, like a family reunion picnic. Some scenario has taken place. It involved some boy flying a kite while a fierce storm blew in. I had been thinking he might get struck by lightening, and then he did get struck.

So there are a group of us who are going to re-live the previous ten minutes and try to change the outcome. Except I'm not sure what should change.

Now instead of being with the boy with the kite, I'm in a bathroom with two girls. They're my age but smaller. One I'm sort of close to, romantically. The other is new to me, but she's acting flirtatious, and I'd like to flirt back. I'd really like to hug and kiss her, but my girlfriend would certainly be upset. I notice my toothbrush is missing. I think maybe this is the action I should've done the first time.

The lightening has struck the boy with the kite again, only this time I'm not there. I walk over to him and try to help revive him.

Dream: Post Graduation Interview

I'm in a hotel room with two classmates from college. We've just been graduated, and we're here for some sort of prize, either a job or a scholarship for graduate studies. I don't really know the other two guys very well. They're just passing acquaintances.

There is a camera set up, and one of the men who's in charge of the prize wants to take our picture. He urges us to smile. The better we smile, the more likely we'll get the prize. The two guys are on my right, and I tilt my head toward them as I would in a close family shot. Then I realize I'm totally not smiling, so I flash my most brilliant happy smile just before the camera's shutter clicks.

We're dismissed, but we need to stick around. So I wander around the hotel room suite by myself. I come upon an actual pond. As I look at it absent-mindedly, I notice movement in the water. There is, in fact, fish in this pond. And then I notice still more movement, which turns out to be large, snake-like creatures with sharp pointy teeth, like the kinds of fish that live in the extremely deep oceans. I'm amazed at this. Some of the smaller fish swim rapidly and hurl themselves on the floor, and they wriggle and fall into an adjacent pond just on the other side of the walkway I'm on.

I can't believe anyone would allow such monster fish here. What if a little child gets close and sticks his finger in the water?

Dream: Stupid NYC Bus Trip

I'm on a bus in NYC. It's a charter for a day trip. It's nearly empty. I'm alone in the back. A few people sit in the front.

The bus stops, and I decide that I will get off. I have no destination planned.

I step onto sidewalk and walk to the nearest building and enter it. From within the lobby, I see a dazzlingly department store display, the jewelry department. The color red is dominant.

I decide to explore the building. Since I hate jewelry, I find a side entrance to the rest of the building. There is an elevator, which I take to go up to the fourth floor. This leads to a hallway with closed doors to offices, most likely the store's upper management's offices. Thus it is a dead-end to me.

I find myself back at the lobby and again take the side entrance to the elevator. This time all the floors are below this one. So I go down and emerge into the baby / toddler department. Memories flood me of shopping for my little daughter who's now grown into a somewhat surly teenager. The Clifford items especially tug at my heart-strings. I reminisce about how she loved her little Clifford doll, and how the dog used to steal it. Now I really feel alone.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dream: Steamed Soda

I'm outside with some male coworkers in a dry, concrete canal. One guy is thirsty, so another guy tells him where he can get steamed soda. They walk away, and I follow because steamed soda sounds to me like euphemism for water, and I would like some, too.

We arrive at a store front that's raised about four feet. I can see two people inside. The guy who led us to the store gives instructions to the thirsty guy on how to order. It's almost like a drug deal, where one wrong comment can spook the guy off. He says to the thirsty guy to tell the guy in the store that he doesn't want ______.

The store keeper is an Indian or Pakistani. He asks us what we want. The thirsty guy orders. Then the storekeeper asks if he wants ______, to which he says No, as instructed. This entire transaction is taking place in front of a loose door -- a door that is not hung on hinges. I wonder how we will get inside.

Somehow, the thirsty guy enters the loose door. It's as if he became flattened and then slipped into a mail slot. I realize that he's gone for good. He won't come back.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday Weigh-In 20081217

Waist = 38"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Shrinking Greeting Card List

At the moment I'm sending out greeting cards to family and friends as we do every year. I keep a simple address list in MS Word, which hearkens back to the days I used to print address labels. Although I no longer print address labels, I keep the list up-to-date by making notes of address changes (Jayne's in Georgia now) and, more sadly, deaths. I can't think of a worse greeting card gaff than sending a card to my uncle that's also addressed to his deceased wife. So I make sure I have "Aunt Ellie died in '98" right below the address.

I actually did that for my mom's address, even though there's no chance I'd ever be so forgetful as to send one to her.

The list is shrinking. Or it would be if we weren't adding new addresses to it: The Girl Scout troop leader. The piano teacher. The new church choir director.

Adding new family members is a bit harder but not impossible. With 9 aunts & uncles on my father's side alone, there are always more cousins to reach out to. One day the last aunt or uncle will be gone, and only cousins will be left.

How do you keep your list from shrinking?

Friday, December 12, 2008

When Will My Wife Start to Blog?

I keep telling my wife she should start a blog. Like the other day, when she got really bad service at a McDonalds, and later ranted at me when I got home, and had this to say:
Whatever happened to 'You deserve a break today?' Now it's like, 'You deserve a breakdown today.'

Early Present

Every December my wife and I send out holiday picture cards that feature our daughter and our pets. So shortly after Thanksgiving, we venture out to some festively-decorated place and take pictures.

Invariably, the pictures come out disappointingly below average1, and we vow to stop doing it.

This year was no exception, and I started to think about getting a new camera. Ideally it would have great optics, like my father's old Canon AE-1 35mm SLR. But it would be digital as well. Unfortunately, digital SLR cameras tend to be very expensive, and the less expensive cameras keep getting better resolution but not better optics.

Then it hit me. I would buy a used SLR digital camera. What also hit me was the "for Sale" advertisement on the company bulletin board: "Canon EOS 300D camera..."

By now I know a gift from the Universe when I see it. (Thank you , Universe!) So I bought it. Instead of taking pictures like this:

I can take pictures like this:

So maybe next year our holiday picture cards will be perfect, or at least better than all my wife's friends' cards.

1For example, one year the subject was laughably off-center, but in my lemons-to-lemonade manner, I used that space to write a personal holiday note. Other years, nearly all the pictures were mostly dark or unfocused, except for one or two in which the pose was not quite right. One memorable year, everything was perfect except for the very important detail of the dog's red, shiny weiner, which demonstrated that he was very happy to have his picture taken. That was the year I taught myself The GIMP.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday Weigh-In 20081210

Waist = 38 & 1/8 "
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wednesday Weigh-In 20081203

Here we go....

Waist = 38 & 1/8 "
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Time-Wasting Meme From Slywy

Stolen from Slywy, author of The Dark Side of the Moon...

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Not that I'm aware of.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Within the past six months, at a movie.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? It changes depending on my mood. I like it when I'm feeling confident and composed. I dislike it when I'm feeling scatterbrained and confused.

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Coleman or Applegate Farms organic Roast beef.

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? Yes, one human daughter, one canine son, one feline son, plus several illegitimate dust bunnies that I'm rather not fond of.


7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Why shouldn't I?

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? No. I'd expected they give 'em to me in a jar after taking them out. That's what you think when you're five years old and someone says he'll remove something from your body, right? But no. When I asked for them, the doctor just laughed. And that set the tone for my relationship with medical professionals.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Absolutely not.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Arrowhead Mills Maple Buckwheat Flakes, but I have to doctor them up with a lot of nuts or seeds and yogurt.


12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Physically, my strength is above average. Emotionally, (because Slywy included this type of strength) no. Intellectually, I have bursts of insight, so I can say I'm above average.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Ben and Jerry’s One Sweet Whirled.

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Their eyes. I read somewhere that the eyes are the window to the soul. Could that have been in the Bible?

15. RED OR PINK? Red.

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? The distended abdomen that makes me look preggers.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? Short answer: Dad. Long answer requires a new post.


19. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? I'm wearing slippers. They're red, and I got them in this color because they were Overstocks at Lands End.

20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Brown Sugar Cinnamon Toaster Pastries with sunflower seed butter and organic chocolate chips.

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Wife is closing the entertainment center door and walking to the kitchen.

22. IF YOU WHERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Forest Green. It's my favorite color.

23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Lamb roast with rosemary. Coffee, esp. Hazelnut. Forest Green crayons.


25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? I enjoy her blog because she does things that I enjoy and writes about them.

26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Hockey. Dog shows.

27. HAIR COLOR? "Just For Men" Medium Brown. ;)

28. EYE COLOR? Green.


30. FAVORITE FOOD? Steak Tacos.


32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? "Happy-Go-Lucky".

33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? White v-neck undershirt. Well, it was white when I bought it.

34. SUMMER OR WINTER? Winter. The days start to get longer as it progresses.

35. HUGS OR KISSES? Hugs. Probably pick up fewer germs that way.

36. FAVORITE DESSERT? Death by chocolate cake. Or perhaps Apple Crumb Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream.

37. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Perhaps Slywy or maybe Lynne or Karen.


39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Please see My LibraryThing Currently Reading List.

40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? My mouse? Okay, it's a design by Quantex, which is the company I bought my second computer from.

41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? My wife lit a candle and put it on top of the TV. I watched that. I don't watch the actual TV.

42. FAVORITE SOUND? Cat purring.


44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Physically, Seattle. Mentally, there's no way to describe this distance.

45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? What do I look like, Tinkerbell?

46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? I haven't the foggiest recollection. My parents said it was somewhere on Earth, but I never believed them, especially since I doubted they were my actual parents.

47. WHOSE ANSWERS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING BACK? Robin Williams', but if he's too busy I'd settle for Ford Prefect's.

So is that it? There are only 47 questions? Not 50? Or 42? That's an odd thing.


Today Christians celebrated Advent -- the beginning of a new year in the Church.

The main themes of Advent are of preparation and expectation. We must stay awake, alert. This nicely parallels how Eastern religions encourage Mindfulness.

At this time of year, it's easy for us in the Northern Hemisphere to daydream or even nap. All is dead and brown outside. The cold and darkness of our Winter Solstice creeps over us like an oppressive fog. Christianity keeps us occupied by promising a Savior whose arrival will vanquish darkness.

This second theme of light replacing darkness can be found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. After you die, you're supposed go toward the brilliant white light to break the cycle of rebirths.

It comforts me when such diverse religions as Buddhism and Christianity have something in common.

Dream: The Subterranean Master Bedroom

My wife and I are viewing a home that we're thinking of buying. We're in the master bedroom. I notice that the windows are small and near the ceiling as if this room were in the basement. It is, in fact, mostly underground.

I look closely at the walls to see evidence of moisture -- mold, mildew, peeling paint. The walls look really bad, actually. They appear to be painted cinderblocks, and the paint has pulled away in several areas.

I point this out to the owner who is in the room with us. He denies that the walls are made from cinderblocks. "Oh no, this is poster board." He goes on to say that the child that used this room had pinned lots of things to the walls. That's why there are many tiny holes in the surface, like acoustic ceiling tile. I look again and notice that the grooves that outlined the cinderblocks are now closer together and outline bricks. The poster board has a faux gray brick pattern.

I concede that the wall covering is not bare cinderblock. But I don't trust this owner and I want to know what's underneath. I suspect that it's cinderblock underneath, and that it's in bad shape.

I go to a different wall which is also faux brick. But the "bricks" are different colors -- bold primary colors as one might find in a pre-school classroom. I manage to wedge my finger in between two of the bricks and separate them enough to verify that there are cinderblocks directly behind it.

I'm outside now. My wife has seen the entire house. But I have only looked at the master bedroom. I'd like to go back inside to see the rest of the house, especially the basement. But the owner has a BBQ planned and is expecting company any minute. In fact the caterers are arriving right now.

So reluctantly, we get in the car. My neighbor is with us, too, and I discuss the house with him. I think it's a great buy. But then I wonder what kind of road it's on. At first I think it's on a quiet side road. My neighbor and I try to remember. But then I remember it's on a two-lane state highway, a road that's even busier than our current house. So I'm not too keen on the house anymore.

As we drive, I see a red pickup truck hanging from a tree....

Dream: The Red Pickup Truck in the Tree

I'm driving along in my neighborhood and see a red pickup truck hanging from a tree.

I pull over to see if someone needs help. I look inside and see a young man with a thick red wire wrapped around his neck. The veins in his neck are bulging. He says, "Help me," very faintly.

I see that the red wire is caught in the window and pulled taut, but it's loose on the outside of the window. So I squeeze the window's rubber gasket and feed the wire into the car. It works to relieve the pressure of the wire.

Now I go to work to lower the truck and get the guy out. I go to the back and pick the lock of the trunk. (Now the truck is a compact sedan.) Then I walk around to the driver's side door. I'm about to do the same -- pick the lock and open it -- but then Cindy, the police supervisor rides up on her motorcycle. I'm afraid that I might get in trouble if she sees me pick the lock, so I stop what I'm doing and let her take over. I'm sure she'll ask me to do it, so I wait for her to tell me.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Obama -- Hope For Teenage Fashion

Even before Barak Obama is sworn in, his daughters are having an impact on girls' fashion. I'm hopeful that the election night excitement about Malia's ensemble will repeat itself throughout Barak Obama's entire four-year Presidency.

What was so great about Malia's outfit? Well, she wore an off-the-rack spaghetti strap dress and topped it off with a matching cardigan sweater to make it more modest. Maybe the Obama girls will be wearing high-cut jeans that don't let their panties show. And modest blouses that don't show off their budding boobs. And clothes made from opaque material.

I'm hopeful that we might start to see stylish clothes for teenage girls that won't make them look like sluts. And, that our daughters might actually want to wear them. Otherwise, I don't know what our daughter will wear after she out grows Lands End girls clothes.

Please see Malia Election Night Fashion for background on this post.

Friday, November 28, 2008

How Hoarding Can Lead to Weight Gain

One of the things I blame weight gain on is hoarding.

People who hoard tend to save things either because they have an emotional attachment to the items, or they think they may need them.

But with food, my tendency is to eat the item before it goes bad. I'll do so even if I'm not hungry.

I may have picked this habit up at an early age. My father was "the human garbage." Mom scraped onto his plate anything we didn't eat each supper. If dad wasn't around, it would go into the garbage if there wasn't enough to make another meal from. The other thing dad would do is cut himself a piece of brownie "just to even it off" as he'd say. And eat just the broken cookies.

Well, the nut doesn't fall far from the tree. Most days, I'll finish what my daughter leaves in her plate (or in the yogurt cup). Sometimes I think I can live off what gets throw out. And I have actually reached into the garbage, mimicking George Costanza to pull out something special to eat. But I've recognized this as a bad habit, and I'm starting to change.

Today my wife complained that the dark chocolate I bought was too bitter (it has cacao nibs). So I wrapped up the unused portion and placed it in the treat drawer. Later she offered the last bit of chocolate ice cream that she was eating out of the container. I took the container away and threw it out.

What eating habits did you pick up from your parents? What habits are you passing on to your children?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Wishes

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope no matter how bad things might be that you can find something to appreciate and be thankful for.

Thank you for reading and commenting!

Dream: Field Trip Bus Ride

I'm on a school bus with my classmates. We're going on yet another field trip. This is the eighth one so far this year.

I'm wearing a T-shirt and shorts, and I'm wet.

We arrive. It's an up-scale department store. And suddenly it occurs to me what I want to be when I grow up -- a fashion designer! I know that boys don't normally pursue this type of career. But it's what I really want to do, and I'm not making any compromises even if people will make fun of me. I pretty sure that people won't make fun of me, and they'll admire me for my boldness and talent.

