Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Share the gratitude #2

Shit! It's Wednesday again already.

I mean... Oh boy! Time for a delighted Wednesday gratitude post! (wink!)

Last time I did this I listed the basic building blocks of my universe. This time I'll be more subjective and specific about the eigenstate and eigenvalues of my life and times. Five more things I'm grateful for.

1. To live in a time when anyone with a minimal level of intelligence and physical ability can learn to fly all by themselves for about the price of a modest used car. A bit more than a hundred years ago, the richest person on earth and/or the most powerful person in the world COULD NOT. Having a pilot's license is miraculous. I love it.

2. Being alive when humanity left home for the very first time and watching live on tv when we set foot on a different celestial body. How can that not move you to tears of amazement? And (speaking with only a teeny, tiny drop of bitterness) we're finally talking about going back! Fuckin'-A!

3. Watching Burt Rutan (recently mentioned in my "adult meme" post) and his tiny band of brilliant mavericks [I refuse to let recent abuse of that word eliminate it from my lexicon. I use it here proudly.] cobble together innovation after innovation in the world of aviation, culminating with SpaceShipOne. A private company, a small private company, sent a reusable manned craft into space for a comparatively negligible amount of money and they're in the process of developing commercial spaceflight. That's so wicked cool I can barely breathe!

4. Speaking of NASA, their renewed interest in space beyond LEO (low-earth orbit) antics is a welcome change from their last coupla decades. Welcome back to what you're supposed to be, a SPACE administration. Live your mission statement, folks: To improve life here, to extend life to there, to find life beyond!

5. This might be even cooler and more meaningful than SpaceShipOne. It's looking like work might actually begin on a space elevator within a decade. In my lifetime, this concept has gone from being a crazy science-fiction gimmick to being close to starting construction. The thought that I might get to ride an elevator into space is staggering. How could I not be grateful for my incredible life?


SpaceShipOne attached to her launch craft, the White Knight.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Adult meme

From Linda H.—

Tired of all of those surveys made up by high school kids? Here's a list of questions for the people who are a little older. Copy and paste into your own note, then answer the questions. Finally, tag your friends (including me, please!). The usual thing, in other words.

I don't do tagging but here's mine.


1. What bill do you hate paying the most?
I hate them all so much that I have Ronnie do them.

2. Do you miss being a child?
I am finally a child. I wasn't when I was young.

3. Chore you hate the most?
Yes.

4. Where was the last place you had a romantic dinner?
Romio's Restaurant, nice local Italian-ish place. Last nicer romantic dinner was Ruth's Chris.

5. If you could go back and change one thing what would it be?
Well, in the context of absolute power over the past, I'd undo the car wreck we had when I was two. My older sister died.

6. Name of your first grade teacher?
Sister Mary Discipline. All my grammar school teachers were Sister Mary Discipline. The Catholic Church learned how to do cloning centuries ago from a secret manuscript which they stole from DaVinci.

7. What do you really want to be doing right now?
Sailing in the Caribbean.

8. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Astronaut.

9. How many colleges did you attend?
Just one, the University of New Orleans.

10.Why did you choose the shirt that you have on right now?
It's warm and comfortable and it was on top in the warm-shirt drawer.

11. What are your thoughts on gas prices?
They're artifically low and should rise to a realistic level. See what that does to spur efforts on renewable resources.

12. First thought when the alarm went off this morning?
I think I heard Ronnie's alarm. I dunno why she sets one. I don't set one. My typical wakeup thought is, "So, what's gonna happen today?"

13. Last thought before going to sleep last night?
Shit. I don't remember. Probably a grump about the rain I could hear pounding on the skylights.

14. What famous person would you like to have dinner with?
Burt Rutan.

15. Have you ever crashed your vehicle?
Several but none in more than 40 years.

16. If you didn't have to work, would you volunteer?
Maybe.

17. Get up early or sleep in?
Early sucks. I'm pretty sure it was invented by Satan during that contest thing he had with God over Job.

18. What is your favorite cartoon character?
Maybe Cartman from South Park.

19. Favorite thing to do at night?
Sleep.

20. When did you first start feeling old?
I guess when I blew out my knee last year but I still don't really feel old.

21. Favorite lunch meat?
Oyster po-boy. Oyster is a lunch meat. Seriously.

22. What do you get every time you go into Wal-Mart?
I never go to Wal-Mart.

23. Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?
Not especially. I believe bonding is part of our genetic makeup. I think "marriage" should be more broadly defined.

24. Favorite movie you wouldn't want anyone to find out about?
Ummn, maybe "The 10 Commandments" cuz I'm an atheist? But I love sand-and-sandal epics and it's a great one. Maybe "While You Were Sleeping" cuz it's a "chick flick?" I dunno.

25. What's your favorite drink?
Kir royale. Rum punch. Wait! I know! A delicious Zombie Princess cocktail.

26. Who from high school would you like to run into?
Mange is the only person from high school I kept in touch with over the years. I'd love to play music with him again. We had a LOT of fun when we did our band reunion in '91.

