Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Contents of a Fed Ex Package

I left work with a Fed Ex package tonight.  I often leave work with a Fed Ex package, or with certified letters, or other things that need to go places.  Sometimes it's because something absolutely, positively has to be someplace overnight.  Other times it's because somebody's been procrastinating and the same letter that could have been sent for a 47-cent stamp is now costing $35.50.  I won't say which was the case this time, but that's because I'm such a nice person that I wouldn't accuse any of my cow orkers of procrastinating.

Anyway, I should probably mind running errands for the office after work, but I don't.  There's something kind of nifty about leaving work with a Fed Ex package.  It's that combination of white, purple and orange that says to the outside world, "Look!  I'm doing something important!  Something so critically important that it calls for a Fed Ex package!"  Which is great for the ego, especially when you've been having a string of days when you feel like you're the least important person on the planet.  Now, the Dalai Lama would argue with me about this, but there are days when I'm convinced nobody would ever miss me if I were to suddenly disappear.  If, however, I were carrying a Fed Ex package at the time I vanished into thin air, a huge multinational corporation would pull out all the stops to find me (even in thin air) and bring me and the package back to terra firma.  To do anything less would just be un-Fed Exy.

One time I had a package to be delivered to a town in Australia, and Fed Ex called me to confirm the address because they couldn't find the one I gave them on a map.  (This was before Google Earth, you understand.)  I called the client to double check.  He started laughing and asked me if I'd ever  been to Little Town, Australia.  I said no.  He said that this town had one north and south road that crossed over one east and west road, and where the two roads crossed each other, was the place the package was going.  They couldn't have missed it if they tried.  But of course they called to confirm.  Of course they did, because that's just what Fed Ex does. Fed Ex packages are important.  

(Incidentally, I'm at Afrah, the World's Greatest Mediterranean Restaurant, eating some of the Best Pita Bread on Earth and typing this.   And darned if two Buddhist monks and a nun didn't just walk in and sit down.  Does anybody know if I'm supposed to go over there and bow?  Or do I get to mind my own business?  Maybe they didn't see me.  I am, after all, hiding behind my 8 inch by 4 inch tablet.  I am practically invisible.)

Anyway, a new year has started up.  We're about 16 days into it here, and it doesn't seem too bad so far.  I started out the year getting a new cell phone after mine became possessed by the Devil and started randomly doing things I had not asked it to do.  Demonic possession of small electronics is not something to be encouraged.  So I got a new cell phone.  And while we were in the cell phone store, picking out the best cheap knockoff  my money could buy, I ran into something that I wish I'd never met, because now I want one.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab S4.

Seriously, have you seen this thing?  It's like a tablet combined with a laptop and a dash of a cell phone thrown in.  It has the Microsoft software suite, the Android applications and more features than you can shake a stick at.  Unlike my current tablet, which you have to have Wi-Fi to operate, it's always on, just like a cell phone.  You can use it at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, if they have cell service there.

I need a new laptop.  I've needed a new laptop for ages.  So, why not just forego the laptop and get the tablet instead?  I mean, the thing has the Microsoft suite, right?  Well, there's the $700 price tag, for one thing.  I can get a good used laptop for around $250.  But a used laptop isn't sleek.  It doesn't have chrome trim and megapixel display and a camera.  This tablet is sleek.  It's like a Ferrari.  A laptop--any laptop--is a Toyota Corolla in comparison.

(Don't get me wrong.  I love my Corolla.  But it's hard to pick up girls driving around in a Corolla.  At least I think that is the problem.)

Oh, I'm probably not going to get the Galaxy Tab S4.  I still need a mattress, for one thing, and once I get one of those (this weekend, back.  I swear,) I won't be able to part with the funds.  But it would be really cool to have one of these suckers.  So if any of y'all made a New Year's resolution to give overpriced gifts to total strangers for no apparent reason, that's Galaxy S4.  Through T-Mobile.

One more piece of news:  My novel writing class is starting up again next Friday.  This is pretty cool, because for a while there the novel writing class was the only thing in my life that was going well.  Matters have since improved, but I'm still excited about the novel writing class.  I seem to need other writers to bounce off of and trade stories of Galaxy S4 lust.  Cheers!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Deviled Eggs and Water Polo

We made it!  Two posts during the month of November!  Well, they were two posts that were pretty far apart, but at least there are two posts.  I really will get up to a weekly blog post, here.  I did it in 2008 and I can do it again, even if I am ten years older, heavily medicated and no longer possessed of so many quick ideas to go off on a rant about.  By the way, speaking of time passing us by, it's now officially Cold in North Texas, except on days when it's Unseasonably Warm.  Like yesterday, for example, it got to 70.  Tonight it will be below freezing.  Which night does Grayson the Cat decide to run out the front door and gallivant through the bushes?  Yeah.  And there I am, crawling after him, without a coat, while Joan yells from the doorway, "He went that way!  No, the other that way!  You're getting colder!  Warmer!  No, not that kind of warmer..." 

