The First Time I Arted

I did the mandatory creative things as a child: finger painting, the Kindergarten low-fire clay coil-pot for mothers day, coloring. I never thought I had any aptitude for art, even after took an aptitude test in middle school that said I should be an artist. In fact, the day I got the highly anticipated aptitude results was the day I began losing faith in the system*. I had been looking forward to finding out what direction I should take and I was devastated upon reading ‘Artist’. I don’t know what in my innocuous answers led them towards artist, but I suspect an underlying current of weirdness in my answers. Looking back, I suppose I might have scored in the upper decile for weirdness. Maybe that was the key visible in the aptitude test: the kid is weird, maybe his only function will be to annoy the establishment.

The beginnings lie with my dad having a drawer in his dresser I used to peek into when nobody was noticing. It had nicely organized envelopes of foreign money, mostly coins that just fascinated me. I especially loved the New Zealand kiwi’s on the dull grey and bronze metal bits, and the word Lire on the Italian money. There were also old broken watches and other discarded, but not cast off, bits of life’s accumulations. I have drawers and boxes (and boxes) of that, too. Most likely everybody does.

At some point I began to get some instruction from my dad on fixing things, which began with taking things apart. I remember him opening up the TV with stern instruction to never touch the capacitors. He’d pull out tubes and we’d head to Sears where we could plug the tubes into a big testing machine and discover what was broken and get a replacement. I began my own experiments with disassembly, usually not involving repair in any form, although there was the one success with a stuffed animal music box, but that’s another rambling story.

I think when I was about 10 I asked my dad for one of the watches that was mechanical in nature from the drawer. I figured out (or was shown) how to take off the back and get at the itty-bitty screws and took the watch apart into the smallest pieces and laid them out on the table. I found all the individual pieces interesting, but the chassis was the crown jewel. I hadn’t ever seen anything like it. There were so many facets, holes, and mount points that I couldn’t imagine holding such a design in my head to make it come out as a functioning timepiece.

I started wearing watches when I was in middle school, because that was part of becoming an adult. Keeping track of time was important. I had a very hard time accepting that, and it’s still something that rankles me to this day. When I was about 14 or 15 I’d gone through several cheap swatches. I still played like a kid and they weren’t particularly shock resistant. I had one that I particularly liked that had a big rotatable diver-type bezel that had orange and black sections. I’m a particularly fidgety person and I’d twist the dial all through classes. When that watch broke I was heartbroken. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I could replace something with an identical item until I started wearing only white Converse Skid Grips a few years later.

I couldn’t quite toss that watch, and I hated that my whole life had become slave to knowing when something needed to happen, so I had a moment of quiet rebellion. I carefully disassembled the watch to its smallest pieces, set aside the chassis and face, then dumped all the loose gears, screws, and hands into the body and closed it back up. I casually wore it around for weeks trying to not draw any real attention to anything unusual about my timepiece, although when anyone asked me what time it was I’d shrug and say I didn’t know. When someone pointed out I could look at my watch I’d then hold out my arm and rattle the pieces at them. I believe this cemented my reputation as a weird kid and I’m fortunate enough to have eventually found some other weird kids so I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life writing manifestos.

I had not considered it art at the time, and it’s only been in the last few years when I started looking for the germ that set me on my path that I realized it was that expression of frustration with the loss of childhood’s idyllic freedom. Unconsciously I’d created a crude piece of art. I’m still surprised that my 7th grade aptitude test** recommended I become an artist or a forest ranger. I suppose it’s a little late to look into forestry jobs.

* The most anxiety producing question in my whole childhood was “What are you going to be when you grow up?”

** Somehow I still have the test results in my files.

Closing Doors

Back when I worked at the University I always looked forward to the yearly SuperComputing conference. And even after I got laid off I kept following it on Facebook and news feeds to see what was going on. Today it just seemed so beyond the scope of what I have time for, or ever will again, that I finally unfollowed.