27. What radio station is your car radio tuned to right now?
Air America or any of a variety of music stations.

28. Sopranos or Desperate Housewives?
Neither. Howzabout Dexter?

29. Worst relationship mistake that you wish you could take back?
Gosh. Just one. Fuck if I know.

30. Do you like the person that sits directly across from you at work?
I quit work in '95. At that time I had a lovely corner office.

31. Have you ever had to use a fire extinguisher for its intended purposes?
Yes. Car fire. I keep fire extinguishers in all our vehicles.

32. Last book you finished reading?
The very last book I finished was Jane Haddam's "Living Witness." The last meaningful book I finished was "Phantom Warrior," a fascinating tale of a WWII grunt who single-handedly fought and killed over 100 enemy troops in a single engagement and what his life was like after the war.

33. Do you have a teddy bear?
No.

34. Strangest place you have ever brushed your teeth?
This question is kinda silly, isn't it? Bivouacked 4000 feet below the summit of Mt. Rainier. In the cockpit of the Zombie Princess during hurricane Rita. Those are somewhat unusual.

35. Do you go to church?
Raised Catholic, chose atheism in my teens.

36. How old are you?
Older than my teeth and younger than the moon. But not by much. 61

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Share the gratitude #1

My friend Clint started this and I think I'm gonna participate. Every Wednesday leading up to Thanksgiving, he's gonna post 5 things he's grateful for. Contrary to my usual snarky disposition, which is exacerbated when I'm writing, especially at Thanksgiving, about which I could complain endlessly, I am instead gonna adopt this positive approach and play along.

Five things I'm grateful for:

1. Ronnie.
2. MJ.
3. Chloe.
4. Love.
5. Life.

Perhaps I'll drill down to more specific items in subsequent posts. There will be several opportunities, after all. But these are biggies and, while they may be simplistic and/or stereotypical, they are nonetheless real, genuine, and infinitely significant.

Just because

This picture is too good not to post. My pal Fergus helping me play guitar.


Photo courtesy of his folks.

I remember when MJ and Chloe were that small. They still climb on my lap but they don't fit on my head any more. Sniff!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Good luck!

To Ella's Pink Lady... and her human companion, Jessica.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Referendum 71

If you live in Washington State, please vote to approve 71 which continues the domestic partnership law previously passed by the legislature. IMO, this is the Civil Rights issue of these times.

Ronnie has more to say here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Global Climate Change

Apparently today is some kind of international day to blog about this. Ok. Here are my comments.

Lemme start with a quote from Is American Falling Off the Flat Earth? by Norman R. Augustine, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

... a 2004 National Science Board survey revealed that almost 30% of America’s adults do not know that Earth revolves around the sun, 22% do not know that the center of Earth is very hot, and over half do not know that electrons are smaller than atoms. Only half the population is aware that dinosaurs and humans never coexisted... And, according to a NASA survey, fully 15% of America’s adults do not believe that humans have gone to the moon.

Well, isn't that interesting? I've also heard that there's a poll showing that 18% of Americans believe in a flat earth but after a brief search I can't find that poll online to determine its existence or accuracy. Last I heard, Dick Cheney's popularity numbers were hovering around 18% so this number sounds intuitively accurate for the portion of the population which believes in utterly idiotic stuff.

So, for me, given that 30% of the population doesn't know that the earth revolves around the sun and 50% the population thinks that dinosaurs and humans coexisted, how can there be a sensible debate about this issue? "People" (a LARGE percentage of 'em, anyway) are just too stupid - willfully ignorant - to have a useful discussion with, much less a meaningful debate against.

The science is there. Read it. If you can't or don't want to, then just shut the fuck up. Sit in your corner and believe whatever you want but when reality slaps you upside the head... Well, knowing you, when reality slaps you upside the head, you'll blame reality instead of your foolish belief system.


On the flat earth, maybe global climate change isn't a factor. Here in the real world, it is.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fair warning

I'm getting pretty old but that doesn't mean I'm getting any mellower. When I get really old and creaky, I'm intend to be like this woman. So, fair warning, just because they may look a bit decrepit, do NOT mess with old people. We will fuck up you AND your lame-ass Mercedes!

Marty's Marker

Jerry posted a photo of dad's marker. For those of you who are not his friend on Facebook, here it is:

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Perception

To paraphrase Georges Danton (NOT Frederick the Great as George Patton often stated): Il faut de le perception, encore de le perception, et toujours de le perception!

Or, to put it another way, it's all about ME.

Perception is one of the stealthiest beasts in the jungle of the mind. It's much more likely to "go rogue" (Sorry, ex-governor Palin!) than its fellow senses. When it metastasizes from a functional, useful creature into a malignant monster, dangerous not only to itself but to the entire jungle, it becomes something akin to Henri Bergson's intuition on steroids laced with PCP. Rather than understanding others' feelings or perceptions through the filter of my own experience, which is perception's actual day job, I project my own insecurities, fears, and maybe even psychoses onto others and assign my personal shit to them as their "true motives" when I view or interact with them.

