new things

Apr. 30th, 2012 11:23 pm
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This year I've started actually trying to do some of the things I've thought about, wished about, lamented that I couldn't or didn't know how to do, and just Do It. So far I've fooled around with water colors a little, gone to a some estate sales looking for books to pick for a book dealer I know and who let me know he was always in need of new pickers, bought a digital SLR Nikon, went to Washington DC and played tourist for a few days and took a few hundred photos, and am attempting to teach myself the cello.

So far, three years of piano lessons as a kids and not ever learning to read music is coming back to mock me. I had, for a while, resorted to using flash cards in effort to fall back on my one strength: rote memorization. I don't know if it's old age or a complete mental bias against, but that didn't help.

I do think part of the issue is that I am used to working with arrays, matrices, and tables, but filled with data, not symbols. The musical staff is essentially an open-ended matrix of symbols. It's a paradigm that is really screwing with my head. And consequently, the amount of time I've spent with the cello in my hand in any given week has dropped from nearly every day in January to almost nothing by March.

When I got back from DC, I tried a new approach of working with the various beginner music books I have without the cello. So I've gone from a doing "what note is it, where is it on the string, *bow*, repeat", to being able to play on 1 string at a time, simple exercises involving 2-4 notes. It's not much--it's barely anything, but it's still much more than I'd been able to do.

It's been humbling, disheartening, and yet still a fun experience. Not as much fun as I'd hoped going into it, but still enough that I'm not ready to give up.

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We have, as a society, generally come to expect the occasional annoyance of double standards when dealing with people personally. However, dealing with double standards in a professional setting is something I still find intolerable. I work at a company that has a fairly diverse ethnic representation. Sometimes this is beneficial, as a multiplicity of perspective or experience has improved some decision making. Most of the time it is of no consequence. And then there are the times when it gives rise to a double standard, and quite often in a way in which it then becomes almost impossible for me (particularly not being a manager, and presumptively having no say in the final decisions) to deal with. The problem for me is not the letting go, it's the "what's next" aspect to this.

The reality of dealing with some (but not all) people from eastern cultures is that there's no forgetting. The entire concept of face involves, at its heart, keeping score. Except it's a game without officials, without written rules, and with inherent double standards. So the only real questions are how much do I just ignore and refuse to play, and how egregious does the behavior have to be for me to ensure it's not just my bias leading me to go to my management to ask that it be stopped?


Apr. 22nd, 2012 11:14 pm
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LJ stopped being a habit for me over 2 years ago; it's been nearly a year since I've posted. I have slowly stopped the timesuck I have let facebook and twitter become, and in what I hope isn't going to be merely substitutionary behavior, I am going to attempt to start writing here every day again. Plan on it being boring, run-of-the-mill daily diary stuff, 'cause I have to start somewhere.

On a more positive note, I have committed to going to Convergence this year by virtue of offering Kest a ride back. Now I need to live up to that and go buy the ticket and make some hotel reservations while there's rooms to be had (I hope).


Jul. 6th, 2011 10:21 pm
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I told the kids to stay put in the hotel room, & that i would be back. Elyssia, not one to take anything unexplained, asked where i was going. I told her i was going out to wait for the aliens to come & take me away. Then i gave her a smile & went out & down to the lobby. I got a water from the vending machine & came back up.

Elyssia saw the water in my hand and said "oh, you just went & got water!" I told her that the aliens didn't want me and just gave me a water & left. She thought about it for 5 minutes and then exclaimed, "Yeah, right Dad! The aliens did come, because the hotel didn't shake."

Posted via LjBeetle

a nice day

May. 31st, 2011 12:23 am
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I had a nice day, partially in spite of myself, but mostly because of those around me. I took my kids (and my Ex) up to Portsmouth. They had a Tall Ships fest this weekend. We originally talked about going yesterday where there were to be 4 ships there, except that my daughter was highly uncooperative and no one had a good day. So instead we went today. There was only one ship left, but they were doing tours and the kids had fun for the half-hour or so we spent on the boat. Then we went to Strawberry Banke and wandered about the grounds and through about half the buildings for a few hours. No one was in a hurry to see everything, which meant we had a relaxing time there hanging out, just the five of us.