It's time to get off the bus. I can't go in the store dressed the way I am. I do have a change of clothes, a heavy red sweat shirt and tan slacks, so I take off the T-shirt and wet shorts. I'm near the back of the bus. I look to the front and see that people have debarked quickly. Soon it's just the driver and her young son who's about five years old.

I say, "Wait for me!" But she drives the bus away from the entrance. I'm not too concerned because I realize that she will simply find a parking spot from which I'll be able to walk to the store.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wednesday Weigh-In 20081126

Today's result is brought to you by Pepperidge Farm cookies, Friendly's Ice Cream and my daughter's 5th grade class, whose Pow-wow project required a large batch of Sioux Indian Pudding.

Waist = 38 & 1/8 "
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dream: Defecting Water Bottle at Band Practice

I'm attending high school band practice as a spectator.  I arrived there with two car loads of band members, whom I'm friends with.

I'm starting to feel thirsty, so I look for my water bottle.  But RD the tenor saxophone player has it.  He rode in the other car.  For some reason my water bottle was in that car, too.

I say, "It looks as though my water bottle has defected.  It would rather be with you than with me."  I'm chipper about it.  RD responds, not in a mean way, "It looks that way."  He chuckles.  But he makes no effort to return it or even apologize or ask to use it.

Although I'm disappointed, I am not angry.  These are my friends, and what's mine is theirs.  Besides, playing saxophone must make one extremely thirsty.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

From MS to Spinal Stenosis

After my wife's attack of Transverse Myelitis in September 2006, the follow up visits with her neurologists consisted of ...
  • Cursory reflex and strength tests.
  • Discussions of pain med dosage.
  • Comments like, "You probably have MS."
But the most recent visit went like this ...
  • Cursory reflex and strength tests.
  • Discussions of pain med dosage.
  • Comments like, "You probably don't have MS."
This time, we actually had an MRI we could look at and actually see Spinal Stenosis.

My wife is still reeling from this new development. After more than two years of hearing about how she harbors rare, inexplicable and incurable diseases, we now have something that's common and treatable. So on the one hand, she's certainly glad that she not under the sentence of MS. However, she's extremely apprehensive about having surgery to remove the impinging tissue.

There's also the uncertainty of how much pain is caused by the lingering effect of myelitis, and how much is due to the stenosis. If she knew that an operation would mean that she could stop taking Neurontin, Baclofen, Cymbalta and Ultram, she'd probably be hopeful. But suppose she undergoes a successful operation and still has the same pain as before?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wednesday Weigh-In 20081119

After one week of trying to avoid the sugary / starchy snacks, but eating more beef products, I come in 1.5lbs lighter and 1% less fatty. But a change from 20% fat to 19% could be just 0.1% difference due to rounding. Perhaps I was at 19.5% last week and am now 19.4%.

Also, as I was measuring my waist, I noticed that the measuring tape doesn't start at zero. So last week's measurement was 38 & 3/8 " which means I lost 1/8"....

Waist = 38 & 1/4 "
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Dream: Hawk Feathers

I'm in a wooded area next to a wood pile.  I notice a dead mouse on top of a pointy fence post.  I figure some cat must've caught it and left it there.

I come back to this spot after a little while and notice hawk feathers on the ground.  Some cat or cats must've attacked and killed it.  I start to pick up the feathers.  The second one is broken near the base and has blood on it.  The cats that did this must've been true Warrior Cats.  But why did they leave the mouse?  I decide to remove the mouse to a less prominent place.  I pick it up by pinching the skin of its back, and I'm surprised to find out that it's alive.  It was just stuck there.  So I let it go onto the ground.

My dog is snuffling about in the heavy cover of crunchy dead oak leaves.  I notice his keen interest in something.  Sure enough, he discovers a treasure -- the rotting corpse of a large rodent, a squirrel or rabbit perhaps.  I grab him and try to force him to drop it.  I can tell he loves this "game."  It's the "Pick Up Something I'm Not Supposed to Have and Keep it Away From the Humans" game.  Eventually, I get him to drop the disgusting carcass.

Fascinating Dolphins

In this video, dolphins are playing with "bubble rings" that they make themselves.

Read Mystery of the Silver Rings for a wonderful explanation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pemmican Serendipity

Our daughter's class is doing a project on Native Americans.  Her role is to help research the foods Native Americans ate.  That includes bringing in some sample food items to share.

This is right up my wife's alley.  She was born to be the Classroom Snack Provider.  But she didn't like the idea of making Pemmican.  She decided that we (meaning I) would order it online.

Her search led her to the US Wellness Meats website, which, unbeknown to her, I had been secretly fantasizing about.  She left it to me to place the order.

I figured that 6 pemmican bars could be cut into enough pieces to satisfy our daughter's class, and I ordered two for myself, because I'm supposed to be eating high protein, low carb foods anyway.

Then I noticed the minimum order requirements of 7 pounds and $80, which meant I had to order about 6.5 more pounds of product.  Delighted, but feigning frustration, I said to my wife that I'd have to order more stuff.  "Okay," she said grudgingly.

I proceeded to order some "safe" items like ground beef, burger patties, sausage.  These are safe because they're things my entire family tend to eat.  Then I allowed myself the extravagance of a pound of ground lamb, which I'll probably use to make breakfast sausages.

I've been eating the pemmican because, as my good luck would allow, the teacher wanted only home-made stuff.  The only way this could get better would be if the teacher felt bad that we ordered it and decided to reimburse us for the expense.

Anyway, if you've never had pemmican before, let me describe it.  Imagine eating a pat of lumpy butter that has a meaty flavor, with an aroma tending toward high quality dog treats.  It certainly isn't the best thing I've tasted.  But it has the advantage of making my wife and daughter scream from the room if I offer them some.  After all, what good is a tasty snack if someone else has already eaten it on you?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dream: The Bus Crash That Never Comes

I'm a passenger on a bus that's being driven by two people.  The man in front at the steering wheel is steering the bus.  But there's another driver in the back who is operating the throttle.  I wonder how he can tell how fast he should go if he's way in the back.  He can't see the road or traffic!

It seems the bus is going too fast, and yet it keeps accelerating.  I'm sure that a crash is imminent.

As we navigate a left bend, my perspective shifts suddenly so that I can see the bus from outside it.  I watch with trepidation as the bus approaches an overpass and starts to veer off the road.  This is it.  It's the worst possible scenario.  Not only are we going off the road, but we're going to plunge several dozen feet and smash into a cement bridge support.

I'm back inside now, knowing that we're plunging, yet there's no sensation of falling.  I don't really know how to brace myself.  I turn to face the back of the bus.  I just wait for the explosive impact and hope I don't suffer.  And I wait some more and wonder why it's taking so long.

It seems we're frozen in time.  Our progress must've been slowed somehow by soft branches.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sake, Ikura Sushimi and Quail Egg

The highlight of my trip to NYC yesterday was my lunch at Monster Sushi.  I had:
  • Hamachinegi, which is a cut roll with Yellowtail and chopped scallions.
  • Sake Sushimi, or Salmon without rice.
  • Ikura, which is Salmon caviar.  It was presented in a cup carved out of a cucumber and topped with a...
  • Quail Egg
I wish I had a picture of it.

Salmon Caviar looks like translucent pink pearls that are about the size of green peas. When you bite them, they burst open in a delightful manner and release a vaguely pleasant salty liquid. The shell itself disappears. My daughter was actually willing to try one. In fact, she asked for more, twice.

She also asked whether it was a good idea to eat the eggs of a fish.  She was concerned that the salmon wouldn't have babies.  It made me pause for just a moment.  But I was so enamored of my treasure, any concern I had evaporated quickly.  I rationalized that salmon are an abundant species and that many eggs are eaten by predators in the wild anyway.  Besides, we (humans as a whole) consume a vast amount of chicken eggs.