Maybe the final straw was discovering that the 2019 conference is in Denver and I’ve just never been able to get excited about Denver. The biggest highlight of the event, for me, was the roaming of a new city. Maybe that doesn’t say much for my commitment to computing excellence. I did, actually, learn quite a bit from the scheduled conference plenary activities, but the exploring seemed to really open up my mind and kickstart my creativity. We barely got checked into the hotel before taking to the streets wandering up and down looking for a meal somewhere that wasn’t standard fare. Then whenever time permitted we’d aimlessly wander streets we’d never been down until we’d seen as much of the city as we could take in. We calculated that in the eight days we were in New Orleans we might have walked nearly 100 miles. I saw a lot of cities that way: Austin, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Portland, New Orleans, but not Phoenix. Phoenix was awful. When two cab drivers refused to take me to my hotel because it was after dark, I decided that the couple times I walked the mile back from the convention center, in the dark (cowardly cabbies), was enough.

I imagine that I’ll still check in on the top 500 supercomputer list every year or so to see who’s currently winning the race, but there’s something that seems so sad about the choice to close that door completely. I had thought that my career would at least keep me in that orbit and that some day I’d be one of the old geezers like I’d see at the conferences.

I also got to wondering how many other doors are still cracked open. I closed my Rock Climbing door several years ago when I realized I’d never do that again and gave away my rack. I’d thought my Magic The Gathering door was open, but when my friend’s son told me everything was completely different now I heard hinges squeal as it nearly slammed. I think it might be jammed on an old elf deck, though. The hand-me-down upgrade to my golf clubs sits in the basement. A couple weeks ago I accepted I’d never golf again, no matter how much I’d like to. I’m similarly mocked by the fancy new clicker bindings and boots for my snowboard that sit shiny in their 1990’s boxes.

Closing doors is a part of life, only you start to reach a certain age and the doors start getting closed for you, and the frequency accelerates alarmingly. And here I reach the second crux that, I believe, everyone needs to pass. Closing the doors, and especially, having them closed for you, feels like part of you dying, and seems to leave voids unfilled behind the doors. Voids where you’d been putting memories, but never again. Maybe this seems like giving up, or failure, but it really isn’t. It’s just an ending. Things end. Like finishing a good book. The book ends, and you can think about the story, and you can walk again it’s now-familiar pathways when you need that story’s reminders, but the story has ended.

If that was all there was to it, though, it would be tragic. But there are always new doors to open. And, believe me, I can open doors faster than time can close them. (I wish I could get this idea of learning to paint in water colors out of my head.) This is the Crux Part II, bracing open the closing doors wastes a lot of time and energy that could be better spent diving through unopened ones. This is not easy. There is a lot of pain in closing the doors. It’s like a friendship that shouldn’t have drifted apart, but did. Especially painful if there wasn’t any reason for it to have done so. Maybe we need to be continually opening new doors so that the wonder of exploration offsets, somewhat, the pain of closing the finished ones.

Deja Vu

This is a story for which I really have no point, only it is something that happens to me quite frequently. I don’t have answers, or really any idea that this will broaden anyone’s horizon. But today it struck me quite hard.

I get a lot of deja vu moments, and frequently I can trace them back to dreams I’ve had in the recent past. This morning I was standing in my cubicle at work. I was cutting a strand of Poly Pull Line that the remodeling crew had used to run some temporary network cable through the ceiling. Line that I had scavenged out of a (clean) garbage can after they had finished cleaning up a week or so ago. It was good line, and my hoarder nature thought that it could be useful sometime in the future. I was correct.

Our office is in the process of remodeling all of the employee work spaces and we had to relocate everyone to some reclaimed space that had been part of the office library. There was space for all but four of us to be packed together like college roommates into a small grid of shabby 6’x6′ rented temporary cubicles. A few of the luxurious (?) cubicles that had previously housed most of the staff were moved into a corner of the basement, to be occupied by the remaining employees. The IT department, consisting of the CTO and yours truly, were relegated to the basement where my Rainbow of Texts says we belong.

I’d condensed my belongings, which filled my office to a size I’d hoped I could fit into an 8’x8′ cubicle. I did not, however, have a good space for my white board, a key productivity tool. I’d decided to hang it via the aforementioned line from the tops of two cupboard-ish cabinet doors. As I reached out to pick up my disposable box cutter a familiar, yet strange, feeling came over me. I saw in a dream from earlier this spring my hand reach out and take hold of the green tool and extend the blade half an inch. I severed the distinct blue and white striped collection of nylon strands which immediately frayed apart seeking freedom from long-coiled imprisonment. I looked up across an unfamiliar officescape with it’s low ceiling and loathed fluorescent lighting. And as I saw it in the dream it happened in tandem with my waking morning.