After I dropped them back at the house, I decided that it was much too hot to cook dinner in my house, so I went out where someone was going to cook for me. I'd only had a powerbar and an egg salad sandwich and coffee all day, so I was starving. I went (of course) to the Barley House and got a burger, and a salad on the side in effort to pretend to try to eat healthy. Being Memorial Day, the place was nearly empty. I got to sit at my friend Kait's table, and had her almost all to myself (she had 1 other table in 2 hours I was there, I think). Kait is cool. She's a single mom going to school studying interior design. And she's quite good at both. The conversation wandered all over the place and we ended the evening talking art, and I told her about my project.

I found this place down in Massachusetts that gives welding classes on the weekend. I have always wanted to learn how to weld. Welding has always struck me as one of those mandatory, cool skills that every guy ought to have. Welding isn't in the laundry list of activities that Heinline declared a human should be able to do, but I think it should be. Anyway, I want to learn to weld so I can do metal sculpture with scrap metal. I am not much of a creative person, but I have ideas for half a dozen sculptures already, and I'm sure I'll get more once I find out what really is and is not possible to do. And Kait really liked the idea.

She said we should talk more about it after I described one of my ideas to her, which she very much understood right away. I am nearly giddy thinking about the possibilities. Kait is a real artist and going to school to be able to make a living doing her art. She has a good eye for perspective and color, knows how to mix and match various materials (she had an interesting idea about using crushed glass instead of paint for color) and is probably generally smarter than I am. God knows she has more common sense. In other words, she's a lot of what I'm not and the potential for us to provide artistic balance to one another may be huge. Or not. I'm projecting a lot from a single conversation, but then we've known each other for almost four years and there's a certain amount of trust from that too.

I was thinking of doing the welding class after I got back from my vacation in July, as I'm trying to save as much money between now and then as possible, as I have no idea what gas prices will be by then. But after tonight, I'm thinking I should get into the next available class. Or find another place, if they don't have any openings for awhile.

It feels good to have a project again.
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I need some opinions and advice. I have been invited to a graduation party for the daughter of a friend and former coworker. I suppose that she and I are friends of a sort (although I have no idea how she would describe it), in that the last few times I have been at their house, she has hung out and talked with her mom and I for a while. So I would like to get her a graduation gift. I would like to get her something nice, and something a little more personal than money. I don't think she has made her final decision on college, but she's looking at pre-med at a couple of area colleges. So, any ideas on what to (or not to) get?
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In the early 1500s, a huge deposit of natural graphite was discovered in Borrowdale parish, England. The graphite was of such density and such purity that miners could bring out sections as large at 3 feet, which were easily cut down into sticks, and thus an industry was born. For well over 100 years, the English enjoyed a near monopoly on pencils. With the competing products from Germany being quite inferior, the "Borrowdale pencil" became the literal mark of quality. However, over the years English school children (as children are wont to do) corrupted the phrase "I want a Borrowdale pencil" to "I want to borrow a pencil". So the next time you are in need of a writing instrument, you can thank the English school children who were unable to keep their history straight for giving you the means for acquiring a new one.

Dog people

May. 1st, 2011 03:31 am
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Almost everyone is either a dog person, a cat person, or not an animal person at all. Very occasionally do you find someone who is both a cat & a dog person. I am clearly a cat person by choice, although at times there are dogs who appear not to know this. I don't know how much my chosen preference biases me, but there a times when i truly hate some dog people.

Someone down the street let their dog out, and them let the poor thing bark for half an hour. I doubt i will be getting back to sleep anytime soon, thanks to that person. It is, undoubtedly, a good thing that i don't know who that person is right now.

