Thursday, March 31, 2011

I was happier not knowing

In preparation of my move to PA, I asked two doctors' offices for something. From my PCP's office, I asked for a my symptom and treatment sheets. Surprisingly, they turned out to be all of two pages. From the orthopedic surgeon, I asked for the results of my presurgical tests. Here's where I ran into trouble.

Amidst the pages of the report were the abbreviations for the tests. In the columns that followed, there were my results and what was considered the normal range. Some of the numbers were in bold, and when I glanced at the normal ranges, I became curious. So I went online to look up the results on the "misinformation highway."

It was a known fact that my vitamin B levels were incredibly low. So low, in fact, that the surgeon took it upon himself to prescribe 50,000 units of vitamin B to be taken twice a week. Which vitamin B, exactly, I have no idea. But the doctor told me to take the pills, so I took them...and continue to do so every Sunday and Wednesday. I take all of my medications as prescribed. I am a good boy.

The reason I opened those envelopes is because my medical insurance is being processed here in PA, and I'm about to start looking for a doctor. I wanted to have those papers readily available for whomever I'd go to see. But now I was seeing the results and learning what they meant...

...and I was a lot happier not knowing what those results meant. The numbers aren't terrible. If they were, someone would have gotten on the phone and started screaming I get to a doctor...or to a hospital...or my cemetery site cleaned up. But they point to my vitamin B level issue, which I knew about, and a liver problem.

The liver. It's only SOMEWHAT important, right? Filters toxins, assists in digestion, and the breakdown of various hormones. Without the liver, only 100% of the people die, so it's really nothing to worry about.

I'm not officially freaking out. I'm just concerned. Had there been a greater issue, someone would have said something to me. But I'm concerned and I think it's something to discuss. On top of everything else I have going on, I certainly don't need a liver problem. And it could, of course, be a result of taxing my liver with all of the narcotics I take. The numbers simply reflect that stress, and all is actually well.

But I was a lot happier not knowing about it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

You've earned a mouthful!

Games and their badges. It seems that every game out there now has a list of things to achieve. I'd say that about 98% of the time, those badges give nothing other than bragging rights. When living in KS, the guys bought Just Cause 2, and I swiftly earned a badge that none of us would have guessed existed. You earn it by killing 20 bad guys using nothing but the weapons on you, all the while taking no damage yourself. Now that I'm in PA, and Becky has the same game, I can't earn it to save my life.

But I'm not here to talk about Just Cause 2 and its list of achievements. No, my focus is City of Heroes/Villains/Going Rogue. (Bah! I should stick with "CoX.") They have so many badges to earn that there is a site dedicated to them called Badge Hunters/Vidiot Maps. The site gives as many details as they can for the average "badge whore" who feels the need to earn ALL of them. The most common amongst the players of the game is to have one, and only one character dedicated to earning badges, as to try to earn them on every character you create is pretty difficult.

Allow me to run down the list and explain the badges.

1: Exploration - These badges are earned by passing over certain coordinates within the game. Some are pretty cool, like "Egg Hunter," which is awarded for finding a hidden room in a certain zone. Then there are those that make me think the developers were running out of names for the badges, like "Camel Snot" near the top of a pyramid.
2: History - These badges are given out for doing a certain amount of reading. Yeah, the game expects you to occasionally use your brain. How crazy is that? Plaques and signs are scattered all over the various zones, which makes for an adventurous hunt in some zones.
3: Accomplishments - Almost all of these are awarded for taking on the larger missions in CoX, often called "Task Forces" or "Strike Forces."
4: Achievements - In my book, this is the same word as "accomplishment," but awards a different kind of badge. This is what you earn if you take so much damage, heal other players for so many hit points, or find yourself held by enemies. There are even a few that could be earned by spending so much time in a specific zone.
5: Accolade - These badges let others know you took on some of the tougher things in the game. They usually apply to several badges that will add up to an accolade. As a bonus, some of these give an additional power, like the virtually useless "Crey Pistol." (It does very little damage, has only an average chance to hit, doesn't confine opponents as well as some powers you can get through the normal progression of the game, and can only be used once every 25 minutes. So it sucks, but you can then brag that you earned it. Go figure.)
6: Gladiator - These are the critters that come with a few of the other badges. Gladiators are even more useless than the Crey Pistol, but can be used in the game's various arenas for certain kinds of contests.
7: Veteran - You get on of these every three months for paying into the game. Each comes with some kind of reward, like bonus powers. It's surprising how many people I see with a lot of these badges, yet they don't seem to know how to play the game at all.
8: Super Group - These are earned guessed it...your super group! Each badge usually represents something new that can be put into a group's base when it's built.
9: PvP - *sigh* The badges I hate the most. You get these badges for beating up other players. I have very few of these, and they were earned by arranging for someone else to lose purposely. Only recently did the Player vs. Player aspects of CoX become balanced, and no one really cares about that now.
10: Inventions - You can enhance your powers by building inventions with salvage you find during the course of the game. Each of these badges is earned by making specific types of badges. My favorite so far has to be "Lord of War."
11: Defeats - By beating up so many of a designated baddies, you get these badges. There's one called "Zoo Keeper" that was reduced from requiring you defeat 10,000 Rikti Monkeys to 2,000. Guess who earned it back in the day, when 10,000 was needed? >=(
12: Events - During Christmas and Valentine's Day, the game gives the option of running themed missions and the like. Meet the requirements, and you get event badges.
13: Ouroboros - In one of the free updates for CoX, they added the ability to travel through time. In easier terms, you can go back and play story lines you may have leveled past. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can place restrictions on yourself. By doing so, there are many awards to be won.
14: Wentworths/Black Market - When you sell your loot on the game, you get badges for selling so much.
15: Day Jobs - These are earned by logging off in certain areas. In this way, the player is rewarded for going out and getting a life beyond the game. These badges also offer temporary powers and bonuses during game play.
16: Architect - There is the ability to craft your very own missions within CoX. By playing such missions, and having others play any missions you create, you get these badges.