I remember waking at that point from the dream. Upon immediate reflection, I didn’t recognize the room, in fact, I’d never actually stood in that corner of that room before, as previously it was wall-to-wall with rows of large steel filing cabinets. And I thought it odd that I was dreaming of purposely cutting nylon cord in a place which I didn’t know, for a task I wasn’t aware, while looking over a cubicle wall. And as it unfolded in my waking life there was a twinge as if I was being extruded between two realities. And as soon as it came, it left.

I don’t believe there is any mystic or cosmic significance to this. It was a nearly pointless event in a pointless morning. You would think if there was some purpose to it there should have been some sort of significance. Proposing to my wife, the birth of a child, getting a seconds advance intuition to ready myself for battling Thanos. But it was just a nothing moment and gone.

I frequently note these instances with a simple, “Woah. Deja vu.” that pre-dates Keanu’s “Matrix” exclimation.* Long time friends have been privy to many postulations on these events, with musings on reality and whether or not I am the source of all.**  I remember one occasion, Jack and I were trying to find our way out of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and we’d somehow gotten ourselves into some sort of ‘backstage’ section of the casino. It was a long square access corridor of some sort, sparsely lit with dim bulbs. I chopped a step and almost stumbled at the sudden squeeze of a memory of a particularly nasty nightmare. The next door would open to reveal a hoard of Doom entry level minions that would overwhelm us. But everything was so clear. Jack to my left. The ragged denim jacket which I was wearing with it’s newly minted smell of cigarette smoke, the brand of which I only seem to encounter in a casino. I muttered my “deja vu” and Jack asked if it was good or bad. I said, “Doom”, or something simplistic like that, yet we still opened the door into just another segment of empty corridor.

I’ve read that some scientists believe that the feeling of deja vu is just a concurrence of neurons firing and triggering a feeling of memory at the time we are experiencing something. Normally I’d buy that, but I remember my dreams. And, as the Queen of hearts said, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only runs backwards.”

Maybe I’ll go watch “The Arrival” again.

* Somebody owes me royalties.
** But that’s another story best left untold.

Mad Doctor Professor Bang

Sometime last year at a visit to my parents house my mom gave me the traditional Sheaf of Childhood Stuff to take home. And just as traditionally I just quickly flipped through it and dropped it in the recycling bin. My mom dug it out and said I really should take a look at it. I gave it more than just a cursory glance and found several early writing examples that I have no memory of ever creating.

So I give to you this day my story of mad doctor Professor Bang! Written, evidently, in September of 1576. (it is also apparent I hadn’t discovered commas before fourth grade, although exclamation marks seemed to be important)

Transcription for those who are hard of reading childhood printing (spelling has been corrected, but punctuation left as written):

It all began in the laboratory of the mad doctor Professor Bang. I stood back as the Professor pulled the switch and then it came from the dead! The mummy stood up it walked up to me! I heard him say that it would help him rob fort knots! I tore out he sent the mummy after me! I ran into the nearest police station. They shot him but he was already dead nothing happened. The professor called him back he stole the biggest diamond in the world! 2 weeks later I found out that he was going to take over the world with the biggest laser tank he wanted 500,000 in gold we got Steve Austen man he got the mummy and burnt him he broke the laser he gave back the diamond and locked up the professor

Somewhat derivative, and some copyright violation, but still earned a Great from the teacher.

I can’t imaging having to listen to eight-year-olds all day long.

Teachers are the real heroes.

The Rainbow of Texts

For several years now I’ve been threatening to write about a concept I was introduced to in college by one of my favorite professors, Gene Fitzgerald, which he called “The Rainbow of Texts”. It was one of those mind-blowing concepts that is fairly simple on the surface but keeps getting deeper the longer I think about it. And I’ve thought about it for a long time.

I took my second year of Russian Language concurrently with a Russian History course from Professor Gene Fitzgerald. It was around the time Russia started to open up in the 1990’s, and I thought there was going to be a lot of opportunities there. However, I didn’t take into account my terrible ear for language. I did learn a lot of things that tangentially helped out a lot through my life, so don’t let anyone tell you a liberal arts education is only good for waiting tables.