Posted via LjBeetle
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I figure that a recurring dream taking place in a parking garage is a (poor?) Modern day analog to the victorian labyrinth. Yes?

Posted via LjBeetle


Apr. 26th, 2011 12:40 am
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1. Get Enough Sleep
2. Eat Right
3. Exercise
4. Reduce Stress
5. Find your Motivation for Each Day
6. Be Productive
7. Do at lest 1 Thing for your Family
8. Do 1 Thing for Yourself
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On call week routinely kicks my ass, and this one was no exception, starting with help from DST throwing a wrench into my already not-normal sleep cycle, followed by getting paged at 4:15 am on Monday. Tuesday I ended up working from home because I had slept past my alarm so badly. But we did have a system problem that resulted in a mini-fire drill for which I rose to the occasion and saved the day. Or a few minutes of it, at least. Thursday we were graced with the presence of the company CIO. After about the dozenth time he said to not to hesitate to ask him questions or point out things he's missed or got wrong, I did. Three quick, rather pointed questions, which to his credit, he didn't dodge. He didn't really answer, either, but he did ask me to email them to him so he could respond in detail. So now I have something to do for Monday.

I did go out for a one-man St. Paddy's day celebration, and enjoyed potato & leak soup, ale steamed mussels, Irish breakfast (with a salad on the side to offset all that protein), and because they had chocolate mousse on the dessert menu, I went with that. And a Guinness to wash it all down, of course, which made for a nice evening, even if I was all on my own.

Tonight I took Dan to see the Manchester Monarchs hockey game. He got a free ticket from school, and a $10 coupon for the pro shop, where he picked out an outdoor hockey game that consisted of padded sticks and what I can only call fancy hacky sacks; he wanted that so he and his little sister can play together. That's a nice kid I have there, even if I do say so myself.

The Monarchs lost, 1-nil. They only had 18 shots going into the 3rd, and finished the game with 25. I think they had as many turnovers. The had a couple of power play chances, and a least one of them failed to take even one shot. But, Dan said it was fun and asked to go again, so success was had where it mattered the most.

Tomorrow morning and Sunday afternoon I have to do some systems work. In between I want to take Dan to the coin show on Sunday morning, if we can get up and down there by 10. Except I have to figure out why my ATM card isn't working. Got declined last night at the restaurant, and tonight getting gas. I checked my bank account on-line when we got back from the game and prior purchases and checks are clearing, which is a Good Thing. I'm hoping a phone call to the bank tomorrow will fix it, but this is my life, and things are seldom that easy to fix. Still going to try for it.
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My oldest son Brandon has been in the military for almost 2 years now. In that time he's been through Basic training, advanced training, and then got posted to the middle-of-nowhere-america at Ft. Still, Oklahoma. He's not liked his posting since day one, in large part because he's not doing what he got trained for. Granted, he's also not deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan either, but he's got to do a year state-side before getting shipped overseas. He's been at Ft. Sill since September, I think. He's also spent over 60 days of that time in the hospital, include the last 30 or so.

He got the flu around Christmas, and by the middle of January, was hospitalized with pneumonia. He was (theoretically) put on light-duty, but then had to go to the field with his unit where he was pulling 14 hours days in the kitchen, and ended-up back in the hospital. My Ex and I did a conference call with his doctor today, and going into it I assumed it was going to be about his health. Turns out, during his first hospitalization in November, some army pshrink diagnosed him has being bipolar. It was 1 week of interviews, surveys, and counseling that lead to the diagnosis. No MRI or fMRI study, no 30, or 60, or 90 days of therapy sessions. Just a week, and *bam*, he's on lithium and some SRI and ambien so he can sleep.

Unlike in November, he is in a civilian hospital right now. They took him off of the ambien last month (which I am very happy about) and changed the SRI he's on, and reduced the lithium. This makes me even more suspect of the original diagnosis. He is getting "medical boarded" which is the first step in getting a medical discharge. Brandon is ok with getting out, which I understand, but is also ok with wearing the label of "bipolar" for the rest of his life, which concerns me to no end.

