10 December 2007

The Church Of Crunch


Namaste, Motherf#$%er! The Buddha of Violent Compassion drops
220 pounds of enlightenment on Cardinals kicker Mitch Berger.


Greg:

I took time off from being a mold farmer to attend Sunday's Seahawks v. Cardinals NFC West Divisional Championship Extravapalooza at Qwest Field (
"Home Of The Loud Crowd"). I cannot tell you how much joy it brings me to be able to go to games, especially games where a hardcore Nichiren Buddhist like Seahawks kick returner Josh Scobey delivers the full weight of karma to Cardinals punter Mitch Berger in his own end zone, resulting in a safety for the Seahawks and instant enlightenment for the entire crowd of 68,000 (see above). Ironically, (...or not. -Ed.) Qwest Field is where the Dalai Lama will be laying down the hits on happiness and compassion next April. Believe me, I'll be screaming my guts out from the 300-level on that day, too. I predict that he will sack ignorance for a loss. I can hardly wait to see his end zone dance. (Wait, the Dalai Lama plays both offense and defense? No wonder he won the Nobel. -Ed.)

Digression: I heard this great bit in a standup routine once. "Why is it that football players blame themselves when they do poorly and thank God when they win? Just for once I'd like to hear a player say, 'I was doing great until Jesus made me fumble.'"

Which brings me to the subject of sports and religion as the two things seem to be inextricable. And I'm not talking just during player interviews. I submit as evidence Exhibit A below:


Exhibit A: The Reverend Leonard Weaver, who coincidentally plays fullback for
the Seattle Seahawks, resists tacklers like he was a solid steel I-beam rooted
in The Jesus. He had four receptions for 56 yards on Sunday as the Seahawks
beat the Cardinals to clinch the NFC West...with yours truly propelling his
team to victory by screaming his guts out from section 342, row EE, seat 1.

I mean check it out, what was that crazy basketball game those Aztecs used to play? (Mayans, but who's counting? -Ed.)And weren't all those games to the greater glory of the god Chocolatl or something? And the Olympics - weren't they also for the greater glory of the Divine Residents of Mount Olympus? And now football - isn't pretty much everything that happens in football for the greater glory of The Jesus? I have no answer for that, nor do I have further musings. Although I find it interesting how at the end of each football game, a large contingency of players from both teams gather at center field to pray. One presumes that because they're praying en masse, it is a group effort of peace and compassion. Maybe it's not. Maybe they're all praying something like, "Lord, whensoever we see these muffuckers here present up in our house, may we rain Thy vengeance upon them, and tear they muffuckin' heads off fo' sho' next time. We ask this in sweet Jesus name. Amen." (It reminds me of a line from the Civil War film Glory: "May I fight with the rifle in one hand and the good book in the other." -Ed.)

Sylvia Boorstein gives a nod to football fans in her book "It's Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way To Happiness". She dispels the notion that we (meaning Buddhists) are all about serenity and equanimity 24/7. We don't watch sporting events hoping that just the best team will win. Buddhists get as wound up about competition as just about anyone else, and it's perfectly okay to do so. Gelugpa monks go after theological debates like they were being televised on WWF Smackdown. Besides, there's nothing in the dhammapada about not freaking right the hell out over sporting events, like when some douchebag official destroys the sanctity of the Super Bowl by making a spate of doubtful calls. (Still bitter? -Ed.)

Likewise, I think it makes a huge difference when you choose to recognize both fandom and the game itself as dharma. Then football becomes a play that has the power to reveal the deepest values of nature, just like anything else would that you choose to recognize in that way. Football, fans and all, has no inherent reality, and is purely a contrivance based on arbitrary rules. And upon close inspection, (introspection?) I could say my life is pretty much the same damn thing. (Put. The Bong. Down. -Ed.) But in either case, it doesn't keep me from screaming my head off when I feel moved to do so, either in real life or at Qwest Field. The difference is that I often forget that real life is just a play as well.

I'm glad that I didn't forget that while my basement was flooding all to hell last Monday. As we were mopping and bailing, I said to Aaron (mostly to remind myself) that we should probably nevermind the rug, the walls, and the other tangible losses for now. I said the most valuable thing we probably had at that moment was our sense of humor. (Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how'd'ya like the play? -Ed.)

Speaking of play, I have to work now.

Cheers, -Thaddeus


04 December 2007

After The Deluge


Answer: Holy fucking shit. Question: What are three words that describe the
second rainiest day in Seattle history?

Greg:

Here's a shocker: it rained in Seattle yesterday. That's not the big news. The big news is that it was the second rainiest day in Seattle history. A very angry, very soggy god sent a deluge which wiped out our evil and iniquitous storm drain system, turning manholes into geysers, city streets into raging rivers, and severely dampening my mother-in-law in her basement apartment. (I can't imagine what my mother-in-law Lucy, who is as sweet as sugar candy, could've done to offend the rain god. As she described it over a cup of coffee early this morning, "I was baptized by Seattle yesterday".)

So to recap - I got a call from Aaron yesterday morning telling me that Lucy woke him up to tell him that something was wrong with her refrigerator. He went downstairs to find water coming from underneath it. I told him to handle it with towels for the time being and I would be right home. By the time I got home, there was no mistaking this for what it was: a flood and not a simple refrigerator malfunction. There was standing water in the apartment and more coming from underneath the baseboard on the north wall. Lucy and Aaron were working like champs to keep it at bay. Wise and experienced homeowner that I am, I saw fit to call our contractor John and get some advice. I tried to keep the hysterical shriek in my voice to a minimum as I explained the situation to him. (Hysterical shriek: think triple-high C on the shriekiest stop of the famous Wanamaker Grand Court Organ.) He swung by post-haste and he, I and Aaron worked to move dirt and dig channels in the driveway to direct water away from my north wall. (You should see my driveway now. It's criss-crossed with a drainage network that would make the Dutch fight the Venicians for my honor. To quote Aaron, "It looks like war.") Speaking of which, Aaron and Lucy fought like Spartans against the water yesterday, Lucy mopping and wringing to beat the band and Aaron bailing with a strength and determination that might have saved the Titanic.

Our brilliant network of canals worked eventually, although the downpour overwhelmed it at the beginning. John and I surmised that there was nowhere to send the water except into my neighbor Shawn's yard which was already underwater. After inviting Shawn to take a look at the situation, he offered to bring over his rotohammer and blow a few holes through the low concrete wall that separates our properties and let the water drain over on his side. John took me aside and whispered, "Holy cow. Now that's neighborly!" I'm glad our drainage channels worked and that Shawn didn't drill holes in the wall because the water in his yard made it all the way to his front door sill. I don't know if it made it into his living room or not.

Speaking of neighborly, John L. Scott multi-award winning real estate agent Gloria Lee drove all over hell and gone to track down a submersible pump for us yesterday. She finally got one from Hertz. She has firmly established how much she rules, and everyone on earth should buy a house from her.
Aaron was all too glad to hand over the bailing work to the pump, as hucking bucketloads of water out of a basement doorwell for hours on end is a Sisyphean task at best. Elizabeth was a rescuing angel for us as well, and brought us the three essentials of flood survival: homemade Ethiopian food, my cell phone charger (t'was dead during during the storm - not good), and her carpet cleaner.

So today I will be continuing the cleanup work that was begun yesterday, wet-vacuuming the carpet in the downstairs apartment and generally douching the rest of the basement before mold sets in. I have COIT services coming over on Thursday to give the place the Hurricane Katrina cleanup treatment. Hopefully we won't be growing mold by then. Today I'll also have to throw myself upon the mercy of the Boeing Employees Credit Union and beg them subsidize new roofing, siding, and at least one French drain for this splendid-yet-soggy house that I have amassed precious little equity in so far. Wish me luck.

Cheers, -Thaddeus

19 November 2007

Malaise: Rhymes With "Holidays"


Totally gratuitous photo of Seahawks'
wide receiver DJ Hackett that has nothing
to do with this letter except that he's
ossum.

Greg:

Sorry to hear about you losing your job. What a freakin' pain in the arse. And what timing, too - right before the holidays! It seems like the fourth quarter thing to do: freak out about the books (because you were a dumbasss and, oh I don't know, created a revenue shortfall or something) and fire some completely innocent person. Teresa also got notified last week that her current contract in the IT department of Starbucks would be cut short by ten months; viz., it will be ending on November 30th instead of way the hell next year some time. Good thing we all have bills and mortgages, otherwise job loss wouldn't be so stressful. Shit. Which reminds me of the classic Shakespearean rhetorical quote: "Is Wayne Brady gonna have to choke a bitch?"