The core thesis of the two-semester Russian History class was that we are all surrounded by a rainbow of texts that acts as a filter in how we perceive the information around us, as well as how we express ourselves. These texts are everything we take in through media, experiences, and interactions. Everything is a text and it colors the texts we take in and alters them as we experience them. Dr. Fitzgerald pointed out that two people who shared a great many texts could communicate much better than those with fewer texts in common. To better understand and communicate with Russians, you didn’t just need to know the language, but also their texts, such as history, art, and literature. We were required to read some of the near-universal Russian texts, such as Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground”, Zamyatin’s “We”, and of course, “Eugene Onegin” by Pushkin.

I did pretty well in that class, and I even got an A on my “Notes from Underground” paper while it was still in rough-draft form. It was probably the first paper I really enjoyed writing and put my feet on a compositional path, which I shirk to this very day. It did get me seriously considering my methods of communication. I had always felt like I was speaking my own language, and I started to see that in effect, we all are. The people with whom I connect most easily are people that understand the pop culture references and in-jokes that I continually reference. I worked with a guy about my age for a couple months at a tech place. We didn’t have a lot in common and at one point I showed him the Star Wars fan film “Troops“. He sat through it patiently without much of a reaction. At the end he asked me why the guy wore that mask the whole time. It turns out he doesn’t really go to movies and had never seen Star Wars, or even seen enough related Star Wars stuff to recognize the references in the video. In the end we found common ground in fishing and technology and became friends, but it was really an eye-opener to how different we can be, even in the same communities.

One day, while helping with a wheel throwing pottery class, I passed a couple students on the first day. The beginners get a demo and then are turned loose to suffer on their own for a bit before we start stepping in and helping correct the problems. These two students were throwing at wheels facing each other and the boy was doing pretty well, and the girl was starting to really get frustrated. I heard her ask the boy across from her, “Have you had this class before?” He simply said “No”, without really looking up from what he was doing. I saw her face fall at this and could feel the heartbreak of “why can’t I get this?” I backpedaled a couple steps and said to the boy, “Did you have a throwing class in High School?” He said he did, and the girl started to get a little angry. She said, “That’s just what I asked you and you said no!” I stepped in a little and asked the guy if he was majoring in science, and he confessed to being an engineering student of some flavor. I told the girl that she’d asked a specific question with the tag “this class”, which he responded in the negative. She thought it was a little pedantic, and I tried to explain that his answer wasn’t a personal affront or some sort of trickery, but was a reaction to an absolute that scientists tend to evaluate without thinking. I don’t think she really bought it, but it lives on in my personal rainbow as a prime example.

The big drawback is now I tend to evaluate, and often over-clarify, my meanings. People ask me questions and are met with a blank terminator-like stare half the time as my brain scrolls down the list of responses, evaluating and choosing what is actually being asked, and how the response will be taken. I’ve been told this is off-putting and makes me look like I’m practicing a lie. I’ve often had my meanings misinterpreted, and on several occasions mistaken someone else’s intentions. One time in high school I asked a pair of girls if they were going to the game on Friday. It was a common social pleasantry that I had adopted to fill conversational voids while trying to masquerade as a human. One girl answered that they had a Laurel’s (LDS young women’s group) activity that they were going to. She added, “Do you want to come?” I laughed, thinking it was just an attempt at humor, and not realizing it was a date activity and I was being asked out. In fact I didn’t know about my faux-pas for a couple classes until I ran into the other girl alone and she gave me an earful. I did manage seek out the girl I’d hurt to apologize and accept the invitation in a sheepish manner. Up until that point I’d really not had a text in my rainbow that covered the possibility of me personally getting asked out on a date.

This topic of understanding has been really on my mind lately as I’ve been experiencing the seeming splintering of online society into tiny, vocal, like-minded groups that form their internet tribes. A post on a social media site that gets opposition from adversarial groups seems to have no real communication and lots of hurt. This is responded to by counter attacks and escalation. Doxxing and character assassination seem to be seen as valid responses. Very little actual communication takes place. When one party tries to reach out and explain their position the effort seldom seems to be accepted as genuine and nobody seems to find a commonality in the texts. I believe I frequently see both sides are more in line than not, but the language each side is using doesn’t have the commonality needed for a meeting of minds. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, and I know that, once again, I don’t have any answers. But I do think we need to take some time in attempting to understand each other rather than just refuting and rearming.

