Saturday, April 29, 2006

Waiting For The Happy Pills To Kick In

I've been out of sorts lately. Very out of sorts. In fact, I'm depressed. And I'm not just throwing that term around. I mean cain't sleep, cain't eat, don't want to get out of bed clinically depressed. In fact, I haven't wanted to do much of anything the last few days. I went to the doctor last Monday and asked for some chemical assistance.

It isn't easy for me to write about this. I don't know if it's some stupid macho thing, or just my thing, but to some degree I don't like admitting that I need help with this. I want to be strong enough to just suck it up and deal, but I know that's not realistic. I should know better, I have dealt for a large part of my life with migraines, so I've dealt with people that thought I was faking feeling like shit to get out of something because there was no obvious or physical injury. Why should this be any different? I don't know, for some reason there is some kind of stigma in our society associated with depression, when there really shouldn't be. And not only that, but one reason I was keen to get the pills was because I took them on another occasion about 9 years ago, and they helped me tremendously. I'm hoping that is the case again. So far I don't feel any better, but I remember that it took 2 or 3 weeks last time to start feeling better. For now I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Adventures in Plumbing: The Sequel

The second part of my plumbing adventure did not involve the toilet, as I suspected it might. Over the last couple of days my kitchen faucet developed a leak. I think it might have had something to do with a new water tower pretty close to my house that went online recently - there has been a huge increase in water pressure in the last 2 weeks. Great for the shower, not so great for faucets, hoses, and whatnot. Or, it may have just been time to replace it.

Anyway, fresh from my ass-kicking of the bathroom faucet, I decided to tackle the kitchen faucet today. It was a little bit of a different animal, since it is one of those kind with a handle instead of 2 knobs. It turned out to be a little more difficult than the previous job, as there were a lot more parts that gave me some issues when I tried to put them back together in the correct way. And unfortunately I have to report that there was blood involved. Mostly mine. OK, all mine. But it seems to be working fine now, so I can add that to my expertise list as well. I think Kiki may have been on to something, I should see if anyone in the neighborhood wants to pay me a couple of bucks to fix their leaky faucets!

On another note, the weather today was great. It's been so hot around here, more like summer than spring. But today it was overcast, and the afternoon high temperature only got up to 59! I've really become quite the hot-weather-wuss in my old age, so I was loving the weather today. It's probably our last shot at cool temperatures for a while.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Far Out Space Nuts

As a child, I was very interested in astronomy. My dad had a telescope, and I would always beg him to set it up so I could look at the moon, or Saturn, or Jupiter. I even went to Space Camp (no, it was nothing like the movie, which starred the young Joaquin (née Leaf) Phoenix). In any case, I still have a tendency to stare up into the sky a lot. Last night I went for a walk just after it got dark. Just as I was about to get back home, I saw something that appeared to be an airplane except that it didn't have any flashing lights. I was guessing that this was the International Space Station, since I've gone outside to see it before and it looked a lot like what I was seeing. A quick check here confirmed that this was what I had seen. You click on the link for your state and town to see when the space station may be viewable. It's pretty bright, we have a fair amount of light pollution here and it's still very easy to see. Check it out!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

For The Birds

Yesterday I put up my hummingbird feeder in my backyard. This will be the 4th year I have had a feeder, and I probably should have put it out a little sooner. I am fascinated by watching hummingbirds - I guess because it's amazing to me that there are birds that are so tiny. I've found that even though I have the feeder right up next to one of my kitchen windows, the birds will still come to feed there. It's kind of like having a pet that I don't have to walk, clean up after, or keep off the furniture. Except I can't pet them. I read here that some people think the red dye in the commercially available mixes may harm them, so I just use regular sugar. In any case, sugar is cheaper and the red color is not needed to attract hummers. They seem to like regular sugar just fine. In this area, except in rare cases, we pretty much only have the ruby throated variety. My parents live in Arizona, and I have since discovered that out there they actually have several different varieties, which I thought was pretty cool.

This picture was taken in my backyard, it's a female ruby-throated.