So while we're at it, let's just sweep the rest of the woe out of the way so we can get on to happier things. A recent rainstorm has revealed that my roof leaks, and I have no means of getting up there to fix it at the moment. Nor do repeated pleas to contractors do any good. The guy who was supposed to finish the shower in my MIL in August still has not shown up, despite repeated threats to do so. I often wonder aloud what it must be like to be a contractor and be so immersed in cash that one can let work just slip away. Apparently I am in the wrong line of work. Every time I see some guy driving a shitty old truck with the words "General Contractor" on the side of it, I think to myself "There goes another recalcitrant millionaire".

Perhaps there's an upside. Perhaps by the end of the rainy season, natural hydrometrics will have given me a brand new skylight right above my fireplace.

Other stuff to bitch about: I went in for my second sleep study, the one where they strap you to a CPAP machine and then crank up the pressure until you look like Dizzy Gillespie. (No, honestly, every time the mask slipped my cheeks would inflate. It was 80% less than awesome.) When they came in to get me up in the morning, they were all "You did great! Your EEG shows that you slept a lot better and your blood oxygen was higher! Wow!" And I was all, "That was fawking hawribble! I had a dream that I was being suffocated by Dizzy Gillespie! Worst night of my life!" And they were all "Well, to tell you the truth, we do try to crank up the pressure as high as we can through the course of the night." And I was all, "Wow, I wish I could get a job where I could torture people for fun."

Since the CPAP experience was so damn fun, I decided that I'd try to attack the snoring problem by losing weight (which was a viable alternative, according to my doctor), and that I'd try to lose weight (and save some gas money) by becoming a bike commuter. So I went out and bought enough bike clothing to make myself look like a gigantic neon sausage.
Then I put a bunch of blinky lights all over everything so I'd look like a 25 MPH Christmas Tree. And then I put a rack and panniers on my bike. So now that I'm all outfitted, now all I need is to grow some lungs - at least enough to do a 17 mile round trip every day. I've been practicing by doing 50-block sprints. Fortunately, there's a really nice bike path that starts only five blocks from my house and goes all the way to Everett, which is about 22 miles from here. That's nice because it means that I can actually sprint that distance without having to stop for traffic. Well almost never, that is. There are some crossings. Anyway, I've been doing this for a few weeks now and the net effect has been that I've actually gained two pounds and it looks like I've added a couple of panniers to my flanks. To wit, I am becoming mightily thick from the obliques down. If I get any thicker, I shall don a garland of acorns and look like a 25 MPH oak tree.

Gotta run. I'd love to talk more, but it's only a few minutes before kickoff (Seahawks @ Rams) and once that ball leaves the tee, my IQ plummets drastically. I become such a yawping, mouth-breathing pithecanth that I have to coat my tongue with Vaseline lest it turn to jerky.

Cheers,

-Thaddeus

06 November 2007

Zombie


Sleep Apnea Spokesmodel. Every CPAP device now comes
with a complimentary cranky old fat dude.

Greg:

Quick update. So I got the results of the sleep study. I'm not completely dead. Only mostly dead. Here's how they know. I wake up from having my airflow interrupted about 27 times an hour. (No, seriously, that's a completely crapless fact. 27 times an hour. That's about once every two and a quarter minutes for those of you who are playing along with your abacus at home. -Ed.) That's called sleep apnea, of course, but the real interesting thing is the sleep hypopnia. That's when you just stop breathing altogether without an airflow interruption, necessarily. I do that too. However - and here's the good news - it's not from lack of trying on the part of my brain. That would be cause for concern, but I'm glad that's not the case. Perhaps I'm just being stubborn. Or perhaps I have no brain at all. Look at our mom. She has a calcified brain tumor the size of a walnut. (That's about 4 inches in circumference for those of you playing along at home with your calipers. -Ed.) It hasn't harmed her not no way not nohow. Me not having no brain couldn't not do more any less harm to me, right? It must be genetic. I'm not re-tarded. I'm pre-tarded.

Other interesting fact. My blood oxygen level while I sleep is 89.5%, which is not great, but not awful. It's not until you get down to 85% that you start talking about heart attacks. Good/normal is 98%. ("Blue In The Face" is #1208AF for those of you at home playing along with your hexadecimal codes. -Ed.)

So yeah, the next step is to send me back for another sleep study, this time with a CPAP. (That's Constant Positive Airway Pressure for those of you from NASA, "Home of the Acronyms", who are following along with your 2nd edition Acronomicon. -Ed.) While I was in for my last study, somebody was in there with one of those things getting the pressure adjusted on it or the tranny pulled or some damn thing. All I know is that it sounded like a freakin' paint sprayer. Anyway, the doctor told me that I'd probably have to do two things to get rid of my snoring: 1) sleep with one of those damn paint sprayer things and 2) lose 30 pounds. Using the CPAP machine will facilitate weight loss and weight loss will help relieve the sleep apnea. It's a win-win, a "kindly cycle", if you will. Problem is, at 6'2", 230# and 16% body fat, I can probably lose 30 pounds. (Or if your math is wrong - which is likely - that's not possible. That is unless you don't mind being freezing cold all the time and having the wind whistle through your ribcage. -Ed.) I will either look completely ripped (sweet!) or like Skeletor the 2nd (which is sweet if you like Skeletor). Looks like I'll be riding my bike the 17-mile round trip to and from work every day. Either that or I have to cut off one of my calves and all of my hubris to get that skinny.

I know it's going to be difficult, but here's what I'm dealing with now. I have very little short term memory left. Or at least that's what it feels like. What was I saying? Oh yeah. They say sleep effects memory, and right now I feel like the guy in "Memento". I also have that sleep paralysis thing going on a few times a week, which is something that you get from chronic sleep deprivation. Imagine not being able to move, speak or breathe - in other words, being completely paralyzed - and being completely awake. Now I know what people who die of fugu poisoning feel like.

So if I get this CPAP thing, no matter how cumbersome and silly it looks (Yo! Snuffleuppagus! -Ed.), perhaps I won't get so damn tired every afternoon that I practically fall face first onto my keyp0[qawfp9wef'pwiaeh089234q07tq0[gfqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq348y---------------0[


25 October 2007

il Purgatario di Morpheus


Before: Wired for sound.
The great part about it was that I could receive
all 789 channels of DirecTV
in my sleep.


After: "You didn't knock me down, Ray."
And then I had to wear those damn wires
all damn day.

Greg:

So I went in for my sleep study night before last. They should really call it a Lack-Of-Sleep Study, or Sleep Jail, or the Purgatory of Morpheus since someone obviously spent a lot of time dreaming up ways to fuck with people while they sleep. To wit: the thirty-six miles and forty eight leagues of wire that they attach to everything but your taint. I was right. They really do wire the hell out of you and put tubes up your nose, then put you in a strange bed and tell you to go to sleep. Not that the bed's so bad. It's a Tempur-Pedic, just like the one I have at home. But apparently Tempur-Pedic's "revolutionary support at an unmatched value(tm)"
freaked some people out (they thought that memory foam felt weird and kinda hard) so the good people at Sleep Center Northwest made the beds even more comfortable by frosting each mattress with a thin layer of futon. The result is a delicious sleepcake of unmatched comfort for the highest quality in somnolent repose. Too bad you don't get no somnolent repose, what with all the wires and the wires and the more wires and them waking you up because "oh shit one of your wires came off". They even had a tiny wire attached to the end of my left index finger. What they failed to tell me was that it had a tiny red LED in it, so when I went to rub my eye in the dark I was nearly blinded by its laser-like brilliance.


So I was in for two things, an overnight sleep study (polysomnogram) and the daytime sleep study (multiple sleep latency test). At the end of the overnight test, an EEG tech, a skinny Asian fellow, came in and woke me up and made me go into another room and get on a treadmill. I thought that was kinda weird, but I played along because, hey, what the hell do I know about stuff? It's my first time. So I'm on the treadmill with all the wires hanging off of me and I'm puffing along and the tech starts complaining about how he has intestinal gas and asks me if I have any Tums or anything. I say yeah, I think I have some in my toilet kit in my room, so I get off the treadmill and go into my room to get him some Tums. Well while I'm in there rummaging around in my toilet kit, I'm looking at my comfy, comfy sleepcake bed and thinking about how groggy I am and how nice it would be to snuggle back down between its creamy layers, and suddenly I'm all "fuck it, I'm going back to bed". So I crawl back into bed and nod off, and in about ten seconds another EEG tech opens the door and gets me up. But this time I notice that he's a real EEG tech and that the other guy was, well, kinda imaginary. And there's no treadmill anywhere in the building. I dreamt that whole thing.

The real guy's name was Grady and turned out to be a boon companion in what was an otherwise purgatorial experience. He was charged with performing my MSLT. That means that he made me take a series of five naps throughout the day and about two hour intervals. The rules were that if I fell asleep in the first fifteen minutes, I got to sleep for another fifteen minutes before they woke me up. But if I failed to fall asleep in the first fifteen minutes, then he'd come back in and get me out of bed. (And he'd know if I fell asleep or was just faking because something called "K spindles" would show up on my EEG if I nodded off.) I don't know if you've ever taken a nap in the middle of the day and then been woken up against your will, but it makes you so you're not quite awake or asleep for the rest of the day. OK - now imagine doing that five times. Yeah. Harsh. But I did manage to fall asleep two or three of the five times. I don't really remember. But what I do remember that I had a dream where I was attacked by a giant Reuben sandwich in outer space. (No, seriously, I actually dreamt that.)

