Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Pack Rat

I am on a cleaning kick. My lease is up at the end of September and I have decided to clean now like I am moving. This involves making the tough decisions on what to throw away and what to keep.

As I move through my apartment, I am surprised at what I find. Sitting on the floor near my working PC is another PC that just needs to be plugged in to function. I open my closet in my bedroom and there are two more PC cases with most, if not all, the requirements to be working PCs. In the coat closet inside the front door are two boxes with enough parts in them to make each of the other PCs function (if they donÂ’t currently) and likely at least one more PC out of scrap parts. I am fairly certain I have at least one skeletal PC case down in my garage into which these scrap parts could go.

I have, so far, given away four large trash bags of old clothes that I no longer wear. I have sitting beside me right now two smaller bags of clothes to take in to the nice girl whose mother cleans and mends the clothes, then takes them to missions and donates them in Mexico to the poor.

I have shredded three large trash bags full of old bills and other documents that are 7 or more years old. Why am I keeping this? Does anyone care that I can produce every electric bill to the apartment I lived at on Kendall in San Bernardino in 1993? I doubt it. So, away with it! And, not to scare you, but this is just the stuff in my current files. I have yet to clean out my bedroom closet enough to get to the four-drawer metal filing cabinet in there that has even older stuff in it. I would not be surprised if that cabinet has every pay stub I received working at RoleplayerÂ’s Comics and Games when I was in High School (in case that makes no impression, I graduated in 1989). So, even more shredding to go.

I still have over 100 VHS tapes on shelves. How many of these am I going to keep? Those that I really want I will purchase in DVD and store long-term that way. At least when I do that, I know I can take them into work and leave them on an open table with a “Take Me” sign on them and they will all make it to a nice home where they will be viewed and enjoyed. Should I do the same with those I will not replace?

Inside my front door I have two bookcases and a three-shelf rolling storage unit. Today I was able to find other locations for, or throw away, everything on the three-shelf storage unit. So as not to just fill it up again, I have thrown away the unit. That has freed up a spot inside my door approximately three feet long by two feet wide by three to four feet tall.

In the back of my mind is the shelf in the garage. Beyond the PC case, what other “treasures” remain to be found? Of course, I only have the very end of the garage as storage, so there is not really a lot there. I do know I still have my old, broken lounge chair in the garage. Only reason is because I couldn't lift it to get it into the trash bins at the complex. However, unlike so many of my neighbors, I actually use my garage for parking, so most of it is empty for my vehicle. Whew!

By the time October rolls around, I should know whether I truly need a bigger apartment or if I can just make enough room here that I am once more comfortable. Then, if I do decide I need to move, IÂ’m one big step closer to doing it. If I decide to stay put, IÂ’m a ahead of the game and have more room and less crap littering my life.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Self-Image

I am not sure in which class I picked up the following idea, because I am fairly certain it is not unique to me, but I have used it to great effect and the people who have tried it have had moderate to profound results.

Get a timing device, a mirror big enough so that you can see your entire face, a well-lit room, and a comfortable place to sit. Set timing device for three minutes. While sitting in well-lit room in comfortable location, spend the three minutes looking at yourself in the mirror. By looking at yourself, I mean try to look yourself in the eye but, if you find this uncomfortable, then move your eyes across the rest of your face and back to your eyes. The point is to look yourself in the eyes for as long as possible until the three-minute timer goes off. This is not a staring contest, so remember to blink.

Simple, right? Wrong.

This exercise is designed to break down your self-image and rebuild it with truth. Most people seem to have a mental image of themselves at what they think was/is their peak. The image may include various times in their lives; the jocks body they had in High School, the cool hair they had during college, the great attitude they had two years ago. But they are currently overweight and out of shape, losing their hair, and coasting through life with a laissez-faire attitude.

On their first attempt, most people cannot look themselves in the eyes for much more than about 30-45 seconds of the three minutes. Many people find that they cannot spend more than a few seconds looking themselves in the eyes. Your mileage may vary.

I first did this exercise early in college. I was amazed by what I saw in myself, and a little worried. I saw an angry guy staring back at me; someone who had closed himself off from those around him. Someone who would rather manipulate the events and people around him than just enjoy them for what and who they are. After a few more exercises, I started to rebuild my self-image as one who was more genuine, caring, and concerned. While this metamorphosis still is occurring today, I feel I have reached a point where “Evil John” is a distant memory and “Good John” is the reality. As an aside, I was also able to recreate a self-image that involved the “follicle-challenged” hairline that is my reality. My previous self-image always had the near-mullet I sported through most of high school. Hey, don’t laugh, it was in fashion then!