Anyway, we caught him and hustled him back inside.  Now he's chasing a wad of paper across the floor, periodically picking it up with his mouth and carrying it off as prey.  They told us this guy was two years old when we picked him out, but I swear he was only a year and a few months, because he's still filling out and he's got a serious case of kittenager.  Any day now he's going to ask when he can borrow the car.

Last Saturday, I got up at about five in the morning to drag myself down to the pool, as usual.  (Well, somewhat usual.  Sometimes I sleep late and don't get there 'til seven.) I drove over to SMU's new pool, which is awe-inspiring and 18 feet deep, too, and much to my surprise, the building was locked up and nobody was there.  This wasn't because all the sane people stayed home, either.  I got on my cell phone, checked the Web site, and discovered that practice was canceled because of a water polo tournament.  A water polo tournament.  Just imagine.  I have always wanted to try water polo.  The only thing that holds me back is that I don't own any of those rare swimming horses. 

So I turned around and went back to my car, where I faced a dilemma.  As long as I was heading down to the pool and it was less than forty degrees out, I'd taken with me about twenty deviled eggs.  Yes, I frequently travel with deviled eggs.  Seriously, though, the eggs were left over from Joan's pre-Thanksgiving work potluck. My office often lets training classes use its conference rooms on Saturdays, so I'd had the idea that after practice I'd drive over to the office and drop off the deviled eggs for the lucky trainees, whomever they were.  But I didn't know what to do first; drive up to J.J. Pearce High School, which also has an early swim practice on Saturday, and drop off the eggs on the way?  Or forget about the eggs, go home like a normal person, and go back to bed?

I decided to get on Twitter and take a poll, as seen on the right of the screen here.  I actually got one response.  So I headed up to J.J. Pearce High School, planning to stop at my office and hand out free eggs.  Because why not.  But just as I pulled into the parking lot, I got this urgent text message from my boss, asking me to head over to the office and do something important.

Well, what a marvelous coincidence that I was already at the office.  I got out, eggs in tow, and went over to the main gate.  Here I ran into my second dilemma of the morning:  My code wouldn't work when I punched it in. So I texted my boss back:

Which she did.  But it didn't work any better than mine had. 

This building - Maybe I should explain about this building.  First of all, there isn't a ground floor.  Where the ground floor should be is a parking garage secured with two gates.  Outside the parking garage is a door secured with a number pad, which is supposed to open when you punch in the code.  But no matter which number code I punched in, mine or hers, the number pad just danced around and laughed at me. 

At about this point I was getting pretty annoyed.  My boss asked me if there wasn't a gate around the back of the parking lot.  Which there was, and I'd forgotten all about it.  So I headed over there to check it out.
 At this point I could just imagine what the security footage must look like.  Frame after frame of absolutely nothing and then suddenly I show up, checking doors, rattling gates, yanking on uncooperative padlocks.  Could the Richardson police be far behind?  This would be fun to explain.  "No, Officer, of course I work here.  Would I be trying to break into a law firm less than a mile from the police department if I didn't work here?  I mean, I may be crazy but I'm not stupid..."







My boss thinks of trying to open one of the front gates, which might get me inside enough to try the security codes on the back stairs door.  And if that works, I can scoot up two stories to where my desk is, print the letter and all will be grand.  However, neither one of us has the code to the padlock on the front gate.  So while I bumble around, my boss starts texting everyone in the office who might have a code to the front gate. 

And then she finds somebody.  And I dial in the code.  And...

So into the building I go.  Up a flight of stairs.  Stop to pant for breath on the landing because these are pretty steep stairs and my knee's been complaining for a couple of days.  Up another flight of stairs.  Punch in my code at the door panel at the top of the stairs and...click.  I'm in!

I get on my computer.  I find the letter, fix it, print it out, make some envelopes to mail it.  And then there's the problem of who's going to sign the letter.  Finally I decide to just turn to forgery, since burglary's not exactly working out for me. 