One thing I forgot to mention is that there was an infrared camera in the room so they can laugh when you roll over on your morning missile and squeak with pain. I also forgot that it was there when I was buck-ass naked, getting into and out of my pajamas. I apologize to anyone at the front desk who may have been traumatized by either event. Just be glad the monitors are black and white and not color.

I managed to kill the time between naps by watching the "Empire of the Air" episode of Ken Burns' America series (good, nerdy stuff) and "Junebug" (Amy Adams is awesome and the Oscar nomination was well deserved, however the rest of the movie sucked a big, fat southern stereotype). Once those were gone, I was left with nothing to read but trade rags for the sleep industry. Not very compelling stuff, as you can imagine. Prolly great for inducing naps, though.

I get my results back next Tuesday. Until then I'll probably just continue in this half-awake state that has been become my living nightm -

GIANT SANDWICH! WHY DO YOU TORMENT ME!?

19 October 2007

We Admitted That We Were Powerless Over Football


Wow. Didn't see that one coming. Many of the '07 Seahawks
were off to the best year of their careers until they inexplicably
starting playing like freaked-out retards. Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark
enfolds Seattle WR Bobby Engram in the loving embrace of a bone-
crunching open field tackle during the 'Hawks 21-0 loss to the
Steelers.

Greg:

It is now week seven of the NFL season and -

Hey! Stop playing dead! I know you're totally faking it just so I'll stop talking about football. That's not even a real tailpipe you have in your mouth. Listen here, you. Football, like global warming, that staph superbug that's killing everyone, and the sudden hotness of Katie Keene, must be addressed. My team is sucking right now, and admitting that is the first step to recovery, is it not? (We admitted that we have a powerless running game, and that our passing game had become unremarkable. -Ed.) Therefore, it would be an inexcusable moral failure on my part, not to mention a complete delusion, not to talk about it. So get some toothpicks to prop your eyes open, start hitting that crackpipe like you mean business, and try to stay awake just long enough to hear my manifold lamentations.

Ahem.

It is now week seven of the NFL season and my beloved Seahawks are languishing with a completely schizophrenic 3 and 3 record. We've beaten some good teams and inexplicably lost to some completely shitty ones. We're facing the 0 and 6 St. Louis Rams (no seriously, 0 and 6, as in "they haven't won shit all year") this Sunday at Qwest Field here in Seattle (aka The Loudest Goddamn Place On Earth). Regardless of the Rams' losing record, one can in no way infer that they are easily beatable. Why? Because thus far, we've played like one-legged retards with amblyopia. Our formerly stellar NFL MVP running back couldn't average four yards a carry if he was fired out of a cannon. And our stupendously illogical play calling and devil-may-care clock management are among the most confounding mysteries to well up from the heart of man. To wit, we suck.


Yes, that's us during happier times, getting
our photo taken for a Jones Soda label during the
'Hawks win over the Buccaneers earlier this year.
Notice the full fan regalia and the upraised "We're
#1" index finger.

But why oh why, you ask, is it important at all how well (or not well) the Seahawks do this year? Ain't it just football? To which I answer that you, Dear Gregory, are woefully unaware of just how little there is to be joyful about - and conversely - how much there is to be woeful about in the sog-tastically sog-tacular Pacific Northwest between any given October and the following July. (That is the actual length of our winter and a 100% crap-free meteorological fact. -Ed.) To wit, suicidal ideation is something we do in the winter for fun. So yeah, when all your favorite hiking trails have turned into roiling crap-sluices, all you can look forward to is the warming glow of a crackling football game. And when your team is playing so horribly that even doing that is as squirm-inducing as watching The Iron Chef make Kitten Sushi - well, let's just say that without a win this Sunday, it's going to be a very long winter.

At lunch the other day, some of my co-workers who are non-Seahawks fans were giving me a yard for being one. "You're never going to get the love you deserve from the goddamn football team," they squawked. One even offered to take me in as a Bears fan (although he did admit that this year was equally as shitty a time to be one of those). I said look, it's like this. I only gots one mom. I'm only ever going to get one mom. Whether she's batshit crazy or a Nobel prizewinner, she's still my mom and I love her for that. Likewise, you only get one home team. I wasn't a football fan when I was growing up in suburban Detroit, to the Lions (God love 'em) are out. I became a football fan in 2002, my fifteenth year in Seattle (which arguably makes me from here equally inasmuch as Americans born to ex-pat English parents are from here), - ergo, I was born (allegorically at least) a Seahawks fan. Heaven knows they were nothing to crow about back then. And they may be on a long slide back into that oblivion whence they came. But that comes with the territory when you declare yourself a fan. You get the dizzying vicarious ride to glory only to be killed dead by the fall therefrom. (The same could be said of crack smoking. Perhaps you should become a fan of that sport. I've heard that it's way cheaper than buying 'Hawks tickets. -Ed.)

OK. I'm done. You can stop pretending to listen now and go back to eating your Kitten Sushi.

Cheers, and Go Hawks!

-Thaddeus

11 October 2007

KatyDreams


Old Flat Katy was pretty hot, but she's nothing compared to what the
horndogs over at Archie Comics are rolling out nowadays. With any
luck, I'll see her in my dreams when they put me in the sleep lab.

Yes, I know. I'm a bad person.

Greg:

I'll dispense with formalities. This is too important for opening bromides. Much as you often do, I was making my sesqui-monthly visit to the Archie website this morning. Not as much has changed as you think it might for that underfed ginger kid with the checkerboard on the side of his head. I mean he's looking pretty good for someone who's been 17 since 1941. All the Botox in Dick Clark's medicine cabinet couldn't make you or me look so good. But look, I said this was important and here I've digressed from my original point which is that Riverdale gang member KATY KEENE (gang as in "pals" not gang as in "banger", FYI) is suddenly WAY THE FUCK HOT. Betty and Veronica are gravy munching old hags compared to this chicquita whose measurements can only be described as whammitty-slammity-bang. And on top of that, she's the only Archie character that is drawn with relief shading. (Who dropped a quarter in the ink and paint guy?) That is also to say that she has voluptuous roundnesses, whereas Betty and Veronica are flat. HAH! Get it!? Anyway, don't take my word for it. Just take a gander at her ass. (By clicking this link, you certify that you are twelve years old or younger. -Ed.)

Other Archie news: several characters have come out recently, among them Moose Mason, Mrs. Beazly, and Hot Dog. And on a bittersweet note, hilariously Scandinavian janitor Mr. Svenson left the comic five years ago to play the part of "Jamie Hyneman" on the Discovery Channel's hit show "Mythbusters".

Ok. So. When I'm not on the verge of a mental wank over pulp-printed princesses, I'm signing up for scientific experiments. True story. The doctor is sending me in for a sleep study to figure out why'n'the hell I can't sleep right and howcome I keep having that "sleep paralysis" thing where my brain is completely awake and my body is totally paralyzed. (Yeah, it's scary.) They're going to do two tests: a PSG or polysomnogram, and a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). The PSG is the one where you go in at night and they hook you up to all kinds of wires and put tubes in your nose and then tell you to go sleep in a strange room. Then they shoot night-vision video of you freaking out like that girl on The Blair Witch Project and they put it on YouTube. Then they charge you money to take it down before all your friends see it. It's a scam I know, but hey - free bed. Oh yeah, and then the MSLT is a whole different deal. It takes place the following day. Between 6:15 AM and 6:30PM, they make you take a series of five naps. And they leave all the wires and stuff on. (And they don't even give you milk and graham crackers first - I know, I asked!!) And if you're bad and get up and watch Bugs Bunny instead of taking your nap they'll know, even if you turn the sound way down and draw the curtains. So you gotta watch out or you could get a spanking. Kind of a shitty deal for a full-grown man like myself, but I've heard that other full grown men pay good money for spankings. So there you go.

Speaking of sleep, in the run-up to this whole sleep testing thing the doctor made me take Rozerem ("Your dreams miss you(tm)") which is a new - well, new to us, old to Japan - sleeping aid that doesn't make you drowsy and doesn't have any dependency risk. Every night, you put one tablet in your ear and it tells you that you should probably turn that crap off and go to bed. It's only TV for crissakes, and it'll be there tomorrow, so why the hell are you staring at it night and day? It'll rot your brain. Your mother and I need some sleep, goddammit! So yeah, they had me on that stuff for two weeks and it was really fascinating. I didn't have anything I'd call truly remarkable results. I still woke up for no apparent reason exactly six hours after I went to bed, which is about par for me. But I fell back to sleep much more quickly. And I did sleep for about twelve hours one day and only woke up twice in that time for a couple of minutes each. And then - and THEN! - I found out that it's not even a controlled substance. Sheesh. (In America, we call it "Placebo". -Ed.) I was so hoping that there would be weed or something like that in it.

