Category Archives: Life Out of Ordinary

Stuff that doesn’t fit into other stuff.

Best Part? I Paid to be Here

It’s been some time since my last actual blog, so I thought I’d give it a go, to see if I still had the formula down.  A quick catch up is in order, I suppose:

  • I’m not just some bum anymore. I’ve taken a job at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, as an Electronics Technologist. It sounds like it might be important, but really I just install conference room audio/visual systems. Pays good, though.
  • My web-based sitcom, K’s House, has completed it’s first season run! We had a lot of fun making it, and I hope people will eventually stumble across it to watch.
  • I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s very slow and boring, and yes I got the point of the story.

There, all caught up!

Cute schoolboy keeping open book on head in classroom
My biggest concern is that we’re failing with education in some major ways. This kid, for example, is probably going to forever misunderstand the meaning of the word “classic”.

Not that I’m trying to attach an age to myself, but my twentieth anniversary high school reunion was this passed weekend. An old friend, who felt that it was our duty to ourselves to go to this event, requested that I accompany him. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was fairly certain I would be in for an evening full of, “Nope, sorry, I just can’t place you.”

Nor was I disappointed, at least where my expectations were concerned. Actually, that’s a bit snarky; I had a really good time, and will leave the fact’s dependence on the copious amount of alcohol I consumed to the discretion of the reader.

Purely by accident, my friend and I wore matching outfits.  His collared shirt was black, his tie was red, and I was the same type of sleek and sexy in reverse. When we arrived at the country club, my friend was immediately recognized by the alumna handing out pre-printed name badges, embraced, and inquired after. When he mentioned my name, she immediately began writing out a name badge for me, taking for granted that I was my friend’s date for the evening.

Straightened out, we headed for the bar, and I followed around as my friend mingled a little. For some time it appeared that the type of person that came to such an event wasn’t the kind that recalled folk like me, but I was enjoying the buzz, the music, and the observations. Eventually, a woman that I did remember approached, and I got to have quite a pleasant conversation with her about life, the past, and being mistreated in high school.

The young woman, who was a mousy, silent thing at age 17, had found her voice, and her confidence. She was (is still, I imagine, it was only a few days ago) very attractive, had a good looking husband, and spoke of her wonderful child. She also spoke of looking around the room, picking out a majority of the night’s guests and fitting them into the category: you were mean to me.

(Note**: see writer’s addendum at the bottom of this blog) 

If this picture is accurate, Sisyphus would have been the strongest person ever... if he weren't already dead.
If this picture is accurate, Sisyphus would have been the strongest person ever… if he weren’t already dead.

If for no other reason, then to show everyone that their childish bullying held no lasting effect, I would have come as well. As it turned out I, apparently, wasn’t so much the victim in high school as I was the juvenile tormentor. Now, I’ve always been a bit of a bear when it comes to my opinions, especially when they concern people I care for and want to see succeed, but I’ve never really considered the lasting effects even the best of intentions might have.

Late in the night, after I had raced through those three sheets, and was club dancing with an old friend’s girlfriend, while he and my traveling companion spirited off for something in more of an inhalant, another of my schoolyard fellows approached me, and asked if I remembered her. I did, although I did far better the next day (read: late in the afternoon) after I had sobered and napped extensively. How my movements must have seemed to her, jolting around as I did on the dance floor! Some time after her initial attempt at contact, it suddenly became necessary to me that I ask her cordial questions about how she’d spent the last twenty years. With this in mind, a darted over to her, startling her greatly in the process. Maybe I was drunk, but there’s no mistaking that wide-eyed look, especially when accompanied by a quick effort to lean back away.

When Grumpy Cat doesn't approve of your bad behavior, you know you messed up.
When Grumpy Cat doesn’t approve of your bad behavior, you know you messed up.

Well, it happened and the night went on. I felt bad, poor woman, but was overjoyed when I suddenly found a Facebook request from her. I used the opportunity to attempt an apology, and received a very pleasant reply, in which she detailed my ceaseless efforts to tease and torment her throughout our high school acquaintance. She went on to say that she harbored no ill will towards me for any of it, that quite the contrary she felt stronger for the tough skin I had helped her to grow.

How horrible! I thought and still think, that I should stick in someone’s mind, simply because of what they perceived to be the negative way that I treated them. Even if she attributed the outcome positively, I can’t help but consider the time she must have spent feeling accosted and unhappy, all the while being too shy or kind or passive to say anything about it. Or worse, she did, and I laughed it off and continued on with my merry berating.