So I leave the deviled eggs (remember the eggs?  I bet you guys forgot all about the eggs, didn't you?)  on the receptionist's desk, where anybody who comes in will basically be forced to see them.  And I take my letter and I open the door to the back stairs.  The way this whole morning has been going, I wouldn't have been at all surprised to run right into my boss's boss, or one of the partners, for one of those moments where we both go "AAAAAIGH!!" and scare the living cr@p out of each other.  But that doesn't happen.  It's 7:15 in the morning.  Nobody's due for another hour at least. 

And then it occurs to me that my boss never once asked me what in the name of all things holy I was doing outside the office at 6:30 on a Saturday morning with a passel of deviled eggs.  I mean, that's kind of a pertinent question, don't you think?  But it never happened.  Maybe she thinks I travel the world and hand out free eggs at odd locations. 

Well, anyway, that's the story of Jen and the water polo tournament and the deviled eggs.  Y'all have a nice day, now. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

More Professional Reading

I think I made it all the way through October without a blog post.  Y'all must have thought I died or something.  Please be advised, if I do actually die my next of kin will let you know.  I'm not sure how.  Maybe an obituary post.  Or maybe just "SHOW'S OVER, SHE'S DEAD" in big letters. But I'm not planning to die anytime soon.  I just had a physical and I'm hale and healthy and guaranteed to last at least until the next physical.  Meds are working well, my mammogram was clear, I still swim three or four days a week and I've even been known to get to the gym once in a while to lift some weights.  The last thing that went through the office (I think it was some kind of bronchitis) missed me completely.  And I may be just a few months away from turning 50, but lots of people turn 50 every day and it doesn't kill them.  So there we are and here I am and I don't know where you are, but I hope it is somewhere good.  

(Incidentally, did you know that when you turn 50, you can join AARP and be part of the biggest lobbying group in the United States?  True fact.  Joan's been a member for--gosh, almost 10 years now.  So we already get the AARP Bulletin and AARP Magazine, which are both pretty good reads--and the type is pretty big, too.  Those of us with cataracts on the right appreciate big type anymore.)  

I probably didn't mention this in my last blog post, but I got a new Nook.  Barnes and Noble is selling a small 7" version of their Nook Tablet for only $49, and I don't know how long that'll last but if you're at all interested in having a tablet, check this one out.  There's also the Samsung Galaxy Tab A Nook for about $109, which is faster and has a bigger screen.  B&N naturally assumes that you will buy lots of Nook books to put on your Nook, hence they're selling this dude way below market.  And that's great for those of us who love tech but are poor a lot of the time.  There was nothing really wrong with my old one, the Samsung Galaxy Tab E Nook, but it was just a little bit too heavy and unwieldy for me.  I couldn't comfortably balance it in one hand.  So I gave it to Joan, who does not worry about balancing things with one hand and was mainly after the much bigger screen.  Happy ending for all concerned.  I bet she's in there watching prerecorded baseball games as we speak.  

So this is another post about professional reading.  As I mentioned last time, my local library -- and probably yours, too -- has lots of audiobooks that one can check out for free, load onto one's phone (or Nook) and listen to on one's way to and from work.  The books I've been checking out have been all about the workplace; how to survive it, how to make it better, and how to make lots of money while making it better.  And neuroscience, or, How The Brain Works and, more importantly, how to change some of the ways your brain works so that it works better for you.  Apart, that is, from the stuff that's hardwired into us, which I'll get to in a little while.  

The first book I read after Delivering Happiness was a book called Drive, and it was about what actually motivates people to do their best work. Surprise, it is not fear of being fired or getting patted on the head for doing good work.  It's about having autonomy over the job, being able to make the key decisions without waiting for permission from someone else, and a sense of responsibility for the outcome, whatever that is.  Plus the ability to choose one's team members and choose where and how and when to do the work.  This is so far removed from most places I've worked that I sort of wondered if the guy who wrote it was crazy.  But no. Lots of scientific studies bear this stuff out.  What's more, companies that use these techniques make more money than those that don't.  You can't argue with success, though you can kind of poke your finger at it and laugh if it makes you feel better.

Next up we had Thrive by Arianna Huffington, about why the typical workplace is killing us and the instructions for being a happy human.  Getting enough sleep, for one thing, is vastly underrated.  Ditto getting enough exercise.  Staying in touch with friends and family members.  Volunteering.  And of course not working an 80 hour week, which is ruinous for all kinds of reasons. No. Work 40, spend the rest of your awake time with your friends and family and on projects that make you happy.  Yes, this is the Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post and no, this book is not political.  I've had it up to here with politics, as probably have you, and yes, I voted, a week and a half ago on a Tuesday.  And I'm typing this with my fingers crossed.  Which is hard.   