Okay so yeah, I'm taking a camera with me to the sleep study, so I'll have all kinds of embarassing photographs to show you next time I write - like a picture of me with Johnson, the tiny plush stuffed buffalo doll that I sleep with. And probably a photo of what a sleep center nurse looks like after I ask her if she wants to touch my Johnson. Stay tuned.

Cheers, -Thaddeus

06 September 2007

Fish Friday




Didn't want to; had to: the doctors say that if I don't start eating fish,
my heart is going to sludge up and slam shut. And that will
seriously impinge on my ability to watch football.


Greg:

I freakin' ate a goddamn fish this week. It wigged me out more than just a little. And it was just plain bad. Wait - let me start at the beginning.

So I got all this bullshit going on where I'm getting old (apparently - I don't feel old), and my shit is coming unwired, like my blood pressure is going up and my cholesterol is freaking out and my sleep is all screwed up and I'm all "what the hell - I ate right and exercised so this wouldn't happen" and they're all "it's hereditary" and I'm all "just fuck my fuckin' genes already the bastards". You know what I'm saying? So now for the third time a doctor has said to me, "you gotta eat some fish or this bullshit will keep happening", and the first two times I was all "up your arse, fish killer!" But then - well, if three people tell you that you're a horse, you prolly oughtta saddle up.

So after eight years of strict vegetarianism (excepting that one time I swallowed a leaf hopper by accident while I was hiking in the Olympics), I have resigned myself to eating fish once a week. The Fish Friday thing hasn't killed any Catholics - none that I know of anyway. As far as I know, they all die of guilt. The thought of eating a dead animal still freaks me out, which I guess means that I'm not so much "vegetarian" as "meat phobic". But as my friend Jim "LiveWrong" Bergman pointed out, it's much easier to practice compassion and loving kindness when you're alive. Bein's I'm a grumpy old shit who labors desperately hour by hour to hold down the lid on a broiling magma geyser of hatred, I can't say that I entirely agree with that. But I do enjoy my life quite a bit and would like it to continue, so eat fish I must.

Loath to do anything on time, I launched my new Fish Friday tradition on Saturday at Ivar's Salmon House on north Lake Union. It's a swell little place, kind of a reproduction of a Salish long house. There's a dock on one side of the restaurant, too. You can bridle your dinghy and hang out on the deck while watching yacht-loads of University of Washington frat boys mend the injuries of rush week with earnest applications of alcohol. It's almost like watching the grunions run if all the grunions were male. I digress. Jump cut: I ordered a fillet of Sockeye; they served me a charred lug sole. (As in "boot" and not "Dover", I assume? -Ed.) So to make a truly horrible pun, my first fish experience went anything but swimmingly. (I warned you, did I not?) And just to plant the flag of irony on the whole thing, their vegetarian plate was incredible. No, seriously, they do some kind of magic to grilled vegetables that I haven't encountered anywhere else.

Oh oh oh - AND - here's just another discovery that I've made recently because of this whole Fish Friday thing: fish is really goddamn expensive. Meat in general is really goddamn expensive but fish in particular. How do you meat eaters do it? I'm going to have to get a night job at Starbucks just to afford one salmon fillet per week. Any more than that and I'm going to have to take out a third mortgage or go down to the river and strangle the fish myself. On second thought, I'm not so sure this whole new fish-eating thing is going to prolong my life at all. I could be crushed to death under a stack of debt.

Cheers, and send fish.

-Thaddeus

29 August 2007

Who Flipped The "Old Man" Switch?

Posted by Picasa
Because he's bony and he tastes like shit, that's why.
Apparently my squeaky-clean vegetarian lifestyle hasn't done
my heart any favors. If I'm going to stay youthful, it looks like
I'm going to have to start eating people's pets.

Greg:

So I told you about the exam I got last week. Well I just got the blood test results and greeted them with a resounding WHAT THE CRAP?! Last year when I went in for my 40,000 mile checkup, my cholesterol was low, my blood pressure was fine, and they told me that I was in great shape for a guy my age. They even did an EKG on me and told me that I had the heart of a much younger man. And I said, "Yes I do. I keep it in a jar on my desk."

But then comes this year. Dr. Pitt's assistant calls me up day before yesterday to tell me that in the last year, somebody came by and flipped the "Old Guy" switch. All of a sudden my cholesterol is up, my blood pressure is up, I have "moderate cardiac risk" markers (whatever the shit those are), and they tell me to go on aspirin therapy. All of a sudden I'm 70. Fucking hell. Oh yeah, and there's blood in my whiz. How unbelievably not-awesome is that? And apparently all I had to do in the last year to get into this decrepit state was to maintain a strict vegetarian diet, work out at least three times a week, and hike about 200 miles - including, mind you, the transect of a 10,000 foot mountain pass - twice.

There can only be two explanations for this. 1) Jesus hates me. (That's a given. -Ed.) 2) When my old doctor, Dr. Cranky McGrumpenstein told me last year that my cholesterol was low, he warned me that my "good" cholesterol count (that's HDL for those of you who don't obsess on WebMD every day) was low also. He said - what was it now? Oh yeah, he said that might eventually lead to an increase in my bad (LDL) cholesterol since one balances the other. So he told me I oughtta go eat some fish once a week or so. I said no fuckin' way. He said how come? I said because it freaks me out. So he said fine, it's your funeral. Which, according to my recent blood test, it most assuredly is.

The good news is (or so they tell me at Dr. Pitt's office) that all of this can be corrected with diet and exercise. I gotta eat more oats, get more exercise (if that's possible - I'm going to see if they'll let me put a cot in the gym), and - ulp - eat fish oil. I don't mind telling you that last one freaks me out major bigtime. But I'm doing it. I'm freaking out on the inside, but I'm by God choking down my Omega-3 Fish Oil pills...chanting the Jewel In The Lotus mantra under my breath the entire time. But if I don't do it, I'm afraid my entire contribution to this life is going to be the following ironic headline: MODERATELY ATHLETIC VEGETARIAN PACIFIST DIES OF HEART ATTACK. Everything we know is wrong, say weeping pack of mantra-yodeling holistic doctors. But hey, on the upside, I figure if I was a fish, I'd want to be eaten by a Buddhist. Wouldn't you? Of course you would. So there you go. Maybe it's not all that bad.

Which brings me to the dream I had last night. Yes, there was meat in it. I dreamt that I was sitting at the dinner table and there was a big, juicy chunk of prime rib on a plate in front of me and I was really really really hungry. (One of my elementary school classmates back in Pontiac, MI once defined the word "ravenous" as follows: "Whens youse hungry, dat's whens you jus' wants sumpin' to eat. But whens youse ravenous, dat's whens youse hoonnngry!") In other words, I was ravenous. But the idea of eating meat was still freaking me out, as it always does. So I sat there and started reasoning about eating it, which led to rationalizing about eating it, which lead to outright denial and lying to myself. And then I cut a chunk off and put it in my mouth...and yeccchh. Not only did it taste rancid, it tasted like soap. Rancid meat soap is what we're talking here. (Soap? WTF? -Ed.) I durn near puked. Guess that means I'm still a vegetarian.

Cheers,

-Thaddeus

09 August 2007

Punched In The Love Donut

Posted by Picasa
The Brothers Hieronymous: A recent sighting in Portland, OR.
Clockwise from lower left: Thaddeus, Gregory, John. Rumor has it
they all have prostates.

Greg:

Hello. How are you? I'm fine except for getting punched in the prostate yesterday. No, seriously, I had to go in for an overall physical exam because I've had ringing in my ears for about three weeks now. And I don't mean just a little. I mean like somebody testing a smoke detector in the next room all day, every day, every night and on weekends. Yes, it's disturbing. Yes, I know that my prostate is a long-ass ways from my ears. Tell my doctor that. Maybe he was just getting fresh with me.

I went to an Ear-Nose-Throat guy (who did not punch me in the prostate) to see what was up with the ringing. He took a good look inside my noggin and threw his hands in the air. Then he told me to go get the physical so's to rule out anything metabolic causing the ringing. He also made me stop drinking coffee for a month.
Why? Because my blood pressure is up as well. And perhaps because he just likes to fuck with me. He knows how much I love coffee. He probably just wants to see me cry.

And I don't get the whole blood pressure thing. Last March when I went in for my regular exam, I was the picture of health. Now my blood pressure is one fifty five over way the hell too much. What gives? I'm a vegetarian and I work out way the hell more than most people. I've always had 120/80 for as long as I can remember. Maybe it's just my simmering rage that has finally taken its toll on my blood vessels. Or maybe it's the salt lick that I keep in my office.