She turned out okay, and so did my friend from the earlier story. Maybe they were both right about the teasing of their peers in youth making them stronger. I, too, got quite a bit of it when I was younger, and I came out pretty tough skinned and confident. Something to prove became a way of life for me, and while I’m still waiting for that “ha ha, see!” finger pointing moment, I feel my negative childhood experiences are a part of that.

From the other side of that coin, it all just goes back to seeming to be a cause of grief, something I would never have intended. How many people did I treat this way, that didn’t turn out okay, just lost any remaining confidence and gave up? People will say you can’t change the past, but I shudder at the prospect.

The final question: are we better off as adults, when we’re taught the harsh lessons of society by classmates? Is the promotion of anti-bullying environments for kids today detrimental to a generation’s ability to traverse the sea of personalities they are thrust onto and forced to sail? If the nerds, dweebs, fat kids, dorks, and nobodies, aren’t told that’s what they are, will they ever know to push back, and become lawyers, doctors, presidents, and blog writers?

We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

No matter how it happened, you chose to become stronger. Get on with your bad self.

 

(**Writer’s Addendum: After having heard from one of the people that inexplicably found their way into this blog, I’ve discovered that I may have slightly overstated the nature of her high school experience. I’m glad that things weren’t as bad for her as my writing portrayed. I still believe the core argument of this article holds merit, however)

Enough Already?

Last night the wife and I had the rare opportunity to host a dinner party, featuring the girlfriend of an acquaintance, who is visiting from Russia. My food-centric friend and I quietly competed for most grandiose offerings, and the table was spread with everything from grass-fed bacon cheeseburgers to asparagus stuffed chicken.

The thing that struck me immediately about our honored house guest, was how well she spoke English; better than the lot of us, I’m afraid, with all of our swearing and missing consonants. Of course, she didn’t get to say much for most of the evening, but then that’s what she gets for dating a chatterbox American actor with obnoxious friends.

When we did allow her to speak at length, the conversation turned to the food, the amount of it, its over-the-top extravagance and variety, and how this seems to be a norm in our country. So many choices, such immense portions, and everything just killing to make us obese, with us dying to get as much of it as we can.

Moscow the Cat is saddened by your decadent, sedentary lifestyle.
Kiev the Cat is saddened by your decadent, sedentary lifestyle.

Since my first career was in grocery management, I had some interesting stories to add the the argument that America was crazy for consumption (not tuberculosis). Since her visit was almost exclusive to the biggest cities in California, I submitted that she got the absolute worst of it. Vacation destinations and BBQ gatherings, where people splurge on purpose, and have to go enormous because what they’re used to is already so much.

She did mention, however, that our mustard isn’t nearly as flavorful as what she’s used to back home.

The question is: when is plenty too much, and when is too much almost a bad joke? Would it take someone from another country, sitting in your living room and pointing at all the food you’re leaving out, to illustrate just how amazing you have it?

Go to the supermarket and count the number of apple choices. Do the same for the tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and citrus fruits. If you live in California, you’ve given up before you’ve finished. We get everything we want anytime we want it, but did you ever stop to consider that you shouldn’t have farm fresh berries year-round?

An cardboard sign I bought from a homeless street vendor in Vegas. He had several signs, but this one seemed the most poignant, buying it from a guy with nothing but strips of cardboard and colored pens.
An handmade sign I bought from a homeless street vendor in Vegas. He had several signs, but this one seemed the most poignant, buying it from a guy with nothing but strips of cardboard and colored pens.

Here’s an interesting article, from Forbes. In it is a graph that shows an Economist study of the socioeconomic state of the top and bottom ten percent of several socially democratic countries. If you look closely, the bottom ten percent in the US seem to have it better than the top ten percent in Russia, where our charming guest is from. If the results posted in the article are to be believed, in a country stereotyped by corrupt fat-cat officials, those top tier individuals live like people in the worst slums in America.

Is it so hard to believe that it can’t possibly be true? Or are we so well off that we’re too high on our mountain top to see the valleys below? Quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter. We can’t make the world an entire ball of American standards; in fact, many places would out right refuse if we could and tried.

It all boils down to our good fortune. We are born here, or immigrated here, and thus enjoy the perks of what our society has created. Yes, it makes us fat, and makes us tactless, and we don’t really concern ourselves with the state of another country’s union, but then, we’re here and nowhere else, so what should it matter?