Then we get to A Curious Mind, by Brian Grazer, a movie producer you might have heard of (Apollo 13, Backdraft, How The Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carrey, etc.)  This guy talked his way into a job at Warner Brothers Studios and worked his way up the proverbial ladder to become a producer and the co-head of Imagine Entertainment.  (His co-head is Ron Howard, whom you also might have heard of.)  Mr. Grazer likes stories, and he likes to have conversations with people.  Any people.  Lots of people.  People it's hard to get to meet and just ordinary people that might happen by in the course of the work day.  Part of the book is about these conversations with people and part of it is about why curiosity is so important and, unfortunately, undervalued. 

(Confidential to Kellum:  If you read this book, skip part of Chapter Two, from the moment where Brian meets Sting on the beach until about five pages past that.  Or let Suzie vet it for you.  I'm betting she'll agree with me.  Any questions, please Google "Closetland The Movie".)  

The last in the series before A Curious Mind was Brain Bugs.  Yes, that sounds like a disgusting concept but luckily we're not talking about actual insects.  We're talking about things in our brains that don't work the way we'd like them to, because we evolved to be hunter-gatherers and instead we're living in the most technologically complex society ever.  For example, it would be great for our modern lives if we could add complex numbers in our heads and calculate the statistical odds of a thing happening, or not happening.  And some people can, but most of us can't because our brains just don't work that way.  Our brains are associational and relational, not technical.  Which means we're very good at connecting things to other things, but not so good at remembering specific things, or calculating them.  We're susceptible to advertising and political propaganda, in part because we love a good story more than we love looking at statistical odds and saying, "Well, this proposal would be good for 1% of the population and pretty much ruinous for the other 99% of the population, but I'm one of the 1% so let's do it."  (Not that that doesn't happen.)  If you've ever wondered why brains do the things they do, this would be a good book to check out.  Though, unfortunately, it offered no advice whatsoever for those of us whose brains analyze a situation, run directly to the most catastrophic possible conclusion, and then yap about it incessantly for hours.  Maybe that'll be addressed in a different book.

And that's about it for this exciting episode.  I've got to go into the living room and see what that loud crash was a minute or so ago.  Generally when there's a loud crash in the house, Grayson the Cat can be found in the middle of it.  This guy is an explorer and a climber par excellance.  He gets into a lot of stuff, too.  Cheers, all!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Organizational What?

One of the problems with writing a weekly blog post is trying to come up with something to write about.  That almost requires something to actually happen, and as you know, nothing ever happens around here.  I mean, except for weird ear infections and things that cats do and the kitchen flooding and the refrigerator needing to be fixed and now the dryer's on the fritz and I'm afraid Joan is going to run out of pants before it's fixed and my former boss leaving me weird messages and this old guy turning up on our doorstep, three times on three different days, pounding on the door and demanding to be let in.

What's more, I actually have to come up with two things, because that's how blog posts work.  I'll bet you didn't know there's a pattern to this, did you? Well, there is.  First you spout off for two or three paragraphs about something that's not really important, just to warm up a little.  It can be about anything; politics, a joke you heard yesterday, the religious leanings of grasshoppers or even a monologue about dwarf bowling.  Then you say, "Speaking of androgynous left-handed bullriders who speak Mandarin Chinese, here's something that happened..."  and you go off on another topic.

I don't know how blog posts evolved to follow this format.  They just do.  I don't see any reason to break the pattern, either.  So speaking of slithery touch typists with gout who wear SAS shoes, here's what's new around here: Professional Reading.

Yes, I know. Professional Reading should not be new.  Anybody who has a job, much less a career, ought to be trying to get better at it one way or another, whether that's by taking a class or volunteering for extra projects or, yes, Professional Reading.  But it is new.  Or at least, it's new that I have any desire whatsoever to do it.  For that I blame Joan and these things called podcasts.

I'm pretty sure I posted about this a while back, around the time I figured out that I had heard most of the songs that ever came on the radio at least 9,185 times apiece since the early 1980s.  Joan installed a "podcast app" on my phone, which talks to my car and plays itself over my car speakers, and lo and behold, I could actually learn something while driving all over creation, or all over Dallas, anyway.  What a concept.  My current favorite is this one on neuroscience called "The Hidden Brain."  It's the only podcast on neuroscience I've come across where I can actually understand about 90% of it. I'm also a fan of The 12-Step Buddhist, The Podcast of Doom (failure analysis on a large scale) and Witness, a history podcast from BBC America. 

And just when I realized I was hitting the "refresh" button on my phone a little too often, something new happened. Audiobooks. Audiobooks about business.  What's more, audiobooks about business that are perfectly free.