At this time, a player can earn up to 1,267 badges on any one character. Some badges, like the one given out during the one year anniversary of the game, are simply no longer available. There's also one, "Bug Hunter," that's almost impossible to get, as it's given for being the first to report a game-breaking bug.

Until recently, badges weren't that difficult to earn. The hardest of the badges were the accolades, which might require you to earn two exploration, two achievements, three defeats, and an accomplishment. But I think the developers became bored with telling players to "defeat X amount of baddies" and we'll give you the badge so you can brag about it. No, in recent updates it has become a job and a half to earn certain badges.

Last week, I earned one of the crazier achievements. To earn this badge, a team of eight has to make their way through an entire mission to the very end, engage in a specific task, and then defeat one of the tougher baddies in the game, known as an Arch-villain. Here's the catch: you have to defeat him in 30 seconds, and if you didn't, invisible bombs start to appear around him. If ONE person takes so much as ONE point of damage from ONE of these bombs, the badge is lost and you have to try again.

And the absurd badge that's earned? "The Midnight Dodger What Doges At Midnight." Yeah, it's a mouthful.

Becky and I both have one character that we use for badge hunting. Because she came to the game much later than I did, she has less. (I'm not exactly sure how many, but I know it's under 1,000.) I, in turn, have earned 1,138 if the 1,267 badges available. I think I was an unconfirmed contender in the top 50 badge earners ONCE, and then those who take this game more seriously surpassed me. And, yes...there are those who take this far more seriously than I ever would.

Anyway, I just thought I'd report on something far less serious than usual. And one doesn't get much less serious than being "the midnight dodger what dodges at midnight!"

Be well, all, and DFTBA.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


More than I can do. More than I should do. More than I've done in recent years. This seems to be the theme of my life of late, and yesterday was a prime example of what "more" I've been doing.

Becky had the day off from work, so when she came home from school, we went to Walmart to get a few things we needed, such as a couple of storage containers to go under our night tables. We don't have night stands with drawers in them, and the tables next to our beds were looking like the places where they catch the bombs. (Cookie for the reference. =P ) So we needed the containers, as well as those things that would complete the assembly of her computer. We thought there would be a way to hook up her computer to our television, but were missing a vital cable for that. Not knowing what cable to get, Becky decided to simply buy a flat screen. Such a screen would need a desk to rest upon, and she would then need a chair to sit at said desk.

Look...we needed stuff, okay? Don't judge me! (No idea where that came from.)

So we headed off to Walmart, where we walked the entire length of the store for everything that wee needed. Electronics, food, and furniture...We were all over the place. Thankfully, she knew where everything was, so we had to do no backtracking.

This was nothing unusual, except for the fact that I didn't have my crutches or cane with me. I've been having issues with such walking aids. My hands FEEL weak, like they can't commit to the task for very long. Instead, I've chosen to limp along slowly, coping with whatever pains may come until I was home and could medicate the agony away.

When we got home, we unloaded the car...and faced the nightmare that was the growing disaster area of an apartment. Mind you, it's not that bad, yet. But it seems to be trying to get there. And before Becky could put her desk together, as well as her computer, we had to do a little cleaning and organizing.

The rather unusual part of cleaning is that a greater mess needs to be made to make things neater. Those things that need to be kept and put away properly need to be set aside, while garbage needs to be thrown away. The garbage bag somehow gets underfoot and often confused with other bagged goods, especially when stored goods are in shopping bags that look just like the makeshift garbage bag. Then there's the assembly of the desk, which becomes its own little disaster as everything is unloaded from its original box.

I helped in the process of cleaning. I finally took our vacuum, which was bought the day after I arrived, out of its box so we could use it. I did a bit of sweeping. I took my computer apart so that we could move it and organize the cables between our two machines. (Thanks, Cody, for building Becky's awesome computer...and for the laugh provided by the wallpaper you put on it. Hehehehe.) I even helped Becky move her fully loaded book shelf, which isn't that big or heavy, across the apartment to a better spot; the lifting wasn't an issue, but moving with bent knees was.

All of this was more than what I was accustomed to. And with the weather being cold with "wet from the skies" predicted, almost every joint that has been damaged over the years was chock full of complaints. By 8:00 PM, when we were as done as we were going to be, I was done myself. I'd engaged in more activity that I had in many years, and no part of me was happy about it. Thus, today is my day of rest. With the exception of a few minor tasks, I ain't doing nothing but sitting on my tuchas and playing games or watching DVDs.

I'm sure there's more on my mind. I just can't think of it right now. So be well, my friends, and DFTBA!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning to live

I know Becky quite well. We've spoken to one another for almost ten months straight every day, with only one or two exceptions. In that time, she learned about my bad habits, and I learned about hers. Now those things are an in-one's-face, 24/7 experience, and I...need to learn how to talk to my beloved without being a jerk.

Allow me to give an example. Becky is a bit of a slob. I'm no "Felix Unger," but when I lived alone, I knew a few things. If I finished a drink, I've dispose of the cup or can as soon as possible, rather than leave it to accumulate. (This was NOT reflected when I lived in KS. My housemates didn't care about such things, and I adapted a similar attitude.) Now that I'm living with Becky, I try to make sure I don't leave a path of destruction behind me. But Becky will finish a drink - let's say a glass of milk - and she puts the cup down, and it sits...and it sits...and then she's off to work or school, and the cup is still sitting there, with Raine nosing her way toward the cup to try and get a few stealthy licks of milk before I put the cup in the sink. It's bothersome.

