Sunday, July 31, 2005

I continue to not get it.

A confusing day, all shot through with the wild colors of family drama...

If I haven't made it clear by now, my brother married a girl who turned out to be psychotic. They got married in May (and for your lack of reading enjoyment, here is a post from my old blog in which I spew vitriol about their honeymoon) and the day after they returned, she gave my parents a letter that told them how awful they were, how cheap they were (they only gave my brother and his wife $500, while her parents gave them $5,000), what terrible people they were for "making" her and my brother get married with people in attendance instead of letting them run away and elope like they wanted to, and how she never, ever wanted to see them again. She has not let my brother see any of us since they got married. He gave her some slack; he told her he'd put up with that until the end of July. It's the end of July, and so they had lunch with my parents yesterday.

During the lunch, she completely ignored both my parents and kept her head nuzzled into my brother the entire time. She did not speak when they spoke to her. She wouldn't even look at them. I talked to my mom after it and she almost started crying. Needless to say, my blood was absolutely boiling. NO ONE hurts my parents like this. I actually said the words "fucking bitch" in front of my mother, which I've never done before. My mother is purity incarnate. She doesn't drink, smoke, or cuss. And she's not at all holier-than-thou about it; she's one of those completely modest, genuinely *good* people (and there are far too few of her in the world). She's been dealing with this situation by trying to understand this girl more, and trying to feel compassion for her, whereas I've been dealing with it by being absolutely furious that someone would say such horrible things to my parents. I know my parents have their faults. The faults they have are not among the things this girl said to them. If she didn't want a wedding with people in attendance, why did she videotape it with two different video cameras? It was very nice of them to pick a place like Red River Gorge that required two miles of hiking over very hilly terrain when my dad is facing back surgery. Whatever. I'm not going to waste my time pointing out the multifarious holes in her logic.

What really blows so much about this whole situation is that even though I don't have a perfect family, and we argue, we have this undying loyalty to one another and to maintaining extreme closeness even when we piss each other off that was brought about when this same brother took a forty foot dive out of a pine tree in 1996 while trying to retrieve a Nerf football and broke his neck. University Hospital in Cincinnati managed to more or less bring him back from the dead and despite a broken neck (and back, and a kidney that "died" because the artery to it ruptured, and two collapsed lungs, broken ribs, a brain contusion, and multiple other injuries) he is still alive and their surgeries were amazing enough that he can do almost everything he could do before the accident. Having a family member go through that, well, it sort of pulls you together as a family. You sort of forget all the petty shit you were dealing with when you're staying overnight in the hospital with your sixteen-year-old brother who is being kept alive by tubes and is coughing up disgusting chunks of blood and is confused because of all the morphine and is in a neck brace and can't move. Everything else falls away. You become one. You promise God all sorts of things if only your brother will live. And when your brother lives, everything in your family is different. You spend a lot more time together. You love one another a lot harder.

And then some crazy bitch comes along and keeps him away from you because she hates you.

What are you supposed to do. I mean really.

Anyway, so I was completely thrown for a loop when he called me up out of the blue today and asked if M and I wanted go up to the farm (the same one M and I went to last night with my other brother and his wife) with he and his wife and their two dogs.

I was like,


I managed, after some stuttering (I haven't spoken to him at all since my mother and I picked he and his darling wife up in Lexington after their honeymoon), I told him we already had plans with my other brother in his wife to go up to Cesar's Creek and do some kayaking. He sounded really disappointed. I told him not to be a stranger and we hung up. I sat there holding the phone at a complete loss. I feel very weird about it. I still feel very weird about it.

When his wife wrote this letter to my parents, apparently she said that I was the only member of the family she liked because I am straightforward and I tell it like it is. Those two things are true. But I don't understand this. My whole family is like me; we have no patience for bullshit. Why did she single me out? Is she trying to forge some sort of bridge between herself and my parents by using me? Should I allow that to happen in order to alleviate some very hurt feelings? Despite all that's happened, my parents are still giving her the benefit of the doubt (or at least my mother is; my dad, I think, has nearly reached the end of his rope). They are better people than I am. I am, to put it mildly, extremely pissed at her. To the point where if I saw her, I don't know how willing or able I'd be to hold back the caustic pressure of the steaming rage that has built up within me. For my parents, I could do it. I could bite it and deal with it and maybe have a conversation with her about, say, dogs. But it would be hard. And that is putting it mildly. That is an understatement, to say that it would be hard.

At any rate. I see I've managed to write another damned novel. I keep telling myself to keep these posts shorter, but when the fingers start flying, my mind takes off and the words just come. And look at that, no picture today (gasp!).

In other news, M and I are both extremely sore from moving all that rock yesterday. We were filling in a giant mudpit that we have outside our back door. Our yard is high in the back and slopes down toward the house, which means that when it rains, all the water collects right outside the back door, and with three very active dogs, that spells disaster. I've been muttering curses about the raging mudpit of doom for months now, and yesterday we finally got our shit together enough to do something about it. And now we are feeling old and achy and like we just moved 2,500 lbs of rock. Oh wait, we did.

This morning was off to a fortuitous start when M pulled a tick out of Steve's ear and I pulled one out of my shin. GROSS. Bugs, I normally find interesting, and I like to take pictures of them, and look at them, and they are cool. Ticks fucking suck. Down with ticks.

I banged the holy tar out of my ankle on the wheelbarrow when I was doing some yardwork. I walked by it to open the gate and didn't see the metal around the tire and just whacked the hell out of the bony part. I have it iced.

M and I engaged in all-American mundanery tonight by watching Simpsons and Family Guy reruns while drinking beer and playing a SpongeBob card game.

And now, I ought to go to bed.

Sheesh. Families.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

In the interests of brevity

I had a good day. M and I together moved approximately 2,500 lbs of river rock and paving stones from Lowes to our backyard. We are tired.

My parents had lunch with my estranged brother and his psycho wife. It did not go well.

M and I ate delicious fajitas for dinner.

We met my other brother up at a farm, and we walked around and the dogs ran a lot and I took a bunch of pictures. Here is one. Kiva ran so hard and so much that she fell over and M had to carry her back to the car. She is like a small child who does not know how or when to stop when she's overstimulated.

Her ear is healing nicely, though. Still gunky and gross but much improved. Two more days of antibiotics for her.

Must go to sleep. Moving large quantities of rock is exhausting.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Vignettes of the past 24 hours, or: The Vin-yeti

No post last night due to migraine. God, I fucking hate those things. They really unseat you.

All right. So after work yesterday, I took M to the tattoo parlor for his birthday. (I am mildly amused that two of the comments on the last post wished me happy birthday--while I appreciate the sentiments, it was actually M's birthday and I must have typed some random crud implying that it was my own. Actually I typed "M's" which must have looked like "My" onscreen. At any rate, M is now all old and shit and I am still a spring chicken at 27. At least until next month.) The tattoo parlor was up in Mason, which is approximately five miles from where we live. But we attempted to navigate to it during rush hour--which worked out okay right up until we tried to get off the highway, which took half an hour. Ugh.

So we finally get there and we go in. And the place is like, twelve feet by sixteen, or so. Very small. And there are about eight people in there, plus some dude hollering from the back room. And there are two dogs in there playing with a girl all done up in "I'm so goth I shit bats" gear and pierced to the nines and tattooed and actually really cute. She is smoking and there's no circulation in the place and all her smoke is going right at me, no matter where I stand. M and I start looking through all the tattoos in the display poster whatsits. Then I notice that the bookshelf next to the flip-through display posters doesn't have books on it; it has piles of guns. Like, just laying there. Some of them were in holsters. Some weren't. The TV suspended from the ceiling was playing a western. One of the dogs left and another one came in with some dude with a shaved head. Some lady with perforated-paper ear piercings asked the dude what made him shave his head. "Alcohol," he said sheepishly. Someone else in the back yelled, "Yeah, that was the night I found his Jeep parked on my front lawn!" A lengthy discussion between various people ensued about the best way to train dogs to hunt pheasants.

After we'd looked through the designs for a while, the guy who owns the place came out to talk to M about what he wanted. Dude was: about 5'6, dressed head to toe in black, wearing pointy-toed cowboy boots and the little string-leather cowboy tie with silver tips, had an unbuttoned button in the middle of his shirt where his voluminous, wife-beater-wrapped beer belly bulged out, and wearing, strapped to his belt, a single-action Colt .45 and a clip of six big fat .45 slugs. Niiiiiice. He and M hit it off instantly. They talked for a good while about design, about the difference between Chinese and Japanese dragons, about blue and orange being complimentary colors and which should fade into which, about dogs, about medical training for being a tattoo artist, etc. My head was killing me and two dogs were wrestling like mad beasts and kept knocking into me. The tattoo dude and M worked out a time next month for M to come in and have his tattoo work done. It's going to be pretty extensive, about ten inches of fully-colored dragon curling over his shoulder and bicep.

