Friday, December 25, 2009

All I Really Want For Christmas

All I really want for Christmas is to finish the Home Office Project, which involves:
  • Decluttering.
  • Moving out the bookcases.
  • Painting the ceiling.
  • Painting the walls.
  • Rearranging the furniture for auspicious Feng Shui.
  • Getting a special Credenza / Hutch piece to help maintain organization.
The hardest part is the first item, and that's true of every one of my stalled projects. In this case, I had four copy paper boxes full of college notes, many of which had my Social Security number on them. I cleared that out finally, and the boxes and space that they occupied are now used for our daughter's school work and seven years' worth of income tax records.

We went shopping for this special Credenza / Hutch Piece that I have in mind. I haven't seen anything online, or in a showroom, or in a catalog of a showroom that looks promising. So I might have to find an apprentice carpenter to make one for me. Or I might get by with a set of kitchen cabinets and counter plus a homemade bookshelf hutch. I'm not gonna let that slow me down, though.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091223

My employer gave us two extra holidays -- today and tomorrow -- in addition to the days off from Dec 25 to Jan 3 holiday. I'm working hard to declutter the home office, and then paint and then rearrange the furniture with a new (yet to be discovered) credenza / hutch piece with lots of space for bulk storage.

What does this have to do with the old Weight-o-Meter? Exercise. Lifting and carrying of boxes of items for recycling or temporary housing should keep me fit over the holiday vacation.

Waist = 37.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Gift For That Special Abnormal Person

As I was gift shopping for my daughter, I saw this and knew it was the perfect gift, so I ordered it:

But now I'm thinking I should've ordered more than one copy. I can think of several more people who might appreciate it, and of course, it's something I should own. I suspect many of my readers will also find it indispensable.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091216

Today is the 65th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge.

Waist = 37.5"
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 14, 2009

A Girl, Her Dog, and Snow

It may be freezing outside, but this season's first snowfall warmed my heart. That's because our sulking, pre-teen daughter regressed to the happiness of early childhood by going outside to throw snow at the dog. She's done that every winter since she was four years old. She has fun, and the dog loves it, too! Welcome home, baby girl!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday LR Floor

Our living room floor is featured this week. Left leaning shadows from the window frame are crossed by a reflection off the entertainment center glass.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Former Bus Stop Neighbor

Here's an update on the Neighbor With Whom We Used to Share the Same Bus Stop.

A couple of months ago, the father told me that he was concerned about his ability to walk his child across the street to our bus stop in the winter when the snow would line the streets. A few days later he told me he called the bus company and they said they would stop at his house, which is across the street to the house right next door to ours.

So when I noticed that they were waiting at the end of their driveway, I decided we would walk to our next door neighbor's driveway and wait there, right across the street from them. That way the bus would stop only one time in a fifty yard span.

A few days after that, we had heavy rain. We have no sidewalks, and the thin grass along the side of the road was wet and muddy. As well, there was a steady enough stream of cars on the road, so I didn't see a big enough window of opportunity to walk on the road to the other stop until the bus came and stopped traffic for us. Then we walked. But the bus driver said that we didn't have to walk -- he would've stopped for us at our driveway.

When the temperatures got near freezing, our neighbor started to drive his daughter to the end of their driveway. They would wait in the running car, a 4x4 pickup, actually. I've seen other parents do that, and then they would drive away after their children would get out to get on the bus. But our neighbor doesn't do that. After getting out to help his daughter cross the street, he gets the newspaper, gets back in the car, and then drives back to his house. This happens on perfectly dry days with his driveway free of any ice.

This guy apparently isn't on good terms with cold weather. He owns the only snowblower I've seen that has a cab you can ride in. I watched him use it this morning during the near two I hours I spent shoveling my driveway. I watched him not approach me and not offer to clear the bottom of my driveway where the street plow left a dense ridge brown-tinged snow. I watched him drive away in his pickup truck about thirty minutes later, giving his horn a cheerful honk and waving at me.

I can allow myself to seethe with resentment and some disgust over what I perceive to be laziness and wastefulness. But I won't. Instead I tell myself that the man may have a medical condition that forces him to limit his exposure to cold air.

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091209

Last week I was concerned about finding a way to exercise during the winter. The Universe had an answer for me this morning in the form of five inches of snow to shovel! Now I understand why I dropped weight so easily last winter.

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday Blind Edge

Morning sun shines into one window and casts onto a wall the shadow of the edge of a honeycomb blind of another window.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Married Life

Me: "Why is there only one chopstick here? What am I supposed to do with one chopstick?"

Wife: [reply censored]

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091202

NaBloWriMo / NaBloPoMo made me gain weight! But now I'm done, so hopefully I will have peaked.

Waist = 37.5"
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 1, 2009

Mission Accomplished

I did it -- I posted at least once per day in November. Whew!

Edited to add this badge that I made from an altered NaBloWriMo badge:

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Typical Evening

I've already posted about my typical morning and my typical work day. This post is about my typical evening.

I get home after 6:00pm, after everyone has finished eating, including my wife and daughter, and the three cats and the dog. Since the three cats have just eaten, they are not stalking through the kitchen. Instead, they're off licking themselves, or gravitating toward their litter boxes, or passed out on top of isolated soft perches. But the dog is parked right near the door like a large decayed tree trunk lying across a hiking path. His snout is nestled between a pair of shoes. I carefully change from shoes to slippers using the one square foot of empty floor space. I step over him and rush to the bathroom to pee.

Then I close the open bathroom window and walk from room to room closing other windows that my wife might've opened during the sunny part of the day, all the while wondering why I bothered to buy energy efficient windows.

My wife has left me a plate of food. It needs to be warmed in the microwave oven, so I put it in and get a glass of tap water while I wait for it to reheat. I also get the supplements that I take with supper and place them at my spot at the table. I put the comic section of the newspaper there, too.

The oven beeps, and I remove my food. My daughter is finally aware that I'm home. She comes into the kitchen to ask how my day was, then she asks for a bass guitar lesson. "Did you finish your homework?" "Yes." "Maybe when I've finished supper, then. Did you take your pills?" "No." "Go ahead and take them, hon."

My wife reminds me that she needs a check for the copay for her monthly visit to the pain management doctor. She writes a note for me and puts it near my plate. I'm eating slowly and reading the comics, the advice column, the obituaries. Having read all the usual stuff, I start to look at the Sudoku puzzle. The first number is fairly easy to get, so I grab a pen and fill it in. I fill in a few more numbers, and finally get distracted by the dog. He shoves his gingerbread man plush toy into my lap, signaling that it's time for him to go aside. I suddenly realize that it's 7:30, so I set the puzzle aside and gulp down the rest of my food.

"Do you want to go outside?" I ask. He realizes that he's going outside, so he rushes over to his water bowl and drinks, drinks, drinks, drinks and drinks some more. I don my jacket and cap, and I put a small flashlight into my pocket. Then it occurs to him to check to make sure he's really going outside. I put the leash on him. "Outside?" More drinking. Again he checks. I have the door open, but he drinks some more. I'm running out of things to do while I wait for the dog. I open the laptop and start it up. Finally, he's done drinking.

We go outside together. I walk him on leash even though we have a pet containment system. If I don't, he might run down the hill, chasing the scent of some stinky thing that left the yard hours ago. And if he runs down the hill, he might further damage his carpus joint, which he hyperflexed about one and a half years ago. But we make it down the hill without incident. He finds a nice place to pee, and I take the opportunity to remove his leash while he's frozen in the so-called hydrant position. That done, we walk further into the woods. He veers off to find a place to poop. He just squats and dumps. Then he walks away. How enviable. I can learn a lot from this creature.

We go back inside. I hang up his leash and my jacket and hat, and the dog goes back to his bowl to drink even more. My wife has put soothing, after-dinner music on the CD player. I'm having trouble staying awake. So I wash my hands and pop a cup of water in the microwave oven for green tea. I'll need it to stay awake for the next few hours.

I start to scrape the dishes and load them into the dishwasher. There was a time when I used to wash dishes by hand. "How was that possible?" I wonder.