I ordered the quail egg as an option.  The Quail Egg is a GenoType Diet Explorer Superfood, so I wanted to try one for nearly a year.  I don't think it added any flavor.  But since it was raw, it served partly as a decoration and partly as a sort of gravy.

The service was really quick, even right at lunch time. And I got plenty of ginger and wasabi, too.

They don't call this "serving food."  They call it "Culinary Arts."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Holiday Card Project

After yesterday's bout with extreme self-absorption, it's time for me to switch gears and think about the needs of others.

deviantART is kicking off its 5th annual Holiday Card Project.

In a nutshell, you make (or buy) holiday cards and send it/them to DeviantArt, who will then distribute them to hospital patients.

Quoting from the website:
What is the deviantART Holiday Card Project?
The purpose of the Holiday Card Project is to have deviants [members] create holiday cards for people who are hospitalized during the holiday season. The idea behind the project is to simply try and bring a little cheer to those who are undergoing hospital stay.
You don't need to be a member of deviantART to participate. Come to think of it, you could just send your holiday cards directly to your local hospitals and nursing homes.

And you can spread the word!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

OMG I'm Friggin' Fat!

Yesterday I unveiled my Wednesday Weigh-In.  And Petra was kind enough to comment that the post didn't really tell her what kind of shape I'm in.  So I decided to add my height and waist measurements.  I figured I'd just measure my waist this morning and quietly edit yesterday's post.

That was before I saw that my waist is 4" bigger than I expected!  WTF!

Okay, I know that my 34" waist pants are a big snugger and my muffin top would alarm any competent cardiologist.  But 38"?  That's serious fatness!

I suppose I might not be pulling the tape tight enough.  I was able to get it down to 37" with just slight tautness.  And I breathe diaphragmatically, like a good singer does (but I sing like a bad one), so my girth changes constantly.

Or maybe the tape, being cloth, somehow got in the wash and shrunk about 10%.  Yes, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the measurement is in error.  You believe me, don't you?

Oh well.  It is what it is.  I know my readers will appreciate the honesty and motivate me to slim down.

Thank you.

(As I select tags for this, I'm tempted to choose "Personal Growth" just for hahas.)

Dream: The Glowing Skull From The Library

I'm at the university library checking out a book.  There's an intriguing skull on the counter.  It's not real.  It has plastic lights in the eyes.  I notice that it's available for checkout, so I check it out.  The librarian warns me that the late fee is very steep.  And if I lose it, the fine is tremendous.  So be very careful with it.  Then I realize that I had a lot of stuff to haul around.  This skull is going to be very hard to carry.

Well, I put my library card away, take the book and all my gear, and I exit the library.  After going about twenty feet, I realize with horror that I left the skull in the library on the counter!  Crap.  So I walk back with a rather quick pace and find with much relief that it was still there.

So I take it and resolve to be more careful.

Now I'm crossing a field with some friends.  The skull is proving to be a burden.  I wish I didn't borrow it.  I have a wagon, so I arrange my belongings to make them easier to carry.  Then I continue walking.  After a while, I become aware that I again don't have the skull.  Crap.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday Weigh-In 20081112

Here's a new weekly feature, where-in I make my weight public knowledge. The idea is if I know I have to reveal weight increases, I might stop binging on those sugary after-supper treats. I might even lose weight.

So feel free to check in each week to see how I'm doing!

Waist = 38& 3/8 "
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Edited on 20081113 to add waist & height measurements and the note about the Javascript requirement.

Edited on 20081119 to add 3/8" to waist measurement to account for the fact that the measuring tape doesn't start at 0.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Design Your Own Internet Radio Station

Imagine if you could go to a website, enter the name of your favorite song, and have that website play that song and others like it.

Well, you don't have to imagine it. The website will let you do this for free. And it works for your favorite bands, too!  Try it!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dream: In a Trance at Group Therapy

I'm in bed trying to sleep.  I'm supposed to get up early for an appointment.  I wake up too early several times and sleep poorly.  Then I wake up, and I'm shocked to find that it's 1:20 in the afternoon!  Crap!  Why didn't anyone wake me? I get ready and go to my appointment anyway.

It turns out to be some sort of new-age group therapy session.  I'm sitting at a table in a classroom with a few others.  The instructor wants us to meditate.  I completely relax and go into a trance-like state.

After about a minute the instructor asks us to come back out of our meditations.  I open my eyes but the instructor doesn't seem ready for people to open their eyes yet.  It's like she's getting a surprise ready.  I wonder what the surprise might be.

And then I see it.  The entire classroom has relocated.  A large passage opens in a wall (it's more like a garage door, I suppose) revealing a pleasant courtyard.  Wow, that's a nice trick.

[The beginning of this mirrored real life.  I did have an appointment, and I was waking up and slept poorly.  But I got up at the usual time and got to my appointment in time (dentist).  Oversleeping is not an option when you have a vocal cat with a big appetite.]

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wake Up -- Freak Out

I hope you have time to watch this video.

Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

Mainly it discusses how positive feedback loops can cause Earth's temperature to reach a tipping point beyond which it may be too late to keep it from rising to levels that would drastically alter Life.

But that's not why I like the video. I like it because of its message that "we simply need to consume less."

But [consuming less] is out of the question in a society which is founded on the ever-increasing consumption of materials and energy [my emphasis].

Nobody has all of the answers; but we do know that this is not the only way to live, and given that it is almost certainly going to kill us all, we had better start looking urgently at some of the alternatives. It is now very clear that in order to actually win the fight against climate change, making big changes to the way we each live our own lives is not going to be enough; we’re also going to have to actively confront powerful vested interests who will stop at nothing to prevent the changes we need from taking place [my emphasis]. We have to be more than just consumers.

- Leo Murray's Script for Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip.

Also, near the end, you can find images of rampant consumerism. Extremely fat corporate types ride on the bent backs of spindly citizens. Video monitors (presumably showing commercial television programming) are dangled in front like carrots to keep the citizens moving. This is set up by showing a member of Congress with his greedy corporate-pig friend.

It's a great illustration of the modern form of slavery you and I are trapped in. We have been brainwashed to want a large home, two big, gas-guzzling SUVs, all sorts of electronic gadgetry that needs to be replaced every year or two, and new fashions every year. So we're willing to work at jobs whose wages consistently fail to keep pace with the cost of living. We work harder and harder and have less and less to show for it. Meanwhile, the fat pigs of corporate America get richer and richer.

Now we have to bail them out. It's amazing that this video came out before the need for the bailout.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Kreativ Blogger Award

On October 31, Kerry awarded this blog with the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thank you so much!

Kerry writes a blog called LEMON-AIDE and received the award from Maureen at Being Chronically Ill is a Pill. This award comes with the condition that recipients share six things that make them happy and pass the award onto six of their favorite blogs.

I tried looking for the originator of this award to link back to that person's blog. Unfortunately, that turned into a huge time sink and proved fruitless. So I'm posting this now (before I waste more time), and if I find out more, I'll update the post.

As I try to think about what makes me happy, I end up thinking about what I'm grateful for. I suppose I'm grateful for the things that make me happy:
  1. I'm happy when I'm with my family and friends, and they're healthy and happy.
  2. I'm happy to get a steady paycheck each week that meets our needs.
  3. I'm happy when I'm hiking and working out.
  4. I'm happy that I exchanged "I love you" with my parents before they died.
  5. I'm happy when I write or draw something that seems nice.
  6. I'm happy when I help people and they appreciate it.
I'm awarding this to these 6 blogs:
  1. Karen Caterson's Square-Peg Reflections
  2. Jenny Ryan's Using My Powers For Good
  3. Cardiogirl: 19% body fat 100% fun
  4. The Dark Side of the Moon
  5. Lynne Morrell's Musings for the Soul
  6. Transforming Stress Into Personal Power
One more thing... Horay!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Changing Times

In most parts of the USA, Sunday was also the day we revert from Daylight Savings time back to Standard time.