So what happens next? Well, it eventually bothers me so much that I feel the need to talk to Becky about it. Rather than let a mess build up, it's better to handle it as it's being made so that there's less to worry about when something like "cleaning day" comes along. Here's where MY problem enters the picture. It turns out that I don't so much talk to Becky than reprimand her, the way a parent might reprimand a child for being messy. The same thing happened when I realized exactly how much Becky procrastinates when it comes to getting school work done. I didn't give her a pep talk; I made her feel like a five-year-old doing poorly in preschool.

This is not what I wanted to do. I have the best of intentions, but I end up putting her down, and that's not going to encourage her in any way. I want her to be the best she can be. Instead, I make her feel miserable. That, in turn, makes me feel miserable, and the cycle of misery begins.

You wanna know what the REAL problem is? This is ingrained behavior. The way I speak to Becky is the way I was taught to do so by my biological mother. I can easily give a compliment, unlike like her, but when it comes to attempting to improve someone's behavior, I reduce them in age verbally. When I last spoke with my biological mother, I was in my mid-30's, and she still managed to make me feel I was a small child who didn't know better.

What I need to do is how to give a proper pep talk without beating up Becky emotionally. Since we'd like to have kids, this would be an excellent time to learn, as I'd hate to be ridiculing our kids. I'm going to want them to know that their best efforts please me, instead of making them feel like crap for trying. And that's EXACTLY what my mother did.

An example would be the time I brought home a test marked with an A. Considering the fact that I was a terrible high school student, an A was fairly spectacular. I was so proud when I came home and handed it to her. She looked it over, saw that my grade was the product of a couple of missed questions and my ability to answer the extra credit questions, and asked, "Why isn't this an A+?" From then on, I had to wonder why I should make the effort at all? I mean, if my best would be criticized to make me feel like garbage, it didn't really matter if I did badly, right? And so I returned to doing poorly, because my efforts were wasted anyway.

It may be hard to believe, but in a class of several hundred, I ranked around 7th from the lowest in the entire class. That grade comes from my lack of work and excessive absences...and I just didn't care.

My goal now is to burn away this G-d awful behavior and continue to improve upon the man who is me. I refuse to go on being like my biological mother, even if it is an unconscious effort. In order to fix that, Becky needs to learn something as well. She needs to be able to open her mouth and express her feelings, which isn't something her last few romantic relationships encouraged. We need to learn to live with one another.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Atlas shrugged

On the morning of the 11th, as Becky and I were preparing to leave our motel early in the morning, we watched the Weather Channel to see what we might be facing along the way. I was bothered by the fact that much of the broadcast was dedicated to some stupid earthquake in Japan and not the local forecast. What did I care about a quake on the other side of the world? It was probably some pesky rumbler (weighing in at a whopping 3.9 or something on the Richter scale) that was receiving entirely too much attention. So what did I do? I ignored it.

In my defense, it was early, and we still had many hours in the car ahead of us. I'm grateful that Nike was unable to get beneath the beds at the motel, as said beds are designed to have no route for critters hide; a solid baseboard bars their path. We needed to get in the car, get breakfast, and get our butts to PA. Adding to the trip was a detour to pick up Becky's cat. Otherwise, we would've had a slightly more direct road to my new home. I was preoccupied by everything revolving around our journey, and neither of us are fans of radio. Thus, I remained misinformed and oblivious to world events.

Once we got home...Well, we've been a tad preoccupied. No, it hasn't been a sexual celebration or a grand study in nudity. We've been trying to get me unpacked, while at the same time trying not to overload my knee. I've been utterly failing on that last. Either my knee hurts, or it's swollen to at least twice its normal size. Sometimes, it's been both, and those are truly special moments for me. I would enroll in physical therapy, except that I'm kind of "between doctors" at this time.

I've been busy, physically and mentally. And so I haven't made much of an effort to learn much about the quake in northern Japan. Drops of news when I would pop onto the internet let me know it was a lot more serious than I'd initially thought, but I still had no details.

That changed this morning. I did a little wandering around the web and discovered things that were both astounding and frightening. And some of that data is so much more than is presented by the numbers of a news report.

For example, over 8,000 are still missing after the 8.9 earthquake and consequent tsunami. That's a large, terrible number. But I feel that number requires a bit more reflection. How many people are in your life? If you were to get married today and decided to invite everyone of importance, past and present, how many people would actually show up? For me, I believe that number would be somewhere around 200. That's going to be friends and family who, (while they may not care a whole lot about me now), have cared about me in the past. Now take into consideration how much tighter the family unit may be in Japan. I think we can safely add at least another 100 to that figure, bringing it to 300. That means there are probably around 2,400,000 friends and family members concerned about their missing loved ones. Yes, there's room for overlap, but still...And all of this doesn't take into account those who were injured in the concurrent disasters.

Then there's the added "fun" of the nuclear reactor. It wouldn't hurt to watch this video to gain an understanding of what's happening, but to sum it up, three fail-safes that were put in place to prevent the reactor from overheating managed to...well, fail. This was nothing like the disaster at Chernobyl, which, I believe, was housed in a hastily constructed building made of LEGO. This was reasonable engineering designed to face the issue of earthquakes. What it wasn't designed to do was handle a tsunami, as I understand it.

All of this is partially fascinating and thoroughly frightening. But some of the information I read this morning had me sitting up and wondering what consequences it would have on the planet as a whole.

