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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mini-Post: It's Scaley and Fang!

Check it out!! Brilliant artist Suzy--here's a link to her CafePress site--has embodied Scaley, the T-Rex of Anxiety, and Fang, the Velociraptor of Sudden Panic, into this nifty drawing! S&F have been following me around for years, most particularly when I'm writing, and even more particularly when I'm writing query letters. (No, I have no idea why.) Usually Caesar the Cat keeps dinosaurs out of the kitchen, but from now on he can concentrate on keeping Scaley and Fang in their drawing and off my case. Thanks, Suzy!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Practicing Medicine Without a License

I went to an OA convention this weekend. Well, part of one, anyway. I never did get my shit together enough to actually register for this thing, so I just showed up on Saturday morning and paid the day registration fee. It was pretty cool, though, all things considered. There was a great motivational speaker, a couple of nifty workshops, a decent lunch (the restaurant was completely FUBAR, but that's neither here nor there) and a lot of people I know were there, so I got to chat with everybody. Sunday was a bust, between a massage appointment (yay!) and the Oscars (boo!), and I ended up going to bed somewhat early and missing the "big awards" at the end. Nobody tell me who won Best Picture. I'm hiding under a rock until The Hunger Games comes out.

So, today I went to the Post Office at lunchtime to send yet another partial to yet another literary agent (yay!). This did not go well. It kind of never does. I get weirded out, paranoid, think that everyone is staring at me and am sure I'm going to be caught at any moment. Caught doing what, I have no idea. The whole thing is Scaley and Fang territory if I've ever been there, and Caesar, the cat who keeps dinosaurs out of my kitchen, is usually miles away and fast asleep.

But, okay, I got there, and I mailed the package, and I was on my way back to the office when my blood sugar hit the floor. In a great example of I-should-not-be-driving-in-this-condition I managed to miss my turn, get on the freeway for no apparent reason, get off one exit later and loop back to the office around the High-Five interchange, which was inefficient, but worked, I guess. I made it to the elevator without falling down and grabbed a package of Skittles out of the candy jar up front, snarfed them all down in one gulp (no chewing necessary) and kind of fell into my chair, waiting for the sugar to kick in.

I hate this part. My whole body is telling me I need to keep eating until the sugar kicks in, which takes a little time. My brain, on the other hand, knows it just had some sugar, that straight sugar is really bad for it, that a titrated dose is the only amount I'd better have, and that if I have more I'm probably going to be right back in this position in a couple of hours, only with a nice splitting headache to go along. So I sat there, as I often do, gritting my teeth and going, "Come on, come on," until the sugar kicked in, which it did in about ten minutes. Then I was able to get up, go into the kitchen, get my lunch, eat it and behave like a fairly normal human being the rest of the day.

(Annoyingly, I have a lollipop in my car for such emergencies. Completely forgot about it. The brain does not engage when the blood glucose drops below 60.)

Anyway, as I was eating, I was reading stuff from the convention. I found this flyer about things to consider when you're making your food plan. It was all good stuff, good advice and so on, until I got to No. 14: "Have I diagnosed myself as hypoglycemic so I can eat many times each day?"

Oh, yeah. Hypoglycemia doesn't exist (it's even bolded for effect) and I'm making this up.

For Buddha's sake, who wrote that flyer, and where did they get their M.D.? This has been happening to me since I was a little kid. It's worse when I eat sugar. It's better when I have meals about every three hours. I don't have to eat a lot. Just a piece of fruit and some cheese is fine. But I really don't need to burn extra energy hopping up and down trying to convince people I have a "real" disorder.

Okay, maybe I'm overpersonalizing this, but the tone these things are written in comes across to me as, well, a bunch of sanctimonious bullshit. Not that it isn't well-intended, but you remember the obnoxious kindergarten or first-grade teacher you had who used the royal "we" when she meant "you" all the time? Ie, "We don't poke other people" or "We remember our seats"? Yeah. Like that. I hated being talked to like a six-year-old when I was a six-year-old. I promise you, my temperament has not improved since then.