When the tea is ready, I wash the food residue from my hands and remove the tea bag. I take the cup into the living room where our daughter plays the bass. Actually, it's my bass from when I was about 14 or 15 years old. But she's interested in it because her music teacher has one in the classroom and she had a chance to play it once. She already knows how to play piano, and she has a great ear for music. So she picks up the notes quickly, but not the technique. The strings are hard to press down. I show her some blues riffs, simple 1, 5, & flat 7 patterns, played on the typical 1, 4 and 5 blues chord progression.

It's getting late, so we put away the bass and have her do some reading. I return to the kitchen to finish loading the dishwasher. In picking up the cats' saucers, I notice umbras of splatter on the floor. So I wet a sponge, get on my knees, and scrub it. We don't have cockroaches, and I don't want to attract any. I also pick up a surprising amount of fur.

Our daughter gets ready for bed, brushing her teeth, washing her face. I say good night to her. I no longer read to her as I did when she was much younger or more recently right after the cat died.

It's about 9:00pm now. I have a couple hours to create a blog post on the computer. I have to pay bills, but I'll do it some other day. I get distracted so easily. I do a search on the new girl's name and find her Facebook page. I met her when I was asked to set up her computer account. She perkily shook my hand, and I was smitten with her friendly green eyes. There's also the radio show I heard on NPR over the weekend. It featured a male folk singer guitarist who died young before receiving a lot of acclaim. I didn't catch his name (Nick Grey?), and the website doesn't seem to offer a schedule of archives. I also check out, whose Ig Nobel Awards also were featured on NRP on the weekend.

The time goes by quickly, and I fall asleep a few times. Eventually I shutdown the computer, brush my teeth and go to bed.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday Cat in the Sun

The lighting is so stark, it seems like this cat is in space...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weigh-In 12-Month Graphical Summary

My Five Year Graphical Summary Can be Found Here:

Here's 12 months of data! I had stopped going to the gym in April and took up walking instead. I think the late summer rise might've been due to an ice cream fetish and not a lack of exercise.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Coffee and Hebrews

"I'm looking to talk to someone who doesn't need to cook a turkey," said the approaching woman in the parking lot outside of Starbucks. I smiled politely, with my wife's venti Peppermint Mocha Latte in my left hand, and my car keys in my right, poised near the car door.

Then my spirits sank as she pulled out religious paraphernalia. For some reason she wanted to quote Hebrews 3:4. As she flipped through the pages, I wondered just how long I'd have to stand there before telling her that I had to go. After all, it was Thanksgiving morning, and my sole contribution to the holiday was to buy enough of a caffeinated beverage for my wife so that she would have enough energy to prepare Dinner. Then my perspective suddenly changed dramatically when I imagined this stranger to be an angel sent to give me a personal message from the Universe.

She found the verse and read it out loud, "For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God." And then she handed me the December 2009 issues of "Awake!" and "The Watchtower". The cover of "Awake!" featured the intriguing question, "Does the Universe have a purpose?" It's a question I've increasingly been answering with a resounding "No!" And then just as suddenly as she appeared, she bade me a Happy Thanksgiving. I responded in kind, and I thanked her both for the happy holiday wish and for the pamphlets. As she turned to go, she asked, "You will read them, won't you?" "Yes," I assured her. I watched her walk into the Starbucks, and I thanked the Universe for yet another topic for a blog post.

In case you're wondering, I am reading the pamphlets. In fact, when I got home and gave the latte to my wife, I then fetched the bible and read the verse to her, in case the message was not for me but for her. "Awake!" also has an article titled, "Young People Ask How Can I Talk to My Parents?," which I read aloud to my daughter while she played Webkinz. These are published by Jehovah's Witnesses, a group regarded as non-violent terrorists by my parents. If they came to the door, I'd have to hide, and we'd pretend that no one was home. So I have this quandary about reading these pamphlets, as if I were reading a communist manifesto.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Traffic Magnet

DELAYS FROM HERE TO ETERNITYI drive on the highway only once per month. But the last two times I drove on the highway left me hoping that they really were the last times.

Both times I've encountered huge traffic delays. I mean huge, like a 45 minute trip taking an hour and forty-five minutes.

I wonder if the folks I meet with at the end of these treks believe that I'm a traffic magnet. I imagine them anticipating what roads I'll drive on in order to avoid driving on those same roads: "Hey, SP. I got a job interview tomorrow morning. You're not by any chance planning to drive on the Mass Pike from nine to ten tomorrow, are you? Just curious."

The latest trip, which was two nights ago, started out fine. I left 15 minutes early in case I got into the usual rush-hour delays. The trip to the highway was uneventful. But as soon as I turned onto the entrance ramp to the highway, I saw a sea of brake lights.

The highway alert system sign simply said, "DELAYS 5 MILES." "Oh well, this is just the usual rush hour backup," I told myself thinking that there might be some slow downs. But because I don't go that way often, I didn't realize this was too far from where the usual rush hour traffic starts.

Had the sign been more specific, like "LEFT TWO LANES CLOSED IN 5 MILES,"1 I'd've gotten off and taken a detour. Those signs are certainly capable of delivering such wordy messages, such as the one I saw in town this morning that read "HAPPY THANKSGIVING! REMEMBER TO BUCKLE UP!" on two alternating screens. And the fact is, when you're going a mere two miles per hour, the messages can be quite long indeed since you have about ten minutes in which to read them.

Before I end this post I need to do two things. First, I want apologize to the driver of the emergency response vehicle. I'm sorry for flashing my lights and beeping at you. I wanted to alert you to the fact that you pulled out right in front of me and were blocking the only remaining open lane with your vehicle. Admittedly, I ended up expressing anger at you for having a conversation with an EMT pedestrian in the middle of my escape route. I now realize that you were focused solely on the trauma of the collision and that you were unaware of the several tens of thousands of irate drivers behind me. I hope I did not alarm you by squeezing my vehicle past yours and tearing off at full throttle. Next time I promise to tear off at only half throttle, assuming there is a next time. Cheerio!

Second, I wish to publicly admonish the thoughtless cretin who entered "DELAYS 5 MILES" onto the sign. You utter Dickwad. Next time be more informative. Be precise. Oh, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091125

NaBloWriMo / NaBloPoMo is making me gain weight! Arrrrrgggggh!

Waist = 37.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Health Food Store Chicks

If you want to meet the most nonconformist humans in a single structure, visit your local health food store. These places seem to employ the folks that have the most piercings and tattoos, and the least interest in personal hygiene. Some of the customers aren't exactly stellar models either. I should know -- I am one!

The two women tonight seemed fine and ordinary enough until I got close enough to hear their conversation, which was about buying a house.

"Nobody puts 20% down," said the cheerful brunette.

"I don't care. I don't want to be anyone's bitch," replied the natural blond with the baby blue eyes.

Not wanting to side with the blond, I pointedly did not chime in with the fact that I paid a 20% deposit on our home's purchase back in 1995 because I didn't want to pay PMI. But those were different times. So instead I placed my items on the counter to be rung up.

A very cheerful piece of artwork, about 11" x 17" landscape, was taped inexpertly to the wall behind them. It easily outshone the dingy clutter. I figured I'd try my hand at being social for a change.

"That's a nice drawing, or painting," I remarked, pointing to it. The blond, who was bagging, didn't turn to look where I was pointing right away. But then as she started to reply, she stole a glance at it.

"I did that. I got an A in it," she said flatly.

"Oh it's so nice and cheerful!" I said with honest enthusiasm.

"Thanks. Yeah, I was going through a breakup and when I finished it, I felt so much better."

Faltering a bit, I ventured, "Oh I see. Um, so you go to art school?"

"I used to. I quit. I don't think I need to go to school to become an artist," declared the blond, now sporting a deeply furrowed brow.

"No, I guess not. My daughter really likes art."

"Tell her to drop out of school."

"Well, she's only eleven. Besides, she's really good in math and music, too," I offered as defense.

The brunette, who was finished ringing up the purchase, came to my aid, "Being good in math helps. She could get into graphic arts...."

At this point I took my bag and said good-bye. I was troubled by the blond because she seemed so troubled. So later on I imagined myself giving her a warm, caring hug.