When people say "the Earth moved," they're usually referring to great sex. Today, however, it was a literal phrase. Japan has moved west approximately two meters. More impressive than that was the fact that the planet's mass shifted slightly toward its center by a distance of 16.5 cm, shortening our days by 1.6 microseconds. I had no idea this was even possible, and stunned to learn that another quake back in 2004 shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds.

And what does all of this mean? I have no idea. Random thoughts have been running through my head throughout the day, and I felt it was time for me to ramble about them. I have no idea if the axis shift is truly all that significant. Impressive, yes. Important...? I'm clueless. And I am ultimately concerned for all those who are suffering because "Mother Earth felt the need to scratch where it itched." I can do so very little, other than make one of those tiny donations to the Red Cross. (I would link it, but I believe people can find that one on their own with ease.) I just wish I could do more. Much more. And being a mere mortal kind of sucks.

(On a side note, the title may be stolen, but certainly seemed appropriate.)

Please, people. If you can aid those in Japan, do so. If you can't, then perhaps a prayer will do. Regardless of your capacity to help, be well, and DFTBA!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Has listening become a lost art?

Mind you, I am now considering "listening" as something one can do in person, or that which can be done on the internet via reading. Even when one's eyes temporarily replace ears, and a person can reread that which has been said to them, they still manage to turn up deaf!

I'm ranting this evening because of the time wasted today by the purchase of in internet router. Because Wal-Mart had nothing but wireless connections, and we wanted wired connections, we traveled a bit further to Best Buy for the desired router. I am the reason a router is needed, so it was to be my purchase. I told the salesperson exactly what I wanted, and he directed my technically declined self to what I thought were routers. Instead, the dolt had shown me "switches." Had I known this, I would have taken the box he handed me and beaten him severely about the head and shoulders. He would have deserved no less. I mean, he was a member of their vaunted "Geek Squad!" And he doesn't know what the difference between a router and a switch?

The result was Becky and I going insane as to why we couldn't get more than one computer to work with our new "router." What were we doing wrong? The answer: NOTHING! We were doing everything correctly, had we had the right product to start with.

This is just one example of people not listening. Another, far more common one that Becky and I encounter is on City of Heroes. "Hey, all! We're forming a Statesman task force. Must be level 45+! Send a private message to Neko with you character type and powers. Don't send it to me; I'm not forming the team and can't send invites." (Mind you, such messages usually use in-game language other players understand. But not all of my readers would know what "STF LFM! PST with AT and powers!" means.) I send out such a message, and what happens...? Things like this:

1: They ask me for an invite.
2: They ask me for an invite with none of the other information that was asked for.
3: They ask if it's okay if a level 30 tags along.
4: They tell us what kind of character, but not the powers.
5: They tell us to hold onto a spot and vanish for half a hour.
6: They say that not only would they like to join, but they have a friend with a much-valued power set who'd like to come along, only to have that friend prove they don't know what they're doing.
7: Although virtually impossible...all of the above.

It's truly amazing how utterly stupid some people are. And so, messages as the one I gave as an example become a kind of IQ test for those who wish to join out team. Those who send messages without what I asked for, or who send me messages at all, are rejected outright for being unable to comprehend simple instructions. G-d forbid there was a complex bit of teamwork we had to pull off. Would we really want such dimwits with us?

Oh...Speaking of dimwits, it turns out that Cody and Ray are a lot smarter than I thought. Y'see, during my stay there, I would occasionally be asked if I could spare one of my painkillers for one ailment or another. (Or something like that.) These events were extremely rare, but when they happened, those who'd asked would get to enjoy the more funky effects of said meds.

Now, upon my arrival in KS, I told Cody that I had PTSD. Every now and again, he would do something that would essentially have my heart trying to burst from my chest. On my way out, I thought it time to not only have the last laugh, but get some revenge. I took one of my bottles for oxycodone and put a few...other it. The hope was that they'd be found, people would say, "Hey, Rob left some of the good stuff behind! Let's get funky!" Then they'd take it and...well, they wouldn't get a buzz from them. Instead, the three men still back there would discover that two bathrooms weren't enough. Y'see, I replaced the painkillers with laxatives. >=) Understand that I only put five in the bottle. Not enough to harm anyone...just enough to make the need to go a genuine NEED!

Unfortunately, Ray found them and was smart enough to look them up. He found out what they were. Still willing to have some fun, he later tossed them at Cody, saying, "Look what Rob left behind!" Alas, Cody was also smart enough to look them up.

Okay, so I didn't get to have my revenge...but it did make for a good laugh. In keeping with my topic, the people whom I want to pay no attention to what's going on around them DO, and those whom I want to pay attention DON'T! It's bothersome.

I'm off to do other things, folks. Be well, and DFTBA!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The war at home

Well, I'm HOME! Truly home! I mean, technically any place where I'm with Becky is now my home, but we reached PA and have unloaded the car last night around 7:30 and 8:00 PM last night. Once the car was unloaded, we released the cats, Nike and Raine...

...AND ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE! I haven't seen a pair of animals go at one another like that, ever! It was genuinely scary. Becky and I broke them up, but they continued to hiss and growl and just be ornery in general. And odd, somewhat amusing part...? It was Nike who dominated Raine last night, despite the latter having a clear weight advantage and being the one who usually dominates other cats when she's around them. I guess she's never quite met a fighter like my little Nike.

Things changed while we slept...or tried to sleep. Raine resumed her spot amongst the sleeping humans, as she normally does, while Nike slunk about the apartment, trying to get into things she shouldn't get into. Like the closet. And somewhere in here is a paper bag, or something that makes a similar noise, that she got her paws on. There was also a point where Becky's cell phone was knocked over. When it hit the hard wood floor, the loud thud woke me with a scream. That was lots of fun.

