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

Friday, November 28, 2014

What Happens in Phoenix...

...doesn't exist, evidently.

Lemme splain. No, is too much. Lemme som opp.  Joan and I flew to Phoenix to see my mom and dad for Thanksgiving. Or at least we tried to fly to Phoenix.  Things started going wrong the second the Super Shuttle showed up. It never would have occurred to me that now, in the Common Era 2014, they might not be disabled accessible. But the guy showed up, and he had a van that could only be reached by climbing up into it. Fine for me but not for Joan, who's been hobbling around with a cane for the last couple of weeks. Bad knee. And bad foot. And sometimes both a bad knee and a bad foot. Anyway, after three failed attempts, we finally put her in the front seat, with both me and the Super Shuttle guy giving her a mighty push from the rear.  Mission accomplished, but I had no idea how I was going to get her back out again.

Matters did not improve once we got to the airport, either. Yes, we got Joan back out of the van (gravity is your friend), but the ticket agent had a problem with us.  See, we had three tickts and only two human beings. This was beause we were flying on Mas Barato Airlines. Mas Barato is a fine airline, but if you look like you're too large to fit into one of their 16" seats (which covers a lot of tall people, as well as fat people), they've been known to pull you out of line and make you buy another seat on the spot. Especially if you're a woman (there was a lawsuit about this).  We buy three seats together, which means we get a row to ourselves. It's a whole lot easier to just buy the extra seat when you book the flight, but we never, and I do mean never, get through the airport without a lot of hassle when we do this.

In this instance, the ticket agent couldn't get her machine to print us a boarding pass for the third seat. She had to call her supervisor. 25 minutes later she was still on the phone, saying things like "The what screen?" and "What's that? I've never heard of that." Joan, meanwhile, had asked for a wheelchair, but none had ever shown up. She headed off to the ladies' room right around the time the boarding pass had finally printed. By now, we had about 15 minutes to make the plane.

I took the boarding passes and sprinted for the ladies' room, where I caught up with Joan and where, by some miracle, the wheelchair finally caught up with us. The TSA let us go through the wheelchair line, which was a lot shorter, and the wheelchair took off running on the other side while I was still putting my shoes back on. I ran like the hounds of Pink Floyd were at my heels, but I didn't catch up until I got to the actual gate. By then they were wheeling Joan down the jetway, and we collapsed into our private row just before the doors shut and the engines roared to life. Whew.

Okay, we're on the right plane and it's going the right direction and all should be well from here on out, right? Um, no. After we got to Phoenix, we got an email from the airline that since we'd failed to show up for our flight out, they were cancelling our flight back. Now, I like Phoenix, but I had no intention of staying there, so I called Mas Barato Airlines to find out what was going on. After i'd told my story to successively higher-placed supervisors, I finally got one that seemed to know what was going on. At least until she asked me, "Are you sure you're in Phoenix?"

Am I sure I'm in Phoenix. Ponder that for a moment. Existential questions aside (how, for example, does anyone know they're really in Phoenix?) that was something I'd never considered before. I mean, maybe I was in Hawaii. Lots of sun, lots of sand. Maybe I was in Aruba. Jamaica. Bermuda? Bahama? Anyway; I said the first thing that came to mind, which was "I beg your pardon?" And she repeated it. "Are you sure you're in Phoenix?" Honestly, don't they teach you to listen to your own questions in customer service school?

Well, I finally admitted to being sure I was in Phoenix, since, uh, I actually was in Phoenix (or Chandler, if you want to get picky).  And another long silence followed, after which she told me that the originating airport had blah blah blah something technical, which had caused blah blah blah something else technical,and in other words they were blaming the computer. But, no harm no fowl, we still had reservations to fly back to Dallas. Which was all I really cared about, so I let the rest slide. But I wonder what's gonna happen when we get to the airport to fly home. Maybe they'll ask if I'm sure I'm at Sky Harbor. Or worse, Albuquerque.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mini-Post: Another Newbie

No, not me.  I've already started my new job (and it's going pretty well, apart from the stress level, which is mostly me).  Joan!  Seems the Library has a position as a "social media librarian", and last year they hired someone for the job.  Joan had applied for it at the time, didn't get it and, in a fit of pique, threw out the job description and all her application materials.  So when the department manager asked her last week if she'd like to have the job because the new person wanted to go to a different department, she wasn't even entirely sure what it was.  She accepted it anyway.

Well, what it is, is going to be pretty cool, I think.  Somebody has to be the Library's presence on Facebook and Twitter and so on and so forth.  You know, the human being behind posts like this one (and I am a human being, I promise).  There are things technical involved, which she's very good at; she'll go places and meet people, and the whole thing just sounds pretty darn cool.

I only have the vaguest idea of what Joan actually did in the Department of Cataloging.  It involved numbers, it involved meticulous rules, and it was all about telling books where to go.  Beyond that, I couldn't tell you.  She used to go to conferences with titles like, "A New Look at The Use of MARC Records in UNIX Environments".  What the hell does that even mean?  I never knew.  "Social media librarian" is a lot more understandable.