I took these last 2 pictures in Arizona, these 2 pictures are of the same bird. As you can see in the second picture, the feathers on the head look bright pink when the bird is flying. I think it is an Anna's Hummingbird.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Eye Guy

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to the eye doctor for my annual checkup. I don't know what it is about that place, but there seems to be a lot of strange stuff that goes on there. It started in the waiting room where there was an elderly man waiting for his wife to finish her appointment. The woman came out, and her voice sounded like it came from the deepest of ashtrays. She headed for the door and her husband got up and then promptly went back down. His foot had fallen asleep. So they argued a little bit about whether he should try to get his circulation going before attempting to walk again, and then thankfully my name was called.

The first part of the exam is performed by the nurse (or assistant or whatever they want to be called). I only wear one contact lens in my left eye, and she seemed to be very interested in this. She asked me if I used some kind of "single eye method". Huh? "Do you use one eye for far vision and one eye for near vision?" Uh, no. So we went through the whole "cover your right eye, cover your left eye, which one looks better 1 or 2 thing". So far, so good but I was shocked that without my contact in my left eye I could barely read the largest letters on the chart, and that was only if I squinted. I had forgotten from my last visit that they have replaced the dreaded "puff of air" glaucoma tester with some kind of probe that actually presses on your eyeball. It still isn't what I would call pleasant, but that "puffer" used to scare the beejeebers out of me. They would always end up having to do it 3 or 4 times on each eye because I would blink. Call me crazy, but I don't like things being "puffed" or poked into my eye. Speaking of puffing, isn't smoking marijuana supposed to help with glaucoma? Makes me think of Larry David's dad in that "Curb" episode.

Next it was time for the irritating drops to be applied to make my eyes dilate. And then it was time to settle in for the wait for the doctor. I don't know what it is about this particular office, but every time I come here I end up waiting 20-25 minutes for the doctor to come in after the nurse leaves. It's really ridiculous. I always bring something to read, although the increasing blurriness of my vision from the eye drops was making that a not too comfortable proposition. Finally the doctor came in, and then he does my very favorite thing that they do there: he makes you keep your eyes wide open while he shines the brightest lights known to mankind into them. And then he makes you look up, down, left, and right while he shines that damn light in there. But it was all worth it because he said everything looked fine.

When I'm leaving I always make sure to get a pair of those funky-ass Yoko Ono wraparound shades that they have there. And maybe I'm crazy, but is it really safe to drive home with your vision so blurry from your eyes being dilated? No one has ever mentioned to me that I might want to be careful on the way home, so I guess it must be safe. And damn, do dilated eyes look freaky!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Adventures in Plumbing and Easter Candy

Since I don't have any kids to buy candy for, and I no longer receive a visit from the Easter Bunny (sniff), I'm left to my own devices to obtain Easter candy. Of course, the day after Easter is the best time to stock up on all your favorites at low, low clearance prices. This year for me that resulted in a bag of the Hershey's Robin Eggs, a bag of the new 'Strawberry Milkshake' flavor Robin Eggs, and one box of the bunny shaped Marshmallow Peeps. The new Robin Egg flavor is not bad, but I think I prefer the original. As far as the Peeps, I don't know what I was thinking. I really don't like them that much. I felt compelled to buy them out of some sense of tradition, I guess because my Mom used to always get them for us. One time I bought some of the Halloween Peeps, only to have them sit around for a year before throwing them out. I also love Cadbury eggs, but I missed out on those this year.

And now for something completely different. I've had a faucet in my bathroom that has been leaking around the base for quite a while. I've been getting really tired of trying to clean the gunk that builds up around the base, so I decided to fix it. I thought that most likely there was a gasket around the base that needed replacing, so I endeavored to remove the faucet from the countertop. Whenever you do this always remember to turn off the water going to the faucet first. I learned this the hard way in college via a toilet repair. Having water spray out of your toilet and thoroughly drench you on the day you graduate from college is not a lot of fun! You can tell I really deserved that engineering degree!

Anyway, so I removed the faucet only to find there was no gasket involved, just a plastic cover on the bottom. After doing a little internet research I discovered that what I most likely needed to replace were the cartridges that sit under the knobs on the faucet. These actually turn out to be very easy to replace. Now, getting the faucet installed back onto the countertop wasn't the easiest thing I have ever done. But I done it. The leak is gone, so I guess I can add that to my 'Can Do' list. Next plumbing stop: toilet. What I thought would be a simple flapper valve replacement (doesn't that just make you think of a 1920's flapper) turns out not to be the case since my toilet doesn't seem to have a flapper valve. Hmm.