So today was spent unpacking the essentials. While my meds are divided into pill boxes most of the time, I needed access to the bottles. So I got those out, put my clothes away, and hooked up my computer. While I did this, Becky did some rearranging of the furniture and cleaning of the scattered clutter she's been accumulating while busy with school and work. Part of my "job" from now on will be to try and keep the place organized so that cleaning won't be a major endeavor.

On the war front, Raine has stay on the bed, essentially declaring it as hers, while Nike has seemingly surrendered completely. As I type, Nike has found a low spot on the pile of dirty launder and is sleeping soundly. The two of them, however, move about the apartment, when they move at all, with great caution, as "the enemy" could be hiding anywhere.

Tomorrow, we'll be doing some shopping. This place is big enough for two people, but Becky doesn't have everything that we BOTH need. Bathroom supplies, perishable food items, and various other odds and ends. And the part I look forward to most...? Finding out whether or not the cats are truly thirsty for one another's blood. (With our running luck, we'll come home to find Nike/Raine tied to a cutting board, while Raine/Nike paces back and forth, making taunting meows while toying with a knife.) They might be declawed, but their rear claws remain intact. They could end up hurting each other rather badly, and I'm hoping they simply come to a stalemate. The occasional growl or hiss, I can deal with. But this war needs to end.

I'm off to gather up some information I'll be needing come Monday. Be well, and DFTBA!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

And the cat was in charge!

It certainly feels that way. Nike seems to have been the main source of conversation and the focus of attention. I knew she wouldn't travel well, but this has been a bit taxing. We couldn't blast music for fear of hurting her sensitive ears. I couldn't stop petting her for long or we'd hear her mournful meow almost nonstop. While she eventually began to calm down, it wasn't until we were ready to stop...

...and then we got a motel room. This was an all new reason to start losing her little kitty mind. The mournful meow has returned, and she's been attempting to make this room her own. Sniffing at everything, rubbing against everything else. It's been fun.

There's not mush else to report. I mean, Becky and I have attempted to have a few serious conversations, but Nike would eventually require attention, and that would end all serious chats.

Tomorrow, we understand that we are driving into bad weather. We're hoping to make it to our final destination tomorrow evening, but if the weather is bad enough, we'll stop for another night so as to do silly things, like stay alive.

Be well, all and DFTBA!

Oh...and at some point, I MUST tell you folks about how I tried to get the last laugh with Cody and Ray. =D

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The end is nigh!

Well, it's kinda nigh. Does that work? Except for a few items that are still being used, the car is packed. I have taken my final shower here in the trailer, and at 5:00 AM, my alarm will go off so I can take my meds...

...and THEN it's the end. The end of my stay with a pair of guys who've ultimately been very good to me. They've seen me through four surgeries, a few emergency room visits, and countless doctor appointments. They've also been gentle on my finances, as I'm on a fixed income. There are aspects that I will definitely miss, and others that I won't. Overall, I will miss not having these regular characters around, especially Ray and Cody.

So back tot he plan. As I wait for my meds to kick in, I'll take my computer apart, storing its various components into one of the numerous empty boxes lying around. That was a surprise. But as I packed this time around, and I came across this or that, I asked myself if I'd missed the item at all while I was here. Did it even cross my mind to look for...whatever? If I didn't miss it, it got tossed. That includes several old shirts I'd intended to use as dust rags, but never got used as such, as is evident by the frightening layers of dust in my room. As each item is properly packed up, Becky will get it into the car, as she is the infinitely more fit between the two of us right now.

I think the truly fun part will be the computer towers. There isn't enough room in the car to place them in boxes. Thus, we are going to use my bed sheets and blanket, tucking them around the towers to protect them as best as possible. Here's hoping neither her nor my computer will suffer during the journey.

As for Nike, we believe she'll be most comfortable out of the animal carrier on such a long drive. We just have to be sure she doesn't wander into the space around Becky's feet while she's driving.

Now, for your amusement, I will tell you why all nervousness flew out the window and was replaced with nothing but excitement. You see, Becky and I met through City of Heroes. Thanks to the wonders of technology, we've been able to play together here at the trailer. For many, many months, there's been a giant monster that has eluded our grasp. One earns a badge for defeating him, and Becky and I each have ONE character dedicated to collecting badges. (There are lunatics who insist on getting all badges on all characters.) Every time we hunted for this thing, it appeared to either be bugged, or we were doing something wrong.

Tonight, almost as an afterthought, Becky went looking for this monstrous critter. Lo and behold, she found him...and it killed her before I could get on the scene to help. Well, she got herself up and running and our search recommenced. By pure chance, I was the one to spot him next. And since we wouldn't be enough to take him down, the shout went out for help, and help arrived swiftly. It was awesome. The beastie was destroyed quickly, we earned our badges...

...and Becky and I decided that this was a good omen. It was pure chance that we found the signs that led to him, and then startlingly easy to gather people to take him down. He's a rare and difficult creature to get a hold of, and we did it so fast and easily that it just HAD to be a sign that our future was looking bright.

Okay, it didn't have to be a sign. We just decided that it was.

And so...I have taken meds in the hopes of getting to sleep soon. We'll be up early and on our way. To all those who looked after me while I was here, you have my eternal thanks. And while communication between us might fade a bit, you won't be forgotten.

I'll try to scribble something on the road from Becky's craptop...ummm...laptop. Until you all hear from me again, be well, and DFTBA!

Monday, March 7, 2011

...and now it's evening.

It's amazing what can happen in the span of a day. You wonder where they get ideas for movies that take place in a short time, like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." It's days like today.

