Miscellaneous Monday, Return to the Salt Mines Edition

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sixteen tons*

I'm returning to work this morning after about four weeks out on short term disability from my hysterectomy. I'm dreading the process of coming back up to speed (all those e:mails - ugh), but I'm able to sit at my desk for eight hours now, so it's time. I think it's also time I try to reengage with my daily activities, and that includes working for a living. I don't know how effectively I'll be able to execute on that goal, but I'm going to try. I'm lucky that I have such excellent colleagues who have taken up the load in my absence.

Sixteen tons...of knitting

While I was out on disability, I had a lot of free time on the couch. Which means I spent a lot of time listening to books and knitting. Which means I complete 87 pieces for the charity bag, including four lap robes for the Cheyenne VA Hospital. So there was at least some level of productivity over the last month.

Run away, run away - or not

I'm still not cleared to resume running - that probably won't won't happen until the end of October. And I've been surprised by how much I've missed it. When I've been taking my daily recuperative walks, I see runners on the trail, and I want to tell them that I, too, am a runner, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. I'm just FORBIDDEN at the moment. DON'T JUDGE ME.

Because they're ideologically driven jerkwads, that's why

Led by the inestimable Ted Cruz, with plenty of help from his friends. And enemies. And acquaintances. 

The government is going to shut down at midnight if these ignorant clowns don't pull their heads out of their asses in a timely manner, and the polls have already started as to "who's to blame" if such an event actually occurs. Being a dirty, dirty liberal who is actually GLAD that people might get a chance to have health care, you can imagine on which side of the argument I fall. But I also think the President needs to show some leadership here.

Meanwhile, my son won't be getting paid, and a number of my friends and colleagues will be taking mandatory furloughs. All because these petulant children can't come to some sort of compromise.

Back to kindergarten, jerkwads.

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*I just love that song. Yes, I know it's before my time. I don't care.TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD, YO.

The Weekly List - Albums I could (and do) listen to for days

Saturday, September 28, 2013
1. Dishwalla, Opaline
2. Scorpions, Love at First Sting
3. Florence + the Machine, Ceremonials
4. Fun., Some Nights
5. Ozzy Osbourne, Diary of a Madman
6. The Decemberists, The Crane Wife
7. Shakira, Laundry Service
8. Bond, Born
9. John Petrucci and Jordan Ruddess, An Evening with John Petrucci and Jordon Ruddess
10. Evanescence, Fallen

Free Shit Friday Returns

Friday, September 27, 2013


With a pint of my Awesome Apple Butter of Awesome.

I actually put up a batch of jam this week, as part of my "It may be time to make an attempt to reengage with the world" strategy. That won't be offered until next Friday, after it's had a chance to set up.

da Rules

The winner of the Raspberry Jalapeño Jam from back in July is Mrs. Dr. Phil, with a random number of 7.

Last Night's Conversation

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
So we were watching TV last night, and this came on:





Me: That movie should totally be called "Geriatric Escape Plan."

Smart Man: "Escape from the Geriatric Ward."

Me: All they need is Bruce Willis to complete the cast!

Smart Man: No, it already looks bad enough as it is. No need to make it worse.

Indeed.

Miscellaneous Monday - Singularity Edition

Monday, September 23, 2013

We sincerely apologize for the singularity

So I've been using a Motorola RAZR MAXX HD for about a year. I liked it at first, because I was traveling a lot and needed a phone with a spectacular battery.

But over the last several months, its responsiveness has been, shall we say, less than optimal, regardless of how many times I cleared the cache. When the Smart Man and I go to look up information on our phones at the same time, his iPhone 5 retrieves the search results far in advance of the Motorola, on the same network. And the Facebook application blows big chunks. And for some reason my favorite navigational application was merged with Google Maps, and now I hate it with the fire of a thousand burning suns. You get the idea.

My line was eligible for an upgrade, so Saturday we went off to the Verizon store to see if they had any iPhone 5s' left in stock. They did, and now I own the 32GB model. The advantages to me are that I now have the responsiveness I require, a navigation application that doesn't make me want to throw my phone in a ditch, and if I need additional battery life when I travel I can always purchase a battery extender for about $100. Bonus: I can now use a single device for both my communication and audible entertainment needs, instead of carrying both a phone and an iPod when I exercise. So I have that going for me.