Personally, I'm trying to stay on Daylight Savings time. I'm perpetually late, so the extra hour puts me back in the running. Besides, my job has flexible hours, so I work during whatever eight hours I happen to be there at.

I don't use an alarm clock. I just awaken naturally by noticing the sky getting brighter. Lately I've been prone to getting up later and later each day. Thanks to the time change, I now get up an hour earlier.

In past years, I've tried to sleep for another hour, but I couldn't do it. My sleep cycles run for an hour and a half, so I'd end up sleeping for another 90 minutes or forcing myself to get up after that extra hour and feeling extra tired.

I just need to go to bed at a reasonable time, and not squander that extra hour reading, surfing the web or playing my daughter's video games.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Life in Heaven

Christians celebrated All Saints Day today. We remember the dead, especially those who departed in the past 12 months (since the previous All Saints Day).

Our Pastor based his sermon on the civil war poem, "The Faded Coat of Blue," by J. H. McNaughton. The chorus is:
No more the bugle calls the weary one.
   Rest, noble spirit, in thy grave unknown.
I'll find you and know you among the good and true
   When a robe of white is given for the faded coat of blue.
It made me wonder again about Heaven, something I haven't done in a very long time.  What if I get to Heaven and someone whom I never liked finds me?  Will I still dislike that person?  Or what if I find someone who doesn't like me?

When I find my mother and father, how will they appear?  What age will they seem like?  I last saw them weakened and broken by disease.  They won't be like that in Heaven, right?  Are they still going to argue?

Then I started to wonder about pain.  Do we really know what sensations we'll experience in Heaven?  Will my wife's pain really leave her when she dies?  I realize that sounds silly.  Most people believe that pain is of the body, which the soul leaves to enter Heaven.  But when you live with chronic pain, it takes over your life.  How can anyone be sure it won't take over your death, too.

Dream: Joy to the World Calvacade

I'm viewing on the computer a home movie that my cousin K sent to me.  Apparently it's a celebration, perhaps the wedding of one of her children.  My uncle D is very happy and energized.  He's about 75 years old, yet he's running down a steep hill like a teenager.

Now I'm at the celebration.  I live in another state, so I'm ready to make the long drive home.  Many other family members are there, but they're not leaving; they're going to another place to continue the celebration.  As I drive away, the others follow me in their cars.

I hear them sing "Joy to the World."  They sing the second verse, which starts, "God save the Queen..."  I don't recall that those are the proper words.  Yet everyone sings them, and I wonder how they can drive and sing at the same time.  I'd have to read the lyrics off a sheet of paper, not an easy feat while driving.

Personal Growth (Part 1)

Friday is the day Cardiogirl delves into her Book of Questions and writes a thought-provoking post, one that encourages her readers to respond.

Last week's question was about personal growth.  In what three year period did you grow most?

I chose not to answer. I explained that "Square Pegs are constantly in a state of re-evaluation and growth due to the insecurity of not fitting in." Besides, her comment box is too small, and I didn't want to take two hours of my work day to answer. It might've taken me most of that time just to decide which burst of personal growth was my greatest.

But now it's Saturday night, our daughter's in bed (and so's the wife) and I'm primed for a wild night of introspection! Yet, I don't plan to describe my greatest period of personal growth. I want to list them all and let you decide!

Our first candidate arose from a traumatic event. In a previous post, the first "Why Meditate" post, I describe the car crash and how it caused me to question consciousness and start meditating. I also started doing yoga and karate, and I stopped eating meat.

Candidate number two involves adversity. After my father was diagnosed with ALS, I started to go to school part time to get a degree in engineering. He died about a year and a half after I started school. But I continued to work full time and go to school part time, which was made easier because I was still living with my mother. Then, two years later I quit work to go to school full time, although I worked full time at temp jobs during the summers. In a previous post called The Way of the Peaceful Warrior I wrote about the period leading up to graduation. Therapy helped me through that time. And with a B.S. degree, I started my new life by moving into my own apartment. To me that felt like stepping off a cliff and trusting that I would stay afloat.

Candidate number three involves the birth of a child, our daughter. I wrote a little bit about this in a previous post called, "How to Change the World." Before our daughter was born, my wife and I were both working. I was brought up a frugal saver, so I only spent money on things I needed, but only when I thought the store was losing money on it. I was working and saving for my retirement. Although we were paying off a mortgage, I still felt that if I got tired of my career I could cop out and slack off with a less demanding job. That all changed very quickly when our daughter was born. Suddenly I had a life insurance policy and someone to provide for.

The last candidate, number four, will be the subject of another post. It's a delicate subject, even for this anonymous blog.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dream: At the Pool Without a Swimsuit

I'm with K, my daughter's friend's father.  But I'm a boy, and he's the parent in charge of me.  We're at a health club that also has outdoor facilities, including a pool.

K encourages me to go swimming.  I tell him that I didn't bring a change of clothes.  He says to go ahead, and he'll go to my home and get my clothes.  Then I tell him that I don't have a bathing suit either. I also wonder to myself (with the mind of a grown-up) how he will enter the home and find where my clothes are located. And I wonder where his kids are and whether I should look after them.

No matter.  The weather has turned cloudy and windy.  A storm is imminent. Yet, I think I can borrow a swimsuit from the health club and go swimming. I don't care about the weather. I would swim if I can get a suit.

But now I see that the pool is closed. Someone actually pulled a tarp over the pool. I see a boy jump onto the tarp. He shouldn't do that. Someone should tell him to get off. He might puncture the tarp and fall in.

Analysis: K's daughter, T, is someone whom we often have over or take on outings. Her mom spends most of the time in bed and sometimes doesn't provide meals for her family. So K works all day, and he has to prepare meals and entertainment. This dream features a sort of role-reversal wherein I become T and K becomes me.

Dream: Really Long Woodwind Instruments

I'm in a department store.  There are several musicians lined up.  They are all playing things that look like bassoons, except these instruments are much longer.  The musicians are standing, but their instruments are a few feet taller than they are.  There's also a piano player.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Simple Relief of Asthma and Sinusitis

You can relieve asthma and sinusitis simply by using a Neti Pot to irrigate your sinuses.

You fill the Neti Pot with warm salt water, turn your head to the side and just slightly face up, and place the Neti Pot tip into the upper nostril. Press it close and then tip the pot up so the salt water flows into the upper nostril and then back out of the lower.1 The water will loosen mucus2 and wash away dust and pollen.

It's a relief to expel the thick mucus and to be rid of the pressure it causes. This helps keep away chest congestion, too, because there's less mucus and pollutants draining into your bronchial tubes.

You can buy a Neti Pot on I use a ceramic pot from Himalayan Institute. Mix a quarter teaspoon of salt with 8oz. of warm water to make the salt water. Be sure to use iodine-free salt. Kosher salt and sea salt work well.

1 It might take a little trial and error to get the head and pot positioned so that the flow starts. You could be so congested that the water can't get through, in which case you might take a Sudaphed to open things up a bit.

2 "Mucus" has got to be the worst word I've used in this blog so far. I hated writing this post because of it. I almost stopped writing because I figured people would stop reading at about this point.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

How to Change the World

Every so often I read a post by someone who wants to change the world.  Usually the writer is a teenager or young adult.  Here's how I usually respond:
There isn't just one world. There are millions of little worlds. They're the bubbles each of us live in. Even though you're relatively young, I can guarantee that you've changed several worlds already:
  • Has anyone ever admired any of your artwork or blog posts?
  • Have you helped anyone with school work?
  • Have you consoled a friend through a difficult time?
  • Have you loved someone?
  • Have you been born?
That last one might seem like a stretch. But think about it from a different perspective -- you reinvented your parents' world.  You rocked their world. I know that because my daughter did that to my world. I no longer went to work just to save for retirement; instead I went to work to give her the best possible future.