I could identify with her "bitch" comment. I believe credit is a modern form of slavery. But I don't think you can become a homeowner without being someone's bitch, even if you buy the home outright. You'll still need to pay property taxes on the land and dwelling.

Rather, I was troubled by her negativity over school. Was she doing so well as an artist that she didn't need school? If so, why is she bagging groceries in the designated deodorant-free zone of town?

Perhaps I'm worried that our daughter's negativity might progress to just such a point that she'll drop out, too. That's why whenever she gets in one of those "I can't stand living here" moods, I simply say, "Do really well in school so that you can get a good job and move out as soon as possible."

So, to all you health food store chicks: being someone's bitch ain't so bad -- you get used to it. And please stay in school. Peace and blessings to you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Consciousness and Happiness

In popular Western culture we are taught that the way to achieve happiness is to change our external environment to fit our wishes. But this strategy doesn't work. In every life, pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame keep showing up, no matter how hard we struggle to have only pleasure, gain, and praise. Buddhist psychology offers a different approach to happiness, teaching that states of consciousness are far more crucial than outer circumstances.

More than anything else, the way we experience life is created by the particular states of mind with which we meet it. If you are watching a high school soccer playoff and your daughter is the nervous goalie, your consciousness will be filled with worry, sympathy, and excitement at each turn of the game. If you are a hired driver waiting to pick up someone's kid, you will see the same sights, the players and the ball, in a bored, disinterested way. If you are the referee, you will perceive the sights and sounds in yet another mode. It is the same way with hearing Beethoven, pulling weeds, watching a Woody Allen movie, or visiting Mexico City. Pure awareness becomes colored by our thoughts, emotions, and expectations.

- Jack Kornfield in The Wise Heart, page 49.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday Monkeys

In this shot, the monkey shadow is trying to pick up that last monkey! The lower shadow is from the head of our Golden Retriever.

Thanks to my 11 year old daughter for assistance.

Edited to add:
Here's another shot from that same session. I like the symmetry in this one, and the cat...

Thanks for all the nice comments!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The New Philanthropist

Somehow I've developed into someone who'd prefer to spend extra money to help brighten someone's day rather than spend it on myself. There is a diagnosis for this condition -- I suffer from Philanthropy.

When I read Petra's "Help for Anissa Mayhew" post, I decided I needed to do something even though I don't know her. The fact that someone I sort of know knows her makes me feel close enough to her. Besides, three years ago it was Mrs. Square Peg who was in the hospital (albeit not with a stroke), so I know what it feels like to be a working dad and have the mantle of Mr. Mom thrust upon oneself. Certainly I would spread the word, which is that a blogger and mom, Anissa Mayhew, has had a stroke, and that she and her family need prayers and assistance. Maybe I'd send money somehow.

But there are many other folks in the world like Anissa who need help. I wish I had unlimited resources so I could help all whom I learn about.

I'm not talking about donating millions of dollars for medical research. But I don't mean limiting my giving to those in emergency situations like Anissa, either. What I do dream about is having enough money to send a poor family to Walt Disney World, or to buy a clarinet for a budding Benny Goodman, or to buy tickets to a Jonas Brothers concert for a mom and her impossibly cute daughter so that the mom doesn't need "to rip out [her] organs and sell them on the black market to make it happen." Okay, maybe I do have enough money lying around for that last one if I really scrounge and don't tell my wife about it. But I kinda wanna do that several times each week.

I guess I'm a modern-day Santa Claus wanna-be. Unfortunately I have neither the magic nor the elves to pull that off. But what I do have is The Internet and a Blog. In other words, the next best thing to giving money out to people is to encourage others to give money out to people.

So I asked myself, "Wouldn't it be great if I could match people who wish to give money with people who wish to receive money?" And then I answered myself, "Just do a search on the web, and I'll bet you'll find such a site." Lo and behold, five seconds later I found that there is such a site already set up!

And then it occurred to me, fleetingly, that maybe someone out there might be willing to pay for our daughter's summer arts camp in 2010. I imagined myself signing up as a potential recipient and watching the money pour in!

But no, this blog is not about making money for me or my family. I do not advertise or have a beg button. This blog is solely a labor of love.

So if you're still reading this, please read Petra's post now and act in whatever way seems right for you. And then why not learn how you can become a philanthropist and help make the world a better place for at least one person!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Typical Day at Work

I wrote about my typical morning yesterday, ending the post with my arrival at work. In this post I'll briefly describe what my typical work day is like. But I'll also include the commute.

I live 10 miles away from work measured along the shortest set of roads. And it takes me at least 20 minutes to get there, although 25 is not unusual. A 20 minute commute time over a distance of 10 miles translates to an average speed of only 30 miles per hour (mph). Yet most roads have a limit of 35, 40 or 45 mph, and cars typically travel at least 5 mph over the limit.

There are 21 traffic lights between my home and my work place. On the worst days I can get stopped by 10 of those. That's like stopping every half mile. Nearly every day, I get stopped by a "fresh" red light, which is a light that turns red just a couple of seconds before I'd go through it if I didn't stop. Those are the most frustrating because abrupt stopping messes with gas mileage and increases the wear on brakes and tires. Some days, abrupt stopping is required three times in a row, and that makes me feel like I should let the car coast to get to the rest of the traffic lights. Instead, I often drive a few miles more to take the roads that have the fewest traffic lights.

Anyway, after I park the car, I enter the building and go directly to my cubicle. I take off my jacket, turn on my computer monitor and log onto the computer right away because it takes at least five minutes for the computer to be ready. While the computer wakes up, I take my lunch and water bottle to the cafeteria. I put my lunch in the refrigerator, and then I remember the filtered water dispenser is still in the old building. So I walk to the old building, use the bathroom, and then fill the bottle. It's an empty 24 ounce Gatorade bottle.

I'm a bit germ-obsessive, which means I don't like touching door handles. So I don't throw out the paper towels I get from the bathroom to dry my hands. I keep them with me, and I use them to shield my hand from the door knobs.

I get back to my office. I read work e-mail and then download my personal e-mail and read anything that looks urgent, or important, or interesting. Break time is at 10:00am, but I don't take it, having just arrived. But the technicians take their breaks at 10:00am, and one will occasionally come to my office at the end of break time, 10:10am.

Eventually, I settle down a bit and apply myself to various projects, which can last for months or even years. I'm not kidding. My wife works in the medical field. Her idea of work is that it stops when the patient leaves or when the doors are locked. So she doesn't understand why I might work late some nights even though I got in early that morning. Or why I work at home. So I generally don't bother getting to work until well after 9:00am, and I'll run errands before going to work, because I might not get out at a decent time to run the errands after work and then have supper at a reasonable time. I don't get paid overtime.

If I really wanted to describe the kind of work I do, this post would get very long and very, VERY boring. So I do "work," but I get interrupted by colleagues who need help, which I either give them while they wait or work on in their absence. On most days, one colleague's request will interrupt another colleague's request, so the first colleague comes back and sees me working on something else like the second colleague's work or this blog. I wonder if people realize how very busy I am.

When noon comes around, I take another Iscort and then go for a 1/2 hour walk. But not on Fridays, which is when the company buys lunch for everyone. If you don't serve yourself by 12:15pm, you might miss out either because, A. There isn't enough for all the hungry pigs in our company, or B. Folks bring containers to pack leftovers into, and they start filling them right after they scarf down their eat-in portion.

I come back from my walk. I get my lunch from the cafeteria 'fridge and bring it up to my cubicle. I read blogs or message boards while I eat. It's rather hard to write while eating, but I've done it. At the end of my meal, I take a multi-vitamin and flush-free niacin. I'll also get a cup of green tea to keep myself from becoming drowsy.

The afternoon is like the morning, except it's busier. We have one west-coast customer who calls for a telecon in the afternoon. We put them on speakerphone so that the few folks who are not working on the job can know what they're missing, and be eternally grateful for it.