So there will be two of us running around with our heads full of new job stuff.  Should be interesting.  Today my brain got tired with 45 minutes left to go.  Sucks to be me sometimes.  Cheers!

Saturday, November 15, 2014


So I started a new job this week.  Starting a new job, just incidentally, is not on my list of fun things to do when I'm bored and there's nothing good on the radio.  In fact I kind of hate it.  It's all about going from being the person in charge, who knows everything about everything, to being the newbie, who doesn't even know where the ladies' room is.  Couple that with the fact that the stuff I'm in charge of has been galloping ahead at full speed, and reproducing like a slime mold, for quite a while with nobody keeping an eye on it, and you can see how this might be A Challenge.  My anxiety level's been off the charts. I've written emails and then reread them three or four times to make sure I'm not A. inadvertently making myself look stupid and B. stepping on anybody's toes before I send them. Yes, I know that's a little excessive, but it's only in the last year or so that I started to realize that every single piece of correspondence that goes out from my desk does not have to be the letter equivalent of War and Peace.  Sometimes I can just say, "Hey, I need this. Please send it to me" and click send.

Still, as challenges go, it's pretty cool. I've made lots of charts and tables to Keep Track of Things.  I'm starting to memorize names and pertinent dates, and by the end of next week I should be well into Phase II.  What is Phase II?  In fact, what in hell am I doing?  Well, I can't really tell you.  Still, this thing will proceed in phases and it's good to know that I'm starting to get a grip on it.  I'd like to start being productive sooner rather than later.

The other thing I'd like to achieve next week is a desk.  Because at the moment, I don't exactly have one.  I've been hanging out with my sort-of assistant. (I have a sort-of assistant!! She's really my boss's assistant, but she can assist me too, how cool is that?)  This office has two ends.  My boss and I are on one end, and the other person-in-charge is at the other end.  At that same other end is where basically everyone else has space.  Since I'm new and am going to have all kinds of questions, they thought it made sense to have me on the noisy end.  So that's where I've been.  I kind of have half of a desk.  No drawer space, though, nor is there anywhere to put my plant.  (I have this plant that I've had on my desk since 2007.  It's currently on my dresser, where I think it's bored, to say nothing of facing the eternal danger of being eaten by cats.)  So at some point next week I'd like to move in to my desk, even if I still spend time at the other end of the office with everyone else.  I have a laptop. I can be mobile.

And then there's the chair issue.  Back about three months ago, when I was moving my old office from Space A to Space B, I was lifting a box and somehow did something to a muscle in my hip.  It's been giving me grief ever since, on and off.  I strongly suspect my former chair did a lot more to aggravate matters than help matters heal.  So the first thing I brought to the office was my gel cushion, which is this nifty (though very heavy) thing I got from Office Depot that adds a lot of softness to a regular office chair.  Unfortunately, the cushion didn't help matters and my hip flared up again.  I asked for another chair, and got one.  Once I got it, though, I had this odd feeling that I was listing to starboard.  I finally asked my sort-of assistant if this was my imagination, or what.  She confirmed that I was indeed listing to starboard and that something was wrong with the chair.  So I'm now on Chair No. 3, which is working out great, but how embarrassing to go through three chairs in a week.  I'm going to get a reputation as a serial chair killer.
Here's what my tattoo looks like. First person to
tell me what it is gets a cheesy prize. Maybe a
wheel of Provolone.

Another thing that happens with a new job is new rules.  Here's one I did not expect: Tattoos must be covered up at all times whilst working at this office.  (Actually, I'm told this is not an unusual office policy, but it's the first time I've come across it.)  And yes, I do have a (gasp) tattoo.  It's on my back, just below my neck, where I forget it exists most of the time.  I'm now in the process of going through all my blouses to see which ones cover it up, and are therefore Safe For Work, and which don't and need to be put aside.  Well, you know how it is.  New job, new wardrobe.  Break me out the credit card, I'm going shopping. First item on the list is a good neutral-colored scarf that I can keep at work just in case.  Imagine, my gangsta thug past is finally catching up with me.

My new cow orkers are all pretty nice.  There's definitely a sense of "we're all in this together," which is not something I had at my last place of employ (being as it was Just Me) or the one before that (for various other reasons).  That's a nice thing to have.  If I ever get used to having a sort-of assistant, I'll start handing things off to her.  In the meantime, I'll keep going to lunch with people.  (Not a cheap hobby, but probably useful in terms of clout.)

So anyway, that's the new job, so far.  Now it's the weekend, so I'm going to rest up and get ready for Phase II. Wish me luck.  They haven't scared me away yet, but I guess it could still happen.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What God Do You Want With That?