On the up side, I have a new regular physician now - a sports med-slash-GP who's real personable. You like a guy to be real personable if he's going to put a fist up your Hoosegow and try to rip out your uvula. Makes it less awkward. Anyway, he's not like that grumpenstein Dr. Fisse that I've been going to for the last six or so years. My last exam with him...well let me just say that I've had friendlier bar fights.

"You examine yourself do ya?" he says.

"Yeah," I says.

"Oh yeah? How often?"

"'Bout once't a month."

"Bullshit! Ya do not!" he shouts. "Gimme those! You don't know what you're doin'!" And then he grabs my junk and goes over it with the care and thoroughness of a jeweler who has the touch of a goatherd. Ouch. Cough.

But my new doctor Dr. Pitt (like the University, not the actor) is real cordial and gives you the whole rationale behind the effectiveness of the manual prostate exam coupled with the blood test before he winds up and punches you in the love donut.

"Put your forehead on the table," he says. I oblige. "Now I'm gonna touch - "

What comes next is nothing that I'd describe as a "touch". So I says, "Next time, you're gonna buy me flowers first."

Anyway, it's a necessary evil and all, I know. And I shouldn't complain too much because I'm almost walking straight again and it's only been about twenty four hours. Plus, since he's a sports med doctor, I got him to look at my right Achilles which has been sore ever since I attacked that pampas grass in the front yard last month with a spade and a lot of swearing. The prognosis? I damnshit near ruptured it and have to get ultrasound therapy on it for the next eight weeks. And he says no jumping off of stuff or sudden sprinting or I'll damnshitsure rupture it for real. Thanks for the tip, doc!

I tire of this topic. It makes me hurt. Allow me to change course.

Not to turn this correspondence into an ongoing review of self-help books (File under "general grooviness". -Ed.) - but this particular nugget was too good to pass up. As you know I'm in the habit of trying out various exercises in self help books and passing the savings on to you. I think that's probably a better way of reviewing that genre than to simply comment on the writing style, don't you? Otherwise, it's kinda like reviewing a new car based on its looks alone. One has to kick the tires, as it were. Or in this case, kick the therapy model. I think that people should try out therapists the same way. And by that I mean by kicking them. Onward.

"Wishcraft - How to get what you really want" by Barbara Sher has been around a while, probably since the late eighties, anyway. I picked up a used copy at Horsepucky Books (or whatever the name of that place is down in central Greenwood - the place I just found). The upside: it has some very potent exercises that will reveal things about yourself that you scarcely knew. The downside: there are so goddamn many exercises that you will probably die of writer's cramp before you finish the book. I mean, c'mon Barbie! I'm a writer. I write all damn day every day for business and pleasure. And even I cannot muster up the either the verbal ganglia or the manual fortitude to write the seven-odd concurrent journals you're asking us to write. Simplify it, wouldja? Cut it down to one journal that contains everything.

Okay, so all of that said - here is one exercise from the book that I would highly recommend doing. No, it's not easy. Yes, it will make you squirm. Yes, it will be some of the best stuff you've ever done to or for yourself. I guarantee it. If it is not, I will send you a full set of Bridgestone whitewalls for your Lincoln. (Tires not included. -Ed.)

Ready? Begin. Sit down with someone whose opinion you trust implicitly. Ask them to tell you everything that's good about you. Just the straight dope. No qualifiers ("you're really excellent BUT..."), and no backhanded compliments (viz., "you don't sweat much for a fat girl" and the like). You need someone who is going to take this seriously. All you do is sit there and write down every word they say. Go on like this for about three minutes or until they're all talked out. Like a good cup of coffee, it will blow your mind. It's also extremely enlightening and energizing. After I did this exercise with Teresa, I sat down and edited 235 pages of my previous work. (No seriously, I did.) Try it and see how it changes your life.

And you know what? I think next year at my annual exam instead of getting pounded in the Dark Side, I'm going to ask Dr. Pitt to sit down and tell me everything that's good about my prostate.

Cheers,

-Thaddeus

04 August 2007

You Can Be Happy For Just Six Bucks

Posted by Picasa

Author Richard Carlson looks nothing like this dashing fellow, who is the
actor Richard Carlson. You may remember him from such classic films
as "Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3-D". It is rumored that when he died
in 1977, he willed his lower lip to Angelina Jolie.

Greg:

By now you're well acquainted with my fascination for the whole self-help genre especially when it comes to anything with "happiness" in the title. So you won't find it surprising that when I found a new bookstore to frequent in my new neighborhood, I went straight to the self-help section and picked up a priced-to-move pre-owned copy of Richard Carlson's "You Can Be Happy No Matter What".

I always wonder what the story is behind books like that winding up in used bookstores. Is there someone out there who applied every lesson in this book and felt it was their duty to spread the joy? Or was there some disillusioned sourpuss who tied it to a rock, drove by and hucked it at the front door of the place with a note taped to it that read "This is total bullshit"? Either way, I'm glad for the fact that it wound up there and I only had to spend about six bucks on it. Thrift is something that makes me happy no matter what. (Except when it comes to kitchen appliances, apparently. Perhaps you'll get lucky and some disillusioned sourpuss will drive by and throw an AGA range at your front door with the same sort of note taped to it. -Ed.)

So here's my take on it. "You Can Be Happy..." is worth reading and there are some valuable lessons in it. Carlson presents one idea that is especially enlightening, and that is that thinking is a voluntary function. From a cognitive science perspective that's true, although it does not seem to be true in our subjective experience as we don't seem to question our thoughts much. They just seem to happen. But by the same token we all know that we can stop thinking about something if we try hard enough. I side with Carlson on this one. Drawing on the vast calico of piecemeal knowledge that I have retained as a cog sci enthusiast slash pseudo intellectual slash autodidact slash dilettante, I can't find anything to refute that point. I can tell you that emotional and thought patterns are both unique to the individual and habituated. But that doesn't make them autonomic or intransigent any more than, say, smoking is. We tend to experience our propensities as hardened facts of life. One look outside yourself will tell you that assumption just ain't true.

This is also akin to an idea that I first read in "The Art of Happiness" by HH The Dalai Lama. It is that pain is an inexorable fact of life that arises from being human and having a nervous system. However suffering on the other hand is an emotional choice that you make about your pain. I can't even begin to tell you how much that the idea of emotional choice has influenced my life. Who the hell knew there was such a thing? I mean, c'mon, don't your emotions just happen to you? (Short answer: nope. They're learned, practiced, repeated, and ingrained. They're almost anything but automatic.) Anyway, reading those two words juxtaposed was like hearing a note from a five hundred pound singing bowl. I nearly shat my zafu.

Anyway, before I go off on another scatological digression, let me get back to Carlson's book. He divides his approach into five principles: the principles of thought, mood, separate realities, feelings, and the present moment. I already mentioned the core of the "thought" principle. The "mood" principle is that our moods fluctuate and that in different moods we feel and react differently in response to the same stimulus. (That word always makes me think of the sensation you get when you stick a9 volt battery in your mouth. Mmm! Stimulus! -Ed.) "Separate realities" means that other people think and feel differently that you do. Before you dismiss this as a "duh" realization (which I did, wholeheartedly), make yourself aware of it the next time you find yourself thinking "Jesus Brain-Injured Christ, that is the most retarded thing I've ever heard" in response to some pearl of enlightenment that falls out of the mouth of one of your co-workers or the president or that one guy at the gas station who always calls you Carl. We tend to look at our own way of thinking as right and others' as wrong, whereas it's less rage inducing to think of those two things in terms of our way of thinking and their way of thinking without the good/bad qualifier.

Moving on, "feelings" states that our emotions work as a biofeedback mechanism that tells us how we're doing from a psychological standpoint. In other words if you feel shitty, you're doing shitty. And "the present moment" is learning to keep ourselves from being distracted by negative ruminations and projections, or anything that takes us out of the present moment for that matter.

Yeah, sure, to you and me this is mostly "duh". But speaking for myself, it's a really good reminder and can be a pretty good gauge of how well I can repeat this stuff versus how well I live it. Like the difference between the appraised and market value of my house, there is always going to be a gap. It is always good to be mindful of the gap.

So where does it fall short? In the same place where every self-help book falls short and that is in the edge cases. (The downfall is to assume that you're an edge case every time you don't agree with something. You see it in AA all the time. "Oh that doesn't apply to me because I'm a special case" is a favorite rationalization of the addicted. It's more constructive to really take a hard look at the ways in which these things really do apply to you.) The principle of separate realities is fine until you come across somebody who genuinely wants to do you harm. Then the picture becomes more complex. I doubt that anyone who put up with years of verbal and emotional abuse from their spouse would solve that problem simply by believing in that principle, although it might go a long way to lessening the effects of the abuse. In fact, it might even speed your departure from a harmful situation. "S/He thinks I'm a target for any abuse s/he cares to dish out, and s/he's welcome to her/his opinion. However, since it's just their opinion and not mine, I don't have to live with it. And putting up with this bullshit day in and day out is for the birds. I'm young. I still have my figure and all my own teeth. So fuck that thick necked chump, I'm out."