I probably cannot add him to my insurance this year, even with the new changes in the law, because this is essentially just a job-change for him; and even if he did come here to live with me, I doubt that qualifies as a valid "life event" to where I can add him outside of the open-enrollment period. But, I ought to be able to add him next year (assuming he is living with me or his mom) which will allow him to get a non-army diagnosis and perhaps an MRI to confirm (or not) what they think is going on in his head.

In the meantime, we were told that a medical discharge typically takes 6 months, and can take up to a year. So he's got quite a bit of hurry-up-and-wait ahead of him. He seemed to be accepting of that on the phone today, so I at least don't have to be preoccupied with worry about it. And he's going to come out of this was some cash saved up and maybe part of his college money from the first year+ of his enlistment that he can use to go back to school--which was his goal in doing this all along. So maybe now he just gets to do it a bit sooner, albeit with some added personal baggage now.

Kids. Always something.

Test post

Feb. 27th, 2011 02:58 am
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While I'm killing time waiting for the sandman toshow, i downloaded an lj client app to my android phone. It's ok for what it does, which to post to your journal. Unfortunately, it will only let you post--you cannot read your friend's journals. This means i will still have to go through the android built-in internet client to connect to lj. I need to find a better browser for the phone. Or maybe the difference between the 3G and the 4G speed really makes that big a difference.

Posted via LjBeetle
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The key to the future, a glimpse of which we are seeing in the protests in the Middle East and North Africa, is to find a way for every person on the planet to have a sense of purpose and feeling of fulfillment, and a means of a self-direction in achieving and sustaining that.

The problem in getting from here to there is succinctly put in the phrase from the move "The Right Stuff", "No bucks, no Buck Rogers". Therefore, the economic challenge is not to find more bucks, or even a more equitable way of attaining or distributing the available bucks, but to factor the bucks completely out of the equation. For this we will need economists and sociologists and behavioral psychiatrists to adopt each others' perspectives in order to approach the problem laterally. Because the same type of thinking is always, only ever going to lead to the same problems.
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...when having a recurring dream and I can't find something that was there the last time, and I start feeling like I've misplaced it. And then my mind starts getting overly-creative with things in the dream to account for why it's missing or what I have as options now that it's gone. Last night, I actually annoyed myself awake because I couldn't find my minivan in my dream, because my mind go so busy throwing in random stuff and events to deal with it that I was all "it's just outside in the driveway!" about it, that I woke up.

Recurring dreams are like the "comfort food" of the subconscious: familiar, easily dealt with (usually), and require little effort. While I have a few, one of the themes in common is almost all of them are set in one of the three houses I grew-up in as a child. What's interesting (and, honestly, fun) is that they are usually an amalgamation of one or more of the house, with each containing either a room or the backyard of one of the other houses. Last night's took place at the house I lived at in Lexington, Kentucky, but with the driveway and front yard of the house I have here--which is a new twist, but not unexpected or unaccountable, as I was just over at the house yesterday (long story there, I may rant about it tomorrow). Both houses are the same architectural style: a raised ranch, but with opposite setup on the upper floor (i.e., the bedrooms are on the right in my house now, and were on the left in the house in Lexington).

I don't usually dream about that house much, largely because it's the place I liked living the least, and the style of house I liked the least. And yet I bought one of the same style, knowing full well I'd ultimately hate it and that it wouldn't end well. I really need to listen to myself more.
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Oh yeah, I was on call for a week and lost my rhythm. There are 9 of us in the call rotation. One guy prefers to do his rotation two weeks at a time. I believe he gets 3 rotations a year. That leaves 46 weeks for the rest of us, meaning six of us get 6 weeks and two lucky souls only get 5. In theory. Last year I did 6 weeks; this year's schedule was only published through the first week of Feb., presumable due not wanting to prematurely give away the surprise layoffs. Hopefully the remainder of the schedule will soon appear. And with that in mind, I need to get my vacation requests in ASAP.

