Thursday, March 31, 2005

That Edge

Sometimes I get edgy. For any of a variety of reasons.

I typically have 2 outlets: one is to throw myself vigorously at a task until it's complete and/or I'm completely exhausted. This removes the immediate problem, but only forestalls resolution of the underlying issue. The second method is to identify that issue, and take care of it.

I'm doing the first one right now - applying myself at some support for an old employer on a one-night contract. It's now 3:41am, so I've been at this for the last 5 ½ hours. It's taking off the edge, but I'm really going to pay for this tomorrow. I might have to work from home on Friday just to stay productive.

Either way, Mike's going to whup me at chess when I show up for work in the morning.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Passing On - Pretext

A couple months ago I decided it would be pointless to try writing a novel around my current schedule. I just don't have the raw bank of time required to produce enough creative material so as to flow contiguously. I can create bits and pieces - but lack the time and attention of a master craftsman to assemble those tiles into a mosaic with any kind of grand meaning or flow. All I can do is meander around and make little doodles.

So, true to the desire to minimize labor as often found in programmers, I adjusted my expectations: don't create something big. Try something that can be hung on the fridge before working up to the likes of Carivaggio & company. The new target: a short story, made from pieces I already know well. By lowering the complexity and boiling the task down to easily digestable nuggets I hope to increase the probability of success.

My first attempt is tentatively entitled "Passing On." The setting is simple, voicing is from a single (though evolving) point of view, and the resolution is swift. Little research is required, and the method of presentation works well even when broken apart (making stuttered drafting acceptable). The protagonist is one Charles Becker, a recently retired man (have not yet decided his humble previous occupation) in his 60's whose wife has just suffered an unexpected (no potential warning signs, no family history) stroke.

She has been an almost religious journal keeper; now Charles, faced with an uncertain future as he watches his wife's life and health transformed, feels compelled to continue that regularity even if it wasn't his to begin with. The method of evolving his entries into a clear representation of his character (not having been familiar with written expression previously) is challenge enough; to do so while he also undegoes this unique stress makes it a moving target. Still potentially difficult, but thankfully limited in scope.

Eventually Ruth dies. Having her slowly expire creates a poignant backdrop for the presentation of life. And not just her life; after-all, Charles has been married to this woman for roughly 40 years. He has no need to rehearse events or descriptions which to him are well known and documented in the body of her previous journals. Instead his writings will be reflection and insight on feeling as framed by new perspective wrought by circumstance.

Writing about a man's deep and abiding love for his wife will be thoroughly enjoyable. Taking her from him to evoke the heightened stakes required for that tenderness to come about in such honest and innocent (though still retaining typical human flaws), unpretensious(sp?) manner sets a fertile stage.

Some of my notes and entry sketches will be making it here shortly. Thought I'd give you few readers a heads-up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Blogs are good for putting nothing in particular out there for public consumption. I've enjoyed that so far; even though I'm fairly certain the public is not digesting this, but only a small segment of technically accessible acquaintences.

Emotional State:Edgy/Sad
Attitude:Get It Done Anyway.

Because I likely know you, I've been relying on familiarity with me and my idiosyncracies to attempt to make much sense of the ramblings I've put up here so far. And patience that I might actually get to the point, given the length of some entries. I appreciate that - I know my writing is not particularly accessible. I don't know when, if ever, that will bcome a priority for me. Probably not until I write full-time for the support of my family.

Like that will ever happen. Don't get me wrong, I love it and I have designs in that direction. But I don't expect any real movement or even noises about movement for years to come. I still have to certify as a hypnotherapist and build a practice, after all.

I'm actually thinking of using this blog as an outlet for some of that; story lead vignettes, hypnosis-educational drafts (will need client support info after all), whatever.

I had some more thoughts along this line, but had to interrupt this post and save it as a draft and have completely lost the train of thought. If anyone finds a lost train (was bright orange at last sighting) please contact me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

There's Always Something

I recently installed some laminate "hardwood" flooring (really just styrofoam under-layment, partical board molded substrate, and a lacqueresque sealed photopaper surface - but it looks good and wears well) in the old office downstairs, in an effort to make the house more attractive for sale. It was a little cheaper than carpet, and since I'd already done it once before I trusted myself with the installation (not having tried carpet work experience). No question that something needed to be done, since the cats had gotten to the previous carpet, so laminate may as well do. Have done. Whatever.