When it's time for most people to leave, I hear the squeak and shoelace-slap of one of my boss-colleague's foot steps. At 5:00pm he leaves his office and seeks out victims, not unlike a vampire opening a coffin at sunset to hunt. But instead of hunt, he annoys. He uses me as a sounding board for design ideas and to think about solutions to various problems. He is the main reason I do not call my wife to tell her I'm leaving, because when I decide to leave, I want to do so as quickly as possible.

The commute home is the reverse of the morning commute except that it's dark, and I notice just how bright those 21 traffic lights are. I wonder if anyone has bothered to figure out how much money they waste in electricity every year. I bet two houses in town pay taxes just to keep those lights operating, every day and night of every year. At least dim them at night, bozos!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Typical Morning

A typical work day in my life is like this:

5:45am: I wake up before the alarms for my wife and child go off. I lie in bed breathing deeply and relaxing, sometimes imagining a blue-silver healing star1 on areas of my body that need healing -- left sinus and hernia, lately. I pet any cats that might be lying on top of my chest or between my legs.

5:55am: I pee, then I head for the kitchen with the three cats encircling me.

6:00am: I right the toppled kitchen garbage bin. I turn on the radio. Then I assemble breakfast for the three cats, dividing a single three ounce can into thirds and then mixing in a handful of dry food. I put their food dishes on the floor and make sure they eat from their own dishes. The most skittish cat is also the slowest eater, and if I leave the room while he's still eating, the dominant cat might scare him away from his food by staring at him. I also refresh their water and the dog's water from the tap. Since the tap water is cold and fresh from having been run, I get tall glassfuls for our daughter and me, and I fill her water bottle for school. I take my early morning pills -- Isocort, Rhodiola Rosea, L-Carnitine.

6:30am: I might poop at this time. I peel a banana and break off the top inch and a half for my daughter, placing it on a napkin on her place mat. Then, while eating the banana, I gather what I need to make breakfast for her and me. Today it's oat bran for me and an Ian's Chicken Sandwich for my daughter. I take one of the chicken sandwiches out of the freezer and place it on a plate and cover it with a paper towel. Then I mix the ingredients for my oat bran in a bowl.

6:45am: I get a scoopful of the dog's dry food and drop it onto his food mat along with a half pill of GlycoFlex for his joints. I greet my daughter, who makes it into the kitchen at about this time. I might heat up water for tea for myself.

6:55am: By now our daughter has had a few bites of the banana, so I heat up her breakfast in the microwave oven. When that's done, I heat up my own breakfast, stirring it a bit more beforehand. I'll get out my supplements while the breakfast heats up.

7:20am: My daughter and I are done eating by now. She gets her vitamin pills and goes off in search of socks. I take her eyeglasses into the bathroom and wash them. It's a nice way to get the warm water flowing from the tap, without just running water down the drain. At this point the dog starts begging to go outside. I'm not sure why the dog has this sudden urge at this time. Maybe it's because it's the end of breakfast so he figures it's his turn. Or the commotion gets his little mind thinking that he will get taken for a walk. There's just enough time for me to walk with him in the backyard before the bus comes. I sneak around to open the garage door, while the dog is distracted by some carrion.

7:30am: I put her water bottle into her backpack. I let the dog back inside. Then I walk to the bus stop with our daughter, and we wait together for the bus, which arrives within 10 to 15 minutes.

7:45am: I grab the newspaper from the delivery tube and head back inside. I put about 3/8 lb. of cold sliced roast beef into a plastic container along with Romaine lettuce for my lunch. But I have an audience -- two of the three cats and the dog are interested in using Jedi mind tricks to get the roast beef to go into their mouths. I drop the fatty bits on the floor for them. But if I'm not running too late, I drop it onto their backs and try to coax the dog to eat off the cats or vice-verse.

8:10am: I'm getting sucked into a time-warp. Now that the hard deadline of catching the school bus has been met, I tend to get distracted more and more by the animals. I might even take a break to photograph them! I get into the bathroom to brush my teeth, do the neti pot, wash, shower, shave.

9:10am: I try to focus on what I need to bring to work and put those items into my bag: water bottle, lunch, snacks, tea. I try to equip myself with my wallet, pens & pencils, keys. When I think I've gotten it all, I put on my jacket and shoes, only then realizing I need a fresh hanky or some hand lotion, and so I end up walking through the house with my shoes on after all.

9:45am: Arrive at work.


1As described in Sylvia Browne's "Psychic Healing: Using the Tools of a Medium to Cure Whatever Ails You"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091118

Not much to write except that I wondering what I'm going to do for exercise in the winter when it's too dangerous to walk.
Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quiz: 38 Questions

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you said? If I could remember that, I wouldn't be quite as feeble-minded as I am!

2. When is the next time you will make out? I'm married. We don't make out. We do snuggle-bunnies!

3. What's a word that rhymes with "LUCK"? Duck!

4. What's your favorite planet? The one I came from, wherever it is.

5. Who's the 4th person on your missed calls list? This is one of those questions that assumes everyone has a cell phone!

6. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone? I set the new office phone to something called "Phasor." I needed to change it from the standard ring to make it different from my neighbors. I needed to avoid the musical ones because when I hear them I think, "Hmm, there's some music playing." Phasor was the least annoying of the non-musical ones.

7. What shirt are you wearing right now? Grey flannel L.L. Bean thingie.

8. What do you "label" yourself as? Freeky Geek

9. Name the brand of shoes you're currently wearing? Ahh but these are slippers. The reason they appear bright red is because they're Lands End overstocks, which means no one else wanted them. And the color is officially "corral."

10. Bright or dark room? Bright sunlight for the plants and so's I don't use electricity to get enough light to read by.

11. What do you think about the person who last took the survey? She's wonderfully creative and considerate.

12. If you're alone in a room with two beds, which one do you sleep on? The one further from the door.

13. What were you doing at midnight last night? Sleeping.

14. What did your last text message you received on your mobile say? Text message? Mobile?

15. What just so happens to be the best song in the world? Maybe Higher Ground, Red Hot Chili Peppers version.

16. What's a word or phrase that you say a lot? Hey, where's the ____ ? (Fill in with ketchup, milk, butter, dog, stapler, car...

17. Who told you they loved you last? The dog, right after I gave him a pretzel and tossed him his squeaky toy.

18. Last furry thing you touched? See above.

19. How many drugs have you done in the past 3 days? Zero. That includes all three varieties: Rx, over-the-counter and illicit.

20. How many rolls of film do you need to get developed? One, but it's so old that I doubt anything would come out. Besides that, I lost it, and I've been using a digital camera since 2004.

21. Favorite age you have been so far? Can I use a negative number to indicate my pre-conceptive years?

22. Your worst enemy? Stress.

23. What is your current desktop picture? The stock windows Coffee BMP file.

24. What is the last thing you said to someone? Verbally? "Lift the toilet lid for him." This after my wife told me that the dog is in the bathroom and that I forgot to bring his water dish in from outside.

25. Do you love someone? There's more than one loved one in my life.

26. Last song you listened to? Some sort of Thanksgiving compilation from Windam Hill.

27. If the last person you spoke to on the phone was getting shot at what would you do? Say "goodbye" and, just to underscore how tactless I can be, follow up with "See you later."

28. Do you do the games in the ads on myspace? No, I don't go on Myspace much.

29. What are your favorite Pjs? Don't wear 'em.

30. What do you do when you pass graveyards? Hope that someone doesn't waste graveyard space on my remains.

31. Have you ever seen a shooting star? No. But I have seen meteorites burn up in our atmosphere.

32. How old do you think you'll live to be? Actually, I thought I was going to die about two months after my sixteenth birthday. So I'm really confused about how to answer this.

33. Your favourite website? DeviantArt

34. List five things you want to do in your lifetime:

1 Write a novel.
2 Compose a choral work and hear it performed.
3 Go snorkeling some place cool.
4 Go skiing some place cool.
5 See my daughter achieve a happy, successful lifestyle. Incidentally, she has my permission to do anything to her hair that she wants, even if it means dying it green or shaving it all off.

35. What do you put on your hamburgers? Here's what I do with burgers. I grill the patty on a George Foreman grill. I drop it onto a plate and eat it like a steak. I might have onions with it. I might sprinkle chili powder or curry powder on it if it's been frozen for a while.