I was relieved to get out of there; it felt like a rod was going through my head behind my left eye, and the cigarette smoke was really kicking my ass. We drove down to Su Casa, this little dive by our house, and had dinner. I drank about six cups of water and took some drugs for my headache. Then we went to Half Price Books where I bought M a monkey marionette for his birthday (you can never have too many monkey marionettes about the place, you know) and a shitload of books, breaking the household rule that if books come in, books have to go out (we're seriously being overtaken by books in our house). I'll have to get rid of some this weekend now.

By the time we got home from that I was in agony and couldn't do much more than give M the other two small things I'd bought him (a pair of pants with a cartoon of a dog farting, with the words "blame the dog" across the butt, and a t-shirt with Cartman on it that says " now!" and crawl into bed and try not to vomit. I laid there for hours with that burning sensation all through me that I was about to puke. The slightest movement by the dog lying on the bed with me (I don't even know which one was in there with me) was enough to make me stuff my hand in my mouth and bite.

Needless to say, that all sucked, and I was bummed that I couldn't hang out with M, it being his birthday and him being off work the next day and all. I really wanted to spend some time with him and finish the drunk that the Sangria at the Mexican joint had started. No luck.

The headache is mostly gone today. I woke up this morning with a bit of it still lingering, but at least I can function and don't have to be constantly thinking about where the bathroom is in case I gotta hurl. Big relief.

Next story. I work at this company that, as I've mentioned before, is more laid-back than most. This is the last Friday of the month, and when that happens, we do this thing called "Final Fridays" where at 4:00 we quit working and all go drink a shitload of beer and eat candy and junk food in the big meeting room. Today some dude came in for an interview. This happens fairly often, as we're a growing company (growing out, anyway--everyone who starts here puts on like fifteen pounds in their first three months because of the excess of free, excellent food that's always around). So this skinny little dude was in the lobby area sitting on one of these artsy-fartsy chairs we have out there that were not designed to be sat in by humans, at least not ones of normal proportions such as this poor dude, trying to read one of the marketing magazines we have out there. He is all dressed in his suit with his little briefcase and his little marketing-school business haircut and his little tie and shiny shoes and all. And I walk by him and I'm wearing my ratty jeans and my flip-flops and my t-shirt with the hole in armpit and my hair all messed up because I had bedhead this morning and was too lazy to take a shower, and then S walks by the other way dressed in her if-Fidel-Castro-were-a-buff-black-female getup, carrying a paper plate piled high with rice-krispie treats with M&Ms in them and talking with the receptionist about her mad ninja skills, and then around the corner you could hear someone's cell phone going off at 90 decibels with the theme song to Super Mario Brothers. The look on the dude's face was priceless. Such is the nature of our company. About ten minutes ago, the company president sent an all-employee email about how much he "fucking hates losing."

Side note: My boss, who is wearing a Bengals jersey today, just stood up swearing about the "infernal racket" being caused by the car alarm going off nine stories below us on the street, and said he was going to shut it off by pushing it into the river.

I love this job.

And believe it or not, I've actually done quite a lot of work today.

Since no post of mine is complete without at least one image, here's a shot of my little city that I took yesterday while I was out skating. The PowerShot has this "My Colors" feature on it, and one of the options within that is "Vivid Blue." You don't think it's obvious or anything that I had that feature turned on, do you?

It's actually not that much of an exaggeration; the sky was gorgeous yesterday, although lighter than this picture makes it out to be. It was the perfect day for skating--eighty degrees, low humidity. I took full advantage of it.

All right. Final Friday starts in about twenty minutes and I have to go finish my burrito. Y'all have a wonderous weekend now, y'hear?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


More or less sums it up. We never got the storms, but the air is literally 25 degrees cooler than yesterday. What a jump for a day.

I planned to skate at lunch today but the weather planned that I wouldn't skate. It pretended to rain. It dripped a little here, a little there. Just enough to render skating impossible. I took a walk instead and photographed statuary on Fountain Square.

I have a crush on statuary. I don't know what it is. I dream about statues. The Tyler-Davidson statue on Fountain Square in Cincinnati is this big bronze monstrosity that's been leaking into the parking garage beneath it for years. In August, they're closing Fountain Square and renovating it and moving the statue. Which is very weird and a lot of people who live and work in Cincinnati have strong feelings about it, but having gotten emotionally involved in local politics before, I decided to stay out of this one. Really, what's the point of City Council holding a town-hall style meeting to determine the public's feelings on what to do with the Square if all that will come of it is that City Council will discover the public is in total disagreement with it, but it decides to move forward with its agenda anyway? I declare shenanigans on the whole thing. Get your broomstick!

It's been cloudy all day. A moody sort of day--just barely enough to get you thinking about fall, right at the end of July. I was listening to "Good News for People Who Love Bad News" incessantly last fall and a few of the songs from it have been flitting through my head today. Funny how there are always songs I associate with fall--I assume this happens to many people. You listen to certain music during a certain season every year, you keep coming back to it.

This is the kind of thing I love to look at. It makes my eyes feel good in my head. It makes me glad I can see. My eyes like this so much that I feel it in the bottoms of my feet. It's difficult to keep myself from touching this statue. The fact that there are hundreds of people milling around the Square every day at lunchtime isn't necessarily enough to stop me from it, but the threat of getting water from the fountain splashed on my camera is enough. I was standing in the half-arsed drizzle trying to shield my camera from the mist as I used it and my left peripheral vision suddenly turned green and I turned to see B standing there watching me take pictures. "I knew it had to be you," he said, standing there in his green shirt with his green eyes, holding a fast-food cup with a straw. "I saw you across the square and I thought, I bet that's J." We stood there talking about Harry Potter for a few minutes. I took a few more shots.

I didn't look at the pictures until just a little while ago when I moved them from the card to the computer, and this one made me smile. I didn't realize it at the time, because I took the picture from about twenty feet away zoomed in while I was talking about time travel and luck potion, but there's a bug in this statue's ear. And it kind of looks like he realizes it. But, he's a statue, and he can't move to flick it out. All he can do is stay there in his frozen position with the water dripping down his bronze skin, staring at the bricks of the square, thinking the thoughts that give him this expression of bemusement. He is frozen mid-word. I think about what he was saying when his movement was distilled into this unmoving form.

Kiva's ear continues to heal. When I cleaned it out tonight, there was far less gunk in it. I only put a small amount of Neosporin in there, figuring that Steve's going to lick it out anyway. I'm surprised at how quickly it's healing. Maybe the dog spit is doing some sort of trick on it. Thanks to all who left comments about it; my mind is more at ease.

This evening, I called my parents and asked them if they wanted to go to Glenwood Gardens with M and I and our dogs. We met them there and within about two seconds my dad and I were arguing and snarling at one another over stupid shit. My father and I--if you take the same basic personality type and double it, and you make one a Catholic republican and the other a Buddhist democrat, well, that sums up our relationship, with the inevitable complications of parent vs. progeny. Sometimes, even though we care about one another and understand one another all too well, the only way we can communicate is through arguing and butting heads. We worked it out more or less partway through the walk, and were able to enjoy the rest of it.

My parents are having lunch with my brother and his wife on Saturday. The psycho wife. With major issues. Who has not let my brother see any of us since they got married in April. Except we were allowed to see them to drive down to Lexington to pick them up at the airport and drive them back to Cincinnati at the end of their honeymoon. I don't know what's going to happen. We haven't dealt with family shit like this since us kids were in high school twelve years ago. And this is not like anything we've ever dealt with as a family before. None of us has ever married/gotten together with someone who decided we couldn't see our family anymore. I am beyond shocked and hurt--first that my brother's wife has done what she's done, and second, that my brother has allowed it to happen. I never would have thought it of him.

That's all the further I'm going with that one tonight.

M's birthday is tomorrow. On the schedule is dinner out and a visit to the tattoo parlor. We'll see what that brings.

Off to bed. Too much statue in one day. It's all so overwhelming!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Man, dogs are kinda gross.