I'd like to hunt down the author of this flyer and see if he or she is aware of how he or she comes across. I bet he or she would be horrified to be compared to an obnoxious kindergarten teacher. But then, I know how these conversations tend to go. "There, there, dear. We didn't mean you. A real medical diagnosis is okay. It's those other people, the ones that are diagnosing themselves, that this is directed toward."

To which I say, bullshit. If you've been moping around for weeks and all you can think about is how great it would be to slash your wrists, I'm not going to wait for you to be diagnosed with clinical depression before I tell you to fucking call 911. If you have a condition, and something makes it better, why would you not do that something?! Nobody prescribed to me four days a week of swimming in chlorinated water. It just seems to help. So I do it. It's called common sense, people. Believe it or not, it's out there somewhere.

Seeing as my language is deteriorating, I'm cutting off this blog post before it gets downright un-religionish. But you see my point. Besides, Joan is wiping the foam from my mouth and taking the keyboard from my hands. Bye, now.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Talk Thursday: Coffee!!

Let me just take a moment to say that TALK THURSDAY IS BACK!! WHOO HOO!! HAPPY DANCE!! CELE IS AWESOME!! YAY!!

That over, it is time to consider the cultural and ideological ramifications of coffee. You may not know this, but coffee has a long and dark history of price fixing, exploitation of native peoples, land grabbing, clear cutting, and other things that are bad for human beings, bad for the environment, bad for the rain forests, bad for democracy and just generally bad all the way around. You think the mere eating of meat has bad side effects? Or the snorting of cocaine? My friend, you don't know from bad until you consider coffee. In fact, coffee has such a bad side to it that a real environmentalist, a true defender of the planet, an honest hater of slavery and exploitative labor practices would simply cast it aside, never to drink it again, before contributing another dime to the ghastly underworld that produces this bitter brown liquid.

Luckily, I'm neither a real environmentalist nor a true defender of the planet. What I am is a solid four-cups-a-day adventurer, to put a not-too-fine point upon it. Once upon a camping trip (yes, I have been known to go camping, though it's generally of the lodge-in-the-woods variety), one of my jolly fellow travelers couldn't find the coffee and suggested we take this weekend to break our caffeine addiction. I told her I liked my caffeine addiction just fine and I was going into town for a Starbucks, back in 45 minutes. (Six other women placed orders.) Because, seriously, I may be a Buddhist but I grew up in a Lutheran household. Anyone who did, knows that Scandinavian blood does not start to flow in the morning until it's at least 0.05 caffeine. Until then, it's best to stay out of the way, unless you happen to have some vinarterta handy (Vikings can be appeased temporarily with sugar).

Though it's hard to remember the time B.S. (Before Starbucks), there in fact was such a time, and during said time, a Brazilian exchange student lived at my place for a year. I was fifteen and she had coffee. Not American coffee, mind. American coffee was far too weak, so she had her parents mail her bags of Brazilian coffee which she ground herself. This coffee was amazingly strong. I mean, a spoon would stand by itself in a cup. In fact, I think a couple of spoons may have dissolved. One day, out of sheer curiosity, I poured a small amount in a cup and added enough cream to choke a horse, along with a ton of sugar (I mean, this stuff was dark). I stirred it and took a very, very cautious sip.

I remember the rush. My brain launched out of my skull, like a rocket, and flew skyward. I remember wondering why anyone bothered with cocaine when this stuff was cheap and legal. I also remembered wondering if I wasn't maybe a little young for this sort of thing. Then I chugged the rest of it (it wasn't very warm, what with all the cream) and poured myself another cup. That was it. I was hooked. Only one other time did I taste coffee this strong, and that was at a Viet Namese restaurant in San Diego, California. Not only was it almost solid, it was also combined with sweetened condensed milk. I was bouncing off the walls for twelve hours. Seriously, cheap and legal. Think about it.

If not for coffee, I'm reasonably sure I never would have finished high school, and I'm also reasonably sure I never would have made it through college. In college I began having interesting fits of sleeplessness (okay, let's call a spade a shovel; manic episodes) in which I'd not sleep for sometimes three or four days. I'd still be tired in the morning, though, which is where a new restaurant near the university, called the Coffee Plantation, came in. On those mornings I'd stop in and get a double espresso with a shot of chocolate syrup. This ensured that I would not only be tired, but tired and jumpy, a great way to manage Russian 101 and the finer points of my Victorian literature seminar. In its later years, the Coffee Plantation deteriorated from a necessary student stop-in to a student meat market and finally a would-be-artist hangout before nose-diving out of existence in the wake of the Starbucks boat, finally sailing in from the Pacific Northwest. Before it died, my best friend Kevin pounded a stake into its heart by dubbing it the Coffee Pretension. It expired of ruffled dignity before the market struck the final blow.