Yup.  The Dallas Library has this app called Libby that gives you access to audiobooks. With nothing more than a common ordinary library card, you can check them out---again, for free--and download them on your phone and play them over your speakers just like a podcast.  In fact, your phone automatically kicks on when you start your car and goes right back to the place you left off.  I'm currently reading, or rather, listening to "Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hseih, the guy who founded Zappos and then sold it to Amazon for $1.2 billion.  You wouldn't think it, but the life story of an industry titan is actually pretty hilarious.  Especially the part where he declares that his life partner is Red Bull, but you'd probably have to hear that for yourself.

Anyway, the Dallas Library has a pretty good selection of business audio books.  A lot of them have waiting lists, but that's okay; it takes me a couple of weeks to get through each one, anyway, and by the time I'm done, there's another one waiting for me.  I'm not sure why I'm suddenly interested in stuff like management and leadership and organizational psychology.  It may have something to do with my new boss, who is the PR guy at the law firm. (Most law firms are set up like this. One partner is the PR guy, one is the money guy and one is the Brilliant Legal Mind who keeps the others in line.)  My office is right next to his so I get to listen to him on the phone all day, and believe me, he really is on the phone all day.  What's more, he has to be nice to all those people he's talking to, even if they're cranky back.  And he does it.  It's pretty amazing.

So I figure it can't possibly hurt to know how one does that sort of thing, and more stuff about how people work together generally.  I'm supervising two people that are much younger than me and one who's the same age but who comes from a totally different background.  I have to talk and interact with them all the time, and it can't possibly hurt to learn how.  For whatever reason, I've always felt like an anthropologist in this thing called human society, tentatively approaching with a notepad and a pen and hoping not to interrupt the village ceremony.  Who knows; maybe if I learn enough about How People Talk To Each Other At Work and What That All Means, I can at least be a better mimic.  Even if I never start a company and sell it to Amazon for $1.2 billion.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Earregularities

Holy moley, two blog posts in less than a week's time. Could this be the start of a trend? It could.  I would like, if I may, to update this thing once a week.  I think that'd be good for traffic, get me to write more stuff, and keep me off the streets, where I'm bound to cause trouble.  So look for this space to be updated on Thursdays. Thursday seems to be a good day.  It also means I have an extra day in case I miss Thursday; there's rarely anything going on at our place on Friday night, apart from a baseball game, and (snif) the season's almost over (snif, snif).  Remember, kids, writers churn the stuff out on a regular basis.  Once a week is regular.  I'm a regular kind of gal.  Well, okay, I'm really not.  But I'd like to be.  See last blog post re: getting my shit together and things I'm supposed to be doing every day. 

Anyway:  About a week ago, I suddenly became aware that both of my ears were swollen shut.  This isn't exactly an uncommon occurrence, but it was a kind of odd time of year.  I get two ear and/or sinus infections every year, and I have them in April (right around the time of the big Dallas Book Festival, as it usually happens) and November (right around the time I have to get on an airplane to go someplace, as it usually happens).  Which is annoying, but I can live with it.  When I was a somewhat younger person I had so many colds and sinus infections I ended up having The Surgery, and while that was not fun, it did make things much, much better.  Two sinus infections a year are really No Big Deal.  You go see the doctor, the doctor reads your medical history, she skips the whole lecture about overprescribing antibiotics is going to cause the Apocalypse, and she prescribes you antibiotics. You take them for a week and you're fine.

So I called my doc, and she told me to come on in, like she always does. I went in, got weighed, had my blood pressure checked (112 over 70), had my o-sat and heart rate checked (70 at first, then I decided I could do better than that and dropped it to 63; yes, I can manipulate my heart rate, and yes, I do do it to scare medical assistants sometimes).  Then the doc came in, looked in both of my ears with the little scopey thing, and said, "You don't have an ear infection."

I looked at her like she was crazy.  Excuse me, but my ears were swollen shut.  There are only two things that cause that; an ear infection, or swimmer's ear (which is like an ear infection, but it's on the outside of your ear, so you don't always need to take antibiotics; sometimes all you need are ear drops).  So I said something stupid, like, "Are you sure?" and she said, "Yep.  No infection at all.  What you have is eczema."

Eczema, by the way, is a skin condition, usually caused by being exposed to something you're allergic to.  In short, I was having an allergic reaction in my ears.  Which is particularly weird, because not much goes there.  I mean, they're ears.  "So figure out what you've been putting in your ears lately," she said, "and in the meantime, put this lotion on a q-tip and stick it in your ears twice a day."  Oh boy. What if I'm allergic to q-tips?

