Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Life As It Stands.

Things are a little odd lately.

Well, maybe not.  They feel odd to me.  Some things feel like they're going a bit backward:
  • I almost have our dual-Xeon server, ATLAS, back online.  I even hope to be able to load all of the old sites that he hosted - from the HTML and PHP files to the SQL tables that I managed to export before I wiped his hard drives.
  • I'm working from home.  Granted, it's not for a lot of money, but it's some money.

Other things are definite steps forward:
  • I'm writing fairly regularly.  (That's how I'm earning that little bit of cash.)  It's "real" writing, writing for the masses instead of my friends & family, writing with guidelines instead of just pouring thoughts out.  I try to structure things and make thoughts flow progressively.  No, I don't have any links or examples; sorry.  I think it's all going pretty well, though.  The person I'm writing for hasn't offered any criticisms, and has tossed me a compliment, even.
  • The house is being improved, slowly.  We finally saved the cash to finish installing laminate flooring in the living room.  Three of the rooms in our house have hand-made curtains instead of horrible, broken blinds.  I think we're going to save cash for the balcony garden next.  That'll be a pretty big event.  The balcony hasn't been as pleasant for a while now; its remodeling should make it green and relaxing.
  • I'm on week five or six of a regular exercise routine.  I don't feel much of a change, but I can see a change.  The paunch I saw growing disappeared.  A slap to the thigh doesn't create a ripple of frenzied activity from usually bored, disinterested fat cells.  I'm even beginning to see the barest hints of chest muscles, and that's something I don't remember EVER seeing.

Some things aren't steps forward.  Sadly, I don't think V. and I are seeing as much of our friends as before.  Tuesdays aren't drawing much of a crowd, and that's really the time that we would get to see and relax with the people we enjoy.  It is, as always, due to a combination of things in our life and in the lives of our friends.  That doesn't make it any less sad.  I need to work harder to see the people that I like.

We don't have as much money as we have some times.  It's decidedly more than we had during some periods.  It's steady; I think that, at this point, the city would be hard-pressed to fire V. from her library job.  We have to save pretty hard to get any of the things on our "big purchases" list, and they're almost all home improvements, things that it would be damned nice to do now.  I could change that pretty easily by getting even a part-time job outside the home, but that would mean giving up my time with the daughter that gets more and more AWESOME every day.  I love the girl and I love that time.  I should still take the step and find something I can do for twenty hours' pay each week.

A few things are the same.  As happens every few years, I'm working on buying/completing a new computer.  I love to spend time reading, and V. tries to bring home a steady stream of books for her enjoyment.  I read some of those.  I still hate most of the female characters on "Everybody Loves Raymond", especially Ray & Robert's mother.

2009 is starting well on the national level.  It's pretty good here at home, too.  I hope it gets even better, and I'm going to work to make it happen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day thoughts.

No dilemma here today; just happiness and an eagerness to make things happen.  I think that's the general feeling in the United States today, and in other parts of the world as well.  People want to see change and they want to make change.  Not everyone has a line of service projects waiting for them, though, and I know some people are wondering where they can start.  Here are a couple of ideas for you.
  1. Sign up at http://usaservice.org to get updates about service projects happening in your area.  President Obama is serious about all of us working to make our nation a powerful example for the rest of the world.  Nothing does that better than giving your time and effort to make your own community a better place.
  2. Help the environment in any way you can.  There are many, many small things you can do that will each have their impact.  Buy reusable shopping bags, keep them in the car, and don't get discouraged by the mystified looks you'll see on clerks' faces.  Start your own container garden or other small garden so that the vegetables and spices you use don't have to travel by truck or plane all the way across the country (or oversea).
  3. Keep an open mind when dealing with your fellow man.  People get in our way from time to time, and sometimes it seems as though you want the exact opposite of the people around you.  The important thing to remember is that they usually don't want to be in your way; they usually didn't start their day thinking about the joy they'd have in holding up others and preventing things from happening.  Everyone out there is just as busy as you are, and they're trying to work for the same thing: a better life.  Remember that.  Respect your neighbor's right to try and better their life in the way they feel is best.  Help them where you can, try not to hinder where you can't.
You have your objectives.  Go out and make them happen.  Make yourself proud of the work that you've done.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hallucination & Caffeine.

A friend of mine linked me to an article about a potential correlation between caffeine intake and hallucination.  My mom and I both have stories about ingesting heavy doses of caffeine, falling asleep, and waking to find that we were seeing things.  