Steve has taken to licking out Kiva's ear as often as she'll let him. I don't know if it's the smell of dried blood in there or what, but he's treating it like a popsicle on a hot day. I am of two minds about whether I should put a stop to the licky-licky or not. Unlike Nancy the 45-lb terror, Steve doesn't spend loads of time licking his own butt, so his mouth is probably not too dirty; he only seems to use it for barking and eating. Kiva lets him lick it but doesn't like to let me get in there with a wet Kleenex to get the dried blood out. She doesn't seem thrilled with it, but she doesn't really cry or jerk away when he does it. It might be helping. I don't know. Any thoughts?

So, along with almost every blogger on my blogroll, I guess I'll mention how ridiculously hot it was outside today. It's a wild kind of heat when you walk out of air conditioning and you feel instantly touched and violated by it. It's hot enough that when you breathe in your nose, the inside of your nose is like, wtf is this burning up in here. It's a heat that soaks right into your sinuses and goes down your neck and comes up your feet. I keep looking at the radar on Weather Underground and there's this line of thunderstorms marching this-a-way from Indiana that's moving pretty fast. Behind it lies THE COLD FRONT OF JOYOUSNESS. Thank heavens.

I had to deposit a check tonight so I skated to the bank after it got dark. Despite the previous paragraphs' bitchin about the heat, I actually like it in some circumstances. Such as late on a summer night when I have something good to listen to, something with a little funk/hiphop groove to it, something like WuTang or old Black Eyed Peas or Outkast or whatever. I like to go out and sweat in it and listen. So I skated and sweated and listened and when I came back I had a cold beer and sat out on the porch looking at the morning glory that last week was three skinny vines and this week has gotten a hair up its arse and gone nuts and is about to take over the front of the house if I don't beat it back with a hedgeclippers soon. M came out and sat with me for a while but is not as outdoorsy as I am and went back in after about ten minutes. I stayed out for probably an hour, just looking at stuff and thinking. I wish I had a screened-in sort of area. I would sleep outside if I did. I could sleep in the hammock, but I'd be one giant welt of mosquito-induced itch in the morning.

Took a few more pics today of some of the landscape lights I have out there. I discovered that coolness occurs when I leave the shutter open for a long time and move the camera around. Somehow it still manages to focus on the light. Neat-o. I don't know what I'll ever do with pictures like this, but they're kind of fun.

I am so in love with this camera. It is about the greatest thing since giant trampolines.

Storm's a'comin...

Monday, July 25, 2005


The vet was more fun than a barrel of intoxicated co-ed bipeds.

Actually, it stunk. The vet was impressed with the extent of the damage inside Kiva's ear. In order to clean out the mess, it took her, an assistant, and me to hold Kiva down, while she was muzzled. And this is a little featherweight 42-pound dog. I can't imagine if it had been Steve the 80-pound mutt getting his shredded ear cleaned out.

At any rate, she said to keep it clean and gunk it up with Neosporin daily, and gave me a pack of antibiotics and said to keep Kiva out of the kiddie pool for a while until the ear heals. She said ears are vascular areas on dogs and tend to heal quickly. Basically, there are two gashes in the cartilage in there, and a tendon is severed. One round hunk of cartilage is severed right in half and sort of dangling in there--it's really disgusting, and I got a good close-up look at it while I held my poor squirming dog who was so scared she peed all over the joint. Poor thing. I think she shed twenty pounds of fur while we were in there too; she always starts losing hair right and left when she's scared or stressed. Oy, better the vet's office than in my house, I guess. Less fur to vacuum out of the carpet.

Kiva doesn't seem to be in much pain from it. She's eating and playing with the other two. Still a bit clingy this evening, but recovering. She shakes her head a bit every few minutes or so and the ear is definitely not perky, but I don't care what it looks like as long as it doesn't hurt her. M jokingly said about the situation, "Well, if her ear never perks again, that means we've got three ears up and three ears down amongst our three dogs." Which is true, and made me smile.

Dogs. God love 'em.

We went over to my parents' house this evening to meet their two new beagles and to swim in their pool. It's unbearably hot outside. I can only imagine what the energy bill will be this month.

I've read almost the entire camera manual now and am starting to learn my way around it. Here are a few pics I've managed to take that don't look like they were shot by a three-year-old on gummy worms and slurpies. Click on any of them for the bigger size. They're all on my Flickr page too. Don't expect dynamite; I had to reize them all and that always takes something away. The originals are slightly better. If for some unfathomable reason anyone wants an original, email me at j_star_katamari at yahoo.

Allrighty. That's all I got for tonight. I'm pooped after adventures at the vet, bathing pee off a stressed dog, proofing stuff about IBS and poop, and dealing with this supercilious heat that thinks it can just go around kicking people's asses willy-nilly. Weather's supposed to break Wednesday. I can't wait.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Aye, my poor little dog.

Border collie Kiva and big mutt Steve got into a scrap tonight. My dogs are constantly wrestling and play-fighting and it's extremely rare for it to get out of hand, and when it does, it's usually over food. This evening they were playing in the yard, playing in their kiddy pool, running, being dogly dogs, and they started wrestling and chasing each other like always and I noticed it was getting a little heated and hollered at them to leave off each other, which they did. Then just a bit later, when I was inside looking at my pictures, I noticed the side of Kiva's head was sticky and that she was holding her ear funny. I took her in the bathroom and realized her whole ear was full of blood. She cried when I tried to clean it out and it was horrible--I hate it when my lil' dogs are in any pain, it's just awful. I got it cleaned out as best I could but couldn't really tell how bad it was because the blood was coming from deep inside her ear. I got M to hold her still and was able to sort of hold her ear up to the light in a way that allowed me to see into it. I wish I could erase what I saw. There's a tendon inside her ear that has been torn out from under the skin and completely severed in half. I just can't even imagine how badly that must hurt. We gave her one of the pain pills she had from when she sprained her back leg, and she's been moping around all doped this evening, wanting to be right near me. She can't lay on her right side because when she puts her head down on the carpet it hurts her ear. I tried to put some neosporin in it to at least prevent infection until I can get her to the vet tomorrow morning. Why oh why do these things always happen on a Sunday night when the vet is closed? Every time she shakes her head, she leaves a little spray of blood behind. I don't really know what to do other than to try to keep it clean and make sure she's not in too much discomfort. I'm guessing the pain pill had some effect, because she did eat some dinner a little while ago and I know when I'm in a lot of pain I don't eat and it's probably the same for dogs. I don't know what they're going to be able to do about it at the vet, really--she has a severe heart murmur and she can't be sedated for any kind of surgery because it could kill her. I'm hoping they can maybe give me some sort of dog-safe topical stuff to put on it and keep it from getting infected. I don't know how it managed to happen; I'm guessing that since when Steve wrestles with Kiva or Nancy he likes to rear up with his front feet in the air, he must have got her with one of his toenails. I don't see how he could have done that with his teeth. It's way down inside her ear.

My poor bebe. :(

I didn't go with my parents to get the beagles because I got a whopping headache and spent most of the day in bed. The heat has been pretty ridiculous. Tomorrow it's supposed to be 98 F. Maybe that's not hot for, say, Arizona, but for Cincinnati, it's nearly unbearable since we've got the humidity and smog and river crud. I've been in 115 F heat before in Nevada and that was a lot easier to handle than 95 in Cincinnati.

I'm worried about my poor lil' dog...I wonder if she will ever be able to hold her ear up again, like in the pic. I hope that it heals quickly and easily and that it doesn't hurt her.

Oy. It's hard to be dog parent sometimes.

The cam, the fam, deviled eggs and ham

Dude. The camera is amazing. I have barely touched the tip of the iceberg as far as learning all it can do, though, so I'm not going to post any pictures yet because I haven't taken any stellar ones. Soon as I do, y'all will be the first to know.

My family is insane. I mean they are all just genuinely nuts. Some of them are nuts in a way society finds tolerable, some are not.

For instance.