The Russians have a saying: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

And then where will our rainbows be?


Another Social Media Song Thing

A song you like with a color in the title: “Blue Monday” by New Order
A song you like with a number in the title: “Dig the Subatomic Holdout #2″ by Beulah
A song that reminds you of summertime: “Train in Vain” by The Clash
A song that reminds you of someone you would rather forget about: “Broken Hearted Savior” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters
A song that needs to be played LOUD!: “Hammer to Fall” by Queen
A song that makes you want to dance: “Not My Slave” by Oingo Boingo
A song to drive to: “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin
A song about drugs or alcohol: “Freezer Hash” by Elbo Finn
A song that makes you happy: “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” by Joni Mitchell
A song that makes you sad: “If I’d Been the One” by .38 Special
A song you never get tired of: “Waiting Room” by Fugazi
A song from your preteen years: “Fading Lady Light” By Jefferson Starship
One of your favorite ’80s songs: “Bad” by U2
A song you would love played at your wedding: “Ohayoo Ohio” by Pink Martini
A song that’s actually a cover of another artist: “Cold Cold Heart” by Norah Jones
A favorite classical piece: Any of the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach
A song you would sing a duet with on karaoke: “Walking to You” by Everything but the Girl
A song from the year you were born: “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield
A song that makes you think about life: “Brothers Keeper” by Aimee Mann
A favorite song that has many meanings to you: “New World Man” by Rush
A favorite song with a person’s name in the title: “Dani California” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
A song that moves you forward: “Can’t Get You Out of My head” by Kylie Minogue
A song that you think everybody should listen to: “Echoes” by Pink Floyd
A song by a band you wish was still together: “News at Ten” by the Vapors
A song by an artist no longer living: “Isolation” by Joy Division
A song that makes you want to fall in love: “Any Second Now (Voices)” by Depeche Mode
A song that breaks your heart: “Bleed Like Me” by Garbage
A song by an artist with a voice you love: “Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant
A song you remember from your childhood: “King of the Road” Roger Miller
A song that reminds you of yourself:“Me and Jesus Don’t Talk Anymore” by Beulah

And one of the Bonus ones that didn’t fit anywhere: “The Ghost in You” by The Psychedelic Furs

Scifi Dream

You can probably skip this one.

I know dreams are really only interesting to the dreamer, and I want to keep what I can of this one around because it was so involved. It happened in several segments as I awoke, fell asleep, awoke, went to the bathroom, awoken by the cat to let the it out, but the cat wouldn’t go, and so on. I’m not exactly sure of the order and it’s been hours since I got up, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

It was an end-times space-based dream. I was an astronaut and we were following a scout ship that was trailing an artifact, or silent alien ship as it passed through our solar system. Our ship was better supplied and equipped, but the scout ship was a small manned space station, maybe, and had started out first. One of the astronauts on the space station had drifted away from it somehow and everyone was mourning his loss. I knew he had to be on a similar path and nearby, so I went out on the surface of the ship in a pretty nifty space suit and called for a small course correction that wouldn’t cost us too much fuel. As we approached I could see the drifting space suit and anchored my feet on the ship and reached out and was barely able to grab him. My first instinct was to swing him towards the Earth’s Moon as we were nearby and have someone on the moonbase save him, but decided to just send him inside the ship.

I hung out on the outside of the ship for a long time and as we got near Jupiter we caught up and docked with the scout ship. There were clouds all around like maybe we were inside the upper part of Jupiter’s atmosphere. I could see a cluster of several glowing lights of different colors just inside a cloud and identified it as the alien ship. Then turning and looking around I could see several other ‘ships’ at different points in the clouds. There was a lot of discussion over the radio how we could reach them and what we should do.