After finally schlepping our butts out of the house, we drive toward the city where all of our errands are to take place. We get the computer power supply tested, and it turns out that it's in working order. Since Cody simply doesn't have the tools and equipment to troubleshoot the problem, we'll have to wait until we're back in PA for some friends of Becky to take a look at it. Why not get the bigger power source? Because Best Buy was out of stock. They offered to special order it for us. It would be in some time next week. (Oh boy!) Yeah, that wasn't going to work for us. It'll have to wait.

But while we were at Best Buy, I stumbled upon various seasons of "The West Wing" that I'd been looking for. They were marked down from $49.99 to $17.99. I bought four of the missing five seasons. I would have gotten them all, but they didn't have season seven.

Several things then occurred in body and mind. I knew my pain doc would be running late, and we also knew we still had an hour before my appointment. Add to this the fact that both Becky and my blood sugar dropped, and we decided to eat. We went to McDonald's, where I would have ordered something different if I knew then what I know now.

You see, once I was at the doctor's office and finally called back, they weighed me. According to their scale, which I am stubborn about and declare that it's lying, said I was 190 lbs. That's another 10 lbs. I simply don't want or need. I blame the fact that I've had so many surgeries and have been mostly inactive for many months now.

Speaking of surgery, while I was in the waiting room, my surgeon's office called. Remember last week, when I was freaking out and worried about the extreme pain I was experiencing? Well, the doc FINALLY reviewed the nurse's notes from my call and has recommended physical therapy. Forget the fact that I'm in too much pain to exercise at all. I deemed it really and truly brilliant. I then reminded them that I am leaving in a maetter of days, and that ordering physical therapy was useless.

I discussed the problem with the pain doc, and he agreed with me. He gave me a prescription for pain meds other than what I usually take, thereby covering my discomfort for at least the move.

But he also addressed another issue. My right ankle has swollen up like a balloon. I don't know why. My guess would be that it's because I've had to rely on that foot to hold me up more often of late, what with the surgery on my left knee. Since the right foot is a mess, it has caused the swelling. The doc has recommended pressure socks to address the problem.

Oh, but I forgot something, and I might as well put it up, as well as the other event, under "driving adventures."

Driving along, I thought Becky was paying attention to everything that needed attention. When we passed a cop preparing to pull onto the road, I started cracking jokes about getting pulled over. Cop lines in BOLD, responses in ITALICS. Excuse me, sir, but do you realize you were going the wrong way down a one way street? But I was only going one way! Didn't you see the arrows? Arrows? I didn't even see the Indians. You were also weaving. Weaving? I can't even sew! Becky had never heard these old jokes, and was laughing up a storm...when the cop pulled in behind us and started flashing his lights. Yes, he was pulling us over. Why? Because amidst my being a goofball and Becky missing the flashing lights around the school zone sign, she wound up doing 33 in a 20 MPH zone.

We got lucky. I think it was the fact that Becky didn't live here in KS and the fact that I told the cop it was my fault for distracting her that he wrote her up for a warning, which had no bearing on her license. And, yes, Becky and I "argued" as to whose fault it was. We weren't pointing fingers at one another; we were pointing at ourselves. (We hope to have normal fights one day.)

Once we were out of the doc's office, we got my prescriptions filled, and then we popped instructions into her TomTom to get us back to the house. And what did the TomTom insist on doing? Having us drive through a military base, that's what! This wasn't the first time, either. It did that to Becky when she was on her way here. This time the guard at the booth told us to drive on through, as the GPS seemed accurate. For all the times of imagining committing video game amounts of violence while driving PAST this base, (as I have a game where you have to attack military bases), I was finally driving through it.

No, I don't think it was enough to start up a script about what the day was like, but it sure was adventurous for a pair of ordinary folk like us.

Be well, and DFTBA!

EDIT: I forgot to mention one very funny moment. Becky did something absurd, to which point I made a noise or a face. "Oh, you love me and you know it," she said. My response to this was to clap twice, which almost made her choke on her drink...

Think about it...

Is it clicking, yet?...

Think of a kids' song...

Okay, I'll tell you. "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands." The fact that she got it without a hint made me very happy. =)

It's morning...

I'm up in the morning? What has this world come to? I'm not usually up until the crack of noon, and sometimes even later than that. Of course, that usually also means I've gone to sleep some time in the very late, (or is it very early?), AM. But Becky and I collapsed at the perfectly reasonable hour of 10:00 PM last night, and so we are up at an equally reasonable hour.

And we have lots to do today. First, there's the trip to a local store to attempt to sell off some DVDs I neither need nor want. Then we're off to a much larger town to visit a specific business to have the power supply for her computer tested. Whatever the result, we need to buy her another power supply so the computer that Cody built for her won't shut off at random. Either the power source is bad and needs to be replaced, or it's not strong enough...and needs to be replaced. We just need to know when we return the old one to New Egg.

Then it's off to the pain doc, where I'm hoping to get another shot in my foot. The last shot I received lasted about six weeks, and when it wore off, the pain wasn't as bad, but it was still there and unaffected by oral meds. That's a frightening kind of pain. I mean, when I take morphine for many of my aches and it does affect this one in my foot, one has to wonder exactly how bad the damage truly is to the bones. I would love to have said bones repaired or replaced, but I honestly don't think that'll be of much help, as the healing in a diabetic foot is always a variable that leans towards the "miserable" scale.

When we return home, we'll start getting some of my stuff out to the car. This has been one of the things that has made packing difficult. There's barely any room in my bedroom to do any proper packing. Too many things in the way. I fill up one storage container, try to move it aside, but discover there's too must stuff where I want to put it. So I move the stuff, get the container there, and now have to find somewhere to put the other stuff that still needs to be packed.