Monday, April 17, 2006

What About Bob?

OK, so you may be wondering what I thought about the Bob Dylan concert. Overall, I enjoyed it, but I think that I was a little bit disappointed in the quality of his voice at times. He sounded OK for the most part on the songs that were loud and rockin', on anything slower and quieter the voice was pretty bad. He seemed to do a better job with the more recent material, I'm guessing because those songs were created with his current vocal style. He stayed planted at the keyboard for the whole show, but he did bust out with a few harmonica solos (which I didn't think were as bad as the newspaper review below indicated). The band was pretty good, especially the lead guitar player. There was no banter whatsoever, as soon as one song was finished the next one started right up. It was an interesting crowd, there were teenagers and senior citizens and just about every other age in-between.

Merle Haggard was the opening act. I have no interest in country music, so I couldn't even have told you the names of any Merle Haggard songs before the show. Merle ended up being fairly entertaining, although I did start to get a little antsy toward the end of his hour-long set. There were 2 people behind me, I think it was a teenage son and his mother, who went absolutely apeshit over Merle. The kid kept yelling 'yeah!'. They didn't even stick around for Dylan, they high-tailed it out of there as soon as Merle finished.

Here is the review (such as it is) from the Dallas Morning News. Here is the setlist. Overall, I'm glad I went, but I'm not sure that I would go out of my way to see him again.

On the way home I saw a very bright shooting star - of course I had to make a wish!


Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Dude Abides

Last night I got shit-faced and watched The Big Lebowski. You know, sometimes there is just no other choice. I like that movie so much that one time when I was in L.A. I figured out where the bowling alley was that they used in the movie and I took these pictures. I heard that it has since been torn down.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Hoping for 'Good' Dylan

Tomorrow night I am going to see someone in concert that I have wanted to see for a long time - Bob Dylan. Now I am aware that this could be a bit of a sketchy proposition. I have been warned by no less a musical connoisseur than Holli that there's a good chance that this concert could suck. And I have heard and read reviews about people seeing him and being disappointed. I just can't resist the lure of seeing a 'living legend' in the flesh. This guy played at Woodstock fer cryin' out loud!!

I guess I would characterize myself as a casual fan. I have a greatest hits CD that I bought when I was in college. We used to think it was great fun to call up the local radio station every night during request hour and ask for 'Rainy Day Women #12 & 35'. My first exposure to 'Like a Rolling Stone' was actually the Jimi Hendrix version, but I love the Dylan version and I think it is a true classic. I think part of the problem with some people hating Dylan in concert is because in person he doesn't sound like these classic songs, and he hasn't for a long time. I'm certainly not expecting him to. Hell, my parents saw him in concert in 1972, and they were disappointed!

In 1997 Dylan released an album called 'Time Out of Mind' that is considered by many to be a modern day classic. It was produced by Daniel Lanois, who tends to have kind of an ambient sound (I loved his score for Sling Blade). I really love this album, it's kind of bittersweet, a man coming to terms with his own mortality. I don't know, to me it was amazing that an artist who has been around so long and was considered to be washed-up by so many people could produce music this affecting. In fact, typing this made me get up and get the CD so I could listen to 'Not Dark Yet'. He followed this album up with 'Love and Theft' , oddly enough released on September 11, 2001, which also got rave reviews. It was on tons of 'Best Of 2001' lists. I like this album too, and on the surface it's a little more upbeat than its predecessor. It gets an amazing metacritic score of 93!

So this is where I am coming from in wanting to see Dylan in concert. I've heard that he can be inconsistent, great one night and mediocre the next - I hope I see him on a good night! I'm trying to keep my expectations in check, but I'm cautiously optimistic.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Panic Sets In

I'm not feeling all that great these days. My unemployment benefits run out next week, and it's really freaking me out. I think I have decided that it makes the most sense to try and get a 'real' job, and go to school part time. If I could take 6 hours per semester via night school or internet classes, it would take me 2 years to get my masters degree, which I don't think is too unreasonable. I am hoping that even if the job isn't the greatest, I can suck it up for 2 years! So, I have stepped up my job search a bit. I can tell that I'm stressed because I'm not sleeping all that well these days, and also because I have been walking a lot. When I'm freaked out, I tend to walk, I guess to try and get some of the nervous energy out and also because it helps me think. If I was a smoker that would be the point I would probably light one up instead of walking!