Getting the flooring down went well enough. Even the quarter-round composite moulding went down fine, though on occasion requiring a little more pursuasion (in the form of aggressive nailgunning) than others. The real problems didn't start until it came time to install the Transition Strips. These are somewhat like threshold seams found between most any 2 different flooring surfaces, except they're a 2 part installation instead of simply banging carpet tacks through them. In order to keep the surface free from impact defects and hide the attachment mechanism it is first required to lay down and affix a "U" shaped plastic track into which the transition moulding itself then rests.

For 2 of the four strips this was not a problem - I simply tacked the track down to the laminate flooring itself, as it was being transitioned to the higher surface of the carpet. Cut everything to size, miter a couple of edges to match an angle, and voila: beautiful work.

The other 2 though, were stepping down to concrete and linoleum respectively. Either way, this means attaching them to exposed cement. Now the previous tack strips used to hold the carpet down near the wall edges had overcome this same challenge with masonry nails, so this is where I decided to start (after a brief stop at the local Home Depot).

Apparently my cement was not laid with nails in mind, a problem compunded by masonry nails which were too wide (but were the only option at the store). First nail went in 3/8" and quit, bending and flaking off the top 1/4" of concrete as it was removed. One more try confirmed this behavior, so the approach was abandoned - they must have used shallower, more task-specific nails for the carpetting tack-strips is all I can figure. That, and the nails I purchased are more likely for brick & mortar work.

Next up: drilling. The tracks come with a set of handy sleeves to sink into a hole into which a screw may then be inserted, expanding it and keeping the assembly tighly wedged in place. Luckily I had a 1/8" masonry bit on hand. Roughly 15 minutes into the first attempt I had a good hole in place with very little bevelling near the outside edge. The sleeve tapped easily in place with a hammer and I was good to move on to the next spot (the track requiring 3 more attachment points).

No luck. 10 minutes of almost no progress and suddenly the bit begins to glow, as captured here:

Note that this was not actually blue, which would indicate an amazingly high temperature. Rather, the digital camera on my palm pilot is infra-red sensitive. Indeed, the bit was starting to glow blue according to the camera before it started glowing red and then orange to the naked eye. During this picture it was glowing a brilliant orange-white.

I abort the attempt, and take a look at the bit: the final phases of the previous drilling must have encountered far more extreme temperature (which I could not see, it being out of sight at the bottom of the hole). The two protruding flanges on either side of the bit had begun to slag, and laid themselves up into the fluting. The end had also begun to round off so as to now completely lack the required punch.

Drilling was then abandoned in favor of industrial strength glue, which worked fine on its first attempt with no complications.

That's the iceberg - here's the tip.

I couldn't see this coming. Not in manifest form, anyway; at best I could know that, "this kind of thing usually happens," and be satisfied with that carte blanche to the cosmos to have its way with the project. Which, to be fair to me, was actually part of my initial consideration. Had I been expecting zero resistance or immediate perfection I would have been sorely disappointed.

Now expanding this to slightly more philosophical application, this same expectation of delay due to emergent complication fits everywhere in life. It makes a severely frustrating but handy excuse for an inability to perform an end goal: it's why I find myself struggling against the tide to try and leave work before 7 at night, which is no small consternation to my wife and I.

There is some wisdom in the Zen-Buddhist perspective of attempting to find interest in that which must be done next, rather than an expected or pre-specified order of events. This can relieve a great deal of internal stress as there is no longer an obstructed desire which otherwise leads to internal conflict capable of building to emotional distress and/or outbursts.

But unless everyone adopts this attitude, it's only useful until dinner time. Some effort must be laid against affecting change in environment and schedule to coordinate activity with others - if I want to be out of the office on time, I am required to disrupt the incoming stream instead of dutifully and reasonably riding it to a far distant conclusion. This does introduce conflict and stress - but is far better than the alternative of abandoning time and attention to the things which to me, Really Matter.