The little dog just crowed. It must be morning. Let me wrap up by just saying this. I agree that thinking is a voluntary function, and I think this book is totally worth the six bucks I spent on it if not more. It's an easy, fun read and, thanks to some disillusioned sourpuss, is on the shelf at your local used bookstore right now.

Cheers,

-Thaddeus

25 July 2007

Kitchen Lust

Posted by Picasa

My precious.
The four oven AGA range makes succulent
roasts, delicious toast, and cures leprosy.

Greg:

Teresa and I have discovered the most covetable object on Earth: the AGA (pronounced AWW-guh) 4-oven range (pictured above).

Okay, so you're saying, "Buh-whuh-huh? It's a goddamn stove!" Nay, my friend. It is not just a goddamn stove. It is a scientific marvel invented by Gustaf Dalen, an honest-to-Sverige Nobel prize-winning physicist that can - and does - make enchanted toast.

But you're saying, "Right. It's a goddamn stove." Oh ye of little faith in toast. Attend to mine word. For I have been to the Sacred Place (read: Luwa Distributing in Renton) to witness the Miracle of the Checkerboard Toastage (read: product demonstration) and to bask in the countenance of the Blessed Appliance (read: AGA range). So stop your grinnin' and drop your linen whilst I evangelize you with my new found faith.

First of all, t'was none other than Sergeant Rock locked me in the thrall of this Questing Beast of Glazed Cast Iron. He and I went into Sutter Home & Hearth in Ballard because I needed a fireplace screen. As it turns out, they're AGA dealers. As it also turns out, Sgt. Rock is a hardcore AGA enthusiast. I never woulda pegged him for being all ghey for high-end appliances. Nonetheless, he began to witness and was soon joined by Clint The Sales Guy, and soon they were swapping stories, high-fiving, embracing, and weeping openly over the wonders of this appliance.

Posted by Picasa

When it came to his toast, Nobel prize
winning physicist Gustaf Dalen did not
fuck around. One look at those wicked
shades of his will tell you that.


Of course, you can find out everything I'm about to tell you if you just go to www.aga-range.com, but let me give you the crib notes first. This is what I found to be astounding about the AGA, and why I must have one toot sweet! 1) It has no knobs or dials at all simply because you never have to turn it on or off or set the temperature. Like our life-giving sun, it is always on. 2) Despite the fact that it is always on, it doesn't burn a ton of fuel. It is a super-insulated thermal mass of cast iron, so once it gets up to speed, it remains hot and "coasts" as it were, and doesn't keep sucking down gas. By comparison, standard open-flame gas ranges are unquenchable gas-huffing beasts. If you prepare six meals on a standard gas range, you will have used all the fuel an AGA uses in a month. 3) You can cook right on the burner, just as though it were a flat-top grill. 4) It makes enchanted toast.

And speaking of kitchens, we're planning on redoing ours not just so that it can accommodate a 1,290 pound, ten foot square AGA range, but also so it can accommodate other modern appliances, like a refrigerator and a dishwasher. You know, the little things. As you know, my house was built during the Depression. Apparently people didn't eat during the Depression so they had no use for kitchens. Mine is the size of a mouse's hind teat. Teresa and I resolved that while the rest of the house should be left as it was in that era, the kitchen was going to have to be expanded. The downside is that we really don't have the cash on hand necessary to do a kitchen remodel at the moment. We decided that we should start doing the groundwork and cost estimates anyway so that when the Giant Cash Meteor lands in our yard some day in the future (or more likely when I decide to vampirize my home equity), we'll be ready to start work. We went ahead and met with an architect who told me (much to my surprise) that I could do the plan myself.

Speaking of home equity, we got a notice in the mail telling us that the county has decided that our house has increased $30,000 in value since we bought it on April 30th. How they figure that stuff out, I'll never know. They probably drove by the house the day I set the two dead toilets out front for pickup and figured that I was putting in two new restrooms or a Roman Bath or some goddamn thing.

We got some good news last night. A certified AGA fitter came over to do a free survey and told us that no, the ponderous weight of the AGA will not make our floor joists to snap like a sparrow's leg and cause the stove to crash right through crust of the earth and down to the Mohorovicic discontinuity as we had feared. But he'll have to come back after we get the addition framed in to make sure that he'll be able to install the venting properly.

But anyway, the best news thus far is that our kitchen remodel has cost us nothing but the calories necessary to fuel full-blown kitchen lust. When it starts to cost money, we may have to turn to crime.

Speaking of crime, I have to get to work.

Cheers,

-Thaddeus


16 July 2007

13:54 Of Fame Left




WARNING - MAY BE FRIGHTENING TO CHILDREN: My visage has been digitally
de-hanced to include wobbly jowls, extra eye baggage, and lemur-length fingers.
Oh, and my hair has been replaced by a digital overlay of JFK's famous 1961 atomic blast resistant pompadour.

Greg:

It has finally happened. There is a clip of me gibbering away like a disembodied clown head on YouTube. It is surely a sign of our Internet-infused times when a person's visage can dribble onto the Web and into the eyeballs of tens of persons without them having to lift a single greasy finger out of the Cheeto bag.

How the hell did this happen? Well I'll tell you. I was one of the test subjects for something that's actually really cool (and might be cooler still were it not for my face being on it) called Interview Studio. It's like Monster on Bovine Growth Hormone. Posting your resume on the Web is now passe. You must now back up your claims with video clips and scientifically sound skill and personality test results. The profile that Interview Studio creates for you is so thorough and lifelike that you might want to email an exam glove to your prospective employer along with a link to your profile.

In all seriousness, I'd much rather use a tool like this than go through the cornea-chafing process known as resume reading. Last time I had to hire someone, I had to read something like 100 resumes. (100 resumes = 1 shitload. -Ed.) Being a fan of the cinema, I'd've much rather sat down with a bag of popcorn, dimmed the lights, and let Interview Studio roll while I occasionally lobbed half-chewed Hot Tamales(tm) at my monitor. What more relaxing way could there be to screen candidates? Boo resume reading! Yay Interview Studio!

But enough about me and more about my latest invention: The Shiva Pile.



I am become Shiva, the destroyer of shrubs.
The bones of mine enemy (foreground) lay
at my feet while I brandish the tools of their
demise.


As you know I have a yard now, and as you also know I have been waging a (losing) battle with the shrubs and various other flora 'round about the Gunn estate. Last weekend, I waged a bloody campaign against a camellia bush that was threatening to eat my house. No, seriously, the sumbitch had got to be about 20 feet tall while I wasn't looking, and had almost completely blocked all sunlight from coming through my living room window. With every implement of destruction at my command, I hacked it down to a humble 4 feet. However, this also meant that I was left with a ponderous stack of leaves and branches that I would have to bribe either the city or an itinerant pack of beavers to destroy for me. Being the cheap-ass with a scientific bent that I am, I decided that I was going to devise away to rot the whole pile down to mulch without paying a cent to either the city or the beavers. Here's what I did: I got some landscaping fabric and some Stump-B-Gone (or whatever the shit they call that noxious powder that will supposedly rot tree stumps down to oatmeal). I made a neat pile of all the camellia detritus, soaked it with the hose, and generously dosed it with the Stump-B-Gone powder. (NOTE: Stump-B-Gone powder does not feel good in your eyes or nose. Do not use it in a high wind or a slight breeze. -Ed.) So of course a stout summer breeze sprang up and shot a handful of the powder into my eyes and nose, much to my chagrin. Undeterred, I covered the whole schmear with the landscape fabric, pinned the edges to the earth, heaved the remaining camellia branches on top to help hold it in place, and took a moment to marvel at my handiwork. In this fashion, I effectively created the conditions of the underside of a rotting log. Hopefully this will cause all that crap to compost into a dark and handsome mulch in the next six months or so. Then I will uncover it and spread the remains under my lilac bushes as a horrific gardyloo to all the other shrubs in the yard, lest they conspire to eat my house as well. I think that fear is an excellent gardening tactic.



Wired for sound. The little dealio on the right is not a pushbutton switch. It's
actually the depression era's answer to the InterWeb.

And one last thing - I found the coolest thing in my living room. No, not my wife, silly! There's some sort of outlet on the wall that I've been wondering about for the longest time. It looks like one of those old-fashioned push button light switches. Problem is that it's too far down on the wall (about six inches above the baseboard) and it's right next to an outlet. So last weekend I let my curiosity run away with me and I attacked it with a screwdriver. Pulling it away from the wall, I discovered two things. One is that the original tenant of this house had horrible taste in wallpaper. It was some kind of crazy black and silver "gothic" pinstripe, no doubt inspired by the gangsterwear of the era. Second is that subsequent tenants were lazy bastards and didn't even bother to pull the wallpaper from behind the plate to paint the walls. And then I discovered a third. Third is that there were two braided copper wires trailing from the back of this thing and going up the inside of the wall between the studs - not horizontally or down between the floor joists. And all of a sudden it occurred to me that what I was looking at was antenna wire. This little dealio I found was where you plugged in your floor console radio's antenna wire. This was the 1930s equivalent of having your house wired for Internet. If I can get my grubbies on a decently restored floor console radio of the era, I just might try reviving that antenna plug. How bitchen would that be? Maybe there are some radio shows from the 1930s still living inside my walls somewhere.