The panic is coming from the fact that I seem to have sent out tons and tons of resumes, with very little to show for it. Although I will say that I have gotten a couple of replies recently, although no interviews as of yet. Considering that I haven't had a haircut since this, I figured it was time to take care of that. I really like how it turned out. The stylist was pretty surprised at how much I wanted taken off, and she had to tell her next appointment to wait a few extra minutes because mine was taking so long! This sheep has been shorn!

Anyway, I am not ready to throw in the towel, I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I will turn this thing around.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Thanks Hank

I watched an interesting documentary this weekend about Charles Bukowski. He is one of my favorite writers, although I realized that I still haven't read all that much of his work, and almost none of his poetry. The first book of his that I read was the novel Ham on Rye, and after that I was hooked. It is by turns horrifying and hilarious, and it is written in a very straightforward style that really grabs your attention. I have also read Post Office, Women, and Hollywood, and I loved them all. I think he was a true original.

One of the extras on the DVD presents a couple of Bukowski's poems read aloud. There was one that really got to me for a couple of reasons. I think the first reason is because I really want to believe that it's true, especially with what's going on in my life right now. The second reason is that I was surprised and touched that such a hopeful poem could come from someone who experienced so much hardship in his life. On the disc it is read by Tom Waits, which is also pretty cool since I am a big fan of his as well. I am not ashamed to tell you that it brought a tear to my eye.

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Unpimp Your Blog

For those of you who haven't seen the VW commercials that I referred to previously, here they are. Tell me that the assistant doesn't sound like Heidi Klum!

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Friday, April 07, 2006

I'm Not Crazy, I Just Sound That Way

This is a bit of a rambler, bear with me. And no I'm not on drugs, can I still blame this on DST? This is sleep deprivation, people, and it's not pretty.

*I always thought that I was OK with tofu. I can't say that I 've eaten it very much, but the times I did it seemed to be OK. However, some recent experiences have made me rethink this. I tried it as a chicken substitute in some Thai curry last summer. I ate a couple of helpings and saved the leftovers for the next night. The next night I struggled to down the tofu and I think I ended up picking some of it out. Lately I've really gotten into 'Chicken Helper' (sorry Anne, I know you're gagging). The Cheesy Chicken Enchilada flavor is great! However, all-natural chicken is pretty expensive for someone on a budget. So I thought I would try some organic tofu instead of chicken, and I thought the Chicken Fried Rice flavor would probably be the best one to test this out on. Again, not so good and on leftover night I had to just ditch the tofu all together. Tofu, you're out! Arsenic-laced chicken, you're in!
* I'm a regular Jeopardy! viewer, and sometimes I really find the contestants annoying. This week took the cake, though. Some guy claimed that his name was Lizard. Lizard? C'MON! They should have called bullshit on that, there's no way that was his real name. Somehow Alex Trebek kept a straight face as he talked to 'Lizard', who proceeded to tell about how he's growing this giant goatee so his pet iguana will think he has a wattle and can communicate with him. The hell? And last week there was a guy named Doc. When I get on there I'm going to tell them my name is Asshole.
* Well, the verdict is in. I got weighed at the doctor yesterday. I have lost about 10 pounds since I lost my job. About 17-20 pounds in the last year. Out of that 17-20, I lost about 8 when I upped my running mileage from 4 to 5 last August. So I really am shrinking. However, I now have a BMI of 21.7, which is smack dab in the middle of the 'normal' range for my height. Woo-hoo, bring on the beer!
* Apparently my question from last Friday has been answered - Basic Instinct 2 is as big a piece of crap as I thought it would be! The metacritic score of 26 is pretty bad. Since it's fun to read reviews of bad movies, I read a bunch of these reviews and they were remarkably consistent. I thought it was kind of interesting that just about all of them mentioned the opening scene, and the reasons they didn't like the movie cropped up again and again.
* In another link to last week, I saw a car today that came straight from one of those Volkswagen 'Unpimp Your Auto' commercials. It was a yellow Civic with a ridiculous spoiler, huge tailpipes, and complete with stupid slogan in sticker form on the back window. Damn I wish I could remember what it said, but it was something along the lines of '2Fast 4U' or some such stupid crap. The driver was some piece of work too. All I could think of was a wrecking ball smashing the shit out of it while Peter Stormare said 'It's time to unpimp your auto'. Giggle.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

This Is Some F'd Up S Here

Who am I to deny a chance to make myself look foolish? Here are a couple of pictures of me in my lawnmowing regalia. Enjoy! Or be horrified! Could this have anything to do with why my neighbors think I'm strange?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Go Mow A Lawn!