Finding balance between these 2 forces is the current great struggle.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Cresting the Concerts

I have long been fascinated by classical music as performed by chambers, orchestras, and symphonies. Not only for the beautiful music produced, but for the focused coordination of multiple supremely talented artists, building on their several contributions to reproduce the vision of a single individual: the composer.

Hours of practice apiece, daily over the course of months to prepare a work for performance. Across a 50 member ensemble this would result in roughly 1 years worth of constant work (50 x 3hrs a day avg. (volunteer orchestra in this case) x 2 months), which under normal 40 hour working conditions would require 4½ years to produce the same accomplishment for a single person.

(Granted there are exceptions to this in the form of organizations like the London Symphony Orchestra, which takes a few days to learn a piece and about a week to master it - but they've paid their dues elsewhere in honing their craft, so I don't really excuse them from the general pool of consideration.)

All this work to breathe life into the opus of a single creative mind. This to me represents vision and unity on an intimate but also awe-inspiring scale, and has been a subject of my admiration for the past many years - one of the reasons I've occasionally tried hand at composition myself, though nowhere near the degree of skill and scope of many a more apt member of the field.

Which brings me to item the 2nd: many an apt member.

There are enough orchestras / ballet troupes / sports teams & divisions / artisans of any realm, and several enough forums for dissemination of their work that one may select even the most particular formats and still glut themselves on a constant overlapping stream of this refined output.

Each player performing his or her part in turn, in much the same way that a series of water particles rise in sequence to produce a wave: a visual illusion of continuity despite the ever-altering interior. In just such a manner it is possible to surf across this moving crest of beautiful rendition, sampling only the top Nth of a percent of the full available body, but still amply sustained thereby.

It threatens to make disdainful connoisseurs of as all, spoiled by the performance of so many a perfect triple Salchow that no lesser display suffices. The work is not unremarkable - let's see Joe Six-tooth ("Cletus? Where'd you git yerself another tooth?" - "Sidewalk.") jump even 2 inches on ice with thin blades of metal strapped to his feet and land it. And yet we can easily dispense volumes of advice and critique from our cushy vantage, out here as the consumers of the franchise.

I'm reminded of the Romans, seeking out minutia even among the exotic to satisfy elegantly jaded pallets. But this article wouldn't have retained my true level of regard and respect for the subject had I named it "Parrot Tongue Artistry" or "The premium Creative Economy of Wolf-Nipple-Tips."

I believe the world to be far more beautiful for the labor, and pray the tide of inspiration continues to call it forth. For me at least, the multiplicity of masterpieces does not diminish their quality.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Nothing Insightful

I used to have a journal with me at all times, and would whip it out and jot a few things down whenever the opportunity presented itself. Doing this kept a single thread of consciousness alive and connected throughout the day as I would pick it back up, take it a little further through the labrynth, and scratch a mark onto the surface for slightly more tenable an existence than the otherwise simple fleeting discharge of neural dendrites as the moment faded. That preservation against an inevitable expiration being the sole intent and common theme of the drive to write. Something of myself could then act as a foundation for perspective and constance among chaos.

I don't have that luxury any more, of time to do even a small gesture in homage to the previously golden age (from which I have some 10 volumes filled). I miss the forced organization of lining thoughts up to be presented single-file through the draw of ink across page. The ever-available bookmark into my own insights that could keep me focused, forward looking, and balanced.

What I have now are stolen moments, made available only because they're not suitable for anything else. Even my creative writing which I hold so dear falls by the wayside - the blocks of time large enough to consider using appear only after so much mental exhaustion has filled the day that mere coherence becomes a struggle, let alone constructive and creative cerebral activity.

I'm trying to break that spell through this blog, as a start. I'm holding my daughter Eden right now as she drifts deeper into sleep for the night, and leveraging my geeky tendencies through my palm pilot to resuscitate the old ways. The exhaustion bit is still a factor though, and keeping my eyes open is a challenge right now.

But at least I can in some small measure stand up to that dark oppression of temporary mortality and try to raise a voice in protest. Or maybe cast "magic missile."

Eventually I hope to bring the regular (think 'fibrous diet', not 'typical' - the pejorative sense) writing efforts back, and allow myself to resume the slowly thread-woven tapestry of evolving introspection (how's that for tortured analogy?). I don't see how else I can hope to keep any portion of self alive in the daily stream of activity - all of which is appropriated for other causes and assigned out before I see a cent of it.