  • My jailbird uncle, who is staying with my grandmother while he waits for his court date to clear up the whole -wife says he threatened to kill her but she lied and the judge told her she's the one going to jail but my uncle loves her still and doesn't want her to go in the slammer even though they'd immediately put her in a treatment program because it would become very evident she's addicted to a large number of illegal drugs- situation. You'd think someone in my uncle's situation would be glad to have a place to stay for free while the problem gets sorted out. He was very nice to my grandmother at first. But now they are like two cats in a bag. My grandmother is old and infirm and has eaten herself into type 2 diabetes. She weighs a lot. She is also crippled by arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, and years of bitterness since my grandpa left her thirty years ago with a house full of five kids so he could go bang the neighbor's wife. My grandmother is not perfect, but she is turning into a martyr in the face of my uncle's ingratitude. I went to her house yesterday to clean it for her, which I do every week since she is not able to clean it herself, and my uncle was asleep in the TV room and my grandmother was tight-lipped and angry, because my uncle (whose income comes from playing in a redneck bar band twice a week and from selling drugs) was still sleeping at 10 on a Saturday and she went to tell him I was coming over to clean and he chewed her a new one. I made sure to stomp around a lot and vacuum loudly outside the door where he was "sleeping."
  • My aunt Sally (names are changed to protect the not-so-innocent). I could write volumes about her.
Let me backtrack. My uncle/gradmother situation is on my mom's side. Basic situation on Mom's side: She is the oldest of five; the rest are boys. She is the only sane one. Her dad (my grandpa) left right when my ma was marrying my dad, so through my parents' entire honeymoon, my grandmother was calling my mother multiple times a day crying about the situation, and that set the precedent for their relationship ever since. My mother is truly a mother to her own mother. Of her four brothers, my uncles, one is the aforementioned nutcase, one is dead of a drug overdose, and the other two are hardcore deer-huntin republicans who agree 110% with everything Bill O'Reilly has to say. Also, through a quirk of marriage, I have a cousin on my mom's side who can call his mother his aunt. See what happens when you marry your son's wife's mother?

The rest of these crazy folk are on my dad's side. My dad is one of nine. (Yes, I have a shitload of cousins.) There were five girls and four boys. Two of the girls are dead; they both died of breast cancer in their early forties. One of the girls lives in Florida and is a mighty, almighty Bible thumper in the most stereotypical sense of the word. She derives great joy and solace from her religion, which I respect, but is one of those who feels they have to "spread the good word," which I do not respect. She would have a shitfit if I tried explaining the tenants of my religion to her in order to try to convert her to it, and doesn't understand that her doing the same to me is likely to send me into a silent rage (never aloud--there's enough family strife already that I can eat this sort of thing). Another of the girls lives in Reading with her cop husband and three of their four boys (one's in Okinawa--long story there but that's for a later post, and anyway, he's not the son of the cop anyway, he's from my aunt's first marriage in which the asshole she married was banging three other chicks and beating my aunt while she was pregnant with their son, so it's no wonder he's fucked up). She's actually probably the most normal of my dad's living sisters, and she is not necessarily someone I would call normal. The third living sister lives outside Tulsa OK with her husband and their three kids. This aunt is the most messed up of them all. This is aunt Sally.
  • Aunt Sally married a man who had a dream of one day becoming a professional hockey player. It didn't work out and now he works for Sherwan Williams selling paint, and so he forced his son to play hockey all through school in an attempt to live vicariously through him. He sent the son to Canada to live for a few years to learn hockey better. The kid came back all fucked up and couldn't readjust to life with his fam, and he started stealing a bunch of shit and doing a bunch of drugs and getting in all sorts of trouble. The dad, btw, is a real piece of work. He is the stereotypical "get in the kitchen and bake me a pie, bitch, and when you bring me my fucking beer, make sure it's open first" sports-watching screaming at his kids sort of guy. When Aunt Sally was in high school, she was so anorexic that she was 5'3 and weighed 79 pounds and spent a bunch of time in the hospital. She obviously had a few self-image problems, so it's no wonder she married this yerk. Aunt Sally has made it a hobby of attributing various mental illnesses to her children. She diagnosed one of her daughters as having Tourette's, which was complete bunk, and now claims that the behavior of the oldest is because he's a paranoid schizophrenic. She pulled me aside last night at my cousin's wedding to tell me all about it and to explain that "John hasn't taken his big-time anti-anxiety meds tonight because he wants to have a good time, so make sure you socialize with him a little bit and make him feel like he fits in because he thinks he sticks out like a sore thumb. He's seeing a--" glances left, glances right, whispers-- "psychiatrist and everything. He's going through a real rough time right now." Okay. John disappeared about an hour into the reception and I didn't see him the rest of the night. After spending twelve hours in the car with his mother driving from Tulsa to Cincinnati, I'd be suicidal too. One other thing about my aunt--she raises English sheepdogs. Which is all fine and good, but she breeds those dogs into exhaustion, and she docks the puppies' tails. If there are two practices I absolutely abhor when it comes to dogs, they'd be tail and ear cropping. Why in God's name should we do something like that, that causes incredible amounts of pain and stress for the animal, because we think it cosmetically looks better? It's SO AWFUL that I have a hard time looking at her anymore. Christian my ass. Makes me wish the dogs were in control. A dog's tail is a piece of it's spine. You take that off and it hurts the dog, and it causes it to have balance and coordination problems that many dogs never recover from. Asinine.
I think two family members are enough to diss publicly for one day. As a Buddhist, I try to be sympathetic to all living creatures. I try to see that they are spirits having human experiences rather than the other way around. I try to see why they make the choices they do, and to understand and not judge. This is rendered more difficult by the fact that they keep hurting each other in strange and terrible ways, and it's very, very hard not to take sides sometimes. I want to love my aunts who feel the need to push their religion on everyone, but it's hard. I think I'm going to make it my goal this next week to really think about my family and to try to understand them better and, if I can, love them more. It's not that I don't love them now. It's just that we're so different and have such different religious and political beliefs that it's hard to put my hangups aside and see them for what they are, people living their lives the only way they know how. I know many of them don't understand me and my lifestyle either, so it all comes round in the end, I suppose.

My cousin got married last night and I had to see a lot of these people is why I've got my britches in a uproar about them. The wedding was fun. The ceremony was at a Catholic church and I mumbled the words to the Our Father under my breath, making my lips move enough to seem like I cared. The reception was at a VFW hall that stank of smoke and stale beer. Dinner was deviled eggs and cold cuts. I dared M to wing a piece of ham at my uncle for $5. We ate Bernie Bott's EveryFlavor Beans. It was something like 92 degrees or so yesterday, and the VFW didn't think to turn on the air conditioning until everyone had arrived, and by then it was too late. So there were about 200 people crammed in a room with no air conditioning. It was very nearly too hot to move. Attire was interesting. M and I dressed nicely but not too nicely, but I saw one dude there in full Harley regalia, complete with baseball hat. There were a lot of overweight white middle-aged women who were very, very excited to do the Electric Slide. (I fucking hate the Electric Slide, and if circumstances in my life ever get screwed up enough that I ever find myself doing it, I will shoot myself instantly.)

My brother has been learning to breakdance. He can do the worm, he can grab one leg and hop over it with his other leg, he can walk around on his hands, he can do all sorts of cool shit. He can do that thing where he puts his hands on the floor and like spins in a circle by whipping his hands up and passing his legs under them. That probably makes no sense and there's probably a name for this maneuver, but I don't know what it is. Here is a picture of him doing it. I know I said I wouldn't post any pictures yet but I want to brag on my brother's smooveness. Check him out. Look at that amazing musculature. If only I were as dedicated to my gym-work as he is; however, I can out-skate him (and he's a skater too, so it's sayin' something).

All right. My camera is sitting here in front of me and I can't believe I've spent this much time NOT USING IT. It's time to go be dedicated to it. My parents are going to go pick up these two beagles today. They're hunting dogs and have won a bunch of championships and my dad's old beagle died a while back and he's been itching to get new ones. The place they're going is about an hour and a half away, and I'm thinking about going with them, because then I could play with my camera in the car and see some dogs. I don't dig the whole hunting rabbits with dogs thing, but there's absolutely less than zero I can do to change it or to change my dad's mind, so it could be interesting to go. I haven't decided yet.

Okay. Party on. Live your life. Go outside and play.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Look what I just bought.

Oh J. Oh you naughty, naughty thing.

The sensible thing here would have been to wait for the refund from the other camera.

I did not choose the sensible route.

I am delerious with joy.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A picture is worth 1,000 words.

...when I arrived home from work today and saw THE BROWN BOX sitting on the floor next to the computer. THE BROWN BOX that contained the thing I've been wanting for two years. The CAMERA OF JOY!

...twenty minutes later, when the camera had frozen five times, and been unable to focus in any kind of light I introduced it to, and had a nervous breakdown when I tried to use the zoom.

And so goes the story of my life as it relates to anything a) that I really, really, really want, and b) technological. It's a bad combination for me, to really, really, really want a technological toy.