I found this immensely puzzling. Again, not much goes in my ears.  I mean, I have ear buds, and I wear them sometimes, but I really didn't think it was the ear buds.  I pour a solution of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol into my ears after I swim, to prevent swimmer's ear, but I really didn't think I was allergic to rubbing alcohol or peroxide, either (though that might have dried out the skin, giving the eczema a place to take root).

And then, I remembered my SwimPod.

Okay, it's not really called a SwimPod. That's just what I like to call it, and that's what it is; it's an iPod that's been modified for underwater use.  My sister, who's awesome, gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago. It clips to the back of your swim cap, the ear buds are very short (and waterproof), and while the sound isn't quadrophonic stereo with JBL quality, it's still an iPod you can listen to while you're swimming.  I mean, how cool is that?  It gets lonely out there sometimes.  A SwimPod makes things a lot less lonely.  I've got everything from Seals and Crofts to Big Country to Lady Gaga on there.  30 years of pop music. Underwater. Not to mention some classical stuff, and even a little jazz, if you call Ray Lynch jazz, and I think some people would.

For a heart-stopping moment, I wondered if I was allergic to my SwimPod. The thought was horrifying.  I mean, yes, I can always try another pair of ear buds. There are actually several different kinds of waterproof ear buds (check them out at www.swimoutlet.com if you're curious), but the ones that come with it are the best. They have the short cord, for one thing, which means there isn't a long cord to get in the way.  Plus, they seem to last a reasonable amount of time.  Something about being underwater means that ear buds have a rather limited life span.  I've yet to have a pair last for more than six months, and some lasted less than three.  Always get the optional warranty when buying underwater ear buds, folks.  You'll use it more often than not.

Then I remembered that I actually hadn't been listening to my SwimPod for the last couple of weeks. I'd taken it out of commission to add some more music to it and take some off, and I'd left it on my desk, where it promptly disappeared into a haze of gel pens, random pieces of paper and stuff I'd brought home from work and didn't know what to do with. I fished it back out (luckily, it was still there and hadn't been carried off by a cat) and examined the ear buds. Silicone. I'm sure that some people somewhere are allergic to silicone, but I'm pretty sure I'm not one of them. And never mind how I know that.

So if not the SwimPod, then what?  Oh yes. The morning I first left my SwimPod on my desk, I'd arrived at the pool with no ear buds, so I bought a pair of ear plugs at the front desk.  I pulled those out of my swim bag. Latex.  People, I'm almost 50 and just found out I might be allergic to latex.  I'd appreciate it if somebody would fill me in on those things sooner.

(Though, I also woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and discovered that I'd become lactose intolerant virtually overnight.  One day I could have milk, cream in my coffee, ice cream or frozen yogurt. The next day the same stuff made me sick as hell.  Bam.  Just like that. So I guess these things can happen.  And I'm in good company. Joan is lactose intolerant, too.)

I stayed out of the pool for a couple of days to give the weird ear lotion time to work. Then I tried out the SwimPod again.  No problems. I am definitely not allergic to silicone ear buds.  But I am allergic to latex ones.  I think if you're allergic to latex, you have to tell your doctor and you can't have some kinds of surgery or wear certain kinds of Band-Aids (come to think of it, the flexible fabric ones, which use a latex adhesive, always did make me itchy). 

So now I'm allergic to latex, milk products, codeine, sulfa drugs and their derivatives, cockroaches, five of the most common trees in the United States and every kind of grass there is.  Yes, including the kind you're probably thinking about.  I never understood why smoking that stuff is so much fun when all it ever did for me was cause projectile vomiting.  Peace out.

Monday, September 3, 2018

You Can't Do That On Television


I hope it's okay to get your shit together the day before you die, because I think it's going to take me about that long.  There's all this stuff I'm supposed to be doing every day that I'm not doing.  Reading from the Big Book (that's Alcoholics Anonymous, not the Bible, in case you were wondering).  Writing stuff in my journal. Working on The Book (still not the Bible; just the book I'm working on).  Meditating.  Household chores.  Cat cuddling/paper ball tossing/feather toy flinging.  Honestly, adulthood is like a to-do list just never ends.  I get to the meditating most days, but the rest of it doesn't seem to happen very often.  Most days, when I walk in the door, I'm all up for sitting down to dinner, looking at my cell phone for a bit, then going the hell to bed. (Well, I get up at 4:30, so…)  

Apart from baseball, I'm trying to think when I last even sat down and watched a TV show.  Unless you count "The Dead Files," the haunted house show that Joan is crazy about and that puts me right to sleep.  See above re: I get up at 4:30. 