I have recommended this action to many people. I did not always hear back from people if they tried it or what their results were if they did. A small sampling of responses I did get: one woman was surprised to see an attractive, confident woman staring back at herself; her self-image was meek and unattractive due to life events that had ruined her ego and destroyed her confidence. Actually, this is a frequent response from women, as we tend to constantly assail women with the idea they are not pretty enough, good enough, smart enough. One man was surprised to find a sad boy staring back at him. He had always overcompensated for losses in his early life with boisterous behavior and a “jock” mentality. By learning of the sadness he had inside, he was able to come to terms with it and move in different directions.

Breaking down your self-image is not for everyone. Some people will not like what they see staring back at themselves. And you should never force this exercise. It is not a contest and there are no winners. It is about learning more about yourself, and possibly coming to terms with who you are as compared to who you present yourself to be. Once you have this knowledge you can set about enacting changes and maybe move a little closer to who you want to be.

I wonder what you’ll find staring back at you?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Vacation

My mother left for PA today for a nice long visit with my sister and her family. They both made comments that it would be nice if I could join them. Man, that would be nice!

I love where my sister lives. It is verdant and bucolic. There are enough big cities that you can do serious shopping yet pastoral enough that you can drive for miles in nothing but wooded valleys and hills. They have real seasons and the people tend to be more small-town minded.

Where I live is part of one great big megalopolis. From San Diego to the north of Los Angeles (and beyond), and as far east as San Bernardino, there are few places left with actual Nature visible and untamed. You can drive most of the trip on the 5 freeway and rarely will you be out of sight of buildings and humanity's urban sprawl. While it is true that there are many advantages to living in such a mega complex, there are drawbacks too; increased crime, increased pollution, increased prices, increased distance from the natural world.

I have not gone anywhere else except to my sister's for vacation in about 10 years. I only seem to manage it once every other year, but I treasure that time immensely. She likes it, too, because I am one of the few people she doesn't have to "plan" for. She knows I am just as happy sitting on her couch as I am trying to take in the sights. We usually manage a trip to the Renaissance fair (last time we went in costume even! What fun!) and she usually takes a day off so I can go see some history I haven't yet seen (last time was Washington DC, which was fun but a day-trip is just not enough). This year was to be my trip back east, but my health has been less than stellar so far, and I'm not sure I can afford the days off. I hate that my health can dictate something like that to me, but I live with it. My sister will happily wait and hope I can make it next year.

However, I am planning a small vacation in September to a neighboring state, toward which I am really looking forward. On tap already is a trip to one of the nature parks in that area, which will allow me to connect with the ... well, "nothing" ... that is so breathtaking and beautiful in the desert. I hope to see it through new eyes and a fresh perspective. I also should have some people to see. A friend who just this month moved to that area has even offered her home to me as a place to stay-- and said she will make Enchiladas! I love enchiladas. It will be nice to see her husband, with whom I played softball for many years, with whom I can talk football, and who is a generally great guy. I can also see the new baby and the older children.

So, I sit here in my megalopolis, thinking of my mom, flying back east, my sister in her little piece of paradise, my small vacation in two months and the friends I will see then, and I can be at peace at least a little. Sometimes even a mental vacation is enough to tie you over until the real thing comes around.

The Hazards of Work

So, I agreed to get a project done, all five documents, by July 22, even though this was a very aggressive due date. This would give my resources a few days to review the docs and me a few days to make edits and get the manuals published before the client's drop-dead due date of August 1.

Well, I managed to get over 300 pages of documents written, with first edits from another resource included, and compiled by July 18! I had to ignore many requests and secondary work, and work like a fiend, but I did it.

On Friday (the day this work was actually due), I get an email from my main contact with the department with which I am working. She provides me some edits on three of the five documents and then says she would forward the other two docs to others to review while she is gone on vacation next week. What? Excuse me? You are on vacation next week, the only week you originally had to edit all of this work?

This is very frustrating. First, because I bent over backward, ignored many other tasks and personal things (like this blog) and worked a lot of overtime to not only meet her requested due date, but even to beat it and get it done early. I had even asked one of my pals from IT to stop by my home and set up my network with the much faster and more secure connections so I could do some work at night. Second, at no time in the three weeks since requesting this document set and Friday had this woman informed me she was out on vacation during the pivotal review process. Lastly, my boss, Renee, is also completely swamped and is need of my assistance. I could have been doing more to help her if we could have negotiated more reasonable due dates on this project!