It's been pretty crummy since about 1:00 today. I got back from a very nice walk at lunch across downtown to the library, in which I saw any number of interesting things, including a bunch of yahoos who don't know how to drive downtown, a bunch of small boys wearing baseball mitts and following their dads to the stadium, a bunch of drunk college-age boys walking toward the stadium, a sad-looking man with only one leg leaning on his crutches against a building, a young teenage boy begging people for change on Fountain Square, a short, fat woman whose legs sticking out under her skirt looked like tree trunks complete with bark, and a tall thin man having both sides of a conversation with himself as he crossed and re-crossed the street. I found some good CDs at the library. I walked back to work and the day went down the shitter. There was a ton of work on my desk, another crisis with B over some stupid grammar rule and her abrasive personality, and traffic was absolutely awful since the Reds game got out just before rush hour. (I rant this rant repeatedly: Why put two huge stadiums *right* downtown? And why continue to have ball games that end five minutes before rush hour starts? Oh Cincinnati. Oh you finicky, coy, stupid creature.) It took more than an hour to get home, and I was so eager, so anxious to get home today. Because THE CAMERA had arrived.

Some small part of me was prepared for this disappointment, but that small part of me that was prepared was not enough to handle the onslaught of angst that the poor functionality of the camera brought out in me. It just crushed me. I felt guilt, too, for thinking that a material object was going to make me happy. I am the least materialistic person I know, and yet I put so much on this camera that when it didn't work, I felt completely terrible.

So I put the dogs outside and curled up on the bed with the door shut and the blinds pulled and laid in the dark and thought about that for a while.

It's not the camera. It's what the camera does. It's how the camera allows me to release the things inside me that make me feel like I'm worth something as a human being. I feel like I am nothing if I'm not creating something. My output swings to different disciplines from time to time--I draw, I sculpt, I take pictures, and most of all I write--but it doesn't matter so much what I'm doing as that I am doing something creative at all. Without an outlet for this urge to create, I get all backed up and fucked up and the little things I take for granted the rest of the time start to go, such as my ability to comprehend sentences longer than five words, or to remember which knob is hot and which is cold on the faucet, or to make it from point A to point B ten miles away on skates through city traffic (and this ability is necessary to my survival as a sane human being).

If I can't create, if I can't put something in the world that wasn't in it before, if I can't shape what's inside me into something I can put outside me and look at and say, I did that, then I'm nothing.

If there's a barrier between me and the thing I want to create, it's terrible to me. It's physically painful, just behind my sternum and gut. Sometimes the barrier is physical; I want to sculpt a dragon and I'm out of clay, or the urge to write something long strikes me but I'm not near a computer and have no paper, or I want to draw but all I have is a busted ball-point pen and a cereal box. Often, the barrier is mental; I can't get past my fear that whatever I might possibly create will be awful, and so I can't create anything at all.

The camera, fortunately, comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee from the company I bought it from through Amazon, a safe-buy guarantee from Amazon, and a warranty from Konica. One of those three options (and I'll be looking into all three tomorrow) ought to get me a refund. I'll have to wait for the refund before I can order another camera, and then wait for that to ship.

It really isn't a bad thing; I'll still get the thing that will allow me to release the creative demon, it will just take longer. That is not horrible.

But I live so temporally. I am almost as existentialist as my dogs. I feel what I feel right now, and feeling the weight of the camera in my hands and feeling the weight of its uselessness in the face of my nearly overwhelming desire for it to work pretty much stunk. I spent the rest of the evening attempting to read, but was unable to string together the words in front of me into any coherent images or ideas in my head, and I thought it would be better if I did *something* creative. The results of that thought are the drawings above. Drawing that wooden, malleable model of the human figure is so mathmatically concrete to me that it always makes me feel validated. Something happens in my brain while I'm drawing that thing; some chemical is released. I can feel it. I become a better person because I understand those lines, and how to use the blank spaces around the figure to create it. The drawings are surely not Van Gogh or Picasso, but they make me feel real. In their case, the product is worth far less than the process.

And so, I have more time to savor the anticipation that the next camera I get will not be a hunk of useless plastic and metal, but it's tinged with annoyance that this had to happen at all when I had so much emotionally riding on it, and fear that I'll get another lemon. My luck with technology is about as golden as my luck with poison ivy.

Speaking of which.

I woke up this morning and realized I am poison-ivy free. The bit on my wrist has turned to the merely annoying dry phase that signals the end of it. I am poison-ivy free for the first time since April.

I can only hope that this signifies some sort of larger positive change in the status of such things as how completely stoopid I am to get so upset over a camera.

Oh yes--to all those interested in the saga of the fickle fighting freshwater fish--they've somehow settled their differences, although they all look a bit worse for the wear. No casualties in the fishtank today, but lord only knows what tomorrow will bring.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

O, happie day

Tomorrow, the camera will arrive, and M will be here to answer the door when the UPS guy comes. The UPS guy came today, but no one was home to answer the door, and the camera went back to UPSville with the UPS guy. Oh tragedy!


Tomorrow, the camera will be here.

This is the greatest thing ever. I am so pleased with this.

I've put a bunch of Christmas lights up in front of our house along the gardening crud I have out there, to sort of set off the daisies. My conversation with M about the Christmas lights:

me: "What do you think, do they look okay?"
M: "At first, I was all like, dude, we don't live in a double wide, but now that I see them up, they look nice."

Tonight I used the ol' Nikon to take a few shots of the fleurs. You can see all of them on my Flickr page, and here's a couple.

I drank some red wine tonight. You can't tell, can you? No? Good. My ability to edit shit in this window drops pretty quick with each drink.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Recent comments, fish, etc

I have been remiss in responding to comments (shame on me). Jenelle: I'm sorry things are sucking so much, dude. Try to hang in there. Major life changes and decisions are never easy, but they do make you grow and if you can avoid the trap of bitterness, they turn you into a better person. Em: welcome back to the land of the living--er, blogging. :) Philip: I did enjoy Half-Blood Prince, a lot. I'd like to write all about it, but I don't want to spoil anyone's surprise at the ending. I have the time to devote to reading, so I finished the book already, but not everyone has. Suffice it to say I was surprised, and felt a few things could have been tweaked a bit more to make it better, but who am I to criticize anything J.K. Rowling does when she kicks so much more ass than I do? And, skating when it's even a little bit damp out just doesn't work; I might as well be trying to ice skate with rollerblades on, my wheels are so slick. Oh well. Greg: glad you visited; I'll be back to yours. Heather: I found out I could bake cicada wings by just trying it; those sculptures are easier to make if you bake the wings in than if you add them on after, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. That keratin stuff, if that's what the wings are made of, is pretty tough. BG: thanks for your comments; I like your site, even if it is hard for me to read. :) Chip: I've totally been walking around with my eyes closed just to see if I could pull off blind. Usually that ends quickly when I run into something. I suppose it's all about adaptation.

E, your post yesterday about your brother was very well-written, and it made me start thinking about my own brother and how much I miss him. His new wife has effectively severed all his ties to our family (cough*manipulative demoness*cough). I'm putting together some videos and slide shows for my parents of goofy stuff my brothers and I have done, and it's sad to look at us all having so much fun and to know that he's totally distant from us now. I wish he'd come back; I wish his wife would come to her senses. I wish he'd stop being, well, insert crude term here that means "letting his wife control him utterly."

So, the fish crisis. I was sitting at the compu last night blogging when I heard a bunch of thrashing and splashing in the fish tank, and when I investigated, of course the big-ass cichlids were trying to kill the big-ass oscar, and splashing large quantities of tank-water on my living room carpet in the process, so we had to rig up some sort of solution since we didn't have another tank/filter to put the oscar in. We wound up suspending a big mixing bowl with a snack-bag clip to the top of the tank and putting the oscar in there. That allowed filtered water to circulate but kept the oscar out of reach of the others. What am I saying "we" for, I mean "I" came up with this solution. M was half-asleep and unable to figure out what to do and surly at all my suggestions. We'll see if the fish survives the day; we both had to go to work today, so the finding of a more permanent solution has been put off until later.

My new camera STILL has not arrived. The tracking link says it's in Lexington. Rrrrrr. So close...

I took a walk at lunch because I was so restlessly bored with proofing new products/special offers. The gates to the Bengals practice field were open, which they never are, so I went out on it and took some shots of downtown. They've got a great view from down there. But I bet they're too busy sweating and grunting and knocking each other over to appreciate it. I didn't realize that the rusty train tracks went over part of their field, but I didn't take pictures of them because I want to find a better angle, and I want to do it with my new camera. If it ever gets here. And if those gates are ever open again.