In closing, let me finally say that there are plenty of ways to mess up a pot of coffee, but coffee is like pizza is like sex is like an airplane book: Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. (The Strain might be the unfortunate exception.) It took Joan almost 15 years of living with me, but she now drinks the stuff, too. Which just goes to show something or other. Cheers, all, I'm off to Starbucks.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mini-Post: It's All About The Stubborn

Ya know, I used to think getting an agent/getting published was all about Believing In Yourself And Your Work. (I think somebody told me that.) Now, two years into the grand adventure, having battled bipolar disorder, the twin dinosaurs of anxiety and sudden panic (though Caesar does a good job of keeping them out of the kitchen most of the time) and of course a parade of rejection slips, I have come to believe that getting published is all about being stubborn. Quit after eight rejections? Hell no. 80? Certainly not. 800? Maybe. 8,000? Okay, at 8,000 it's time for another project, but until then, soldier on, soldier. Oh, and it wouldn't kill you to Believe In Yourself And Your Work but that's hardly a requirement. I'm living proof.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rant 0, Head Pats Lots

I had a nice rant all set to go here. I was going to lead off with some kind of riff on why religion is messed up, then get to the specifics about why certain hospitals and schools, despite being owned and operated by certain religious factions, should be absolutely no different than any other institution when it came to providing birth control as part of its health insurance package, and free, for that matter. Then I was going to point out that if my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins, then your right to freedom of religion ends where women's lives begin. And I was going to wrap the whole thing up by noting that of the illustrious panel of birth control "experts" assembled to testify before Congress today, not a single one of them could get pregnant (them all being male), and not a single one of them was a medical doctor of any sort whatever. Howdya like that, ladies? The people who purportedly run this country were going to make decisions that affect only women without asking the opinion of a single woman. (Or doctor.) You'd think that the women in Congress, at least, would find this disturbing enough to stage a walkout.

Then we settled the Burns case, and the email showed up.

Yeah, I know. Why do I worry about things legal when there's so much injustice and turmoil in the world. I dunno. Maybe because it's my job or something. Besides, I thought this case would never settle. I was expecting Boss Jason and Opposing Counsel would be tearing each other to bloody little shreds in front of Judge Fairness at the courthouse in a couple of weeks. You kind of get a feeling, when you've done this as long as I have, which ones are going to settle and which ones are going to court. Something like 98% of cases settle out of court, in case you did not know that. So spotting the ones that are going all the way is not easy.

Back to the email, though. It came from Opposing Counsel to Boss Jason, and after removing all the pertinent details so that I can post it without losing my job, what it basically said was this: "Your client should know that it was only your excellent work that enabled this settlement. I think if he were in the hands of 95% of other lawyers, we would have ended up trying his case. I think you did an excellent job and have added you to the short list of lawyers to whom I refer clients."

People, opposing counsel does NOT send complimentary email about your lawyering skills. At least, not very often. They're the black hats, remember? We're the white hats. We may be civil to each other (it is CIVIL litigation, after all) but we are not friends. To get an email like this is to receive just about the highest honor one lawyer can give another. And to hear that you're on the short list for client referrals--lordy, lordy. That's so rare as to almost be unheard of.

But wait. There's more. After that email went around the office, Boss Jason sent this one:

"I have to add Jennifer should also take some credit. She helped me get extremely prepared for depos and was responsible for drafting a large portion of the letters and motions."

Wow. Just wow. Even rarer than the complimentary email from one lawyer to opposing counsel is the complimentary email from one lawyer to a staff member. Which was obvious in the metric ton of emails I got from everybody else congratulating me. I saved all of them in my little subfile titled "Head Pats", but I may have to create a sub-sub-file because there were just so many. The assistant manager even congratulated me as he walked out the door, and he is NOT prone to That Sort of Thing.