I remember when I was in AZ, and packing was made a bit easier by the fact that I had an entire apartment where I could spread my possessions out. I don't actually own that much, but when one tries to get all of this done in a room the approximate size of a sardine can, it becomes a tad difficult.

Packing will officially resume tomorrow. Becky will be doing most of the moving of boxes and the like, since my left knee is still healing. This is something I occasionally forget, and I manage to pay a painful price for doing so. On Saturday, I washed my sheets and blanket. When they were done, I went to get the fitted sheet on the bed properly. I made the mistake of kneeling, and that basically destroyed my ability to walk for several hours afterward.

The day we leave all depends on Cody getting the computer working and, of course, how much we accomplish in terms of packing. We're aiming for leaving bright and early on Wednesday. Despite the fact that Becky made the trip here in one day, we will NOT be doing the same when we return. Becky learned on of the reasons why she didn't make the trip in one day previously. She aches from sitting for so long. Then there's Nike, who will need some kind of break from the trip. Cats don't travel as well as dogs. The latter get excited when a trip is implied, and thrill to sticking their heads out of a window. The former puke, and would probably end up as an ugly red spot on the highway when they leap from the speeding car. (Cats have very little understanding of physics.)

Another factor has come into play, that being the weather. 'Nita has forwarded pictures to Becky that show PA covered in lots of snow. I refuse to rush, as that might cause US to become ugly red spots on the highway. We'll take our time, and if the trip ends up taking us three days instead of two, so be it.

And that's the plan. Most of my plans explode in some way, while some come off with few complications. Here's hoping this turns out to be one of the latter.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Brace yourselves for the worst joke I know...

I've been debating telling this joke here for a long time. It's a horrible joke, as in funny, but horrific. I'm Jewish, so I get away with telling it, but's really that bad. However, there's a reason why I'm going to tell it.

You see, when I first moved to Kansas, Siege told my future housemates, "Guys...You have to behave yourselves. You can't make Jewish jokes because this guy is REALLY Jewish." My housemates, Cody and Ray, feared the worst. They're accustomed to insulting everything and everyone, with no actual prejudice behind any of their comments.

So when I heard of this great fear and the restriction that Siege had laid upon them, I said, "I'll tell you what, guys. I'm going to tell you a Jewish joke. It's the worst one I know. This is the line. If you can cross it, good luck to you." And then, using my best Yiddish accent, I told the most horrible, racist Jewish joke I'd ever heard...

A little old Jewish man - Holocaust survivor - wins several hundred million dollars in the lottery. This makes for a fantastic human interest story. I mean, this guy had been through so much in his life, and was now going to be so wealthy that his great grandchildren would want for nothing. The question on everyone's mind: what will he do with the money?

At a large press gathering, the man explained..."First, I'm going to buy a HUGE mansion. Then I'm going to bring my family from all over Europe and Asia to the States, and each one will have their own room, and their own car. And we'll all be able to live together in peace and happiness. Finally, I'm going to commission a huge statue of Adolf Hitler and have it put on the front lawn."

This stops the press cold.

"Wait a minute," one reporter says. "You ARE Jewish, correct?"

"Yes," the elderly man replied.

"And a Holocaust survivor, also correct?"

"Yes," the man repeated.

"Then I don't get it. Why would you have a statue of Adolf Hitler put on your front lawn?"

(It was at this point that I would pretend to roll up the sleeve on my forearm.) "He gave me the winning numbers."

The telling of this joke has now become lore here in this part of Kansas. Those who know me can't believe I would tell such a tasteless joke. It's not as though I have any disrespect for those who endure the horrors of WW II. It's just that the guys needed to know where the line was, and how open-minded I was to whatever they thought of as humor.

It also became a challenge. Could the guys possibly come up with a joke that was as bad or worse? For the year and a half that I've been here, they've done their best to top that joke. They've recently been searching the internet for something that would beat it. Only last night did they come close, with their joke missing the "story" element.

Q: What's the difference between a Boy Scout and a Jew?
A: A Boy Scout comes home from camp.

Beyond that, it's been one failure after another...although their efforts have produced quite a few laughs. And they have but a few days to get the job done before Becky whisks me away to Pennsylvania.

Now for a drop of reality. I was, and remain, profoundly affected by the Holocaust. If not for the effort of the Nazis, the Jewish population would be much greater than it is today. I might even be more Jewish than I am, as my peers in ethnicity would have been larger as a group. Instead, I am a Jew in name, but not in practice. And if I were "more Jewish," Becky and I would probably not be together.

* * *

Speaking of Becky...When I last spoke to her, she was in Dayton, OH. She was buying a cappuccino and putting five or six sugars into it so she could keep driving at full power. Why the overdose on caffeine and sugar? Because she's gotten it into her goofy little head to get here tonight, and not tomorrow, as planned. Mind you, I have no objections to her showing up sooner. I just don't want her to kill herself trying to get here. She has orders to pull over and find a room for the night if she becomes too tired to keep going. It doesn't matter how far she has to go. She has to rest.

So this is it. Yet another big change coming my way. And either this time around works, or I'm done. I'm going to surrender to the fact that there is no "Miss Right," and live my life spending time with "Miss Right Now." There's plenty of the latter roaming around.

But what am I babbling about? Becky is it. We've maintained this relationship for nine months over a great distance, with three visits interspersed along the way. We've spend countless hours talking on Skype, with and without video. And now we are going to start our happily ever after officially. Because I love her as I've loved no other, which is wonderful unto itself.

I expect a few hectic days in the near future, what with completing my packing and then the actual move, but I'll try to keep everyone posted. Be well, all. And DFTBA!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Education in America...Plus!