All right, back to the grind. Nine more days 'till M's birthday...can't wait. I have the greatest gift lined up. I hope.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Fish, dogs, thunderheads

Back to the grind. I like the grind. The grind keeps me going.

Work flew by today; I proofed monthly content for a website/newsletter nine-brand cohort that gets mailed to 1.2 million opt-in subscribers all morning, and a new business pitch in the afternoon. I thought it was 10:30 at noon, and 2:00 at 3:40. So the fact that I didn't get home from work until 7ish wasn't bad, since it felt like 5ish. My boss went to Wilmington over the weekend and brought his herd of proofers each a bottle of this homemade barbecue sauce from some Wilmington BBQ joint he's been raving about for approximately the entire time I've known him, so we improvised for dinner and M made this sort of grits-and-spinach-and-black-beans thing with the bbq sauce in it. (Don't knock it, it's actually good. When you're a vegetarian with diet restrictions, you have to eat weird stuff from time to time.) The sauce was great. Could have used a bit more heat. Boss said it was the "mild."

M bought a new oscar for the aquarium tonight, since the cichlids mollywhopped the old one and it died. This one's a lot bigger and shouldn't have trouble holding its own. I bought some bird treats for the cockatiel and a new frisbee for the dogs. As much as they love to chase a frisbee, they can never catch one--even the border collie. They just let it roll and then knock it on its side and flop it in the grass and stand there pawing at it trying to figure out how to pick it up. For a dog that knows how to sit, stay, lay down, stand, shake, and wait, you'd think Kiva would figure out how to pick up a frisbee.

The sky looked foreboding this evening while we were out fish-shopping, so when we got home I took a few pictures of it. It keeps looking like it's going to storm, but --

Oy vey, must away, fish crisis. Sheesh.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Welcome to my blog, where I blather about what a lazy dope I am.

This weekend, all I did was read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

However, I didn't do anything wacky or devotee-like, such as stand in line to get it at midnight the instant it came out. I waited until the next day and bought it on the cheap at Wal-Mart, like any decent sort.

M told me that all the greens were buying the Canadian version of the book because it was printed on 100% recycled paper, whereas the 10 million American copies were printed on virgin timber. As if I need any more American guilt in my life. When I finished the book this evening, I read the typographical note at the back, because it was in a small italicized font in a diamond design with a graphic of a lantern at the top of the diamond, which my eyes found intriguing. It said, "The book was typeset by Brad Walrod and was printed and bound at RR Donnelley in Crawfordsville, Indiana, on paper that is free of fiber from ancient forests." To which I use the only applicable six letters: lol, wtf?

Anyway, now I know who the Half-Blood Prince is, and who dies. And with any luck I'll get those Harry Potter dreams for the next couple nights, where I watch it all like a movie in my head. Lord knows I haven't been filling my brain with much else this weekend.

Oh, the girls liked the little fairy whats-its. They were very shy with me. They claimed to remember me but mostly just stared at me while we ate breakfast. They seemed even girlier than I remembered, which got me thinking about gender roles and stereotypes and luckily I had Harry Potter to take over the cognizant part of my brain and put those thoughts on hold.

Advair, well, i'm 50/50 on it. It's definately helping my asthma. When I think to take a deep breath now, I can actually do it; it's like I'm getting, say, 20% more air than I used to when I draw a breath. I suck air in and at the point when my lungs used to be full, they keep going. Which is super neat-o. It's like I've got an extra lung in there. I haven't tested it out by running yet (the ultimate for me, as I get an asthma attack every single time), but I'm looking forward to giving it a whirl. This rain is driving me nuts--I haven't been skating in about five days, and it's kicking my ass. Can't skate at all when the pavement is even slightly damp; I lose all grip.

The downside of Advair is that since I started it Thursday, my voice has been going all wonky and getting wonkier with each dose. I've never had a great voice; it cracks more than most people's and gives out pretty easily. I get this from my dad, whose voice seems to be worsening as he ages. But Advair is making my voice noticeably worse. It's weird how it feels; I have to use more force to get my voice to come out, and when it does come out, it's hoarse like I've been talking for hours. A quick Google search of Advair+voice yielded 34,000 pages. Most of the time when you do medical searches you just get crud like official drug-company lines vs people talking in forums about their problems with the drugs, which is what most of that seemed to be. Voice changes are listed in Advair's side effects. We'll have to see how much worse this gets; right now it's annoying but I can live with it. My throat almost constantly feels tight, like right before you get a cold, but I'm not getting a cold. Guess the ol' test of time will tell.

Now that the fear of blindness has left me, it's replaced with a feeling of annoyance at these weird vision quirks. I wish they'd stop already.

Bloody weekend in Iraq, even more so than usual. More loss of innocent life than occurred in London, and far less news coverage. Is it any wonder anyone ever goes 'round the bend? What a fucked-up world this is. Oh, American guilt, you become my closer and closer companion...

Over n' out for the weekend; Monday awaits, crouched and hunkering at the end of the tunnel of tonight's sleep with a giant packet of stuff needing proofed and, lurking in the shadows of Tuesday or so, the delivery of my NEW CAMERA that makes it all worth it. Word to yer mother, yo.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Smoke, rain, and wet stinky dogs

It sure is nice to be able to see. I mean I can't see perfectly right now, but I can *see* and that's just great. I still have the blind spot and the pinpricks of light, and it's very difficult to read web pages with dark backgrounds and light text; I can only read about two paragraphs before I have to stop and go look at something light, and then I can go back and read two more paragraphs or so. But I can still *see* them. That is so neat.

Many thanks to all of y'all who provided support and encouragement the past couple days. Nice to know people read and even care. You guys are the greatest.

It's funny how when something like that is threatened, you start imagining your life without it. And then when you realize you still have it, everything is different. You get some perspective back.

Today, I bought a new camera via Amazon. I paid a bit extra for expedited shipping, but my new toy should arrive early next week. I am eagerly awaiting it. As in, I think it's going to be hard to sleep I'm so excited about it. A real camera!

For kicks, I took my poor lil' beat-up Nikon for a spin tonight to give it, shall we say, a final opportunity to do some fun stuff before I abandon it in favor of the Konica. Here's a Nikon picture of a three-inch-tall dragon sculpture I made about a hundred years ago:

There are certain things this Nikon does well, such as capture mid-range tones (as long as they're not red), and certain things it does poorly, such as capture bright tones. I'm eager to see how the Konica will handle this same setup and lighting.

Here's another shot, at a slightly different angle and with different lighting. It didn't focus as well.

I'm meeting my friend B and his two kids for breakfast tomorrow at First Watch. I see him fairly frequently since he works a couple buildings over from where I work downtown and we have lunch sometimes, but I haven't seen his kids in about three years. He has two girls, and I really liked them when I last saw them when they were five and three. They were super-girly then and the way he talks about them now they still are. So I made them these little sculpture things that I hope they'll like:

I hope they're girly enough. I don't really get girly. For perspective, those are cicada wings. The fairies are just about an inch tall each, too small to put details on the face easily (i.e., I'm lazy and didn't want to bother trying, because it would have taken forever). Note of interest: you can bake cidada wings in a 300-degree oven for twenty minutes and nothing happens to them. It's weird, because they look and feel so much like plastic that it seems like they'd melt. But they don't.

The rest of the day was pretty nice. Work was laid back, nothing rushed for a change, although Monday's looking to be a work-late doozy. Had a nice conversation with E via Yahoo IM about cameras, college, and crazy exes. It was good to be able to talk shop a bit with someone who's as into photography as I am; M knows I love it but doesn't really get into it at all so it's like talking to, say, Moby about Nascar. I walked to the Court Street Market at lunch and got loads of veggies that M and I grilled and ate with teriyaki when I came home. It was pouring rain and we sat out under the awning by the hot grill, watching the rain and smelling the food cook and playing with the wet stinky dogs. I love how smoke looks in the rain. The grill was putting out just enough smoke that it looked really neat. Dinner was delicious. Nothing quite as fleshy and yummy as a portabella mushroom cap smothered in teriyaki and cooked on a grill. Ahh, so good. Later, we watched some SpongeBob SquarePants too. That SpongeBob. He's a funny guy.

Okay. It's late, and I have an early breakfast date with two cute kids. Maybe they'll let me take their pictures.

Appreciate what you can see.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Good news.

I'm not going blind.

As news goes, that's pretty sweet stuff.