As best I remember, my mom's story took place in college.  She was studying for an important exam (of course), and many cups of coffee were consumed.  Despite her best efforts, she eventually succumbed to sleep.  When she woke, it was to dots of various colors and sizes swimming through her field of vision.*

My story involves a lot more horror and a boatload of stupidity.  In high school, I had an attractive friend that worked at a late-night diner.  She told stories of the soda she'd drink and the caffeine pills she'd pop in order to keep going through her shifts after being at school all day.  Being a teenager, I thought that getting a buzz from completely-legal caffeine pills sounded like a fine idea.  I invested in a very cheap false pocketwatch designed to hold old persons' daily medication and in a bottle of No-Doz tablets.

I imagine you can see where this story is headed.  I downed a few tablets in the morning and felt pleasantly buzzed.  After a class or so, of course, the buzz began to die down.  The answer?  Pop more pills!

All day.  Buzz going down?  More pills!  More pills!  More pills!

By the beginning of seventh period, I felt like crap.  I wasn't capable of much more than lying with my head on my desk, looking pitiful (which quite frustrated my straight-laced physics teacher).  I desperately wanted to vomit, but my repeated attempts brought no results.  The day eventually ended; I got a ride home from my friend Alex (and his mother - thank you, Mrs. Zaballa) and crashed on one of our recliners.

I tried to sleep, but it wouldn't come.  My heart raced.  I sweat buckets.  After a few hours I moved to my bedroom and finally drifted off.  I entered a hellish nightmare: I was surrounded by huge tarantulas.  They covered the ground around me completely; the spot where I stood was the only free space of any size.  I leapt far up into the air and spent several seconds looking down and discovered two things.  The first was that the tarantulas' hair was changing colors to match the ground below.  The second was that they had moved into the spot I previously occupied, causing me to frantically search for and try to land in another open spot.  I did find one and immediately leapt back into the air, searching for the next place I could come down.

The dream continued for a short while before I woke with a start.  Unfortunately, when I opened my eyes, one of the foot-wide "chameleon" tarantulas was two inches in front of my face.

I yelled and leapt up, but the giant spider remained.  It took about three seconds for the hallucination to disappear.  That may not seem like a long time, but it was an eternity when faced with a monster tarantula.  The rest of the night was filled with exhaustion and nausea, but it wasn't anything like seeing a nightmare when you wake.

I swore off caffeine pills after that, but I still drink a fair amount in various sodas and teas.  There have been no visual hallucinations to report, but every now and again I hear things that aren't there.  It's usually very limited: I'll hear a voice that isn't there say one, maybe two words.  That it might be tied to my caffeine intake never crossed my mind (even though both the hallucination stories in my family are direct results of caffeine overdose).

I'd love to hear other stories about hallucinating, no matter the cause.  Was it visual, auditory, tactile?  Did you have a good time, or was it horrible?  I encourage you to leave your story in the comments below!

*I'm recalling the story as best I can; my mom hasn't told it in a while.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Collaborative Dreaming.

Lately, I talk a lot about dreams with my friends.  I have a lot of fun doing so, too, because I enjoy coming up with the wacky plots one encounters in one's nighttime ramblings.  Dreams can be serious one moment and absurd the next, full of people and places you once knew.  They can be about anything, from flying to taking a Maraschino golf ball to the race track to bet on a goat race.

I have so much fun coming up with strange dream ideas that I thought you might like the chance, too.  Instead of just asking all of you to share your dreams via comments, though, I thought we might work together on one!  So, today (and for the rest of the week), I invite you to head over to the Joint Dream page that I make on Wikia's Dreams wiki.  It's supposed to be like a "community story": different people will add the sort of strange, absurd elements that happen in an average dream.  Read what's there and add another element to the dream.  Tweet about it and invite your friends to drop by and contribute their own absurdities.  By Sunday, I hope we have something really strange and wonderful, but also like a genuine dream that you might have on any given night.

Why are you waiting? Head on over and add something to the dream!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

An Interlude:

I'm going to start work on some projects tonight or tomorrow.  If all goes well, people will find them interesting and fun and worthwhile.  While I start work on these mysterious projects, I leave you with the Beastie Boys:



Fatboy Slim remixing a great Beastie Boys track, and with a video that parodies the truly mediocre 1968 film, "Danger: Diabolik".  It's all good.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Quick Note:

Life is pretty busy lately, but I wanted to share something with you fine internet people.  Hulu has done something great: they have made the film "Red Shoe Diaries" and the first season of the Showtime series of the same name available online. "Red Shoe Diaries" is one of the better series Showtime aired, and as a teen I tried to watch it every chance I had.  Maybe the plots weren't always great, but it was erotica that didn't come in the form of a bad murder mystery starring Shannon Tweed.