So, I have edits on the smallest of the docs in the set, and none for the actual User's Guide or the Model Reports Guide, the two largest and most involved. I will do these edits and I will hope for the best that her accomplices will do her edits for her. But if they do not, who gets the blame if we cannot meet our client's hard deadline of August 1?

Football

I am SO ready for some football!

With most teams reporting and starting their practices over the next two weeks, the smell of football is in the air.

Of course, as a life-long Detroit Lions fans, I have high hopes and low expectations. Can Harrington come through with all the weapons he has now? Have they improved the defense enough? Will the so-rightly named "Black and Blue" division once again knock each other around and wind up missing out on the playoffs?

Will this be the year they make it back to the Big Show (they last won a title in 1957-- before the creation of the Super Bowl)?

And why can't Barry Sanders stay young and playing for the team forever?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Thursday Thoughts

Many non-artistic types think that artists have control over what they do. An artist wants to paint, so he picks up a brush and applies paint. He wants to write, so he picks up a pen (or fires up the word processor) and begins to deliberate. An actor picks up his script and starts to memorize lines and blocking. A musician strums a few bars. As far as it goes, that is true. But the art has a say in the matter too. And the art can sometimes take the artist to unexpected places.

I have had an idea for a poem floating around in my head for awhile now. In my mind’s eye, this was a bucolic poem filled with pastoral scenes of a wood nymph dancing around her tree and captivating those who see her. Not my usual arena, but the image stuck with me and kept solidifying. For whatever reason, the seed of that poem finally germinated long enough that I began to write it last evening.

The first two stanzas turned out the way I expected; pleasant and pastoral. Even the desire to go with a meter and rhyme scheme was working (I’m more well known for my free-verse). Great, just as I expected and exactly what I kept seeing in my mind.

Stanza three took an unexpected turn, though. This bucolic scene started to show some shadows. From that point on, the poem devolved from my original intent into a strange land of darkness and frightful imagery. The protagonist of the piece winds up trapped and alone with a feral creature rather than the beautiful nymph he set out to visit.

I cannot explain or justify what happened there. My path appeared clear and unblemished when I began, and I tried to hold true to that need. The poem, the art, and my subconscious mind enacted in a strange and powerful way to force the effort in another direction. As I was writing it, I could see what I was typing as a neutral observer and was amazed at where I was going.

It is the same with other arts, I’m sure. A polished actor, lines memorized and blocks known, will sometimes find he is uttering new lines and going in new directions as the scene and the character grab hold and will not let go. Or an artist will sit down to paint a nice family portrait and wind up hours later staring at an impressionistic image of a matador spearing a bull. Musicians thrive on the "jam session" because of the unexpected directions the music sometimes goes.

It is a strange and wonderful feeling to have the art take over and to be a passenger on the ride to the discovery. But it can be a little frightening as well. I honestly do not know if I birthed this poem or if it sprang from my head on its own. I do know that it is finally out of my mind and the real work of hammering it into its final form is all that is left to do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Worst Fears

I used to lean Republican, but am now definitely in the middle with some strong Liberal as well as Conservative leanings depending on the subject. I am not a fan of the current President, but I realize he will be out of office soon, never to return thanks to our two-term limit on that office.

However, I am very afraid of President George W. Bush getting to elect even one Justice to the Supreme Court-- probably the most important body in our country-- let alone two. With Justice O'Connor's shocking resignation and now Justice Rehnquist's failing health, President Bush may be able to stock two ultra-conservative leaning Justices on the Court for years and years to come.

Justice O'Connor was a pivotal swing vote for many issues I lean to the left on, women's rights, the environment, etc. Justice Rehnquist is one of our best judges in that he can divorce himself from his own politics and rule without much bias on many issues.

My one hope is that most judges seem to understand the weight of the responsibility that comes with being a Justice in the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia, for example, was considered something of a maverick and a fairly "political" choice when he got in. Yet his rulings, while maybe not as unbiased as the two I mentioned, have been surprisingly moderate and without overt bias. I can only pray that the new judges nominated by President Bush will likewise grow to understand the weight of their new position and will put aside their own biases and beliefs and make their rulings as justly as possible.

This is a time to comment to your lawmakers, though. Make sure your advocates in the House and Senate know where you stand on this issue. Congress cannot capitulate if they feel the nominees President Bush presents are the least bit unfit for duty in the Supreme Court. I urge everyone to pay close attention to these hearings once annoounced as they could change the legal landscape for decades to come. Yes, it is that important.