Happiness is a choice, not bound by circumstance.
Happiness is a choice, not bound by circumstance or surroundings.

Happiness is relative to circumstance. The homeless addict finds joy in the receipt of a half eaten fast food meal. The average American Joe is overjoyed when a new season of his favorite show starts. The same can be said for people in any country, in every condition of life. The young lady who came to visit us would have only had hearsay evidence and her own country’s stereotypes of us, if she hadn’t hopped on a plane and came to see for herself.

I say: live the life that you have, don’t stop trying to better it, and don’t feel bad about it. As for our visitor, it didn’t seem like she had too bad a time, enduring our insanely over-indulgent lifestyle, although it did seem to bother her maybe a little. I’d probably know for sure, if we’d let her get a word in edgewise.

We all knew this song was coming, so stop with the face. Seriously, how bad can it be? Hot chicks in every major city, and rock ‘n roll seems to have found its way there.

Low Fat Feb: Finale!

I think I want to get a pizza tonight, but all I can think about is how much extra, unneeded fat that would introduce into my body. What this tells me is that I was successful in taking (roughly) thirty days to change a habit. I’m not saying that it will stick forever, but for now, it’s a part of who I am.

AAAAAAHHHH CHEAT DAY!!!!!!!!!!
AAAAAAHHHH CHEAT DAY!!!!!!!!!!

I’ll still probably go for that pizza.

On the first of February I weighed 212 pounds, and this morning I came in at 205.5. Not quite the ten pound goal I set for myself, but I believe that the major goal was achieved, so a few pounds shy of some number doesn’t feel like defeat.

Plus, my personal illustration in facing adversity should be a valuable lesson to anyone that ever felt like giving up was a perfectly reasonable option. Even with the troubles I have been having with my legs, I pushed through, because that’s what I said I would do. As it turns out, I didn’t even take those few days off, as the medication they gave me totally works.

We’re convinced that things we are told to do, usually by our doctors, are mere suggestions. It’s easy to a a full life ahead of us from our position in the present, but the truth is that it’s not possible to see past the first bend in life’s road; we just don’t have that ability. Of course, we do have the power to make the road less bumpy, and that’s what this low fat event hoped to show.

Insert hindsight joke: would these guys have even tried to take on that job if they'd known how they'd look at the tale end of it?
Insert hindsight joke: would these guys have even tried to take on that job if they’d known how they’d look at the tale end of it? Fortunately, your doctor can help with your 8-year plan.

You don’t have to do much. I exercise very little, and see results. If you want to kick it into high gear after feeling the fun-filled burn of low-impact workouts, go right ahead and tackle one of those body molding routines that are available. I’ve seen people get insane results from both PX90 (weight loss) and Body Beast (sculpting). This kind of stuff is a little too hard core for me, but if you’re serious and want to put some money into it, I can attest that I have seen them both work, for strongly dedicated people.

Here is also some good news: as part of my neuropathic issues, I was sent to do a ten panel blood screen (4 vials!) and everything from lipids to potassium levels came back normal. I’m at that age where these kinds of tests are becoming important, but they can be scary. It all goes back to hearing but not listening. And sometimes we just don’t want to know.

When the budget store Tom Arnold doctor tells you the bad news, he's gonna be all, "If only you had come to me 25 years ago."
When the budget store Tom Arnold doctor tells you the bad news, he’s gonna be all, “If only you had come to me 25 years ago.”

One part of the test that freaked me out a little was the ALT, which deals with the liver and was the only test to come back out of range. We all know I can be a bit of a drinker, so this worried me extensively. As it turns out my numbers weren’t anywhere near even mildly dangerous, but it took me an hour of research to come to that conclusion. I was full ready to start using that new vodka bottle as a conversation piece.

The moral is: don’t be afraid to find out, and then ask questions. Not wanting to know is a silly fear, one that will only harm you, probably sooner and later. Even if my liver did have mild damage, there are easy ways to correct that level of degradation, and catching it early would have been the only way to save me from the unpleasantness of horrible pain and early death down the road.

So, suck it up. Keep exercising. Go in for a check up. Do what the doctor says.Treat pizza as a treat, not as a go to for lunch. Oooh, maybe I’ll get tacos. But after that, it’s back on my bike. What ever you gotta do to keep happy, healthy, and alive, make it so.

I hope you enjoyed my month-long event. After this, it’s back to philosophy music, so stay strapped in that booster seat, because the star ship is still pulling into space dock. (heh, nerd jokes)

Here’s to us: may we live long and prosper.