And it's too bad, too, because suddenly there are a LOT of good TV shows out there.  Once Netflix and Hulu started cranking out their own content, the gloves suddenly came off and everybody was making good shows. We got shows about music producers and we got shows about hair stylists.  We got "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (again) and we got shows about what happens after you die (that aren't documentaries).  For a second there we even had a show about Van Helsing, but I think we can write that one off without too many regrets.

And in the middle of all this, we got "The Handmaid's Tale," and honey, this show is doing for television what "The Hunger Games" did for YA fiction.  If you thought it couldn't be done on television, "The Handmaid's Tale" has done it.  And I'm not just talking about sex and violence (yawn, how too too passe, dear).  I'm talking about subject matter that you couldn't get on TV before now.  This show is way beyond cutting edge. It's maybe 20 years ahead of where we are now.  (Maybe even in real life.)  Oh, and it also won a pile of Emmys, including a Best Actress nod for Elisabeth Moss. 

So why aren't I watching it, you ask.

Well.  That's kind of hard to explain. 

I watched the first season.  For the most part I watched it 20 minutes at a time, before bed, while falling asleep, but watch it I did.   Joan didn't like it so it never really graced the screen of the TV in the living room, but it looked just fine on a tablet.  (If you ever watch this show, keep an eye on the colors.  They mean different things. There's a lot of red in this show.  Lots of deep green, too.  Interesting.)  And it was riveting television. I mean it was edge-of-your-seat, nail-bitingly tense watching.  Even if you've read the book and you know what happened, you don't know what happened, because a TV show is a whole different universe and Just Because It Ended That Way In The Book Doesn't Mean It'll End That Way On TV. 

In case you've been hiding under a rock and you don't know jack about "The Handmaid's Tale," the story takes place in the near future.  There's been a war, the United States no longer exists, and most of the northern East Coast has been turned into something called the Republic of Gilead.  The birth rate is dropping precipitously all over the world; only one in every five pregnancies results in a live birth, and that's even assuming you can get pregnant in the first place.  There's no birth control, no abortion, no morning after pill, nothing like that--and the population rate is still dropping.  So the government of Gilead is hunting down all the women who have proven that they're fertile (previous pregnancies, an actual kid, etc.)  and turning them into handmaids--women who have babies for the elite households.  Doesn't matter if you had a job, husband, kids, family beforehand; if you're fertile, you're now a handmaid and your job is now to have babies.  Oh, and your children are taken away and raised by other people.  Gilead comes up with a religious explanation for how this is all okay, but they don't really need one; they're doing it because they can.  And because they're desperate. Something or other about the danger of the human race going extinct trumping individual rights.

And it's good.  As I mentioned, it's riveting.  But the whole second season is out and I haven't watched any of it. And I'm probably not going to, at least not for a while.

I blame Donald Trump.  

In all seriousness, I'm not supposed to be watching the news. The doctor even told me not to watch the news. He didn't specifically say anything about not going to news web sites, so I still do that sometimes, but without watching the news, I'm in a much better frame of mind. Because, frankly, all the news is bad.  And there's so much more of it than there used to be. Well, of course there is; something had to fill up all the news channels and Web sites and magazines that have been proliferating at a ridiculous rate since, oh, the advent of cable TV.  

I dunno about you, but I kind of like being in a better frame of mind.  It beats the heck out of the way I feel after I watch the news.  And the way I feel after watching "The Handmaid's Tale," as good as it is, is about the same, unfortunately.  It's a very hard show to watch.

This must be why parents don't want their children to watch horror movies.  (Though, personally, I think a lot of parents don't want their children to watch horror movies because they don't want to have a lot of conversations about man's inhumanity to man and what happens to us after we die with a nine-year-old. But I digress.)  In short, I'm trying to be an adult about this. And a Buddhist.  Precept Five is all about not consuming intoxicants, which includes certain TV programs and Web sites in addition to drugs and alcohol. (And gambling. In fact gambling is specifically mentioned.)

And, really, why would you want to consume something that's bad for you? You know, like heroin or cocaine or maybe lots of sugar. But people do. Fortunately for me,  it is just a TV show,  and I can stop consuming it by not going to a particular Web site. So that's easy.

NOBODY TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS. I still have this fond hope I can get back to it someday. And hopefully it won't jump the shark in the meantime, like "The X Files" did in season 4. Cheers!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

It Begins WIth A Cat.