36. Do you eat raw hot dogs? It would never occur to me to do that. Besides, we buy pre-cooked ones.

37. Do you like sushi? Yes, very much. Sushimi, too. Some salmon or yellowtail cut roll is the perfect food!

38. How much salad dressing do you put on your salad? If I can eat the salad with my main meal, I'll omit the dressing. Otherwise, I'll use one tablespoon for 1 to 2 cups of salad, so it'll be a bit on the dry side.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dream: School-Wide Test

I'm a student in high school. I'm in a classroom taking a test. In fact everyone in the school is taking this test. I'm not finished, but I'm bored and want to get up and walk around. So I do just that. I walk right out of the classroom.

After about ten or fifteen seconds of walking in the hallway, a proctor catches up to me and walks along side me. His pale and blond features are in direct contrast to his all-black outfit. He believes that I'm walking to the bathroom, so he's accompanying me, and I'm supposed to walk with him. This is the unspoken understanding between us.

Finally he stops in front of another classroom. I'm confused -- I thought we were walking to the bathroom. But I decide to enter the classroom as if this was my destination all along. Then I see an alcove in the far wall. That must be where the bathroom is. So I walk over to it.

I encounter a friendly blond girl wearing a pink sweatsuit. She hands me a form to fill out. In order to use the bathroom I have to first fill out the form. I have a pencil with one of those wedge-shaped erasers stuck on the end. And that's a good thing, because I can't seem to write my last name correctly. I write it wrong, erase it, write it wrong again, erase it, etc. This is embarrassing.

The girl is nice, though. She places her right hand in my left hand, making it even harder for me to focus long enough to write all the letters of my name in the correct order. I pull my hand away gently to erase the name yet one more time. Then I cautiously put my hand in hers and try to write once more.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday on the Playground

We're having a very rainy weekend. So here are more Shadow Shots from the same photo session that I took Playground Snake during...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Running Away From Home

We've run away from home, my wife, daughter and me. I'm referring to our church home of 15 years. And it's all on our daughter's behalf.

Our daughter is a very capable choral singer. She started this school year by joining the school's sixth grade chorus in September with the intention of auditioning for their special traveling chorus. She was undecided about joining the church choir, but we told her that she could quit if it became too much. So she joined the church choir in September, as well.

On Monday she was thrilled to learn that she was accepted into the special school chorus. So she brought up the idea of quitting the church choir, saying to me that it was boring while saying to my wife that she didn't like it.

Usually when we get different statements from her it means something isn't right. So my wife decided to call the choir director, MD, whose daughter also happens to be in the choir. We had to call anyway to announce the resignation. MD readily accepted our daughter's resignation, saying that she seemed "miserable." Well, this got my wife going. "If you saw that she was miserable, why didn't you say something to me earlier?" MD also mentioned that a loud, bossy girl just joined the choir, taking over the group and befriending her daughter. My wife tried to get across to MD the idea of inclusion, as well our daughter's need for a structured social setting. But she was met with infuriating walls of ignorance and indifference. "I was shy when I was growing up," was MD's neurotypical response.

The next day, my wife called the music director to let her know about her dissatisfaction with MD. The ensuing hour-long conversation convinced my wife that this church was not the right place for our daughter. And if our daughter isn't accepted there, then we aren't either. So tonight we've made no plans to have our daughter go to tomorrow's weekly Sunday school or to the church service. And we'll be attending a different church on Christmas.

I don't think my wife actually told the music director that we'd be leaving the congregation. But this is the time of year they collect pledges, and ours wasn't one of them. I imagine that we'll be getting a call from the Pastor (or at least the Stewardship committee) fairly soon.

I have mixed feelings about this affair. On the one hand, I'm somewhat relieved. I've never been reliant on organized religion. I'm content and confident enough in my spirituality to do my own studies and contemplations to meet my needs. But I am personally bothered that I won't be going to some physical place that I'm familiar with -- a home away from home -- where I know many people and they know me. This home-away-from-home is now verboten.

When my wife would ask me why I go to church, I'd say to her, "It's so that if I die before you, you will have many people to comfort you at my funeral." It's sounds like a wisecrack, but I was being completely honest.

I had been a member of the adult choir starting in 1994. At the start of this year I finally announced that I wouldn't be singing with them any more. I write "finally" because of how many years I thought about doing it and how difficult a decision it was. It upset a few people there. But with the new music director's arrival, I felt it was a good time to go.

What bothers me more than anything is that our daughter now has no religious education, which I think is important regardless of one's beliefs. The Bible is the most well-known work of all time in the Western world. To be ignorant of it would be like growing up in the 60s and 70s without having watched any TV.

Nevertheless, it is right to run away. The Sunday school is too disorganized. Children hang out unsupervised in classrooms while waiting for their teachers to show up late. With the low attendance on holiday weekends, the kids sit around to watch Veggie Tales. She'd be old enough to join the Youth Group next year, but it's so unstructured and poorly supervised, she'd flounder immediately.

Frankly, I don't think there's a church anywhere in our area that's equipped to handle special needs children. But we'll have to look and settle for the best we can find.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Girlfriend

"Mitzy got her hair highlighted!" I announced, returning home from the drug store with a cornucopia of my wife's medications. Mitzy is the pharmacy manager.

"Oh, is she your new girlfriend, now?" my wife asked casually.

"Yes. Well, you know. I go to the drug store so often, I see her more than I see you," I explained.

"That's nice, dear. I'm glad you're happy," she said, taking the package of meds from me and dumping them out onto the counter.

"Hey, is there a love note in there for me?" I asked with mock breathlessness.

"Oh yes! As a matter of fact there is!"


"Yes! It's from Darren. He's had his eye on your for a while, now."


Thursday, November 12, 2009


As school children, we anticipated the start of a new school year every year. We wondered who our teacher would be and who would be in our class. And every so often, we'd anticipate going to a new school, or if we were lucky, a new summer camp. And of course, we'd anticipate presents for our birthday or a favorite holiday. Anticipation added zest to our lives!

I'm not surprised that the older I get, the less I experience something exciting to look forward to. I've given up the idea of going to school. And I'm less than thrilled about my birthday and Christmas, which is the Square Peg gift-giving holiday. Instead anticipation usually comes to me in the form of worry: what outcome will the lab test have? Or how high will the price of oil rise this winter? Or what if I can't think of something interesting to blog about every day in November? (Hint, write about anticipation!)

But right now I am enjoying the anticipation of moving into a brand-new office on Monday. I've been cleaning out my drawers, which sounds more nasty than it actually is. And I've thrown out boxes of old papers and journals -- an exhilarating accomplishment!

If you're not a hoarder, you might not understand how liberating it feels to throw away lots of stuff. But if you can imagine hiking up a hill with a backpack that contains heavy electronic equipment -- devices that constantly remind you about unfinished work, devices that make loud embarrassing noises that disturb the serenity of your surroundings and keep people away from you, devices that interfere with your compass readings, so you're not sure if you're going in the right direction, devices that are so bulky they leave no room for other things to carry, like an interesting rock, a map or a rain poncho, and it's even hard to breathe because of how much they're pressing into you. Now imagine you're at the edge of a steep cliff. You remove the backpack, open it, and dump everything out over the edge. Now you have a very light backpack with ample room for stuff. You're finally at peace with your surroundings. You can breathe easy. That's how I feel now.

And, I'm looking forward to working in a new space, with new furniture, a new telephone system to learn, and new cubicle mates. (They put us older engineers together.) The network will be ten times faster. We'll have a library plus three conference rooms instead of one room serving as both a conference room and library. The cafeteria is spacious. It's like starting over at a new company!

Anticipation. I like it. How can I experience this more often?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Color of Fibromyalgia

In a brief discussion with her mom about Fibromyalgia awareness products, Jenny Ryan complains that "other diseases TOOK all the good colors."

Maybe Fibromyalgia marketing people have to diversify into patterns or shapes.  Autism took the puzzle-piece shape, which, perhaps not coincidentally, is also used as the logo for MS Office.

