Monday, June 26, 2006


As I've alluded to in the past, I used to be quite athletic before my current profession and medical discomforts transformed me into the... well... "well-rounded" specimen I am today.

During that athletic period I had little to no access to professional training or organized opportunities - it was more of "just something I did." As such my actual capabilities were very limited to that set of techniques I could conceive of and practice effectively on my own with no spotting or equipment. What resulted was a semi-gymnastic style of movement that lent itself especially well to climbing and cross-country running on rough terrain; particularly deep forest and beaches mounded with driftwood.

I lived in Washington State at the time and so had an abundance of my preferred environments to hone whatever craft I possessed. Or perhaps the craft and the environment only existed in tandem, and had there not been the one I never would have pursued the other. The climbing was a little more varied, lending itself well to either trees (90'-150'+ evergreens) or (sub-)urban structures. At my peak physical condition there were few places I couldn't get to so long as I could place at least 2 or 3 fingers on it in some fashion, or jump a reasonable distance (no more than about 2 meters down and/or 1 to 1.5m lateral depending on configuration). I was especially fond of rock-chimney style ascents and poles (anything 18" diameter or less, free standing or attached to some construction) for their speed and ease of use to gain access.

I had fleeting dreams of becoming an actual gymnast, but really my motivation was just to move: mind and body in perfect balance. Maybe to escape something, maybe for the thrill; probably a combination. Naturally I used this for absolutely nothing productive, and on occasion found myself narrowly escaping mischief of a more intense flavor than was my usual.

Fast forward a few years to my jotting down thoughts on a novel (still in the works) taking place in the semi-near future. Part of the setting involved the over-urbanization of some influential cities, to the point that there really was nowhere to go but up. Or to bring "up" down to where it was accessible, since foot traffic continues to be a phenomenal way of traversing most metropoli. The answer was the introduction of the "Gridway" - a series of walkways in parallel to sidewalks placed at 3 story intervals on building exteriors with occasional lifts and staircases. The result (in this fiction) was a range of 3 dimensional movement that played havoc with the local retail real estate markets (who'd pay for a street level storefront when you can overlook the bay?) and greatly augmented the mobility of the general populace. For safety and liability purposes the Grid-walks were all enclosed in chain-link mesh and reinforced with banisters and other supports, of course.

This gave rise to a new sport - "Railing." This being the act of traversing the exterior of the structures by climbing, grappling, and jumping; but primarily through a barely controlled fall clinging tenuously to some conduit or other (since they were strung during the Grid's construction to increase the service capacity of the municipality in terms of electricity, bandwidth, etc.), perhaps with the aid of a hook. A particular quirk of the protagonist was to be his penchant for going up instead, finding calm rooftops (the majority of which are still just as utilitarian) to overlook the city landscape from a removed perspective - a direct reference to my identical semi-adolescent activities.

This was long before I became familiar with "le Parkour," French for "freedom of movement." Videos of its practitioners (and those of similar disciplines such as Yamikasi [not Japanese, despite the sound], "Free running," etc.) have recently swept through portions of the Internet to bring what is sure to be a brief spotlight to the practice. To see what had been an intimate act and imagination writ large and even codified has been vindicating. I'd thought my hobby peculiar but not remarkable, and am now pleased with the level of interest it's garnering - short-lived or otherwise.

I should also clarify, I wasn't as good as many of these individuals are. But I wasn't far off, nor would it have taken much to get there. Now is a very different story - but I'm still working on that. In the meantime I'm deeply satisfied that I can look back to the time when agility and strength weren't in question and knowing that I made the most of it: it's gone now, but at least it was here, and here in force.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Emergency Root Canal

I'd always expected a root canal to hurt, having heard it so often used as a superlative event in the discussion of pain.

While not a walk in the park, I think it pales in comparison to the reason for it in the first place. In my case work isn't actually finished yet - just the emergency prep work. The rest of it will be completed in a week or so, after the medication has a chance to do its stuff.

Whereupon I reserve the right to adjust this statement to incorporate new experiential data.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Doc P"

About 4 months after I met my buddy Mike on the job at Overstock, he began referring to me as "Doctor Pedantic," or "Doc P." for short. This was due to his observation of my continual search for just the right word for any given expression, often leading to obscure and less accessible language compared with more standard conventions. Not to be pretentious, but in search of accuracy in the flow of communication of often complex ideas and impressions (or reaching for understanding from those of others).

English is funny in its way - so many distinct flavors for almost any class of word, usually with differing origins and etymologies despite similar meaning. A tremendous and exceptional mish-mash of multicultural contributions that lead to rich but potentially convoluted phraseology. I rather like it: so many nuances can be deeply (referentially and intensely) represented with precision and passion through the selection of the appropriate tools of verbiage. Imagery can be invoked and passed on through simple (or not so simple) text, transmitting intimate constructs to the minds of others.

I exposed myself to much of this landscape at a young age as a voracious reader, seeking out and attaching to literature wherever I could find it. Much, if not most of it, stuck with me and found use in my conversation. To the point now where the composition of sentence and statement is probably more akin to the scrutiny of a fine Swiss-army style knife for the perfect tool, than to reflexive recitation of culturally or habitually influenced patterns (not that there's anything wrong with that - if it works, run with it).

I've recently begun to wonder though, if this habit of linguistic peculiarity might have been reinforced through other means, and not simply the product of precocious reading behavior.

In my renewed medical investigation of the various discomforts which have plagued me for the last decade, a new candidate has emerged as a possible explanation: the somewhat misleading designation of "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," also known as CFIDS, myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalitis), and a few other names and designations. Very likely due to a chronic inflammation of the immune system leading to a host of symptoms, most of which I encounter on a regular basis (while I'm pleased to have a better explanation of what has been the cause of so great misery, and with a prognosis other than eventual death as is the case with Pulmonary Hypertension, I'm still left in an unresolved and dissatisfied state - but more on that later).

One of the prominent symptoms is that of cognitive impairment, often affecting speech (expressive rather than receptive aphasia). A lost feeling of "looking for the right word," or having something on the tip of the tongue, or some sensitive differentiation recently forgotten on the edge of memory. This happens to me a lot, along with its cousins of stuttering, poor short-term memory (I have to screen my emails and blog posts multiple times during composition to reduce and combine similar language and statements even from one sentence to the next), object or name recognition difficulty, etc. Difficult and frustrating, yes, but possible that the speech patterns I've cultivated are a coping mechanism as a direct result thereof. To create and torture an analogy, if I'm looking for an arrow in my quiver but can't find it, it's nice to have several others close at hand.

Regardless of source, the tendency causes my work to be almost immediately recognizable (and hard to hide) to those who know me well, and becomes one of my more remarkable attributes (more than one of the interviewers during my preparation to leave the last job asked if I had other educational background in language). Possibly born of frustration, hopefully it has and can continue to serve me well throughout my admittedly odd existence.

Likely to also provide amusement and ammunition to those who see it as a competitive or egotistical trait, eager to see one living by the Dictionary and Thesaurus such as myself tangled up in our own attempted pedantry. That's cool too.