And so, my rant dies a premature death. Well, I guess that's okay. Plenty of people are ranting on this one for me. And I'm at Afrah, and I've finished my meal, and I think I'm just gonna cut this blog post short and grab a cup of coffee before my OA meeting.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Should Be Working.

It's the last week of Joan's classes, and therefore the last Tuesday night I'll have an excuse to sit at a Starbucks for three hours, snarfing caramel macchiatto and writing stuff. Which is good, because at the moment I'm not writing stuff. Well, I've been not-writing stuff for the last hour and a half, unless you call trolling the CNN chat boards on the stories about Prop. 8 and birth control writing. I guess it involves some typing, usually in short choppy sentences like "You're an idiot." That's writing like Dr. House's dialogue is talking.

Note: Trolling CNN chat boards is nothing a decent Buddhist, or a decent human being, ought to be doing. I'm a little embarrassed that I do this. It's the intellectual equivalent of throwing rocks at a hornet's nest. Well, a very small hornet's nest, populated by intellectually challenged hornets that tend to pop out once in a while and yell at you versus flying over to sting you. Yes, I know I should stop. Well, I will when I'm ready. I can quit whenever I want.

For the record, I wasn't terribly surprised by the 9th Circuit's decision on Prop. 8. I also wasn't terribly surprised to find out I'm still married, which, apparently, I am. And I'm not terribly surprised that the usual people raised their voices and made the usual arguments about judicial activism and blah blah blah, and that the Supreme Court will correct this critical error in jurisprudence, and besides, Mitt Romney can use the whole thing as a talking point. Well, just for the record, I don't think the Supreme Court's even going to hear it. All the lower court decisions went the same way, there's no other circuit court ruling that goes against it (no "jurisdictional split," as the expression goes) and basically, there's no controversy. Nothing for them to do, really. Besides, it's about marriage, which is a state court issue. Federal courts hate state court issues. That's why they didn't hear the Terri Schiavo case, even after Congress told them they had to. (And their answer was basically, "No, we don't. F___ off.") I think it would be fabulous if everybody who's been waiting for this big smackdown with John Roberts and the Supremes got this little scrap of paper that said "Certiorari denied." It would serve them right. People always think their controversies are such a big deal. Twenty years from now we'll be trying to explain to our grandkids why this was such a big deal, kind of like how my mom and dad tried to explain to me why it used to be illegal for black folks and white folks to marry each other.

Anyway, I should be working and I'm not. I've kind of ground to a halt again. Today I got a rejection letter from an agent I don't even remember writing to, and when you're getting rejected by total strangers, brother, you have Issues. Gesundheit. Okay, one might point out they're all total strangers, but I write them nice letters. Usually. I'm not sure about this one. I don't remember writing her a nice letter.

There's also this whole birth control thing. It's 2012, is it not? (Yes, all of history is happening all at once, but that's just theoretical.) I realize I live in Texas, but I thought it was at least the early 1990s here. Would somebody please explain to me the problem with birth control being freely available to anybody who wants it? Isn't that, like, a positive development? Plenty of stupid people are having children (trust me, I've been on airplanes with them). Putting a stop to that should get somebody the Nobel Peace Prize. Instead we've got those other guys, the ones I'm not voting for, ranting and raving. The one guy, Obamney, er, I mean Romney, is saying that it's a "violation of conscience" to make Catholic hospitals cover birth control for their employees. To which I say, look; you want federal money, you play by federal rules. You don't want to accept Medicare and Medicaid, you can do whatever you want. And don't get me started on Santorum; he's just a psychopath, and the less said about him the better. Newt Gingrich--Well, Rick Redfern from "Doonesbury" said it best; "What if we wake up one morning to a country run by Newt Gingrich?" His wife said, "Sounds like a creature from 'Dune.'" And Rick said, "Honey, if anything happens to me, you must tell our son about Adlai Stevenson."

But, as I mentioned, I'm supposed to be working. This isn't exactly getting any work done.