In the meantime be patient; thoughts here will be scattered and random, disconnected and perhaps even unaware of each other. Any poignant contents will be accidental, and the commonality will not be my struggle for greater understanding of humanity and the universe. Rather, it will be me whining about my frustration in continually trying unsuccessfully to bring about some kind of lasting transformation in these circumstances. That's the therapy I need though - sorry you're ending up reading it.

Where are the Cheetos?

Keeping it Real

Were I ever to become President, Mike (the aforementioned office-mate) would become my Secretary or Minister or Whatever of "Keeping it Real." Now to qualify this statement, Mike is not the sort of person one would immediately assume to be well grounded in normalcy, in the elements of reality which typically pessimistically govern existence.

This is contrary to fact, however, in that Mike is accutely aware of these various physical laws and cynical cultural presumptions - which is what allows him to target them for erradication of sorts (or at least suspension) so precisely. He consciously plies his talents to generate the antithesis to any situation, adding a syncopation to the rythm and cadance of the day. In order to do this he also must be extremely well read and referenced, which he is to an astounding degree. He's seen the movies, read the books, finely examined the Supreme Court opinion on the matter, etc., and thus can work every angle effectively.

He's the last person on earth I'd like to dabate against on any side of any topic.

To point, his comments on my thoughts of professionalism yesterday did manage to give me pause. My view was so effectively limited to my little "woe is me," that he said he refused to post a blog comment on it, so as not to fuel the projected martyrdom any further. Now I suppose, to try my own hand at Mike-ism, I could carry that rythm back into whining about the injury of how he wouldn't post (thus reversing his intent and pushing a little more toward extremity and unreality). I don't do that very well though; so instead I acted somewhat reasonably, took it to heart, and realised that Yes, I can be a microcosmically self-absorbed individual at times.

I appreciate it. I'll learn frm the experience, become a little wiser, and have eyes opened that much further. It also exposed one more area of weakness in expression I need to shore up if I'm ever going to beat him - and his little dog, too.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Being Professional

To me, a hallmark of professionalism is doing good work when the chips are down - and you really don't want to.

I've written good code in VisualBasic, MFC++, and various other Microsoft technologies. Not to appear zealous or anything, but I hate coding in those environments (for reasons I'm sure I'll mention in other later entries). The deal here being that I've done good work in them anyway.

I woke up this morning through a fog of nausea into a sea of acid reflux. Being awake for a while hasn't helped. Going back to sleep isn't really an option with the urgency of some of the stuff going on at work, exacerbated by the fact that I handled almost no email yesterday because of the 350,000 message flood I had to clean out (spinning process with a bad error reporting mechanism).

So those are the chips. And I'm down. And I'm just going to do it anyway.

I owe me some time off.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Picture me Thus...

Many acquaintances have been wondering when I'd have a new picture up - so here it is, me, surrounded by beautiful women.

This will have to do for the next six months, despite the fact that I of all people have no excuse - what with the digital photo studio (complete with backdrops & lights) in my own basement.

Different priorities, I guess.

Pseudo-Random Something

From Mike: "The scope of my argument is going to be somewhat limited due to the fact that I don't know what I'm talking about..."

Grand Entrance.

Well, I'm here. Finally trying out what is likely to be a short-lived foray into the blog world. I expect no-one to read or be familiar with this. I can make no warranty, nor have any reasonable expectation that this will be regularly updated.

The nature of the information is also unknown - I don't know what I'll be putting up here. It will be beautiful to me, as an expression of self. It may appear severe, disconnected, outlandish, or completely missing the point. Your point, maybe, but I'm sure it makes sense to me.

But all disclaimers aside my intent is not to offend anyone, be shocking, or whatever. I'll try and make it accessible; there is much to be learned about oneself by attempting the communication.

To illustrate, when starting to talk through a logical component of something with my office mate we'll often turn to one another, open a mouth, say a word or two, and dismiss the issue: the attempt to frame it in a way to be communicated exposes the principal issue clearly enough that the resolution becomes obvious.

And that's a little bit of me, for now. I can make anything sound too complicated. *shrug*