This means, of course, that I now have more recent technology than the Smart Man. This caused a singularity in the space-time continuum, and so I would like to publicly apologize for the destruction of our universe due to my punking my spouse on the technology front.

Good thing I don't believe in the woo

Because if I did, I would swear the universe has some sort of issue with our getting new carpet for the Big Yellow House.

Our refrigerator is the original cheap-ass model that was installed when the house was built in 1996. It's been on its last leg for some time, and we've had it repaired once, but we commonly get frozen vegetables out of the crisper, murky water from the dispenser and other signs of the coming refrigerator apocalypse.

So when the water dispenser just stopped working yesterday, we decided it was time to stop talking about getting a new fridge and go buy one, which will be delivered on Thursday.

We don't have much to complain about, actually - our repairman told us that anything we got after about twelve years was a bonus, and the thing has lasted seventeen years. Thankfully this is the last of the household appliances to be replaced, so I'm hoping we're good for a while. Regrettably, this expenditure will set the carpet fund back about $1,400.00.

Bittersweet

We sold Moe's Mazda on Saturday. A very nice woman needed a new commuter car and didn't want to spend a lot. She was courteous, prompt, and organized, which made her about 100% better than the majority of buyers (and sellers) on Craigslist, so the transaction was pretty painless.

I'm relieved that it's sold, of course, but also profoundly sad. Selling her car feels like a significant milestone for some reason, even though I know intellectually it's just stuff. 

Obviously I still have emotional work to do. Like for the rest of my life.

Because really - what I need is more sleep problems

One of the odd things about losing my daughter is the fact that I haven't really had an increase in my insomnia. Usually when things go wrong in any way, my sleep is the first thing to go, but this time, I've been sleeping through the night on a fairly regular basis.

Instead, my subconscious has been spending its time processing my grief through my dreams, and each morning, I wake up feeling emotionally drained and not really rested. Because evidently my insomnia only kicks in when my anxiety is caused by something stupid.

Link Me Up, Scotty

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
A mother takes on her daughter's high school programming teacher. Having worked in technology my entire adult life, I can totally see this happening, just as I can see why her daughter has chosen to walk away. My own daughter used to tell me that she was glad there were women like me, who were willing to work and fight for equal rights in male dominated fields, but as for her - fuck that.
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My friend and shipmate Jim Wright decided to use his Internet reach to pimp the fundraiser for suicide prevention that's being conducted in my daughter's name. Have I mentioned how blessed I am with the people who choose to share my life? Well, I am.
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The Texas Board of Education is up to their usual shenanigans as it relates to Young Earth Creationism and science standards. WTF, Texas? Do you enjoy being the butt of everyone's jokes and the laughingstock of intellectual life nationwide?
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I'm taking a Sociology class on Working in Modern Society as part of my never ending engagement with higher education. During our on-line discussion, I was frustrated by a number of fellow students who are completely clueless when it comes to unearned privilege and the performance benefits of working in a diverse work team. (Okay, let's be honest - it's not their cluelessness that offends me, it's their inability to accept that they might have something to learn on this score. And their use of the old "reverse discrimination" trope. That, too.) In any event, I was reminded of an excellent article by Peggy McIntosh called White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Worth a read, or a reread.
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This father/son ad from openly gay Congressional candidate Carl Sciortino, Jr. made my fricken day. Word. 


"With all due respect, sir, you're beginning to bore the hell out of me."

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
I used to read the blog of a fairly well-known Science Fiction writer. I enjoyed his pithy commentary on social justice, politics and other topical subjects. And I liked his books, as they were amusing in the way a popcorn flick is amusing. He's a bit lazy when it comes to his craft, and his books aren't deep, aren't really meaningful - but they are kind of fun.

Over the years, however, his on-line presence has basically degenerated into an orgy of self-promotion and on-line flame wars featuring smug diatribes about his superiority. This is not amusing to me, and I can't see why I should continue to waste my time reading his personal screeds.