Crap. Gotta go to work. More later.

Cheers,

-Thaddeus

06 July 2007

New Roses

Posted by Picasa
Is this bullshit really necessary? Neuroses, while they are inarguably
a pain in the fucking neck, are not actually as intractable as Big Pharma
would have you believe.

Greg:

You know what I can't wait for? Yeah, that's right - football season. I love football because it gives me an opportunity to take a gigantic emotional dump in public without getting arrested or having to buy booze. I never thought of myself as an exhibitionist or anally expulsive until I caught myself freaking out and screaming like a stone-cold lunatic at a Seahawks home game - correction - every Seahawks home game. (I hope to God you're using the term "anally expulsive" in the psychoanalytic sense and not actually firing turd javelins out of the 300 level. -Ed.) Actually going that nuts in public is so freeing that it makes me wonder why there aren't places where you can go and drop your inhibitions and just run buck-wild without having to take some kind of psychoactive substance. (There are. They're called whorehouses and football games. And neither one of them is free. -Ed.) Seems like there would be a lot less angst in the world if there was a place where you could just peel back your social mask and get batshit freaknuts without fear of reprisal. (Hmm. Well now you've ruled out football games. -Ed.)

Which brings me to neuroses.

Our talk on Sunday about neuroses - what it is and how to deal with it - got me to thinking, which is sometimes not a bad thing. Sometimes I use my brain for good and not for evil. Then again, sometimes my brain is not so good to me. Maybe it's bad to me because I have not yet given it what it wants, kinda like women I used to date who thought I could read their minds. They thought I was an incredible jerk for not simply giving them what they wanted without them having to ask for it. Maybe my brain is exactly that kind of pain-in-the-ass. Maybe my brain is in fact in my ass, like I'm some kind of latter-day brontosaurus. That would explain a LOT. It might even explain why I digress so often and so readily when I'm trying to make a point.

Oh look, a bird!

What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, neurosis.

I should know a thing or ten about neurosis as my neuroses are beyond multitudinous. They are legion. It's like having a petting zoo full of comically deformed barnyard animals. Pigs with antlers. Sheep with steering wheels. Goats with extra goats on them. Fortunately, neurosis husbandry for me has moved beyond affliction into the realm of hobby. In other words, it is no longer an obsession but more of a bemusement. I take a walk every once in a while down the grotty stalls of depression, anxiety, neurasthenia and phobia, stopping to pat each on the head in turn and give it a peck of oats. Each neurosis then gives a pitiful bleat and ralphs on my Wellingtons.

Suffice it to say that I know a lot about neuroses (including the fact that phrase has 40 letters and 11 spaces in it). So to answer the questions you had when we were discussing the subject, I sewed together a number of definitions from sources medical and otherwise, and came up with a definition of neurosis that just about meets everything I know about the subject. It is this:
Neurosis is a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical complaints without objective evidence of disease, all in various degrees and patterns, dominate the personality. It is a relatively mild personality disorder typified by excessive anxiety or indecision and a degree of social or interpersonal maladjustment not attributable to any neurological or organic dysfunction.
(I think its intractability would be the indicator of whether it is a personality disorder or not. Sometimes it is and sometimes it ain't. It can also be transient, like in response to extreme stress or whatnot.)

Does that sound familiar at all? But wait, here's the good news. (My oil needs changing and my horse is pregnant? -Ed.) Neuroses arise from the inclination to focus on only the negative aspects of an event or situation. If you are so inclined, then you will have anxiety. You will be depressed. You will fall prey to magical thinking, believing that your rituals and systematic avoidances will have a direct influence on your outcomes. Worse yet, you will have manifold physical complaints without frank and objective evidence of disease or pathogens.

Yes it gets better! How do I know? Because thinking that way is just an inclination. It's not a certainty. It is not a truth about reality as a whole. It is a way that you have chosen to think about things, and other people would think differently about the same situation. On another day, with more sleep, I myself might even think differently and act differently in the same situation. I might see more possible outcomes than only the negative ones that I see right now.

To wit, I can be neurotic, know that I'm not neurotic every single day, and have faith that this neurosis too shall pass.

Martin E. P. Seligman one of the forefathers of positive psychology and former head of the APA lists depression and anxiety as the top two most curable neuroses in his book "What You Can Change And What You Can't". Considering that friggin' everybody and their dysfunctional uncle seems to suffer from those two things, that fact alone seems to offer a great deal of hope to humanity as a whole. Most heartening to me is the strong evidence that he presents that proves that panic does not respond to any medication and can be unlearned. UNLEARNED. When I was diagnosed with panic disorder in 1984, they told me it was intractable, could not be cured, and that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. I wasn't satisfied with that diagnosis and did everything I could to simply not ever feel like that again. And I sure as Eli Lilly didn't want to keep eating the truckloads of brain-stopping will-withering pills that they were giving me. I didn't know at the time that what I was doing by creating a program to deal with my panic was called "unlearning it". I thought it was called "how to not feel like shit every day". In the end, panic proved to be just an inclination - a patterned way of thinking, like the inclination I used to have to smoke cigarettes or order a Domino's pizza each and every goddamn day, both of which I am now disinclined to do. And just as a ten ton flatbed truck has the nearly unquenchable inclination to barrel down a 10% grade it is therefore not easy to stop, but with the right amount of force applied at the right time, it can be stopped.

Know what this means? Mm hmm. If this idea catches on, you better dump every bit of stock you have in Big Pharma.

Cheers,

-Thaddeus


02 July 2007

Children, Fools And The Endodontist

Posted by Picasa

The Prince of Pie nearly torches his own
eyebrows in a fit of birthday-induced joy. His
teeth (pictured, above) would later be subjected
to assaults that no one in their right mind could
smile about.

Greg:

I went to an endodontist for the first time in my life this morning. Now before you Google the word "endodontist", let me just save you some time and tell you what an endodontist does. They fuckin' torture you, that's what.

Check it out. Relive the horror with me. I was referred to an endodontist by my dentist because he couldn't figure out why'n'the shit my teeth still hurt so much after he put a couple of crowns in. That whole deal, the whole grinding-off-the-tops-of-my-teeth deal, launched me into new horizons of candy-colored pain. Tiny demons took ice picks and shotguns to my hurt bone, waking me up every night, driving me to eat Vicodin by the fistful. (I don't know why people eat those things to get high, by the way. All they do is make you feel sick and dumb. I used to get higher than that sucking the sugar coating off of mom's thyroid medication. Sue me! I was a child and they looked just like red M&Ms.) But get this: It turns out there's only so much Vicodin you can eat before it kills you. No really, it's a fact. So the dentist decided that maybe there was some more drilling or nerve pulling or something that they could do to put me out of my misery without the added risk of having me become another sad drug-related statistic.

So I go to the endodontist this morning and what does he do? He takes a cotton ball and freezes the crap out of it with some liquid nitrogen. Then he tells me he's going to press it against my tooth - not the tooth that is still causing me pain, but a completely different tooth to cause me completely new pain. He says, "Raise your left hand when you feel the pain" and then he puts the cotton ball against my tooth. I say, "GAGH!" and flip him off with the middle finger of my left hand. He says, "Good. Okay, we're going to use that as a baseline to compare how painful your crown is." And before I can say, "Baseline - what the hell?", he goes and freezes the crap out of practically every tooth on that side of my jaw. When he gets to the Hurtiest Tooth I Ever Had and presses the little frozen cotton ball against it, it causes an explosion of icy pain in my head along with a completely extemporaneous hallucination of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in its entirety (but fast-forwarded). I try to flip him off with every finger on my left hand. He says, "Good."

Long story short, I don't need a root canal. He said I was inflamed. I said damn right. I'm supposed to go back in a month for a follow up. Next time I'm going to ask him if he can use the cooling power of peppermint schnapps instead of that liquid nitrogen stuff.

I don't know why people are afraid of dentists. Dentists are the Sugar Plum Fairy compared to the endodontist. The dentist digs into your teeth and gums. The endodontist digs into your soul.