Then we were back in geosynchronous orbit over Salt Lake City I was still outside the ship and marveling at how the city had changed in the decades that we were gone. The Great Salt Lake had been mostly drained for some sort of economic reason and a Bingham Copper Mine-like pit had been dug around the capitol area, lowering  it and the surrounding buildings and homes, intact thousands of feet. All that was left of the lake had drained into a little ring almost circling the capitol which was at the lowest point. The city and county building, however, was still at the original elevation and accessible by a small peninsula jutting out into the pit.

Then I was down in the arcology dug into the walls of the pit. A series of tunnels and rooms that the survivors were using as living and science quarters. We were covertly gathering esoteric equipment and planning on leaving the Earth behind to it’s doom. We could only save a small number of people and were preparing some sort of exodus. I was winding tubes and cords around the equipment preparing it to ship out. We decided to get to a base on the moon first and decide where to go from there.

We were in an underground moon base. I guess that thinking of it as an exodus had sunk in, because everyone that was leaving was Jewish except me. I’m not talking Hasidic stereotypes or anything, I just knew everyone was Jewish except me. A scientist came running in and started excitedly telling everyone that because of quantum entanglement we could jump in a split second from our cave to an entangled one on Mars and be safe from the apocalypse. There was a big argument about we didn’t know anything about the Martian environment inside the cave, whether there was air or water and whether it was occupied by anyone, human or otherwise. The Rabbi leader made the decision that we would set up here and send a scouting party ahead to evaluate the Martian caves. This wasn’t a popular idea among most of the people who were afraid we would be too late to escape.

Then we were in the Martian caves. Someone had taken upon themselves to trigger the jump and fighting broke out among most of the people. The few that weren’t fighting started heading out and exploring the caves, which seemed to be perfectly capable of supporting life. There was vegetation in places along the walls and somehow the caves were lit with a ruddy light that emanated from nowhere in particular. I moved into one side tunnel and came out in a small room where a few children had found tomato plants growing tomatoes the size of basketballs. One kid was holding one of the giant tomatoes and looking like he was going to dive in and give it a bite. I reminded him that he was allergic to tomatoes and shouldn’t even be holding one. He started to argue that 1) it was a Martian tomato and probably ok, and 2) he’d probably lost his allergy when making the quantum jump. I took the tomato away from him anyway and made him go wash his hands.

Somehow the whole thing was set to the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Show (Hey Oh)”

Road Debris

Every day for the last month or so as I go on my walk for my morning break, I’ve been passing a barbie-ish doll head in the road. Every day it seems to be a little farther west down the hill. Every day it seems to have a little less hair and be a little more grubby. When I first saw it I thought I ought to pick it up and throw it away in a garbage can, but I was somewhat concerned to be found carrying a severed doll head. Like, really, what would happen if I was found, hit by a car and thrown up into the weeds at the side of the road. The news wouldn’t say that an innocent pedestrian was struck by a car and left for dead, it would say, “Creep carrying mutilated little girl toy parts and wearing those funky toe-shoes and a Hawaiian shirt run down in probable revenge motive.”

I do often pick up debris on the road and take it to the trash, assuming it’s not leaking anything. I find batteries, nails and assorted hardware, and sometimes newly deceased fauna.  Something in me makes me go back and police the FOD before it causes an issue. I hope I’m building up some sort of karma, or something, because I could use some protection from flat tires, if I get any say in the matter.

There is something really creepy about doll heads in general. They pop up in movies and literature as omens or talismans of danger. Every time I pass it I can’t help but remember a part in William Gibson’s “Mona Lisa Overdrive” where Slick Henry recalls looking into a junked airliner on Dog Solitude.

He froze there, blinking in the sudden shade, until what he was seeing made some kind of sense. The pink plastic heads of dolls, their nylon hair tied up into topknots and the knots stuck into thick black tar, dangling like fruit. Nothing else, only a few ragged slabs of dirty green foam, and he knew he didn’t want to stick around to find out whose place it was.

The proximity of the park and the residential area don’t give me much concern as to where this came from. I’ve found far stranger things in improbable locations, but even trying not to sound too craven about it, this thing gives me the creeps every day. Just taking the photo made me feel dirty and silently judged from behind picture windows.

Several years ago this sort of concern about my perceived motives wouldn’t have even crossed my mind, but I’ve seen stories, and even had friends affected, by the current “see something, say something” culture.