People absolutely have the right to use their personal space however they see fit. This individual has no obligation whatsoever to use his blog in any way that doesn't conform to his wishes, or provide personal amusement, or move his goals forward.

Just as I have no obligation to continue to visit that space other than as a mechanism for learning about new authors and books. Because when it comes to on-line content, the ultimate sin is being boring.

Miscellaneous Monday

Monday, September 16, 2013

How I Am, Part 2

Well, I'm not really sure, actually. Physically, my recovery from surgery is starting to accelerate. I walked for a full hour yesterday, and felt okay, although I spent the rest of the day exhausted. I can sit at my desk for about 4 hours before needing to retire to the reclining couch. I have my follow up appointment tomorrow, and I think I'll be returning to work in about a week. So I have that going for me.

Emotionally, I'm still struggling. I still cry every day. I'm still emotionally anxious. I'm still not really up for discussions about how my daughter chose to end her life, or about suicide and suicide prevention in general.

But I'm better than I was a month ago, which I suppose is all I can really hope for.

Tribute in Ink

On Saturday my cousin and I went to get my tribute tattoo. As I noted before, I combined the design my Awesome Auntie Kris did and the one Moe designed for herself for my design. My Hot Cousin got another of the designs my Auntie created. As soon as it heals (and I get some touch-up done), I'll post a photograph, along with appropriate credits to the artists involved.

THE BEST HEALTH SYSTEM IN THE WORLD

Not. At least when it comes to the administrative part of the show.

I've never had to apply for Short Term Disability. The only other time I was out of the office for more than a day or two was when the twins were born, and the military handles these things quite differently from the civilian sector.

Crap on a cracker, what a colossal pain the ass. No one knew where my surgical report was. Once we tracked that down, the hospital seemed constitutionally unable to fax the damn thing to the administrator my company uses for Short Term Disability. The claim is still pending, because apparently proving to the insurance company that I actually had organs removed is far more complicated than the actual procedure. Sigh.

Walking it Off

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
This week is Suicide Prevention Week. As you can imagine, this represents a triggering event for me, and as a result I'm having a bad week.

My feelings about suicide - and suicide prevention as it pertains to my daughter - are pretty confused right now, and I'm not really ready to talk about them. I suspect that it will take me some time to process my thoughts on this score, because they currently change daily, or even hourly.

And yet, into this maelstrom of confusion of grief rode the six hundred (or at least the two) in the form of our dear friends Stacey and J.R. They've decided to do something tangible in the face of my daughter's death, and their decision has helped to clarify my thinking and my grieving process. 

Taking positive action in the face of tremendous grief matters. Helping others in the worst days of their lives serves the categorical imperative, and thus makes the world less mean, more kind.

Which is why I'm proud and humbled to announce that Stacey and J.R. have decided to participate in the AFSP's Westchester County Walk Out of the Darkness Community Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in memory of my amazing daughter. "Maureen's Marchers" will walk on October 6th in Saxon Woods, with proceeds supporting Suicide Prevention.

Suicide prevention and resources are a net good in the world. Helping people who find themselves drowning in despair can only be a right action. Please consider joining me in sponsoring either Stacey or J.R. in their efforts to provide resources for this important work.

I Am the 1%

Monday, September 9, 2013
I was listening to the September 6th edition of Moyers and Company yesterday. The guest was historian, Vietnam veteran and noted conservative Andrew Bacevich, and they were talking about the possible military action in Syria. From the interview:
If you think back to 1980, and just sort of tick off the number of military enterprises that we have been engaged in that part of the world, large and small, you know, Beirut, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia — and on and on, and ask yourself, ‘What have we got done? What have we achieved? Is the region becoming more stable? Is it becoming more Democratic? Are we enhancing America’s standing in the eyes of the people of the Islamic world?’ ‘The answers are, ‘No, no, and no.’ So why, Mr. President, do you think that initiating yet another war in this protracted enterprise is going to produce a different outcome?
Um, yes. Just so. Not to be all isolationist or anything, but I'm honestly beginning to think that U.S. policy in the Middle East should basically consist of getting the hell out of there and letting those countries manage their own shit for a change. They'll either work it out and embrace the Enlightenment - or they won't. Because our very costly efforts to force the issue have been singularly, spectacularly unsuccessful, and I can't see why me and mine should go into harm's way (again) for a demonstrably failed policy.