Apparently this eye condition I have can flare up sometimes, causing things like spots that appear and disappear in peripheral vision, and the other stuff I've been having. Good to know. Wish he would have told me that a year ago when I saw him last. That doctor still sucks. As we were leaving, M said, "I see a lot of harried, frazzled ER doctors at work, but that guy's bedside manner sucks more than any doctor's I've ever met." Well-put.

When we arrived at dude's office, I counted eighteen people sitting in the chairs in the lobby. The door was hanging open, because apparently the air conditioner was broken. This lobby is about 11x20, so it's not real big. It was a freakin' oven in there. And it stank. In addition to the eighteen people seated at every chair along the wall, there were four more seated in an enclave where you sit while your eyes are dilating, and seven people standing in the lobby because all the chairs were taken. Amazing. I waited for two hours before they finally called me back. I listened to an old woman complain that she was going to have heatstroke. I listened to a baby crying. I listened to a man talking about oil prices in Florida. I listened to a very, very old woman talk about someone in her nursing home who took 28 pills every morning. I listened to some dude next to me complain under his breath for an hour about how terrible it was that he had to wait so long for his appointment. I wanted to read, but with dilated eyes, you just have to sit there with your eyes closed. There's not a lot you can do while you're sitting there with your eyes closed, except for listen to the other people sitting in the oven with you for hours. For most of it, I wasn't even sitting in a chair, because there weren't any; I was sitting on the floor next to the open door, wearing sunglasses and covering my eyes with my hands.

It was worth it to know that I'm not going blind though.

When I was finally called back, the eye doctor spent literally less than three minutes with me. I said that my info should have been sent over from the pulmonary guy and asked if he received it. One-word answer: "Nope." No further discussion on that matter. I asked if it was okay to take the Advair, since it said on the packaging it could interfere with eye problems. "Not your eye problems."

Okay then. Twenty bucks later, I'm back out on the street and can't see shit because my contacts are out and my pupils are dilated. M drove me home. We had dinner, drove up to visit my parents, went for a walk with them, came home and watched "Dirty Pretty Things" (which is quite good). Now I'm blogging.

Now I'm done.


I've given up trying to proof stuff. I'm too nervous. The big appointment is hour and eighteen minutes. Sigh.

Look at this big gnarly centipede I found on my carpet yesterday morning.

Isn't it creepy? I picked it up on a piece of paper and put it outside. It was early enough that everything had this sort of misty aura about it and I noticed that the daisies were looking awfully nice, so I took some pictures of them too.

All right. Time to go. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Comparison shopping

...sure eats up a lot of time.

So I'm in the market for a new camera, and I'm finding that I can spend 3 hours on Amazon and not even realize it. Dumb.

I was jonesing for a Konica Minolta Dimage Z series, but after all these hours, I'm leaning more toward the FujiFilm FinePix s5100. Man that FujiFilm, they've got themselves one slick website. Look at all that Flash. Somebody got paid a lot of money to put that together.

Now all I need is this check for the indexing job. Here, money money money...

Anyway, if anyone (I know a lot of y'all are photographers, E, Allan, Philip, etc.) has an opinion on cameras you'd like to share, shoot them my way. I'm setting a $300 limit for myself (willing to go about $30 above that, but seeing as unless I decide on something that takes Compact Flash, I'll have to purchase memory too, and that costs extra moolah). Sweet gig about the FinePix is that if it's purchased through Amazon, I get free shipping *and* a 128MB card or $25 toward a bigger memory card (gee, I wonder which of those options I'll pick if I go for this camera). So that's something.

The vision gets weirder. The initial blind spot I had seems to be bigger than it was. Also, there are other things happening that don't make sense, like blurs or colors that show up sometimes but not all the time, notably when I move my focus from one thing to another quickly--I turn my head and for a split second, the thing I'm looking at has a black dot over it that goes away. I'm coping with this problem by trying not to think about it at all, but it's rather difficult as it's hard to not, you know, look at things. Even if I close my eyes, the shimmery dot of the abyss is still there, and the afterimages linger longer than they should.

Needless to say, this camera purchase will not be happening if the eye dude says on Thursday that my vision is biting the big one. Which I don't think will happen, but shit, weirder things have transpired in my life. Like that time I was on a roller coaster at Kings Island and a tornado ripped out the power to the park and we were stuck by our restraints in the roller coaster seats for 37 minutes because nobody had the guts to walk the track and unlock us with a tornado 200 yards away. Or like last night, when I dreamed my friend N. was a giant seal swimming from Antarctica to Sweden in three seconds flat.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Further down this road

I'm feeling a bit better about things. It's been a long, if somewhat more interesting than I prefer, sort of day. But at least I didn't have to fight on a concrete floor with a terrorist.

My appointment with the pulmonary guy went well. The histoplasmosis is taking up the same amount of space, but the asthma is worse--bad enough that I now have to take this Advair stuff twice a day every day indefinitely. He said sometimes people with my degree of asthma are able to stop taking it during the winter, when the air is more dry and less pollution-filled, but that I ought to for now take it every day until I see him again in six months. He said that the thing about asthma is that as its degree worsens, you don't realize that it's actually even worse than you think it is because you become acclimated to the level of suck (he didn't say it that way exactly; he used much more technical medical terms that I don't remember) and that after a while, getting only a certain percentage of the air you should be getting becomes normal. Then when it gets worse, you get used to that too, and so on and so forth ad nauseum until you're to the point where you can start to have major problems and not realize it. This Advair stuff is an attempt to prevent that from happening by bronchiodilating you for 12 hours at a time so you don't have to use albuterol when you skate up a hill and cough one of your lungs out onto the street.

I'm one of those people who are opposed to taking any medication unless it's absolutely necessary; I didn't fill my Vicodan prescription and only took one dose of ibuprofen when I dislocated my shoulder attempting to ski backward down a mountain in New York. I only take something if it's to the point that I really can't stand it, like with that migraine I had a week or so ago. So the idea of getting on this drug that I'm going to have to take potentially indefinitely doesn't thrill me a whole lot. However, it sounds like it's to the point that it's a necessity. I opened the sample he gave me at the office today and read the package insert, right up to this line: "Long-term use of inhaled corticosteroids, including fluticasone propionate, a component of ADVAIR DISKUS, may increase the risk of some eye problems."


Needless to say, that made me even less eager to inhale that shiznit like there's no tomorrow. The Advair is sitting on the computer table, patiently waiting for Thursday, at which point I'll ask the eye doctor if it's okay for me to take this stuff or not. It might be a bit dramatic, but if I have to pick between asthma and blind, I'll take the asthma, thanks.

I also gave the lung guy the contact info for the eye guy and asked him to call and to fax all my info over there so the eye guy can at least have access to it before I go in there, thus precluding him telling me again that all my other doctors suck. M is coming with me to the eye appointment. I'm trying to get myself emotionally ready to handle it. It'll be good to have some sort of support there.

Apparently today M had an interesting day as well. Even hiding behind my lack of name, gender, and otherwise personal identity on this blog, I suppose I really ought not post the highly confidential shit that went down at M's job today. But apparently, one less terrorist is roaming the streets because of an act of sheer stupidity that got him caught, jailed, and in a fight on a concrete floor with a law enforcement officer. It's a little freaky to know that earlier today, M was fighting with some dude who was trained by al Quaeda in Afghanistan. I'm not going to post the full juicy details here because I'm not supposed to know them; M is not supposed to tell me. And I don't want to break any confidentiality laws and have organizations with three initials that might be A, I and C but not in that order reading my blog and asking why I'm posting uber-secret shit like this. (How's that for a tease? Worse than 17-year-old jailbait, I'll wager.) Not that I think that would happen if I disclosed the full story, but it's best not to take chances with this sort of thing. Maybe it will be on the news; maybe it won't. M comes home with a lot of stores that I think are highly newsworthy but that wind up not being so because of one reason or another (*cough*itneverhappened*cough). In the melee, M managed to only sustain a kick to the ribs that wasn't too bad and some scratches on the arm. I hate that, but M chose this line of work and will not be budged away from it, no matter what. I'm more or less used to it, but when things like this happen and M is injured, I tweak a bit. At least M got to meet a counterterrorist operative from the three-initialed organization. That's kind of cool.

At any rate, I feel like this morning when I was proofing stuff and trying not to think about my wonky vision was about a hundred years ago. I suppose I ought to do the sensible thing and go to bed. Sleep well, me, tomorrow is another big day...