Now this sort of consideration is part of my daily walk and is something that makes me contemplate my actions from an outside point of view, and thus the reason I’ve left that toy in the road. Maybe if I give it another couple months, or we get a good rain storm it will be close enough to a friendly dumpster for me to get it to the trash with an acceptable level of risk of finding myself as a prime suspect (deceased).

The Wasp Homewrecker

So here’s something a little different. On Saturday I decided I really needed to borrow Jack’s framing nailer to do what I had hoped would be the quick roof fixin’ job that I rambled on about last entry. I called and asked if he was using his nail gun as he’s on a home addition project of his own. He said it didn’t look like he was going to be using it, so I ran up to Bountiful and picked it up.

Along the way I made what was probably a somewhat ill-advised stop to take a look at the pile of rubble where my studio was.

It was kind of heart-wrenching, even knowing what was coming, but I don’t really want to think about it tonight.

Anyway, I got back home and made a sandwich just in time for Jack to call and see how long I thought I’d be needing the nailer as his contractor had shown up and was looking on getting to work. Fortunately I had already cut all the pieces I needed for my repair on the roof and just needed to whack them into place. I told him to come on down to get it and I’d be done by the time he got to my house. It worked out pretty good, except for having to have us both make a trip out of our way on what was a heavy traffic morning.

In a way it makes me want to have my own framing nail gun, but Jack and I have kind of a pooled resource of tools. My pool isn’t so big, but I have a metal bandsaw that lives at Jacks, and his MIG welder has been at my house for several years. It works out well, because nobody has room for all the tools they need, and even less time to put most of them to work. It just happened this day the gun was in high demand.

I was taking a break from the heat, I guess I’m supposed to avoid it for the MS thing, but I’m finding it hard to not be outside in the half of the year I find tolerable. Jack and I have serious that-reminds-me issues that can be near interminable. Along with never having enough time for tools, time for conversations is usually at a premium. As the conversation stretched out we sat on my porch and Jack noticed a wasp flying into the small tubes of a wind chime over my head carrying a dried blade of grass. It would go in from the top, and right away the blade would sail out of the bottom and land on me. Earlier I had noticed a pile of grass building up on the porch, but hadn’t thought about where it was coming from.

The little builder came and went for quite awhile. Occasionally I would reach up and ring the chime and cowardly duck down fearing the worst, yet too lazy to actually move. Finally she brought a big curly piece of grass that managed to jam in the tube. I decided this was a bad sign and slothed into action taking hold of the wind chime and attempted to loose it from it’s stay. The ring from which it hung caught repeatedly on the bent eyelet. For several seconds I became increasingly agitated and worried as the ring flopped back and forth and stick on the mouth of the hook and I was really starting to fear a serious amount of stinging was headed my way. Twice I almost just gave up and ran for my life, but in the nick of time the whole thing came free the chimes jangling like an alarm, and I hurled it off the porch to the middle of the lawn. I confess I laughed a bit sheepishly at my own antics, and we continued our one more thing goodbye a bit longer. When Jack left I retrieved the chime and thought I’d put it in the garage for the rest of the season. As I was walking back to the studio I peeked in one of the chime tubes. I couldn’t see through it. I checked the others and three of the tubes had already become nurseries for the little beasties. Half of them were filled with nests and larvae.

I took a stick and cleared them out, but it was no easy task. The grass was all bound up in what looked like a web. I’m going to have to read up on wasps to see how it’s actually done. I’m a little afraid the wasps might be part spider. Part of me is always kind of sad to interrupt most of natures cycles, unless it involves cockroaches or yellowjackets. Those bugs get no quarter.