My fondest memory of the show?
Tasha Yar's boobs.  That episode facilitated many a geeky fantasy.  (Sorry, Mom.)  If you like erotica with a regular smattering of down-on-their-luck screen favorites, go watch a few episodes.  Your childhood fantasies will thank you.

(Just in case you didn't get the meaning of words like "erotica" and "boobs", let me warn you: two of the links above are NSFW. You can puzzle it out.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Balcony Gardening!

We're lucky enough to have a small balcony.  It has provided a nice place for V. and I to sit, and our dog, Charlie, loves to lie out in the sun.  People can step outside to smoke during gatherings.  Sometimes, we even get to watch fireworks over the trees.

Watching a documentary on Cuba and their peak oil crisis made me think of another way we could use the balcony.

We're going to build a short retaining wall and create fourteen square feet of garden along the two outside walls.  We don't eat a big variety of vegetables, so this space should allow us to grow all we need with room for a little extra.  The plants shouldn't need too much maintenance on my part.  They'll be outside in the Texas heat and sun, and even on the side of the house that gets some shade.  I hope that with some watering and a hunt for harmful insects now and then, we'll have a nice bounty of veggies that we can simply step outside and pick.  They won't be subject to a ton of harmful pesticides, and they won't be driven hundreds of miles to reach our table.

Do you have any gardening tips for us?  Can you suggest plants that will do well in this climate?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Red Rooster of Burnin' Love.

I'm turning into one of "those guys".  No, not the ones that always have visible ass-crack or that belch loudly in public or that end up on the sex-offender registries.

I'm turning into one of those guys that puts hot sauce on everything.  Specifically, my new beloved:
Tuong Ot Sriracha.  It's a yummy blend of chili, sugar, salt, garlic, and vinegar.  If you've been to a Chinese restaurant sometime in the past three years, you've seen this bottle or one like it.  It rests there on the table, tempting you.  It urges you to explore unknown vistas of spicy heat.  "Just try me," it whispers softly.  "You've never had anything as hot as I am."

Well, I did try it the other day, and it wasn't quite as hot as I imagined.  It's plenty spicy, sure, but I didn't receive instant chemical burns to my tongue.  More importantly, it has its own unique taste that I find I quite like.  I ate the rest of my meal, happily applying hot sauce to the bites of garlic chicken and feeling my face flush slightly.

I ran into a problem, though.  I had leftovers.  I ate the leftovers for dinner.

The leftovers were not enough.

I was left with a rumbling tummy and a desire to go out right then, order more Chinese food, and then hit the store to get my own bottle of sriracha.  Normally that would be no problem.  It's a bit of an issue at 8:45 on New Year's Eve when you have friends coming over around 9.  As anyone who follows me on Twitter saw, it was a BIG issue.

Anyway, I got out the very next day and fed my craving by getting some Chinese food for lunch, then buying my own bottle of sauce.  I added more of it to that day's leftovers, then added a bit more after.  It wasn't just good; it was excellent.  Last night, I decided to try a bit on V.'s already wonderful lasagna: delicious.

So yeah.  I think I'm working my way down a slow spiral, at the end of which I will have tried adding some sriracha to every food I enjoy.  It's not something I ever understood before now (I still don't really understand it) or envisioned myself doing, but here we are.

I think the next dish I try will be hot dogs with cheese and a thin line of hot sauce down the middle.  Say a little prayer for me.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009!

Forget an end-of-year post for 2008.  It was a year; it had high and low points.  Let's talk about THIS year, 2009!  

I wasn't particularly excited last night when it rolled in, but I will say that instead of having a huge shindig, V. and I were hanging out with a good group of folks that make us smile.  I hope that's an indicator of the year we have ahead of us all: perhaps nothing truly spectacular, but full of good, interesting times enjoyed with others.

There will be at least two spectacular things that happen in the coming months:
  1. Barack Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States of America.
  2. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will be permanently closed.
Those are some pretty excellent coming events, no?  I see good things in our future, folks.  I'm not bursting at the seams with positive energy and excitement, but I'm optimistic.  Let's not worry about the fanfare right now; let's just make some good happen.

PS: OH YEAH, I'm also gonna get the goddamned Chinese food that I was craving so hard last night.  If that's not a great way to start things off, I don't know what is.