Over the weekend, I noticed that my vision was a little off--a couple times, there would be a small blue glowing sphere hovering over things I looked at. That's been happening on and off ever since the permanent blind spot I have first appeared a year and a half ago, and so I didn't worry about it too much, but it's gotten worse yesterday and today. The blind spot that's been there has gotten bigger and I'm having trouble adjusting between dark and light conditions. Driving in to work this morning, when I looked at the sky, it was almost like a thin sheet of rippling water was lying over my eyes, causing tiny waves in the flat plane of the sky here and there. When we had our Monday-morning meeting at work today, I was sitting along the side of the conference room, and the speaker was backlit against windows that had the blinds drawn. When I looked from the speaker to anywhere else, an almost perfect outline, down to the reverse colors, was still lingering on my retinas, for a lot longer than it normally would. It was such a clear outline that stayed there that I was able to see in it the number of fingers the speaker held up as he talked, and I wasn't looking at him--just at the afterimage of him against the flat white wall, red surrounded by a yellow halo.

Needless to say, I'm freaked out by this whole situation.

My lung condition is called histoplasmosis, and it can make you blind if it gets into your bloodstream. It happened to someone I've known since I was about five. He gradually lost his ability to see, over a couple years. When I first had this blind spot show up, I was scared to death, thinking it was the beginning of the end. I had it checked out by a doctor who specializes in eye diseases. He was terrible. I still don't know what he looks like, because every time I see him, I have my eyes dilated so that I can't see his face. I've been to his office three times. His tone of voice is very angry. He told me that all my other doctors (pulmonary specialist, GI, and infectious diseases specialist) were terrible for not warning me that this could happen and that I needed to get all new doctors. He claimed that he tried to contact all of them and none of them responded to him. On my third visit, he said my eyes looked "better" and that I didn't need to see him anymore. That was about ten months ago.

I don't really know what to do. I have an appointment today to see the pulmonary specialist so he can tell me the results of last week's CT scan. I don't think he's ever treated anyone with histoplasmosis before; he tells me that since the condition is stable, there's no need to treat it with the intensive course of IV treatment that the acute phase of the condition requires. So, basically, I have this active infection in my lungs that is going untreated because it's not getting any bigger. I don't know if it's related to the asthma or not; I don't know if the fact that my lungs feel and act *worse* than they did two years ago is because of this infection. The CT scan measures its size, but not its intensity. I don't know if the histoplasmosis is what caused the original blind spot, or if it's causing these new problems. I don't know how to make doctors communicate with one another.

I scheduled an appointment with the eye doctor (same guy as last time, apparently there are very few specialists of his sort in Cincinnati and they're all affiliated with the Cincinnati Eye Institute) for Thursday. Today, I'm going to the appointment this afternoon with the pulmonary guy with a list of questions and the contact info for the eye doctor, and I'm going to ask him my questions and ask that he contact the eye doctor about this.

It stinks that the people you're supposed to go to when you have problems like these, the supposed "experts," either have never treated someone with what you have before, or have terrible bedside manner and act like it's a huge drain on their mental energy and time to treat you in the first place. I just want some answers. I don't want to go blind.

I was so scared this morning about it, turning it over and over in my head--what will happen if I really am going blind? I'll lose my job, for sure; a blind person can't proofread websites. How will we afford the house? What will I do for work? I could sell the car; I wouldn't need that any more for sure. I won't be able to skate anymore. What would be the point of most vacations? You could just put me in a room two miles away and tell me I was in Omaha and I'd never know it. And other thoughts.

I feel a bit better about things now. I've got until Thursday at least before I'll know anything at all. If I'm going blind, I'm going blind. If I'm not, I'm not. There is absolutely zero I can do about it until Thursday, other than what I'm doing, which is planning a question list and trying to get my pulmonary guy to talk to the eye guy. What I can do is enjoy the shimmery look of things, and try not to worry.

Here's hoping I can pull that off.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Why I love summer.

The garden.

Its products.



Saturday, July 09, 2005


Welcome to format change number...six hundred and two. I was having a hard time reading the text against the dark background on the other format, and I thought the width of the area where the text appeared was too narrow, so I did some switcheroo and built a new template. Opinions? Easier to read?

Time for rowdy dog pics. Click on any of them for a larger image. At left is a pic of Steve engaged in one of his favorite exercises: jumping in the kiddie pool, jumping out of the kiddie pool, and shaking six gallons of dirty dogwater onto me.

Here, we have Kiva waiting for me to throw a stick into the air so she can attack it and pretend it's a small defenseless bird and remove its innards.

Steve doing the same thing. His lips are so floppy and his teeth so big that sometimes when he closes his mouth, his tooth gets stuck on the outside of his lip. What a goob.

Kiva, looking like the coyote she secretly believes she is. When I was a kid my dad shot a coyote and brought it home. Except for the fur color, it looked an awful lot like Kiva does now--especially when her hackles are up. I'd be willing to put money on her vs. a coyote in a race. This dog is a maniacal speed-demon, and she can turn on a dime.

Steve attacking Nancy as she jumps up onto the trampoline. This jump is approximately four times her height. She has to get a run-up to do it, but it's quite something to see her pull it off. While she might look small and meek here, I can assure you she's not; she has pit bull blood in her.

As you can see, Nancy can hold her own in a fight. Kiva referees. It might look vicious, but it's not; it's just the hurricane of dog that constantly moves through my house and yard.

Okay, that's all I've got for now, except for this follow-up on my post about Danny Way leaping the Great Wall of China on a skateboard: That crazy mofo did it. Five times.

Time to heat up leftover beans-and-rice-gallore deep dish bake I made up last night. Yum.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Man, do I not have the luck with the itchies.

I thought poison ivy was pretty much the suckiest itch.

Ooooooooh, no.

No, poison ivy is not the suckiest itch.

I have come to know, intimately, the sucky itch of...

the almighty chigger-bite infestation.

I have no idea where I picked up these damned things. I look like I went outside naked and rolled around on a patch of lawn inundated with the little bastards. Which, to my best recollection, I haven't done. I think I'd remember a thing like that.

The bite on my chest is approximately the size of a quarter. Wearing clothing is almost intolerable, but unfortunately, I'm required to wear clothing at work. Last night I woke myself three times scratching the hell out of my torso. Yech.

The bite collection on my right thigh is impressive to behold. There's a bite just above my knee that feels like a marble under my skin. It's very useful for grossing M out. The one two inches above it is smaller, but still narstie. The two bites on my upper thigh have been oozing some sort of nastiness all day. The one on my bicep has reduced in size, so there must be a God after all. The stuff on the back of my other leg, well, I'm not sure if that's poison ivy or more bites; it's at this sort of in-between phase where it could be either. I'm certain the patch of red leather-skin on my right forearm is poison ivy, as it doesn't hurt like the bites do, and doesn't turn white when I forget and scratch. I can't turn my body enough to tell whether it's poison ivy or chigger bites on my left buttcheek.

I haven't really had chigger bites since I was a kid, and then, I don't ever remember having more than one or two at a time, so this is a new experience. Luckily, I've become psychologically toughened to the insidiousness of itch. I was talking to my mother on the phone the other day and she asked if I'd gotten poison ivy as a result of our kayaking experience on Monday (see previous post). I laughed. I haven't been poison ivy-free since April. Of course I got poison ivy from ramming my kayak up the side of a riverbank that was covered in the stuff. She asked how I could live like that. I told her I've gotten used to it. You know, get up in the morning and take care of the necessities, which now include applying intense heat to whatever parts of me happen to itch. I book it into the time I calculate it takes me to get from the bed to the car.

Still and all, this is pretty gross. Not only do these bites itch, they hurt. The slightest little touch is enough to make them start aching. It's very weird. And they ooze. I mean really. When poison ivy oozes, it does it slowly, so that if you stay on top of it, you don't actually stain your clothing. This bite crud is...well, I'll spare you the juicy details.

Summer is my favorite season. All the rest of the year, I feel like I'm waiting for something, and summer is when I actually live. It seems a shame that I can't transfer the discomfort that comes along with summer into the cold months, when I'm already uncomfortable. I'm a big believer in getting all your suffering done at one time. To draw it out like this, well, it's a cruel twist of fate.

At least I didn't have a limb blown off in a bus bombing, though. I'd prefer a real itch over a phantom one any day...

If you build it, they will jump it.

Danny Way is going to jump over the Great Wall of China on a skateboard. Here are pics of preparation for this event of madness.

My advice to Danny:
(Credit where credit is due: The image is from

Also, check out this sweet video. The kid doing this is eleven, so it can't even be blamed on testosterone.

"The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself" is a good read. Perhaps Mr. Way should peruse its pages before his stunt.