My (mom's) family reunion is July 2nd. I'm already assuming I'm going to drive to Ohio for that rather than fly. Even at $4 gas.

I've talked about going to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in New York for a very long time now, and it's high time I stopped talking and went.

I'm sure Sam is going to want to go horseback riding again, so I should figure that out, as well as going to Storyland with Elyssia, which got rained out last year because I waited until the last minute to try to go. Part of it is I hate the drive. I'm actually more reluctant to do that drive (which is only about 2 hours) than to drive down to Rinebeck, which is a little over 4 hours according to Google. Maybe there's something about familiarity and contempt going on with that. Then there's winter break, spring break, Christmas break, two antiquarian book shows, and the python conference down in Atlanta in March to consider.

I had asked my manager at work about sending me to the conference, but then the company got bought, the "strategic direction" changed, and now I'm not the admin for the system running the python app (Cobbler), so I highly doubt that I'll get to go courtesy of my employer. If I have to pay for it myself, it will be every bit of $3k for travel, hotel and the conference fee, I'm sure. As much I want to go, the overly-practical side of my brain is sarcastically asking how smart is it to invest that much time and money into learning a programming language (and getting immersed into its culture) that is neither a job requirement nor anything I'll get "graded" on for my review? I already know that the answer lies in how much I want to go back to being a full-time programmer. I suppose I should seriously investigate the python programmer market this week to find out.
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I've yet to go back and list everything I read last year, but I am definitely continuing my trend of non-fiction reading. Aside from a short list of favorite authors (Neal Gaiman, Umberto Eco, William Gibson, and Martin Cruz Smith) there's not much fiction that I find appealing right now. A couple of times I've gone to Borders with the specific intent of getting some new science fiction, and have either walked out with a computer book for work or nothing at all.

I still have the first volume of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant that I bought back in 2004 and have started I think three different times now but always have put down in favor of something else. Part of that is my wandering attention span, and I will admit that part of it is also not being in hurry to get plunged back into a depressing story. I read the first two trilogies in the series when I was in high school. They are good, character driven stories, but horribly depressing. I'm sure that some of my high school experience would have been better without the emotional influence these works left with me. The latest volumes don't appear to be a miserable, and there's plenty of resolution to be had from where the story left off, so I will eventually read it.

Does anyone have any recommendations for some good fiction?
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My oldest daughter, Samantha, turned 14 today. In keeping with our tradition, I took her out to dinner. All on her own, with no prompting from me, she wanted to go to the Japanese restaurant. I think this is the fourth time we've been there for her birthday now. We got our usual chicken and salmon at the hibachi, and had a nice quiet time out.

I got her one of the Paper Jams Guitars, and she loved it. I was a bit disappointed by the sound, but then I didn't get the amp and it just has a single speaker on it. I got her an acoustic guitar awhile ago, and I'm hoping this will rekindle her interest in picking that back up.
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Victoria's Secret was running a commercial this weekend about their semi-annual sale and that everyone's favorite bras and panties could be found there. I immediately wondered if my former girlfriend would be there, as whatever bra and panties she happens to be wearing at the time are my favorites.

And this, of course, begs that now century old question: why is "bra" singular if "panties" are plural?
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This article over at psychology today comes the closest to describing some of what I go through dealing with people face-to-face. I don't struggle with it in the moment the way the author of the story did, and never have. In the past I mostly would be oblivious as to the whys and wherefores of the situation until well after the fact. Now, I'm either at least aware of my lack of comprehension (to one degree or another), or still clueless but much less stressful about it afterward.

Eyes, on the other hand, are much easier for me to read. Eye contact in general, is easier. Too much or none at all and my guard is instantly up. Also, because I'm very guilty about being either entirely evasive or way to intense with eye contact as a normal course of habit, people who are trying to game me one way or the other with eye contact often either bail out on it, or are so focused on what they are doing they really aren't paying attention to me--and that actually helps me deal with it.
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