I do know what you mean -- you wish you could change the entire world, like end poverty and war, or get people to stop wasting so much fossil fuel. I want that, too. But really, World Change starts with each of us looking after ourselves first and then our family and neighbors.

You're an amazing person. I hope your spirit inspires others to be like you!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dream: Dorky Dad at the Movies

I'm in a large movie theater watching a movie. My daughter is there, too. But she's sitting somewhere else. I'm sitting next to a boy.

I laugh at a part near the end of the movie. But it's a corny scene, not good enough for the sophisticated young teens to laugh at.

I'm pretty sure my daughter's embarrassed at me.

The movie is over and I'm shopping for confirmation dresses with my daughter. She has tried on two dresses that are all white. She has tried on the largest size. Apparently they don't make them for teenage girls. So we'll have to buy one of these and hope she doesn't grow out of it by February. Or we'll have to buy a wedding dress.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If This Were My Wife's Blog...

I keep trying to get my wife to start a blog. When I come home from work, I hear stories like this:
I went to see the new neurologist today. (The previous neurologists were merely residents at this teaching university. Not only did they not help her, she'd get a new one every six months and have to explain everything to him all over, at the end of which he would say, "You probably have MS. Let us know when you can't walk." This all changed when she called and insisted to see the head doctor. "Oh, you have good insurance!" said the receptionist's supervisor. "I can get you in with Dr. M. next Monday. He's a regular doctor, I promise.")

I get there (10:30), and they call my name after about five minutes. So I go in one of the exam rooms and wait. And I'm waiting. And waiting. After about 45 minutes, I start to wonder whether I should open the door to see what's up, and the doctor looks in and says, "Oh, I didn't know I had a patient booked!"

So he does some tests. Like he rubs alcohol on my leg and asks if I have any strange sensations. "No," I told him, "it just feels cold." "Then you don't have neuropathy," he says.

Then he did the knee reflex test. When he hit my knee, my leg kicked. I thought that was a good thing. But he said no, it indicates a nerve problem.

He listened to my symptoms and he said he thinks I have MS. He wanted to admit me to the hospital right then and give me IV steroid treatment. Of course I refused. He was very good about it and funny. He said he didn't blame me -- hospitals aren't a good place to be.

He gave me samples of a new med. It's supposed to be a substitute for Zoloft, plus it has pain killer. (The expiration date on the bottle is 10/2007.)

He wants me to get an MRI. And he sent me off for a blood test.

So I walk over to the blood lab and hand them the requisition. There's no one else waiting, but I sit down. After a few minutes, a technician comes up to me with the requisition and points to a code and asks, "Do you know what this is for?" "No, I don't." "I'll have to call the doctor then."

More time goes by. Then a different technician comes up to me with the requisition and points to a diagnosis code and asks, "Do you know what this is for?" "No, I don't." "I'll have to call the doctor then." "That's what the other technician said! How much longer will this take?" "About ten minutes. I could take some blood now, but then you'd have to come back for the remaining test." "I'd rather get it done all at once."

Even more time goes by. Yet a third technician comes up to me with the requisition and points to a diagnosis code and asks, "Do you know what this is for?" "No, I don't." "I'll have to call the doctor then." "Two other people told me the same thing. Let me try to call him. I really don't want to have to come back."

But there's no signal on my cell phone. The technician invites me to use her phone. "Wait, let me dial it for you." Eventually, I get someone to fax the information over. Apparently it's a special test that's done at the Mayo clinic. "Haven't you ever seen the code before?" "No we haven't." "Well, now that you have the information, you should file it so you don't have to track down the doctor when you need to do it again." "That's a good idea. We do have a file for this sort of thing." This is a teaching hospital, supposedly doing lots of research.

Finally, someone draws the blood. I get out of there at 1:30.

I get home and I get a call from "Tim" from the blood draw lab. He let's out a big sigh. "I don't like the sound of that sigh. What's wrong?" "We forgot to label two of your vials. You'll have to come back to have them redrawn."
This is a typical story, believe it or not. As stress is a trigger for MS, folks like my wife are supposed to lead stress-free lives. That would seem to be impossible as long as we're stuck with this university.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dream: Shower at Daughter's School

I'm taking a shower.  But I'm not at home.  I'm in a public facility, and it's a family shower area.  I know this because I see girls here.

And then I realize that the girls are staring at me while I shower.  I turn my back on them.  It's not that I'm embarrassed.  Rather, I think it's highly inappropriate for them to see full frontal male nudity, especially since they're staring at It.  I continue with my shower.

It's later and I'm in the guidance counselor's office.  My daughter has left some materials, like a folder and notebook.  I'm waiting for the end of school.  She's supposed to meet me here so that I can take her home.

Meanwhile, a female guidance counselor is holding the notebook and reading it.  She's commenting about the content aloud.  But she thinks the student is a boy.  The comments are positive.

A male counselor stands behind a counter, as if he's selling tickets or collecting at a tool booth.  He says to me, "Do you hear what she's saying about your daughter?" He's referring to the other counselor.  He wants me to know how well my daughter is doing.

I say to him that I think she's talking about someone else because she's referring to a boy.  But inside, I know that she is commenting about my daughter's school work.

The students have been dismissed.  I see a flood of students walking past the door.  I wonder if my daughter will remember to meet me here.  I watch carefully, trying to see her.  But there are too many students, so I pay less attention to them, and I hope she remembers to show up.  Besides, if I did see her, all I'd be able to do is follow her to the bus.  She wouldn't hear me call out to her.  Nor would she be able to stop, turn, and walk back against the flow of traffic.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dream: Defective Mirror

I'm in an old house that has been converted into a bar and grill. It's dark and wooden, except for an air duct that's aluminum or galvanized steel and foil. I'm walking around trying to find my way.

Finally, I find some people to help me. I show them a mirror that I bought there a couple of years ago. It's about 9 by 7 inches with a gold frame. The silver backing has eroded in several spots. Most of the spots are about the size of baby green peas. But one is a bit larger, about the size of a nickel.

They agree that it's a problem.

I also have some sheets of artwork that I did in high school. They start to look at it. They appear to think it's another thing they need to deal with. But I tell them that it's mine. Then they start to admire it. I think they might be willing to buy it. I was planning to throw it all away. But now I shift into "shrewd mode." Instead of being honest and letting them take it, I act a bit defensive about letting it go. I want them to make me an offer I can't refuse.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Day I Almost Lost the Car

Today we went on a hike to a local promontory. It was extremely crowded because of a fundraiser that was heavily advertised. Normally we avoid the place when it's crowded. But for some reason my wife wanted to us to squeeze ourselves into the place.

Parking was terrible, and no police were around to help folks who parked on the opposite side of the busy, two-lane state highway.

I found a grassy spot to parallel park, thanks to the patient driver behind me. Then we crossed the road and hiked for about ten minutes to enter the park and reach the trail head.

We climbed the short but steep rocky trail. Our normally sluggish daughter out-paced us. We joked that it was because she was afraid there would be no sweets left by the time we arrived. That's our daughter -- Kung-Fu Panda girl! The other explanation is that she's starting her oppositional teenage years and wanted to match our snail pace with mountain goat-like swiftness. On other walks, she has stumbled along behind us like a zombie, making us wonder whose genes she inherited.

Well, I carried the backpack and walked beside and a bit behind my wife, with my hand on her back. It wasn't meant to be romantic as much as it was functional. I was applying constant force with my hand, pushing her up the incline. Her chest burned from asthma, and her legs burned from neuropathic pain.

We reached the summit, pausing only a few times to take photos of the view. My wife and daughter made their way to the treats table and came away with a nice healthy cheeseburger for my daughter. They sat at a picnic table and sent me back for something to buy with the remaining two tickets. The request was for donuts, but we had to settle for an ice cream sandwich. This was for my daughter, who had nearly polished off the cheeseburger by the time I returned.