In other news - my birthday, which started on Wednesday, just wouldn't quit. I got to celebrate it again on Sunday. I was blessed with good company and several more gifts. My collection of the articles of suburban destruction has been added to quite nicely. I got a wheelbarrow, for instance. And not one of the little crappy ones either. One with real oak handles and a big fat tire that you actually have to pump up. I'm telling Teresa that we're throwing away that car of ours and taking the wheelbarrow to work every morning from here on out. Plus I got a corn knife, which if you did not know it, is kinda like a katana for hillbillies. With it I can now easily quarter, cleave twain or cleanly behead any pugnacious sister-cousin or uncle-daddy that gives me guff. It also cuts corn. Or so I am told.

Plus, I got a gift certificate to Hardwick's Hardware (since 1932), the coolest hardware store on the planet. And you should check out what I bought! I got a socket set with every size socket from Mouse's Toilet Bolt to Elephant's Nut Sack (and by that I mean sack of either stainless steel or brass nuts which are overly large and in the possession of an elephant, and not a pachyderm's man parts). It also contains the very rare 25/32nds socket which is only for parts that come from Taiwan. With that fact in hand, I'm taking my 25/32nd socket over to Taiwan and doing some damage. I'm going to loosen everything. Taiwan is going to fall apart when I'm done. You're gonna see thirty million bicycles all dissolve into a pile of loose parts - k-thwank!

And yes, there was PIE. Blueberry pie (pictured, above).

And now this word about toilets: I moved my two dead toilets from the side of the driveway into the back yard so's to stop offending the neighbors. Not that they made a ruckus or anything (the neighbors, not the toilets). I just needed an excuse to show off the pythons by lifting each toilet with one hand. (Don't try this at home. That said, I should not have tried it at my home.) A friend of mine pointed out that the problem with being burly is that it's never a question of if you can lift something one-handed, it's always a question of why you should lift something one-handed when there are things like dollies and forklifts in the world. That's the question you should always ask. Likewise, that is the question that I did not ask before I single-handedly beefed first one then the other six-thousand pound porcelain crapper ten or so yards into my back yard. And even though I did not ask that question, my back has answered for it as usual. My folly created such exquisite pain that I was entertaining the idea of opening my abdominal cavity so I could ice my spine from the inside. I'm okay now, though. My spine is back in tip-top shape and ready for the next foolhardy stunt I have to dish out. As the old saying goes, God looks out for children and fools. Thank God that despite my rather large collection of birthdays I still fit in one of those two categories.

Cheers,

-Thaddeus

30 June 2007

Loving Everyone, Squirrels And A-Holes Included

Posted by Picasa

Scariest book you'll ever read. It's a scary, scary
squirrel world, and we're just living in it.


Greg:

It's me, Thaddeus. Remember me? I showed up in your house somewhere back in 1962 - June, I believe. The 27th, to be exact. 45 years and three days ago. You thought mom and dad had brought a puppy home from the hospital. Ring a bell?

I'd have to use a calendar to recall how long it has been since I heard from you. And not just any calendar. I mean the Mayan Calendar, because it seems like millennia. I know you have a penchant for holing up inside your tuba with a peanut butter sandwich and a book of Green Stamps, thrift and nut butters being your keenest interests. But you should really poke your chalky-white face outside once in a while and take a look at who's making all the racket. You may find that it's me, the puppy your folks brought home from the hospital, begging you to throw me a bone. Or a word. Whatever.

I've been doing things. Working, for one. Reading, for another. I got a couple of really great books for my birthday. One was "Squirrels of the West" (Tamara Hartson, editor). Squirrels have filled me with a combination of warmth, fascination and horror ever since we had one as a pet when we were kids. Remember Desiree? Our little pet squirrel that we kept in the house who taught herself how to ride the turntable on the stereo? (Squirrels are such smart little bastards! Cross a monkey and a rat, get a squirrel. S'true. It's in every squirrel's creation mythology that they are the descendents of Hanuman and Karni Mata. Just ask one.) And remember how she pooped on, like, everything we owned? Living with a partially-domesticated squirrel is like randomly firing crap-rockets inside your own home. Few except us will ever experience the exhilaration of a chittering, crapping blur whizzing by their oatmeal bowl and caroming off the walls first thing in the morning. Unbelievable that we got away with it. No wonder dad drank so much. Either he let us get away with it because he was anesthetized by a half-rack of Carling most of the time, or he kept himself half-racked as a defense against random crap-rocket attacks. Not too sure which. Anyway, the book lets me feed my fascination with these vituperate, tree-dwelling rodents in the comfort of my own home, where I'm now safe from crap-rocket attacks. That is until I step outside of course.

Perhaps this book will teach me how to harness the power of squirrels for good. This has been one of my goals in life, believe it or not. A friend of mine once wrote a play wherein squirrels were a pervasive and aggregate evil. Hundreds of them would combine to create human forms and then attack the unsuspecting, Trojan Horse style. Not too far from real life, if you ask me. Judging from his personality, my cat could be nothing more than a dozen bilious and phlegmatic squirrels held together by cat-shaped spackle who are just waiting for the opportunity to explode like a seed pod and attack me from every corner of my being. But what if I could harness those squirrels and use their combined power to mow the lawn, replace my toilets, or shoot out the legs of my rivals? (That's a job best left for raccoons. -Ed.) Then I could make some real money. Then I could drive down Broadway in a faux gold trimmed Lincoln with a license frame that read "My Other Car Is A Squirrel".

The other book I got for my birthday was "Best Buddhist Writing 2006" which is more of a hoot than its title would lead you to believe. Usually books on religious matters are all too serious and leave me feeling like I've taken some kind of medicine that does nothing more than make me feel bad for being a schmuck. Not so much with this book, though. Allow me to submit as proof the laugh-out-loud-funny and deeply touching "Hair Braiding Meditation" by Seattle poet Polly Trout that is included in the book.

May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be happy.

May my daughter, who wants a billion tiny little braids this morning, be filled with loving kindness. May she be well. May she be peaceful and at ease going to school with a billion tiny little braids.

May her best friend, who got a billion tiny little braids put in her hair at Club Med Ixtapa last week, be filled with loving kindness. Also her mother, may she be peaceful and at ease. And the woman the mother hired to do all that cornrowing, may she be well. May she be happy.

May I be filled with loving kindness as I put in these billion tiny little braids. May I be peaceful and transcend greed. Also, may I go to Club Med Ixtapa next season, when the beach will be even more inspiring due to my newly enlightened and greed-free state. May I be happy.

May my coworkers be filled with loving kindness as they wonder why I am late for work as I make these billion tiny braids. May they be peaceful and at ease.

May my daughter not notice that these braids are not nearly as cute as her friend’s braids that got done professionally in Ixtapa, or if she does notice, may she be peaceful and at ease about that, please for God’s sake.

May my toddler, currently trying to vie for my attention as I make these tiny braids for her big sister, be filled with loving kindness. May she be peaceful and at ease.

May my mother, who did this for me when I was five, be filled with loving kindness. May she be peaceful and at ease. I wonder why I never thanked her for that.

May I remember this day sitting with my daughter, braiding her hair, late for work again, peaceful and at ease, happy.

There's also the work of Marc Ian Barasch, an apparently very prolific Buddhist writer who I've never had the pleasure of reading before. What I really like about him is that he's a sort of Buddhist Everyman, a Dharma-working shlub who readily exposes his multiple warts and confesses his manifold failings in the face of his Bodhisattva vows. It's kind of like what it would be like if Thich Nhat Hanh did slapstick. My kinda thing, in other words. I highly recommend his essay "Searching for the heart of compassion". Aside from being quite engaging on an intellectual level, it's just plain fun reading. There's something very refreshing about teachers who engage in this sort of reverse pedagogy: "I can't tell you how to do it right, but I can tell you how many times I had good intentions and still completely fucked it up. Maybe you can pick up where I left off."

Which brings me to a point which I consistently get hung up on: how to love the assholes in your life. As Barasch says in his essay, it's pretty easy to love the good people. Our expressions of compassion get winnowed down to the precious few in our lives. But compassion is supposed to be for everybody. And everybody means everybody: you, me, that guy I don't know, that asshole that wants to kill me, squirrels - everybody. The issue that I'd like to addressed exhaustively is how to express compassion for people who hate you. Better still, how to express compassion for people who will turn around and use your compassion to harm you. I mean, c'mon. Everyone has had that happen one time in their lives. There are people in the world who will do whatever they can to capitalize on the best part of your nature and will at some point use whatever you say or do to stab you. One of that species of person is mentioned in the article, but the issue is only dealt with briefly, and that is to say that a line was drawn in the sand. "Letting you use me as a doormat isn't good for either of us, so in the spirit of compassion, I'm telling you in the kindest way possible to fuck off and stay fucked off. Namaste." But there has to be more you can do than that, isn't there? Or is there? Maybe there comes a point when you're dealing with someone who can't help but be abusive that you just have to say "Okay, I'm done" and break that contact permanently. Maybe the only way to make that action compassionate is to not do it in a spirit of anger or retribution, but in a spirit of contributing to mutual well-being.

Or maybe I should just sic some squirrels on 'em.

Cheers,

-Thaddeus