Um. Unless blogging counts?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This Guy I'm Seeing

Warning: If you don't believe in reincarnation, read no further. Well, actually you can read further if you want to, but you're sure to have your nonbelief in reincarnation shaken up a bit, and some people don't handle that well, so if you're one of those people who doesn't handle that well, read no further. Actually, the truth is once I've written this thing I don't care if you read it or not, so scratch this whole first paragraph. Read it. Or don't. So there. Nyah.

I've always thought that Buddhism has this whole reincarnation thing ever so slightly wrong. You probably know the rules, if not the specifics; if you're good, you come back a more intelligent being and have a better chance at becoming enlightened; if you're bad, you come back as, I dunno, a less intelligent human (or a very smart fox) and you have a poorer chance of becoming enlightened. If you're really bad, you come back as something that has no chance of becoming enlightened, like Dick Cheney or my idiot neighbor or maybe a centipede. But here's where I think we have it just slightly wrong. According to Zen, we're all enlightened already. We're all just sort of waiting to realize it. So if even Dick Cheney and my idiot neighbor (who is an idiot) are enlightened, then we owe an apology to centipedes everywhere. Besides, the whole universe is nothing more than a Buddha-making machine, and we're all going to realize we're enlightened sooner or later, so the whole higher-reincarnation lower-reincarnation thing doesn't make any sense. It's just ever so slightly wrong.

Here's the other reason it's ever so slightly wrong: We're all everybody else already. I've thought about this for a long time, and it's the only thing that makes any sense. I know we all think we're individuals, having individual existences totally cut off from everyone else, but that's an illusion, folks. Sorry. The truth is we're all one great big organism, from us to aminals to centipedes and even the surliest of surly little rocks. We're all having different experiences because the nature of Life is to exist, but in the end we're really all made of the same stuff, and it all comes from the same place. Which means I'm you and you're Dick Cheney and Dick is a centipede and the centipede is my idiot neighbor. (Which, frankly, would make him much easier to deal with.)

Once I turned into Brother ChiSing for about half a second. Or took a peek out of his eyes, anyway. I remember he was talking and I was totally fascinated with his hands. Probably because they weren't the same hands I was used to hauling around. So I watched the hands go up and down and move around in illustration of some point, and then I lost it and I was back in my own head again, staring at my own hands. Which was fine, too. They're nice hands.

No doubt some of you will wonder if I've become totally unglued at this point, but unfortunately I haven't. I have it on excellent authority from my psychiatrist of choice (who, being Indian, believes in reincarnation) that people who begin questions with "I may be crazy, but..." probably have not become totally unglued. Which is good, because I've been seeing this guy lately. Or rather, seeing out of his eyes and experiencing what it's like to be in his head. It all started when I flipped over to the classical channel on the radio while KEOM was playing this truly horrible radio show, "Words You Never Heard." You'd think I'd be all over a radio show about rare English words, but the woman who narrates the thing has a voice that sounds like pieces of broken glass being tossed into an electric fan and I just cannot, repeat canNOT listen to her. So I switched channels, and the classical channel was playing a Mozart contradance, and just like that I was in somebody else's head for a couple of seconds.

The guy--I am sure it is a guy--was attending some fancy party in an era that is certainly not ours. The first time I dropped in on him, he was thinking about how great it was that part of being a gentleman is knowing how to dance, because he hates these fancy parties, but he loves to dance. He thought himself too old to be dancing with the sweet young things, but he was fine with dancing with the older ladies, and in fact was looking for a widow, someone with kids, because he just found out his only brother was killed in a (the word battle should go here, but the word battle doesn't fit; I've tried duel and skirmish and even tragic blimp accident but I haven't found anything that fills up the space) and he has to think about who he'll be leaving the estate to when he dies, which he imagines will be soon, he's nearly fifty and he can't imagine he'll make it to sixty, no one does that except the king God save him, and then I was back in my car, wondering what in hell just happened.

A one-off for this sort of thing would have been fine, but I dropped in on him again a few days later at the same party. He'd lost his wife in childbirth many years ago and had never remarried. He managed an estate, which was a full-time job, apparently. He didn't seem like a bad guy, perhaps a little on the religious side. No name yet but I'm working on that. This and a few other tidbits I've picked up. Oh, and at some point I realized he wasn't thinking in English. I could understand him perfectly well, but it wasn't English; it was something Germanic-sounding. I'm pretty sure I don't speak German, except for the ever-necessary "Ein bier, bitte."