So what shape or pattern should Fibromyalgia be?  I'd go with some combination of sharp angles, irregularly-spaced, fuzzy, amoeba-like blobs, and question marks.

The sharp angles would, of course, represent the pain.  The irregularly-spaced, fuzzy, amoeba-like blobs would be the side effects from the meds, particularly the cognitive impairments.  The question marks would symbolize the fact that medical science doesn't know how to diagnose it or cure it, or even what the fuck causes it.

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091111

A weight maintenance Haiku for you...

I'm blogging daily.
This leads to late night snacking.
Belly getting fat.

Waist = 37.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feng Shui in my Childhood?

The annoying thing about parents is this: when you become one, they turn out to be just like you.

All our parents' familiar admonishments that we used to roll our eyes at -- we're using them, too! "No snacks before dinner." (Awww mom!) "Zipper your jacket!" (But I'm not cold!) "You're not allowed to watch that show until after you've done your homework." (WHAT?!? I never get to do anything anymore! Stomp stomp stomp BAM) I've pretty much come to accept all this.

But now I'm starting to wonder if my parents were so cool that they themselves were into Feng Shui, just like me!

Exhibit A -- the full length mirror on the outside of the bathroom door. This is a well-known method to prevent helpful chi from flowing into the bathroom and down the drains and toilet. But they didn't keep the bathroom door closed when it wasn't in use, so maybe they weren't following it too closely. On the other hand, they kept the toilet lid down.

Exhibit B -- orientation of beds to achieve a Purpose. My bed and the beds of my sister and brother all pointed North, which I believe helps ensure in children a calm sleep, submissiveness and a desire to mow the lawn. Just kidding about that last one.

Exhibit C -- actually there's no Exhibit C. But they say that good writers should list things in groups of threes. And I need all the help I can get.

If my parents actually did follow Feng Shui, they certainly broke the Number One Rule -- eliminate clutter. My mom especially went for second helpings when the Pack Rat Gene was being ladled out.

So were my parents really following Feng Shui, or did they just copy something they saw in a movie?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Get Some Perspective

"A terrible tragedy...," the news reporter began solemnly as soon as I turned on the radio. In the same second I heard those words, I visualized a natural disaster, an act of mass violence, a bridge or building collapse, each resulting in a dozen children dead or orphaned.

"...UConn quarterback Jasper Howard was killed in a stabbing..."

What!? Is this the terrible tragedy!? So what!? My anger flared. How many times have I heard on this radio station a news report about a murder? There were 31 murders in Hartford in 20071. Not one was delivered with any more emotion than a typical report on the DOW Jones Industrial average. But because this murder involved a local sports hero, the incident is given special treatment.

This stabbing happened three weeks ago, yet it still attracts front page attention.

The real tragedy is that society has become so distracted by sports and entertainment, it fails to notice what's going on in real life.

Get a grip. Get some perspective.

1Data provided by City-Data.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dream: The Elevator Un-Ride

I'm walking in a modest city. It's a bright sunny day, a bit cool. I'm looking for some respite from the bustle, and I find myself in front of the office building that my wife's pain management doctor practices from. I go inside.

I'm in the lobby. There are chairs and sofas and natural lighting -- a nice place to sit for a while. But I see "Carol," the social worker who assists the pain management doctor. She appears to be looking for the next patient to usher into the practice. I don't want her to see me, so I decide to slink on through when her back is turned.

I walk on to the back where the elevators are located. I imagine to myself a fantasy scenario -- that Carol doesn't have another patient for an hour or more and that we'd go somewhere and have an affair. But I'm a little unsettled from that idea, and I'm glad I avoided her. It's not that she's unattractive. But she's unstable, one of those folks who studied psychology in an attempt to fix herself, unsuccessfully. I try to walk even more sneakily than before.

I pause at the elevator with my back to it, trying to think of where to go next. It might be cool to walk around, to explore. But first I do an inventory of coupons and advertisements I have tucked into my wallet. As I hold them up to eye level, the elevator door opens, and a hand reaches out over my shoulder and plucks out one of the coupons. "This is a ticket for a free elevator ride!" the hand announces with some drama.

I enter the elevator, dismayed that there's a human operator in it. I don't really know what floor I want to visit. I was thinking of choosing at random or getting off at a floor that others are getting off at. The attendant asks me what floor I want, so I say "four," "whatever" being an odd thing to say in response to that. It's the floor of the pain management practice, my home away from home.

The elevator is very cluttered and more resembles the counter of a small junk store. "Four?" asks the attendant. (Actually, there are two attendants.) "Yes, 'Four.' You know, it's got this horizontal bar like this," I begin, painting the number in the air with my hand, "and then there's this vertical bit coming down here off to the side a bit." I feel as though I'm in a Monty Python skit, and I try hard to resist adopting mannerisms like John Cleese. Or Arthur Dent as he attempts to describe tea to an alien. "Then there's this other angled bit that goes like this, although sometimes you see it vertical like this, almost like the uprights of a football goal post. Are you familiar at all with football?" I look for some printed material in this cluttered space. I see a calendar nearby. It's one of those complimentary calendars that businesses give out, and I find the number four in an address and point it out to him. But the font is very ornate, so instead of horizontal and vertical bars, there are stretched out lions forming the parts. I wonder if I should tell him not to look for a hidden camera.

There is a long pause followed by two more riders getting in. My attention drifts. From my vantage point, I have an image of a car windshield. I'm vaguely aware that the attendants are not operating the elevator, and that nothing is happening. But I don't care. Perhaps the two other people will complain about the lack of service. But they seem just a detached from reality as the rest of us.

After about five minutes of this, I announce that I have to go and then leave.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Hearing Test

I described before how the school nurse tested me for color blindness. She'd do a few other tests on me during the time I spent in elementary school. She did the bend-over-to-see-if-your-spine-is-curved test for scoliosis on all the students in the gymnasium one day. And she'd weigh me and take my temperature if I visited for any ailment. But the most dubious test I ever received was the hearing test.

The hearing test is very straight forward. It involves a Tester with a machine that makes beeps at various pitches and volume levels. And it involves the person being tested, the Subject. Usually, the subject wears headphones that are designed to fit over the ears to block out ambient noise. Nevertheless, the test should be conducted in a quiet environment.

The subject's role is to raise a hand whenever he or she hears the beep. It is assumed that the subject will not raise a hand periodically even if there's no beep. But just in case, the tester will cause the beeps to come out at random intervals.

So there I was, sitting in the school nurse's office, wearing headphones, listening to the very distant sounds of an occasional clatter of typewriters, the squeak and groan of a chair, the slamming of a file cabinet drawer and other office noises. (The school nurse's office was adjacent to the main office.)

And then the beeps began. There were deep-sounding bassoon-like beeps, medium flute-like beeps, and tweeting-little piccolo peeps. They were all fairly easy to hear, and I raised my hand as each one came and went at fairly regular intervals.

But very soon, the beeps got to be quieter and quieter, and the office noise seemed to get louder and louder. My hand-raising became more tentative. But I noticed something interesting. The beeps seemed to be accompanied by a faint hiss. So at some point, I would raise my hand whenever I heard the hiss, regardless of any beep.

The nurse soon terminated the test even though I had still indicated I could hear the beeps. I suppose she just wanted to verify that my hearing was at least normal. Apparently, she was uninterested in my supersonic, vampire-like hearing, and was content to let me congregate with the mere mortals in my class.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

School: "Your Daughter is Crazy!"

"We have some concerns about your daughter," was what the pre-school headmistress told my wife over the phone eight years ago. This led to the nightmare of a diagnosis of autism five months later.

Yesterday, the school psychologist called to suggest that our daughter see a professional psychologist. "I wouldn't wait on this," she said during an hour-long phone call.

This came about because our daughter's teacher told the class to write a short story about a haunted house. And our daughter, being an avid reader of Harry Potter, Twilight, Warriors, A Series of Unfortunate Events, (etc.), and being an even more avid writer, with an especially strong affinity for macabre events, and being highly motivated to distinguish herself from her peers, wrote a story that apparently scared the shit of out her teacher. And the teacher sent the story directly to the school psychologist.