Fretting the Night Away

Accepting limitations has never been one of my strengths. Here I am stuck wanting and needing to do things and not being able to for multiple reasons. And this isn’t different than any other time in my life, but like ever before, it seems like such a cop out. It’s like I can feel my potential and opportunities slipping away while I kill time waiting for conditions to be better.
And given my nature to be introspective, I kind of feel the need to write about it, but I also feel that my writing has become self-indulgent and melancholy. So I avoid writing, or at least writing and sharing. And I found out long ago that writing and then archiving/deleting isn’t as helpful as sharing. It’s almost like I need to let my ideas go out into the world instead of into a cage to experience any kind of growth.
I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my friend Anita recommended a book to me called, “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” by Maria Semple (and soon to be a feature film). In the book Bernadette is a creative person who suffers when she stifles her creativity. I enjoyed it very much and I can see parallels in some of my experiences. Right now I really want to make something, and I have several ideas for projects, as well as a need to get some pottery made for the post-Thanksgiving sale I do every November. My studio is in a shambles, though, and 95° in the studio is too oppressive to be doing anything. I have some slabs rolled out for carving, but they’re quickly passing the point where they’re too dry for what I want, and I just haven’t been in the frame of mind to babysit them.
In the meantime I’ve been listening to Adam Savage’s podcast on youtube in the evenings when I’m wasting time. It’s called “Still Untitled”  and is one of the most interesting podcasts I’ve found. He inspires me in a lot of ways, and I just watched one episode where they spent most of the podcast talking about the enjoyment they get from watching other makers videos on youtube. I felt inspired that I ought to be putting more video out for some of the stuff I do, but quickly began to shoot myself down. I don’t have any real special knowledge, or insight, but I have worked pretty hard to develop a certain level of skill that is not inconsequential. The idea of making videos just seems self indulgent, or at least it seems sort of meta self indulgent as I don’t really seek any sort of fame or adulation. I just agree with Adam in that it’s fun to watch.  I’ve played with making pottery videos before putting a couple of live things up on Facebook for fun, and I’ve been told by people that I ought to produce something a little more polished and less ephemeral than a Facebook post.
But it’s not just the pottery, I kinda-sorta document lots of stuff I do, but only halfheartedly, so I end up with lots of pictures in a folder.  And necessarily, some of the stuff I end up documenting, more in writing than anything else, is about the things that I go through in trying to maintain a somewhat corporeal existence. The whole convergence in this particular rambling train of thought brings me to my most recent health development. It looks like the reason, at least in part, that I’ve felt pretty crappy these last few years is that I’ve been ignorantly trying to deal with symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.
I got the diagnosis when my physical therapist sent me in for a MRI to look at the arterial blood flow to my brain because she thought that my weird dizziness might be restricted blood flow. The results came back negative on any blood flow problems, but positive for signs of a demyelinating disease, most likely MS. Since then I’ve had a lot of tests, including a spinal tap (surprisingly easy, and now I go to 11). I guess it’s going to take some time to figure out how I’m affected by what’s going on, but it’s already starting to answer a lot of questions about things, some of them going back quite awhile. Although there is some confusion for me in that if this has been a long term thing how was I in a state of remission enough when I was having the scans 5-10 years ago when I had cancer that it didn’t show up on my scans then? I guess I’ve always been lucky.
As is my nature, I guess, I’ve been trying to keep track of the day-to-day issues that might be related to MS, just to get a baseline. I’ve tried out a couple of mobile device apps, but haven’t found one I’ve liked yet. I also have given a shot to doing it somewhat tediously though Evernote, but that is seeming less than optimal after two weeks. I almost considered just carrying around a small log book, which has some classical romantic interest for me, but I am a digital child and I can see the handwritten notes falling by the wayside, or at least becoming less useful, as I like to grep for things.
Bringing this around full circle (maybe for the second lap), while I was reflecting on when I can remember issues starting I thought back to last fall when I was doing one of the Facebook live videos and was having some trouble throwing a largish vase. I dug the vid back up and found the part where I had a significant hand tremor that I hadn’t had an issue with when throwing before. I remember it because at the time I couldn’t believe that I was that out of shape that throwing a couple pots had worn me out.
 My physical therapist pointed out that the tremors are, indeed, MS symptoms, and that I need to stop doing what I’m doing when they happen and not push myself. That’s going to be very hard. I have a lot of time sensitive projects on my hands that require quite a bit of physical activity. Already I’ve gotten behind while trying to sort of take it easy as I seem to be in the middle of a fairly lengthy exacerbation. I have a hard time asking for help, and today when trying to tackle a problem that absolutely needed to be completed by sundown it was looking like I was cutting it close. Debbie, without my knowledge, called our friend Jake and asked him to come help, which he did immediately. With his assistance I finished working on the garage roof with daylight to spare. I hate to bother people, and maybe this is a lesson I really (finally) need to learn.

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