You know, kinda like Sean Manatee always going on about how liberals are such "haters." Psychologists call this transference. When our perception is cancerous rather than healthy it becomes transference. That has a disproportionately negative effect on our ability to function in the larger world surrounding our personal mental jungle and can be lethiferous to our social life, in the most basic sense of that phrase. Enough about life, let's talk about me for a while! (Sorry, Alanis but I just love to bastardize song lyrics.) I've been dealing with this for a buncha decades now and have a few thoughts on the matter.

Most people who meet me would categorize me as: extroverted, outgoing, fun, charming, sociable, etc. My "reality" is that, inside my own mental jungle, screened behind the thick foliage of desperately-intellectualized camouflage and mimicry, in my perception I am like an early species of Muroidea in the Cretaceous Period, shivering in fear and cowering in my tiny mammalian hidey-hole, hoping desperately to survive in a world of gigantic, powerful, merciless dinosaurs.

Everyone else seems to me to be a dinosaur. They know how to interact with their fellows and function as true dinosaurs. They are imposing, complacently self-aware, striding regally through life as they interact with their fellows. Meanwhile, if I wish to attempt to interact with them, I must put on an uncomfortable, ill-fitting dinosaur suit, fearing at every moment that I will be discovered as the insignificant, inferior mammal that I am, in a cheap, tawdry masquerade, rather than a true dinosaur like all of them.

I am a mouse in a T.Rex costume, hoping the real ones won't catch on.

Happily, that was my core perception of myself which has changed. Somewhat. Over the decades, I've worked on myself and also learned a bit about others and I came to an interesting discovery. There are other scared little mousies out there like me who also hafta don that unnatural uncomfortable uniform as they wend their way in the world of Wannanosauri. So, even though I was not a genuine dinosaur, I was not the only micturating-in-my-pants mousie wearily wearing mismuroidean motley. I was not alone! Hooray! What a fabulous discovery. I sank into this new reality with greater happiness than I'd known in the past. The zeitgeist of the zokor.

This was not, of course, a scenario of perfect happiness per se and it came with a significant difficulty of the Catch-22 variety. For me to recognize other mousies, they had to reveal themselves as mousies. This is, by definition, contraindicated when you're trying to pass as a dinosaur. Even worse, from my perspective, after they revealed themselves as mousies wearing dinosaur suits, for them to relate to my true Muroidean nature, I had to reveal myself as a mincing mousie when I'd been trying so hard all my life to appear as a hot-blooded, competent, actual dinosaur.

Well, shit.

Certainly, this is an improvement over being the only mouse in a world of dinosaurs but it still leads to imperfect combinations, the saddest of which is: Other individuals I find interesting reveal themselves as fellow furballs. I, however, am still afraid to reveal my inner mouse and therefore do not connect with them mousie-to-mousie. They still see me in my dinosaur disguise and they relate to me unequally and incompletely. Conversely, if I decide to be brave enough to reveal myself as a mere Muroidea to someone I see as a dinosaur worth knowing, there's the danger that they'll be less interested in me. Etc.

Eheu! Odi et amo.

Better than living as a lonely lemming but far from felicitous.

But wait.

Perception is what we're talking about and perception is everything. Everything. The conceit of mice vs. dinosaurs is my perception, happening inside my own head and only inside my lethally libellous lobes. It is not reality. The map is not the territory even if the medium is kind of the message. If I stop and take a deep breath and step outside myself for a moment, I can conceive the possibility that I am not a mouse.

Other people are also not mice. Nor are they dinosaurs. They are individual humans. Just like me. And somewhat like me. And very unlike me. And that doesn't matter. We are all the same and we are all different.

I do not have to reveal myself as a mouse in a dinosaur suit to others who may be mice in motley or who may be demonstrable dinosaurs. There is no spoon. There are NO mice. There are NO dinosaurs. There are simply other people. Each one unique and, simultaneously, exactly as human as I.

I can drop my dinosaur disguise. I can remove my rodent regalia. Underneath it all, there is just me. A genuine me. One I'm not even fully conversant with because he's worn his layers of disguise for so long that he's still working on who he truly is at root.

But I believe this:

I was/am a self-perceived mouse, painfully shy, desperately introverted, and intensely afraid of other people. I did/do wear a dinosaur costume of extroverted, hail-fellow-well-met bonhomie. I still sometimes (often) slip into the self-perception and behavior of both of those roles. But what I feel to be true is that deep down in that hidden, long-disguised, and somewhat-forgotten "true me" there is a person who is not the persona evinced as the mouse and not the fa├žade of the faux Fukuiraptor. I am simply a human being who is (sometimes) truly happy, and engaging, and funny, and feels genuine bonhomie for his fellow humans.

Hi! I'm Frank.