I chewed on my Cliff bar and drank water. I then used the empty restroom that was attached to the building, rather than one of the port-a-potties that folks were lined up in front of. As I headed back, I told them about the restrooms.

Eventually we headed back down. This time I took the lead because the faster pace was easier on my knees. When we reached the trail head, my wife decided that she and daughter would wait while I should go get the car. The parking area was thinning out quickly, so it would be no trouble to bring the car in. No trouble, that is, unless you can't find the car.

That's right. I couldn't find the car. And all I had to do was cross the road and walk along it until I came to the place where I parallel parked. But I kept walking and walking, crossing side streets that I didn't remember crossing before.

I walked until I could see no more cars. I turned around and walked back up, wondering which group of passersby I should ask to call the police. I imagined myself reporting the car theft to the police:

"I parked it on this side of the road. It was behind a dark blue mini-van." I recited the make, model, color and year of the car. I even remembered the license plate, which I was amazed at. (But maybe I shouldn't be. When you're so cheap that you drive the same car for several years and then reuse the plates on the next used car you buy, the plate numbers tend to stick in your mind.)

Then I started to worry about what my wife would say. She left her pocketbook in the car. And even though I wasn't the one who decided to go on the hike, it would be my fault that the car was stolen. I hope the police officer would be the one to break the news to her.

It did dawn on me that I might've walked by the car without noticing it. But to me, that was even worse than it being stolen. How could I have walked past it and not see it? I'm supposed to be observant and mindful.

I resigned to hope that I would find it on the way back. And sure enough, there it was, about halfway back up the road. I wondered if my wife and daughter had gotten impatient and started to walk to the car. I doubt if they'd get to it before me. But as I drove back, I watched carefully to make sure I didn't pass them if they were walking back. I already missed the car pretty effortlessly. It would be a breeze to drive by my wife and daughter.

I delivered the briefly-missing car safe and sound. I was too shook up to think of a good excuse for my long absence. So when my wife predictably asked me what took so long, I said simply, "I couldn't find it. I walked right by it."

I won't describe the scorn with which my wife responded. Defensively, I blurted, "I think I had a seizure. Why else would I completely miss the car?"

"How about because you're stupid!"

"No seriously, what about two weeks ago when I drove right by our exit? I think I had a seizure then, too."

"I do that, too. You just need to pay more attention."

"But it's a huge, two lane exit! You can't miss it!"

"So go tell your doctor that you're having seizures." The intensity with which she rolled her eyes told me she thought I was an idiot. And I wasn't even looking at her because I was driving.

And now for some questions. Did I have a seizure? Or is this just an attention disorder? How much does it cost to get fitted for an ankle bracelet?

Dream: It's Not Cool to Wait For the Bus

It's the first day of school.  I'm riding a motorcycle right into the bus circle that's in front of the school.  But I have to drive very slowly because everyone else is walking.

The are two lines of kids.  I get behind the line on the left.  It goes past the one on the right.

We never do enter the school.  Instead, we walk along the bus circle to where the buses are supposed to pick us up.

We wait and wait.  Finally, with the perspective of an adult that has more self-determination than a child, I decide to leave on my own before the bus arrives.

Somehow, the motorcycle I had is gone.  Instead I start walking.  At first I figure I might be able to get on the bus if it passes me before I get home.  But then I realize that's not likely to happen.

It's a really long walk, too, like my commute from my work place.  But I just keep walking.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Yes, I Am a Guy

Soon after I started this blog I ego-surfed. I Googled "Square Peg" and "Square Peg Round Hole" because I was curious if there were other blogs like this. I found a gem of a website, Karen Caterson's Square-Peg-People. It's not like this site -- it's much, much better.

Not only did I start reading Karen's blog regularly, I visited the blogs of those who commented on hers. I enjoyed many: Entertaining Stories From Everyday Life by Jenny Ryan, Lynne Morrell's Musings for the Soul, Cardiogirl: 19% body fat 100% fun, Slywy's The Dark Side of the Moon, for example.

I started to comment on them, using the handle "Square Peg". But Karen also commented on them, using her handle "Square Peg Person." Pretty soon an astute blogger noticed that similar-named people had two blogs with similar names but different content. That blogger started to wonder if Karen were leading a double life.

Unfortunately, the dull truth is that there really are two distinct individuals who call themselves "Square Peg." And this one should've used a unique enough handle for comments so as to prevent this kind of misunderstanding.

So from now on, I'll sign blogs that I comment on "Square Peg Guy." Also I've updated my About section to make my gender a bit more obvious. And in case you were wondering, that's my real nose, glasses and mustache!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Guys Just Want to Have Fun

On Monday Petra Wise "The Wise (*Young*) Mommy" wrote about ovulation. I enjoyed every word.

It was her first ovulation after stopping birth control. The account of how she tried (unsuccessfully) to get her husband to conceive their next child(ren) almost inspired me to respond, "I would've given in right away."

But I didn't write that, and I'm glad. It was the way my horny hormones wanted to respond. The fact is that the worst sex I've ever had was when my wife wanted to conceive. Thankfully, it was only once.1

Because for a guy, the meaning of sex changes when conception is the goal. It suddenly stops being fun. One day you're holding back from getting the new sheets spotted, the next you're trying to perform. One day you're sneaking it in and pulling back just before it's too late, the next you're almost forcing it to happen.

Making love is fun; making babies is not.

Ironically, once my wife found out that she was pregnant, sex was fun again. Why? "Because," I told myself, "she can't get pregnant, again."

So I'm sorry Petra. You're beautiful even with the tattoos. But I'm not available right now.

1 Yes, my wife got pregnant on the first try. She said later that if she knew how easy it was, she would've waited another year. But nearly everyone else around her was having so much trouble getting pregnant, she was worried it would be difficult. Not me. I figured I'd be buying baby furniture and losing that second income real soon.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dream: Yet Another Prescription Without a Diagnosis

I'm at a new doctor. He has a simple procedure for me to follow. I simply have to hold my head still and trace my eyes along the rims of his outrageously weird glasses.

So I make circles with my eyes looking to the extreme left. Then I make my eyes follow the arc up and to the center and then down to make circles at the center. Finally, I scan up and to the right again, following the right hand arc, and I do more circles with my eyes at the extreme right side of my vision.

As soon as I'm done, he says that he sees the problem, and he gives me some pills for it. But he won't tell me what the pills are for or what I have.

I wish I had one doctor who could tell me everything that's wrong with me and give me a diagnosis. This is really frustrating.

Dream: Canal Journey

I'm a crew member of a boat.  We're traveling in a long canal.

There is no wind, so we need to get out into the water and pull the boat.  There are cables that we can grab onto.

The whole area appears to be a bright interior, like a marble hall in part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Now we need to turn around and go back.  We can ride in the boat for this.  I've done this route a few times, but we're taking a different path.  I know we go downhill, but I suddenly see that this path is a great deal steeper.  It looks like we're at the top of an escalator, with the two moving handrails.  But this is even steeper than a typical escalator.  It's almost a sheer dropoff.

But we're going down before I can react.  And it's actually very fun!

We get to our destination very quickly.  It's actually a supermarket.

Dream: Nasty Neighbor

I'm a boy in my old neighborhood.  I'm hanging out with my friend John.  Everything seems quite normal except that we're standing in front of Miss Marie's house.  Usually we play in his backyard or mine.  And there are bullies further down the road, so we wouldn't normally be here without a grown up.

A woman approaches.  It is the nasty neighbor.  Everyone around here knows she likes to cause trouble.  She stands in front of John and me and tells him she knows what really happened when he was born.  "Didn't anyone tell you?" she sneers.  I'm thinking she's going to say he was switched at birth with some other baby.  But she never does say what happened.  We wouldn't believe her, anyway.