Today I ended up doing something that I have been putting off as long as possible - I mowed my lawn. If it were just good old-fashioned American grass out there, I'm thinking I would have had a couple more weeks of downtime, but the weeds were getting a little shaggy. I'm still not quite used to the idea that I don't have to do yard work on the weekend, so I really wanted to do it yesterday when everyone else was. However, seeing as how it was 92 degrees yesterday and 77 today I think I made a good choice. I do have to say that I'm not used to the Daylight Savings stuff yet, I will be eventually but right now it's making me a feel a bit discombobulated. Today was really 'weird'.

I tend to wear quite a strange outfit when I do my yard work, even in the heat of summer. I got tired of getting grass all over my socks so I always wear jeans instead of shorts. This is also good when using the weedeater because I've had some pretty hard stuff hit my legs when using that thing. I have hay fever, and nothing gets my nose more messed up than freshly mowed grass, so the pollen mask is a must. Now here where it gets a little weird. I wear swim goggles to protect my eyes. I've tried just wearing sunglasses, and it never fails - if there is any way for a grass particle to get into my eye, it will. And my eyes don't like that. That also helps with the weedeater. The outfit is completed by my Smith & Wesson 'earmuffs' to protect my ears. I think I occasionally listened to my music too loud when I was younger, so my hearing seems pretty sensitive. The mower is kind of loud, so I figure why do any more damage to my ears if I don't have to? I also wear these when vacuuming. So, basically I look like I'm going scuba diving when I do my yard work. I keep waiting for the lady across the street to have to get her foot amputated since I have seen her pushing a lawnmower and operating a weedeater wearing shorts and no shoes!

I also had a near Larry David moment this morning (or maybe it was only in my mind). I decided would wear my "Shaft: Kickin' Honky Ass" t-shirt today. For the record, this is the shirt that I am wearing in the picture with Aimee Mann. Now, it never fails that when I wear this shirt I will walk past an African-American if I venture past my driveway. I'm never sure, do they think this shirt is funny, or are they offended by it because I'm white? I guess I think it's funny to me because I'm white. You know - it's ironic. I decided to wear it this morning because I was thinking, "Well, I just need to make a quick trip to the grocery store, it won't be a problem." After the grocery, I decided to make a quick stop in H.O.E. just to price their weedeaters. Mine stopped working suddenly last year, and I knew I would need to get a new one soon. After seeing a surprisingly affordable one, I grabbed it and decided to hurry up and get in line. Of course, the cashier was black. I was in the garden center, and there was a choice of two lines, but the other line had someone with a bunch of stuff in it, and it would have looked really weird if I got in that line, so I sucked it up and checked out. I felt pretty sheepish, although I didn't totally avoid eye contact. He looked right at my shirt at one point, but he didn't really have a reaction. I guess if I'm going to be this uncomfortable wearing this shirt, I should only wear it around the house!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Knee Hurt

Maintaining the new, slimmer JC may have hit a snag. I have chondromalacia! Or to be less alarmist about it - runner's knee (sounds less alarming if not too original). While this is a self-diagnosis at this point, the symptoms seem to be pretty clear cut and I do run, although I do plan to go to the doctor to confirm this. Unfortunately from what I can tell, it looks like I may have to refrain from running for a few weeks.

I already sat out all of last week, and my knee still doesn't feel good. I've noticed that it really hurts when I kneel down, and apparently I'm supposed to bend my knee as little as possible. Neat trick, that. Even while just sitting around I'm supposed to keep my leg straight as much as possible. Supposedly there are some exercises that one can do to strengthen some of the muscles involved, so I'll be looking into that. Apparently swimming is something that one can safely do to keep in shape while rehabbing the knee, so I just need to find a pool and buy a Speedo and I'll be set!