So there are three possibilities, here. One is that I've flipped my wig. Two is that the creative part of my brain is working overtime on some story I haven't started writing yet. But I do think that the most likely is that this dude, whoever he may be, is--well, not a past life; I think that's ever so slightly wrong, but I won't get into this whole thing about time being arbitrary and all of history happening at the same moment--but a past expression of experience that I seem to recall rather clearly for who knows what reason.

One thing for sure is that listening to Mozart contradances at six in the morning can be dangerous to your grasp on the present day. They should come with warning labels.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Talk Thursday: Office Scuttlebutt

I didn't swim yesterday because I wasn't feeling well, so that's why we don't have Mr. Fishy this evening. Just in case anybody was wondering. And Monday--who knows what happened Monday? Monday is ancient history. Monday belongs to the ages. I, on the other hand, belong to this moment in time, whatever it is. And at this moment in time, I am munching on a chicken shwawarmawich and wondering once again why, at least at work, I never seem to know what the hey is going on. Apart from the legal stuff, that is. I know quite a bit about the legal stuff.

Here's how my morning started. I walked in the door, and one of my cow orkers pounced on me. (Not literally.) She demanded to know why I'd told so and so such and such. I kind of blinked, a little baffled. Not only had I not told so and so such and such, such and such was news to me. But I didn't say that; I just said that it made very little sense for me to tell so and so such and such, seeing that I was this, and this wouldn't be at all advantageous to such and such. She blinked, thought about it for a moment, and then allowed that maybe, on balance, it hadn't been me. I asked her who else she'd told about such and such. She named some people. I pointed out, as delicately as possible, that if one really didn't want one's colleagues to know about such and such, one probably shouldn't tell anybody at work, because, well, people do talk.

Thinking that was it, I got to work. But later in the day, another of my cow orkers began telling me about certain Issues with That One. (Man, it's annoying, not being able to use names or actual events. But I can't. Some of my cow orkers might know this blog exists and I have this vested interest in not pissing anyone off. Any further.) Turns out That One was the main reason This Other One left, and this particular colleague wanted This Other One's job but Unnamed Person #3 had already decided to fill that opening from Outside, which really annoyed Unnamed Person #4 but only seemed fair to That One and Unnamed Person No. 5. Which was, like, wow. I mean, all this time I've just been shut up in my cube, working away, and all this stuff's been going on and I had no clue.

Well, here's the truth: I can't afford to have a clue. I really can't. I have a certain reservoir of mental energy. It's enough to get me to work, get me through eight hours (and sometimes change) of Things Legal, and get me home afterward. Just going to a Meeting after work is sometimes pushing it. I've been known to arrive at the point of no-longer-able-to-cope when there's still an hour left in the workday, which is not a happy situation for me (I do a lot of filing). So if there's a bright shining center of office gossip, I'm in the cube it's the farthest from. I can't handle the drama, can't deal with the fallout, can't cope with the angst. How do people do it, these strange creatures who not only participate in office gossip but seem to thrive on it?

More to the point, how do they get away with it? I don't mean how do they not get caught gossiping. I mean how do they get away with all the heavy-duty emotional baggage that comes with it? Because there's obviously a lot at stake, emotionally speaking. The person who pounced on me when I came in the door was understandably furious. The colleague who was upset that That One had caused whatever it was to happen with Unnamed Person No. 3 so that Unnamed Person No. 4 would be filling an opening from Outside was, well, upset. Nobody's neutral about this stuff. Whenever anybody starts in with a "Did you hear about..." you can just feel blood pressure rising all over the room.

And then there's me. The creature from the Black Lagoon, or some other lagoon full of creatures that just don't get this stuff and consequently can't participate in any meaningful way. Honestly, sometimes I feel like an anthropologist studying a strange culture. I feel like I should whip out my notebook: "12:01 P.M. Participated in a ritual known as "scuttlebutt." Entirely unclear as to the point of this ritual but everyone else seemed to enjoy it." Am I, in fact, a member of the human race? Or did I just land on the wrong planet 42 years ago and forget to ask directions?