The story has references to cutting, murder and suicide -- things that freeze the blood of the most detached child psychologist. But I could recognize cleverly assembled bits of plagiarisms. For example, when Harry and Dumbledore go to retrieve the Horcrux in "...The Half-Blood Prince," Dumbledore has to gain entry to the cave with his blood, so he cuts himself. "Voldermort wants to weaken us," he says. Another example comes from the latest Warriors book, "Bluestar's Prophesy" in which the medicine cat keeps mumbling that Tigerpaw wasn't supposed to live.

To intensify matters, our daughter likes to wear black and refers to herself as goth. In fact, she dressed goth as her Halloween costume, adding white make-up and black lipstick to her all-black garb. When people asked what she was dressed up as, she'd tell them, "I'm me."

I'm not troubled at all by our daughter's essay. (Although if she had written it in response to a "My Favorite Pastime" assignment, I certainly would be.) But she does go through disturbing periods of intense negativity that I don't know how to deal with. And she was deeply upset about our cat's death in April, so much so that I gave up my after-supper workouts to stay home and read to her before bedtime. And she "withdraws" when the trouble-making girls try to talk to her. Depression and anxiety can be comorbid with autism. So for all those reasons I'm thinking it might be good to start a relationship with a psychologist soon. If any of you have experiences with this that you're willing to share, please let me know. You can e-mail me if you don't feel comfortable posting a public comment.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091104

Funny how it's easier to get into the habit of eating lots of candy than to get into the habit of not eating them. At least it's all gone now, and I can start to detox.

This week's higher numbers might be due to Halloween candy. But it might also be due to a change in my morning routine, specifically doing the weigh-in at a different point in my routine.

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. But for me, it used to be the most difficult.

When I was very young, sugar cereal with milk was my morning meal. I was addicted to sugar, and I was not disappointed with my typical choices: Sugar Frosted Flakes ("they're GRRREAT"), Lucky Charms ("magically delicious"), Fruit Loops and Captain Crunch. Even Cheerios had (has) sugar in it, but because I couldn't see the sugar coating, I'd sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of sugar onto it after pouring the milk.

On Sundays, Dad would bring home Miami onion rolls fresh from the bakery. These I would slather with butter and gulp down.

I ate like this for a long time.

But when I was a teenager I adopted a paranoid distrust of mass-produced food. I started to avoid anything with nitrates & nitrites, artificial flavorings and colorings, preservatives. All the cereals I loved became poisons. I switched to granola or Grapenuts cereal. I still drank milk -- nobody was talking about hormones or antibiotics back then, or if they were, I was too overwhelmed to understand it. I ate more bagels or English muffins and, occasionally eggs.

Then I noticed I'd wake up feeling so nauseous that I'd gag if I tried to eat anything too substantial. So I'd eat a small portion, one-half or one-third the usual amount and then find myself dizzy with hunger by the time I got to school or work. I didn't know it then, but I was probably suffering from a combination of low blood sugar and anxiety.

I noticed that if I skipped breakfast, I didn't feel hungry even at lunch time. So I did that for a while. And I also went through a phase in which I visited a cafe and bought a Pepsi and donut to eat during morning snack time.

Eventually I learned how blood sugar can fluctuate, and that Low Glycemic foods helped to keep blood sugar levels stable. I discovered a few cereals (Kashi Heart-to-Heart, for example) that I could eat without needing another meal after getting to work. I'd add sunflower seeds to it to lower the cereal's Glycemic Index even more. And I'd feel pretty good in the morning.

After learning about the Blood Type Diet in 2007, I gave up wheat, dairy and corn. I switched to spelt or buckwheat cereal with nuts and rice milk. I'd have spelt bread toast with almond butter. Or gluten-free waffle with sausage. Or omlette with onions and sausage. I make sure to include a good source of protein with each breakfast. This maintains my morning stamina, and my allergy symptoms are less severe.

With cooler weather here, my latest breakfast choice is oat bran with carob powder and protein powder. I cook this according to the oat bran package directions and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, some agave nectar and ghee.

Those with type O blood tend to be the ones to ask about breakfasts on the Blood Type Diet forums. I usually respond in those threads. I'm glad I finally found some breakfasts that work for me, and I like to share them as often as possible.

What's for breakfast at your house?

Monday, November 2, 2009

How to Blog Daily

The forums on NaBloWriMo are filled with ideas for blog posts. Apparently, a lot of folks find it difficult to come up with topics to blog about.

Not me. Hundreds of ideas are already clamoring for attention inside my puny brain. The ultimate challenge for me (aside from being entertaining) will be to find enough time to do all this typing and posting.

So in case any of my fellow bloggers are like me and have more ideas than time, I will aid them with a list of ideas for blog time:

1. Eliminate Exercise. If you haven't already stopped going to the gym or given up your lunchtime walking routines, you're not really serious about blogging. You should remain rooted in front of your computer until your buttock cheeks go completely numb. Tell yourself that you'll start exercising again on Dec 1.

2. Sleep Fewer Hours. Many people make the mistake of reducing their sleep time in timid increments like 20 minutes or so. Well, the average sleep cycle is more like 90 minutes. So by shorting your sleep time by a mere 20 minutes, you shorten your last sleep cycle to 70 minutes. This leaves you feeling worse than a zombie. What you need to do is boldy carve out huge chunks of time from your sleep. Start with 90 minutes right away and completely eliminate that last sleep cycle. You'll actually feel surprisingly refreshed. And if you don't, well, that's why coffee was invented.

3. Use Work/Classroom Time. If you're a student or have a desk job, there's no good reason why you can't blog during at least half your school/work day. In most places I worked, it didn't matter what you did as long as you looked busy. When your boss sees you clattering busily at your keyboard for the sake of your blog, he'll be glad that you're on his or her team. Just remember, ALT-TAB is a quick way to switch between applications, such as Excel and Firefox.

4. Give Mindfulness a Rest. Does anyone really pay attention to what he or she is doing anymore? Judging from how often our bread, tomatoes and eggs end up at the bottom of our grocery bags week after week, I'd say most people have mastered the art of mindlessness. You should too. Spend every waking moment thinking about your blog. Instead of paying attention while fixing breakfast, brushing your teeth or driving to work, focus your mind on your next blog post. Yes, you might end up putting the cereal back into the 'fridge and the milk into the cupboard, but that's the price we geniuses have to pay for, uh, being geniuses. Did you know that I once almost lost our car and that my shaving brush managed to hide itself right before my very eyes? These experiences are the ultimate proof how a finely honed a mind can be.

5. Give Up Grooming. Speaking of shaving, stop! Beards are in these days. They're the new black. Even my mother-in-law has one. And ladies, it's getting cold in the northern hemisphere, and you can spend the rest of November wearing jeans, slacks and even ski pants in order to hide your leg hair. And how much time do we waste in the shower? When I was a kid, I'd get a bath once a week whether I needed one or not. Some people find a lack of personal hygiene to be off-putting. In that case, they'll leave you alone, and you'll have more time alone to blog. "Ostracized" isn't a four-letter word, you know!

6. Stop Calling Your Mother. How much time do we spend calling friends, loved ones, even our mothers? That's precious time we could be blogging. Now I know mom was always there when we needed her to kiss that bruised knee, nurse us with homemade chicken soup when we were sick, type our thesis project the night before it was due. But she also made you eat liver and Lima beans, forced you to go to Church or Synagogue each week, and glared at you fiercely if you even grimaced when Auntie Mildred pinched your cheek. So I say, paybacks are a beach, mom. Lose the number, will you? Oh, and my laundry needs doing, okay?

So I've just given you six great ways to make more time for blogging. Try not to think of how much you could've written had you not wasted your time reading this! Get that blog fired up now!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Shadow Shot Sunday Cat Mug Shots

Number One kitty looking this way and that way.

Click the image below to view more Sunday Shadow Shots:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dream: Outpatient Waiting Room

I approach the elevator with my wife and daughter. I'm dismayed to see a crowd in front of it, jostling toward the opening door and then entering. But then several people in front of me hold back. They're a group that wishes to ride together, and they urge me to go forward. My wife and daughter are already on board, but the doors close before I get on. No matter -- I'll catch up with them.