As things often do in this life. Not just any cat, though; Uhura the Cat, a sleek, coal black female with bright green eyes.  I don't have a picture of her. (This is a stock photo.  It's pretty close though.) I wish I did; actually I have lots but they are all actual photos on paper, and if I have to try to get that scanner to come online even one more time I will probably pitch it out the window and leave it for the Jawas But anyway, she was a beautiful and very smart cat.  She lived with Joan, who had had her since she was a tiny kitten, and then, roughly about 1996, I came along.

Here's the thing.  I had just broken up with somebody, and in the breakup, the somebody stole my cat.  I was so thoroughly undone by the breakup and everything else that I not only swore off dating for life, I swore off cats. I would never have another cat. Forget it. I did not need that level of heartbreak and aggravation.

Then Joan moved in next door, and, well, we know how that ends.  And Joan came with Uhura the Cat.  And if Uhura the Cat hadn't liked me, well then, Joan wouldn't have had anything to do with me.  But Uhura did like me, and darn it, I liked her too.  It was hard not to like her. This was a cat where, if you picked her up and she decided she wanted down, she beeped you on the nose with her paw. I'm not kidding.  Sometimes she beeped you emphatically, as if to say, I want down now.  Other times she'd hover around your face with her paw.  Maybe I want down and maybe I don't.  Hm, I have to think about it.  Again, a very smart cat. With a sense of humor, no less.

Shortly after we bought our first house, the condo in San Diego, Uhura got sick with fibrosarcoma, a common cancer.  She had surgery and some chemotherapy (it doesn't make cats sick the way it does people).  It didn't cure her, since fibrosarcoma generally can't be cured, but it did buy her about six more months, during which she didn't know she was sick. Two days after she had the tumor removed, she tried to tear through the screen door to get at the orange cat that liked to lounge on our patio. Not until she quit eating and started coughing a lot in the last few days of her life did it become obvious she was really going to leave us. We had her put to sleep in December of 2000.

It wasn't the next day, but it was probably not very many days after that we woke up one morning and the house was too quiet.  Any house without a cat is too quiet.  We went out that afternoon and adopted Caesar and Chloe, a brother and sister pair, from a cat rescue service.  They were inseparable at first; then, once they realized they lived in a safe house with nice people, they decided they really didn't like each other all that much and spent much of their time at other ends of the house from each other.  Well, that was okay.  They were great cats.  They survived a flooring installation, an attic remodel, a move to Texas and (in Caesar's case) cancer at the age of five. And if you've ever been over here you probably met at least one of them, or maybe both of them.


One of our neighbors gave us a kitten (gee, thanks), with an eye problem. Eventually the eye had to be removed.  This was Sparrow the Cat, named after the infamous one-eyed "CaptainJack" Sparrow. Only, as it turned out in the second movie, he actually had two eyes; the eye patch was a prop.  So we'd named our cat after a bird for nothing.  Well, that was okay. Sparrow didn't know she was named after a bird.  She did fine without the eye, the only problem being that she'd sometimes jump for the feather toy and miss.  (Depth perception and all that.)

Caesar, our cancer survivor, came down with another case of it, as sometimes happens, and died at the mighty age of sixteen.  Not long after that, Joan found a kitten outside under a truck during a rainstorm.  She took the kitten to the vet, and the vet told her he could put her in with a litter of feral cats in the back but was Joan sure she didn't want to keep her? She was very sweet.  And so we met Artemis.  Boy, was Chloe less than happy.  She was sixteen herself by then, and not impressed with the pipsqueak.  But Sparrow liked her, and put up with having her tail pounced on and her ears chewed on and, once in a while, being the victim of a flying leap from the other side of the room.

Sparrow developed a neurological problem and lost the use of her  back legs.  Being unable to walk is a deal breaker for a cat, so we had her put to sleep at the age of twelve. Then it was just Chloe and Artemis, at least until last week when Chloe slipped out of the world at the super-advanced age of eighteen.  And a few mornings later, Joan and I woke up (with Artemis; Artemis is fine) and realized it was still way too quiet in the house.

Meet Grayson, our new handsome boy.

It all comes back to Uhura the Cat. Without Uhura, there wouldn't have been Chloe and Caesar, and without them, we wouldn't have met any of the other fine felines we've been so lucky to have. I don't know if I'll make it to the age of eighteen in cat years (around ninety-five, we think), but even if I do, I will still have a cat.  Can't live without a cat. Can't write without a cat, for one thing; if you don't have a cat, you don't have anybody to curl up on a fresh pile of pages from the printer, so how do you know if they are any good?