I stare at her right eye and cheek bone.  She almost looks Asian.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Second Pet

This is a continuation of My First Pet...

About two years after giving away my first cat because of asthma, my cat-loving girlfriend and I got married and moved into a house. At first she was resigned to not having a cat. But after trying to put up with me for a few months, she was clearly unhappy.

So we struck a compromise. We would get a cat and keep it in the lower level of the house. I figured that by being in a house that was larger than the apartment in which I couldn't breathe, I might not have trouble with allergies. Also, I had been getting allergy shots for two years, and I was taking medicine to control the allergies. Besides, the woman we bought the house from had a cat in the house.

This actually worked out pretty well. My breathing wasn't as clear as it should've been, but I wasn't laboring to breathe. And the cat spent time outside, from mid-morning until dusk.

The cat was our baby for a couple of years, an orange and white tabby with white paws. My wife called her "Twinkie." When our real baby came along, Twinkie finally realized that the crib wasn't for her.

The cat didn't like our daughter too much. Our daughter's attempts at petting the cat were met with flattened ears and extended claws.

One windy October day, about one month after 9-11, our daughter came home from pre-school. The cat was not there. But she didn't ask about it until she was a bit older and saw pictures of the cat. By then it was easier to say that the cat was hit by a car and killed. I didn't tell her how the neighbor walked over to tell us. Or how upset her mother was. (My wife vowed she'd never have another cat in that house again.) Or how I placed her stiff body into a copy paper box and then into a hole I'd dug into the ground.

I showed our daughter the grave, which I marked with a small cairn. It was in the center of a square formed by four small trees, except that today only two of those trees still stand. When we would walk by, we'd say a small prayer, "Please God, welcome Twinkie into your Kingdom." I'm not too good with prayers, but our daughter liked that ritual.

Five years later my wife's legs started to feel numb, and she had trouble walking. She was soon admitted into the hospital and treated for transverse myelitis. She was released after four weeks. It was a strange time in our lives. The birds stopped showing up at my wife's bird feeder. But a skittish cat started to show up and run away when we approached it. It was an orange and white tabby, with white paws. I told my second-grade daughter that it was Twinkie, looking for mommy.

That cat visited us every few days, but it would always run away. After my wife came home and resumed walking, the cat stopped showing up.

That's the story of my second pet. But it wasn't the last pet....

Dream: Naked in the Parking Lot

My wife and I are in the parking lot at work. I'm naked for some strange reason. My wife suggests I should put some clothes on. But I tell her that no one's around.

As soon as she leaves, I'm surprised by a large black car that pulls up right in front of me. It's a stretch limousine. It's followed by a small read car. The occupants of the two cars are husband and wife. They want to talk to me.

I realize I'm naked, but I have no way to hide and no way to throw clothes on. So I just accept the fact that I'm naked and somehow stash away my embarrassment.

I face them and meet them.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My First Pet

This post was inspired by Cardiogirl's post, "I will not experience the dog days of Summer, Fall, Winter or Spring"...

I was allergic to cats ever since I can remember.

One day my girlfriend convinced me to get a cat. I told her that I was allergic. She didn't believe me and she insisted that we go to a pet store to at least see if I was still allergic.

So we did and I felt okay. I thought that being in my own apartment (rather than my mother's moth-ball infested house) made me somehow less allergic. One of the kitty critters seemed real interested in me, poking his paw out at me and giving me kitty love eyes. He was a gray tabby fur ball with yellow-green eyes.

So he came home with me. He would sit on my lap and eat supper with me. He insisted on eating everything I ate, even broccoli. I kid you not.

I was glad that I didn't have the itchy watery eyes and the runny nose that I usually get around cats. But every day I found it a bit harder to breathe, even though I kept the cat out of the bedroom.

By the time I started taking Claritin and allergy shots, it was too late. I gave kitty up a month later to a nice young couple.

I felt the heaviness in my chest for a long time. But it was not so much asthma as a broken heart.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Be Mindful of Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk can kill a person slowly. The post Following the Rules on the 28 Years Later blog can give you some idea of how devastating negative self-talk can be.

Mindfulness is a great defense against negative self-talk. If you're aware of your internal dialog, you can begin to challenge it and understand its origins. You'll probably discover that you're trying to live up to someone else's unreasonable expectations. Or you'll be telling yourself that the project you've been thinking about will be laughed at.

Do you feel that something's holding you back? Maybe that something is you!

Tune into your thoughts.

On the Passage of Time

The older we get, the faster time seems to slip by. Perhaps it's because each year, the ratio of that year to our life span gets smaller and smaller.

How Long Has That Been There?

I've done a fair amount of writing about Mindfulness and being in the Here and Now. I wish I could practice what I preach!

Yesterday, my wife and I walked our morning walk in the neighborhood that we lived in since 1995. On the way back I noticed something "odd in a tree" near our neighbor's house. As I got closer I noticed that it was in fact a flag or banner, and not the bloated hawk I thought it was.

It seemed inconceivable to me that a banner would be there, floating among the trees. So I looked more carefully and finally noticed the sturdy utility pole that the banner was mounted on. Apparently, our neighbors have had a utility pole about six feet from their house since before we moved into ours.

Maybe my inability to see the hugely obvious is a result of habitually tuning out all those crass advertisements that bombard us from roadsides and storefronts. Or maybe I'm just messed up.

Anyway, if I don't post for a while, it'll be because I'm out looking for large obvious things on our property. I'll let you know if I find anything.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dream: The Mailman and Love-Making

My wife is in two places at once. She's lying here in bed with me. But she's also at the other end of the room receiving a package from the mailman.

I'm kissing her exposed breasts and also looking at her interact with the mailman. As I look at her standing across the room, I think how sexy she looks. She's wearing a white, short-sleeve jersey with dark blue piping, almost like a baseball uniform. But it's so sexy.

I'm not at all embarrassed about being in bed while the mailman is there. But eventually it occurs to me that the mailman might feel awkward. So, reluctantly, I get up out of bed and walk over to the mailman. My wife is no longer there.

I find out that my wife had told the mailman that we're refusing the package. The box is open, so I close it and tape it shut.

A few minutes go by. The mailman is gone, and I reassess the layout of this apartment. First of all, the door is unlocked, so I lock it. Then I wonder why the bedroom is open to the entrance way. It's not right.

Dream: Fishing While Sitting in the Lake

I'm at the lake with my wife and daughter. I'm sitting in the water on a concrete ledge, with my feet dangling off, not touching the bottom. The water is brown, murky, and it's halfway up my torso. For all I know it could be 100 feet deep.

I have a fishing rod with me, so I decide to cast the lure out and see what happens. I have to be careful not to snag my wife and daughter, so I don't swing the rod very much, and the lure doesn't go out that far. It goes only a few feet to my right.

I reel it back in and try again. This time I cast over to my left, and I manage to get it out about eight feet. The bail hasn't caught the line right, so I'm holding onto it with my fingers, trying to keep it taught. I can tell I've caught something already, and I wonder if this thin line I'm using will hold. It feels like only four pound test.

Finally I manage to set the bail properly, and I can reel in. There definitely is a fish on the end of the line. But it's not giving me much of a fight at all. It rises to the surface. It's a bass, only about 10 inches long, and it appears to be dead. It's curled a bit and listing on its side.

I feel as though I shouldn't have cast the lure. I didn't want to catch any fish. And now I'm stuck with a fish on the end of the line, sitting in very deep water. How am I going to get the fish off the lure? I have no place to set down the rod!

The fish seems to wake up, and it dives down below my feet. Now the line is between my legs. I manage to untangle myself. As I bring the fish back up, I feel something brush against my feet and legs. It feels as though a person is down there grabbing at the fish with his hands.

I feel miserable and exposed. I want to get out of the water.