Now I'm in a doctor's waiting room. I'm sitting across from my wife and daughter, who entered a few minutes before me due to my missed elevator ride. Next to me is an attractive woman. She's enticingly close, pressed against my left side, warm and comfortable. Well, comfortable for us, but perhaps not for my wife. I steal a glance at my wife every so often, but she doesn't seem to be bothered by my closeness with the woman.

Now the woman is stroking my arm, my thigh, my chest. She is wonderfully affectionate and attentive toward me. And then she starts running her lovely fingers through the hair on my chest, which is now bare. She gently tugs out small tufts of hair and put them on my lips. I kiss reflexively. Still my wife doesn't mind.

I enjoy this blissful situation, but I realize it's gone too far. So I tell her that I have to go to the bathroom, excuse myself, get up and leave the waiting room.

Out in the hospital hallway, I realize I really do have to go to the bathroom. I strike off in a promising direction. I go through a door that opens into a vast, brightly lit laboratory area. The doorway is on the second story. Connected to the doorway is a slowly curving structure of white metal with fittings -- not something one could walk on well. So I navigate it as a child would climb down monkey bars. There are small basins attached to the structure. I consider peeing into one of these basins, but I realize it might not be appropriate.

I decide to turn around and go back into the hallway to try another way. I see another door -- large, brown and unmarked. I open it and go through. Just as it's closing, I hear a man's scream that's approaching quickly. I suddenly realize that I entered the psyche ward! I turn around to go back, but this side of the door is smooth, lacking a doorknob. It's closed now, but I didn't hear the latch catch. So gingerly I pry my fingernails into the crack of the door. I manage to open it and squeeze through quickly.

Friday, October 30, 2009

National Blog Posting Month

Wait, didn't I just post about this? Apparently not, because there are (at least) two similar sites. National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo, is the earlier site, having established itself two years ago. NaBloPoMo encourages members to post once a day in any month of their choosing, and each month may have a theme. But November is the Big Month, since it mimics NoNoWriMo.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

National Blog Writing Month

I've just registered for National Blog Writing Month. It's similar to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), except that instead of writing a certain amount of a novel each day, your goal is to write a substantive blog entry every day.

I'm not at a loss for content. The challenge for me will be to find enough time each day to type it and post, especially since I don't like turning on the computer on the weekends.

Anyway, if you blog and lead a life that's nearly equally vacant as mine, why not join NaBloWriMo with me!

NaBloWriMo - National Blog Writing Month

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On Finding (and Keeping) a Pain Management Doctor

Five days ago, Jenny Ryan posted the following Tweet:
Has anyone here ever seen a pain management specialist? If so, do you have any advice on how to find one, what to ask, etc.?

This is my response:
Pain management doctors (PMDs) purposely try to avoid calling attention to themselves lest they attract drug seekers, fond of self-injury, carrying altered prescriptions. But you can ask for referrals to PMDs at the usual places you'd find folks who are familiar with drugs: your PCP, health insurance providers, support groups, and your local high school parking lot.

Your PMD will refuse to call in prescriptions for you. And every prescription he/she will write will have no refills, even though he will go on vacation when a refill is needed and forget to tell you. He/she has no idea how you will react to a certain med, so some experimentation is in order initially. The dose is intended to "manage" pain, not cure it, and PMDs tend to think that pain at 5 or below is good.

You must be a delightfully compliant patient, with an alert yet relaxed disposition. During your appointments, you should endeavor to make good eye contact and resist the urge to glance furtively at your watch or the window or especially the cabinet that houses the drug samples. Suppress all nervous tics, hand wringing, rocking, scratching, tapping, shaking, etc. Otherwise you will be suspected of an addiction.

It's okay to ask for a specific drug. But when the PMD mentions the name of a drug, "Vicodin," for example, it's not a good idea to respond with, "OOOh yeah, that's good stuffcanigetthatpleaseohpleaseohplease!" Perhaps you should not bring your husband with you.

Some of this is in jest, but not all of it.

One last thing. My wife despises her PMD.

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091028

Even though I should be getting ready to hibernate by eating non-stop and making my den warm and comfy, I instead continue to work full time and masquerade as a competent father.

Waist = 36.75"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's Your Dosha?

My overall Dosha is Double Dosha Vata-Kapha:

What's your Dosha? Take the quiz at

Shadow Shot Sunday Sunset Tree

Just a red maple in front of the afternoon sun.

Click the image below to view more Sunday Shadow Shots:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091022

The Weigh-In completely slipped my mind yesterday. So today's Weigh-In has a Thursday date.

Waist = 36.5"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

Post Wedding Day Blues

Sunday, it felt like the day after Christmas. That was the day after The Big Wedding for my wife's cousin, an only child. Our daughter was one of the junior bridesmaids. She wore a special dress, which I hope will still fit her should she decide to go to the prom in seven years.

Our daughter had her hair done twice. It was twisted neatly into a French braid for the Tea Party and Rehearsal Dinner on the Penultimate Day. And then for the Wedding it was styled into an ornate up-doo with a few special wispy curls cascading down the sides of her face. She also had make up.

I set aside blog time to study the itinerary and get plenty rest. I was the designated driver and had to make sure I dropped off our daughter at the proper locations at the proper times, and let her travel in the limo at other proper times. I even had the car's battery replaced beforehand just to make sure we'd not get stuck somewhere with just a set of jumper cables and Mapquest printout to guide us.

During the reception, I danced with our daughter to everything she was willing to dance to. No slow dances for her, though. Perhaps I overdid it because at the end of the polka, she asked breathlessly, "What are you doing, Dad?" She had no idea how to dance the polka, so I just swung her around.

I write about the Event now with initial capitals. That's how my wife and I talked about it, as though it were the Coronation of the Century. Yet even though we think it might have been a bit overdone (with eight bride's maids, the groom's men were out numbered 2 to 1), the bride was refreshingly gracious about the Affair. For example, she specified the color of the bride's maids' gowns but not the style. The women were free to wear dress shoes of their choosing. And she went out of her way to thank everyone numerous times with cards, trinkets and refreshments.

So there was the big buildup, and then the celebration, just like the Christmases of my childhood. And Sunday was like the the day the presents were all unwrapped, played with, eaten, tried on, when we look forward to the next celebration.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday Weigh-In 20091014

We're preparing our daughter to be a junior bride's maid. There's a fine line between excitement and anxiety.

Waist = 36.75"
Height = 5' 9"

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

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Long Shadows

I'm taking a break from Shadow Shot Sunday because of long shadows -- lengthening Autumn shadows on the lawn from a late afternoon sun, and a sadness creeping over me from a childhood memory.

The memory isn't of an actual event from my childhood. Rather, it's from a general sense of how things changed as I transitioned gradually from a blithe little elementary school boy to a cynical teenager. The thing that awoke this memory was a sheet of paper.

The sheet of paper was on my daughter's desk. It was a printed worksheet titled "Giving a Compliment." It had the handwriting of seven children -- that of my daughter and six of her classmates from the previous grade. Apparently the paper was part of an exercise in which six children compliment a seventh child by writing positive comments on the sheet. It affected her enough to compel her to save it. Seeing the paper made me think that she was trying to cheer herself up, staving off the same moodiness that enveloped me at her age.

Here are the comments that the children wrote:
  1. Nathan: You are good at helping people since you are tall.
  2. Rebeca: She is nice, caring and good at help [sic] Edit your paper.
  3. Jessica: You are considerate and gentle to others all the time!
  4. Sofie: You are really nice and would never say anything bad about anyone!
  5. Ryan: You are nice and never get in trouble.
  6. UN: You are really thoughtful.
The worksheet concluded with one last fill-in, beginning with the printed text, "One compliment I could give myself is that I," I am good at art!

Today, the sheet of paper is in the top left drawer of her desk, right on top, easily accessible for a quick fix.

I still have this sadness. What compliments can I give myself? "One compliment I could give myself is that I" I am a loving father!

Do you need a compliment? Now it's your turn: "One compliment I could give myself is that I" __________________________________