But the part of the interview that really resonated with me was the thesis of Dr. Bacevich's new book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country. He contends that since America now relies on a professional military rather than a citizen’s army, we've been lured into a morass of endless war. The military is no longer the tool of the people, Dr. Bacevich contends, but the tool of politicians, and no one pays the price for their use except military families - approximately 1% of the population. No sacrifices are asked of the population. There is no draft. We fund our wars with foreign debt. The price is paid purely and wholly by those families who send their young people off to serve, who may or may not return from their deployments.

My political views are basically diametrically opposed to those of Dr. Bacevich, but I have to say - the man's right on the money with this. The only difference is that in this case the 99% aren't supporting the 1% in some sort of orgy of consumerism and greed. The 99% are sending the 1%'s children off to die, they're fracturing military families, they're allowing a tiny minority to bear the entire burden of their elected officials' ideas.

And that's just wrong.
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ETA: Eric Garland has an excellent essay up on why American politicians are so blind to our failed foreign policy in this region. Worth a read. 

Things for Thursday - Recuperation Edition

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Let's Get Physical

It's been a full week since my hysterectomy, and I'm slowly getting better. I'm off the Percoset, and have started taking (very) short walks here in the neighborhood in order to start regaining my strength. Mostly I'm just bored in an aimless sort of way, which I suppose is to be expected. Returning to work is out of the question, though - I can't sit at my desk for longer than about an hour before my innards start to complain about gravity (that spiteful bitch). So there's progress, and for that I'm grateful. Especially since I have a friend who's been in various hospitals and rehabilitation centers since May, bless his heart. This is nothing.

Sweet Emotion

I'm afraid the news concerning my emotional well-being and recovery is not nearly as positive. I've been trying to avoid the grief of my new reality by obsessing over the possibilities inherent in changing my own life. What if I change my career? My vocation? My schooling? My retirement plan? What if I start over in a BRAND NEW LIFE, dedicating myself to helping others and making a difference in the world?

The simple, hard fact of the matter is that there wasn't anything particularly wrong with my old life. I had a career I (mostly) enjoyed, great kids, amazing friends, and a life partner who can only be described as awesome. My financial situation allowed me to be generous when I wished, and I (mostly) felt like I made a positive difference in the world.

The problem is that I don't currently want my old life if it means I have to live in it with the truth of my lost daughter in my heart. What the hell is the point of having a successful career in technology if I couldn't even save my own child from herself?

So I'm struggling with finding some meaning in my daily activities on an emotional level. Often it just doesn't seem like most things matter much, when I look at them through the lens of my dead child.*

Carefree Highway

So we're trying to sell my daughter's Mazda 6, and I've decided that selling a used car ranks right up there with buying a used car in the "crappy experiences" category. People don't arrive when they say they're going to, they assume I'm trying to cheat them, they keep trying to "trade" me for their gas-guzzling behemoths, etc., etc., ad naseum. Now I remember why I've given two of the last three young adult vehicles in this house to charity. But this one's not a hooptie, and I really think it would make some young person a good commuter car. So we'll struggle on, at least for a few more weeks.

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*I'm going to go a bit preemptive here, and state that I don't really want reassurance of my work or my worth in the comment section. I suspect that people trying to reassure me on this score will not result in a positive response. Thanks.

Hot Chicks and Smart Men Read WINNERS!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
So the Summer Reading Contest is now over, and we've had our best year ever! Hot Chicks and Smart Men read 383 books!

That totally maxed out my budget, so the full amount of $250.00 has been donated to the Douglas County Library Foundation. Great job, everyone!

The winners (aside from the Parker Library) are The Mechanicky Gal, who read Star Island by Carl Hiaasen and David, who read Sharps, by K.J. Parker. I'll get those gift cards to you when the Percoset haze finally lifts and I remember.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Summer Reading Program, and we'll see you next year!