And, if things go poorly, or bad Justices get in and the laws start changing-- there is always Canada. I hear they only have 32 million people or so. I think one more could fit right in. I don't drink beer and am not a huge fan of ice hockey, but I'm willing to try poutine. That has to count for something.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Friday, July 08, 2005

Ordained Minister

Okay, I admit it. I’m a loon. I’m crazy. Anyone who knows me well will give me that patient smile and slow shake of the head I’ve gotten so used to seeing when they read this one. I’m sure mom will have some interesting comments as well.

Awhile back, I stumbled on a web site that proclaimed it would legally ordain me as a clergy person for their church for free. For some reason at that time, I thought that was cool. So I filled everything out and expected to hear back immediately from them (they claimed “instant ordainment” after all). Nada. Nothing. Zilch. That was long ago enough that I had forgotten all about it.

Today, as I’m sitting at work, I get an email notification. I open it and it is from the church. I have now been ordained by the Church of Spiritual Humanism to perform religious rites and ceremonies including marriage, baby naming, funeral services, invocations, and holiday ceremonies as permitted by the laws and regulations of my state and country. Not valid in Canada (they wouldn’t approve the church’s request) or the UK.

And I am ordained for life!

Apparently, the tenets I am supposed to espouse as a clergy member are reason and deliberation. I am to peacefully follow the proper course of action and to avoid infringing on the rights of others. I am to denounce the irrational and subjective.

While this church does not specifically espouse Christian tenets, I am allowed to incorporate any belief systems from external sources that do not infringe on the basic tenets of reason and deliberation.

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So, you all now know an ordained clergy member (OCM) for the Church of Spiritual Humanism.

How funny is that?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Movie Music

There are certain songs that cause an urge to watch the film in which the song is found. This urge becomes a compulsion that is hard to ignore.

For example, every time I hear Fiona Apple singing “Across the Universe,” I need to seek out my copy of Pleasantville and watch it. Hearing the Beatles performing that song does not trigger the same need; only Apple’s version does it. Luckily, the DVD has the video for the song— sometimes I can get away with that instead of watching the whole film. Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)” results in a strong desire to watch Against All Odds. Did Rachel Ward ever look better than when she is standing there at the end, looking at Jeff Bridges as she cries? I think not. “Wind Beneath My Wings” makes me pull out my battered copy of Beaches. I always immediately think of when Bette Midler is jokingly saying that her memory is long and she remembers everything and Barbara Hershey turns away and whispers, “I’m counting on it.” Hearing the beautiful, plaintive voice of Jane Siberry singing “It Can’t Rain All The Time” invariably makes me watch my copy of The Crow. Why did Brandon Lee have to die during filming? He was showing such talent. I think nothing of watch the entire movie just to get to the song in question.

Some songs are indelibly linked to certain movies or specific scenes, even if I don’t feel an overriding desire to watch the entire movie. Interestingly, the songs are not always linked to the scene in which they play during the movie; most of the time, but not always. Evanescence’s “My Immortal” doesn’t force me to watch Daredevil, but I do think of Jennifer Garner’s face illuminated by the raindrops for blind Matt Murdock at the cemetery before she hides under the umbrella and takes her leave. The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” always makes me think of City of Angels (namely the scene where Meg Ryan rides her bicycle down the mountain road). Matter of fact, City of Angels has a great soundtrack; good stuff from a variety of artists.

Then there are the “classics.” Films such as Dirty Dancing, Lost Boys, Apocalypse Now, and The Big Chill are almost as well known for the great music they have as for the quality of the film. Almost any song from one of those will make me remember scenes from the movie. Sometimes I pull it out and watch, sometimes I don't.

Of course, there are the ubiquitous songs, too. Titanic and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Goes On,” The Bodyguard with Whitney Houston doing “I Will Always Love You,” or Queen singing "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Wayne's World. I don't have to watch the movie again, but I cannot help but think of it when I hear that song!

Do you have certain songs that trigger a strong desire to watch a particular film? Are certain songs linked forever in your mind to a scene in a favorite movie?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Quizzes

I liked these.

kermit
You are Kermit the Frog!! You are loyal to your
friends and don't really know how to say No.
No matter what you were doing, you would drop
it in a second if a loved one was in trouble.
You are also a born star. Everyone loves you!


Which Muppet are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

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Morpheus
Morpheus


?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Birth Year

You Were Actually Born Under:
No worries, you're not really pig-like in your personality.
(Though you have been known to have a healthy appetite!)
You are highly intelligent - forever studying and gaining knowledge.
You have a heart of gold and you are appreciated by many.

You are most compatible with a Rabbit or Goat


I chose to eliminate the "Year You Should have been Born Under" section.