An actual post about Buddhism.  Will wonders never cease.  Yeah, okay, I've been a little remiss in the whole point of this blog's existence.  So here's my latest little sermonette.  It focuses on the existence of God, something which I, as a Twelve-Step person, am not supposed to be questioning.  But I do, all the time.  The brain doesn't turn off just because it's supposedly vital to my continued survival.

I heard Buddhism described once as "a religion without a god," assuming that Buddhists don't believe in God.  Well, you'd have to ask a Buddhist.  Actually, you'd have to ask ten Buddhists, and then you'd get twenty answers and forty deep discussions.  Yes, I know I've said that before, but it doesn't make it any less true.  Still, to call Buddhism "a religion without a god" is kind of a misnomer.  Buddhism, like Christianity, spread over a large area in a relatively short period of time, and like Christianity, it basically overlaid the religious practices that were already in existence and sort of absorbed them.  When Christianity showed up (relatively late) in Ireland, many of the local Celtic and pagan gods became part of the new faith.  "Oh, you have a god named Bridget? Well, you must mean Saint Bridget!  Let me tell you all about Saint Bridget..."  Oh, and the Horned One/Forest God?  He kinda didn't fare so well.  You see a horned being in Christianity, he's probably not good news.  I'm just saying.

In the same way, Buddhism has a slew of higher beings called bodhisattvas and arhats and other
weird-sounding Sanskrit names.  One of these guys is named Skandha, the Buddhist guardian against temptation to overindulgent behavior.  I kid you not, Buddhism created an entire being to ward off the mad urge to have more than one cookie with dinner.  I happen to know about him because my therapist, who was perhaps becoming exasperated as to how often this God thing kept coming up, said, "Why don't you just look up some of those bodhisattvas and pick one?"  I picked Skandha because he looked like the leader of a motorcycle gang.  Seriously, doesn't he?  It's something about the helmet.  And maybe the chestplate.  
But I feel really stupid trying to pretend Skandha's following me around, eternally on the lookout for extra cookies.  It just feels kind of silly, like having an imaginary friend.  The truth is, I didn't believe in God well before I became a Buddhist.  I told my Lutheran pastor that I didn't believe in God right before the big Christmas service.  He said, "What God don't you believe in?" and I was kind of stuck for an answer for a minute there, but then I said, "The Old Testament God."  He said, "Well, I don't believe in that God either."  Which was reassuring, especially for a Lutheran pastor, but then he ruined it by saying, "That's why we have a New Testament."

I asked my Buddhist monk friend ChiSing if there was a God and he said it didn't matter if there was one or not.  When I pressed him on it, he said that if there is a God, he needs to be enlightened, and if he's enlightened already, well, then that's just grand, isn't it?  Which is just irritating in the extreme, but then, conversations with Buddhist monks often are.  Still, I would say most Buddhists probably believe in God.  At least, the ones that I know seem to.  Some of them actually mention God from time to time.  Others talk about "the Universe" taking care of things, and something like the Universe is so exponentially huge and beyond human comprehension that it might as well be God.  I also meet Buddhists who think that the whole question of whether or not there's a god just isn't one that's worth spending a lot of mental energy on.  There either is one, or there isn't one, and (tossing up the hands in dramatic fashion) we have no control over it anyway.  Buddhists are big on not having any control over things.  So are Twelve-Step people.

Lately I've been thinking of taking on Google as my Higher Power.  Google has all the answers.  It doesn't necessarily have correct answers, but answers--it's got 'em.  If you want correct answers, forget Google and go talk to your friendly local librarian.  She'll help you find them.  Hm, maybe the librarian should be my Higher Power.  I live with a librarian already, so it'll be a short trip to church.

Anyway, I still don't believe in God.  And if the question is, what God don't I believe in, then the answer is, I don't believe in the god of Abraham or the god of Peter and Paul.  I don't believe in Thor, either (but I kind of wish I did).  I believe that the Bible is basically a history of a people who decided to use their religion as an excuse not to get along with their neighbors.  We're still using that excuse today, every day, all over the world.  We may have all these neato technical advances and we may have extended the boundaries of science catrillions of times farther than our forefathers ever thought possible, but as far as becoming better people, we have evolved exactly zero points since the Bronze Age, and I think religion has a lot to do with that.

What I  do believe in, is fate.  I believe in signs and portents, miracles and wonders.  I believe that there are certain threads of space and time that are meant to come out a certain way, and that eventually they will get there no matter what steps in front of them.  I believe that there's a  kind of cosmic force, if you will, that makes us all alive, and that force is inside every being that lives or has ever been alive or ever will be alive everywhere in the universe.  I believe that if an energy force can have an intention (and I believe it can), it wants us all to do the right thing, and maybe be a little nicer to each other.  I believe if you get in touch with this intention, then your life and the lives of everyone around you will become infinitely easier.  And I believe that one of the ways to get in touch with this intention is Buddhism.

Though, to be honest, the I Ching coins and the Tarot cards don't hurt.