It would almost seem as though I were trying to make that feeble run for office again, what with taking on political topics and such, but I just watched The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and his guest was Diane Ravitch, who's written "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education." And with Wisconsin making teachers one of the scapegoats to their financial woes, I thought I'd toss in my two cents.

There are a lot of critics out there, stating that our poor educational system, which is "second to many," as Jon said, is blamed on the teachers. The idea that teachers should shoulder the burden of a State's revenue problems is apparently only right. They only work nine months out of the year, right? Over $30,000 in medical and dental care a year on top of their "outrageous" salaries? And for all that, our kids do so poorly on tests. Yes, it would certainly HAVE to be the teacher's fault, right?

Well, right there is part of the problem. Teachers are demoralized by such dialogue. Classrooms are overcrowded. Teachers have a great many rules to follow that tie their hands when it comes to educating kids. With most schools underfunded, it's the teachers who have to pay out of their own pockets to get the supplies needed in class for the kids under their care.

That's another thing people seem to be missing. How many kids are handed over to someone who is essentially a stranger each year to be guided in their education? Teachers are more than educators, but also guardians. They are like part-time parents, caring for other people's kids for a third of the day, five days a week. When there is 30+ kids in the classroom, these professionals have too much already on their plate...and the government of Wisconsin wants to cut their pay?!?

Personally, I'd be increasing it. A teacher's salary would start at the meager figure of $40,000 a year, then give an additional $2,000 per child on their roll call. Yeah, those numbers are fairly arbitrary, tossed out there from the top of my head, but the total would be close to $100,000 annually, and that high figure would exist because TEACHERS ARE BUILDING OUR FUTURE!

It's sad, and I don't want to go into a rant about parenting in America, but many who have offspring don't want to be bothered. They don't want to have to deal with rearing their own children, and look forward to sending their kids off to school so they can get a break. It then becomes the teacher's job to rear their children. And once the kids are back home, there aren't enough parents who get involved in their kids' education. Thus, I think it well deserved that teachers be paid six figures annually.

As to underfunded schools, they should all be remodeled to become palaces of education. They should be places where kids look forward to going. Not just educational, but fun as well. "Sorry, little Timmy, but you can't ride the roller coaster until you've answered all the questions in this math chapter." I don't care what it takes, but there should be MUCH MORE, instead of schools having to all but beg for the finds to remodel hallways with tiles coming up and patching leaky roofs. Supplies should be in abundance. And...and...GAH!

Part of the problem is that I know a teacher. My dear friend Julie is a special ed. teacher, and listening to her stories about what she's had to deal with in the past have been frustrating. Knowing that it only seems to be growing worse over the years means it's time for an overhaul. The American school system needs to be revamped, and I'm not even sure where to start. One thing I do know, however, is that cutting teachers' salaries is a BAD place to begin.

* * *
In other news...The day is almost here. Becky will be here on Sunday. Then, within the next few days, I will be tying up all loose ends here in Kansas, and then it's off to PA. The existing plan is to leave on the 9th, but we may delay by a day or two to make sure I'm all set to go.

I was, ever so briefly, starting to experience that terror again. I mean, I've done this before. I chased a girl across the States, only to have it all turn to crap once I got there. Thankfully, Ray pointed out that that relationship had wandered a completely different path. I also recently said to Becky that because of the difficulty we've had at the start of this romance, there's likely a great many things that could come our way, and we'd be able to overcome them.

What's more, Becky called. She'd reached her mom's place, as 'Nita is watching Becky's cat while she's away. Although I was sitting, my legs were doing their own little happy dance from excitement.

I'm moving in with my fiancee! Excuse me while I run off and bounce for a bit. Boingy, boingy, boingy, boingy...


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A much needed rant

I have a very, VERY, VERY low tolerance for stupidity. When people act dumb on a regular basis, despite what's said to "fix" the situation, it puts me in a mood that is often hard to break swiftly. My answer is to swiftly walk away from the situation before I say or do something I'll regret.

However, it's hard to walk away from an entire country, especially when you live in it. And today is the first time I've regretted some of our freedoms here in the States. The right in question is that of free speech. It took a mighty blow today when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), giving them the right to protest military funerals, holding signs that often read, "G-d hates fags!" and "Thank G-d for 9/11!"

This all started when Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder was laid to rest after he was killed in Iraq. Matthew's father, Albert, sued Fred Phelps Sr., leader of this supposed church, for emotional damages. All this father wanted to do was bury his child in peace. Instead, members of this cult - for they are nothing but a hateful cult - protested, holding up signs similar to what I've mentioned. (Mind you, I'm the one taking out the O in G-d, as I still have some of my Jewish heritage inside me.) Can you imagine trying to lay a loved one to rest and finding people you don't personally know, and don't know you personally, standing around the graveyard with signs that essentially say, "We couldn't be happier that your loved one is dead." (And as my buddy Zeb pointed out, there seems to be an added, "...and you deserve it...," implied in their messages.)

Snyder sued and won over 10 million dollars. That judgment was reduced to just over 2 million. Now it's nothing, because apparently these "people" are allowed to express themselves. The supreme court claimed that what this group is saying addresses a national dialogue, and to take away their right to say their piece is supposedly wrong.

I've noticed that a lot of news media are pointing to WBC and citing their blathering as anti-war rhetoric. The problem there is that the news media is wrong. The WBC doesn't care about war, unless it's the lack of war against homosexuality. Their web site's name, which I won't name here, says it all about their attitudes. They just don't like gays. Heck, they HATE gays. And because they hate gays, and that gays are even allowed to exist, they believe that the United States is being duly punished by G-d. Hence, in their warped minds, dead soldiers and 9/11 are good things. It's all G-d's wrath to teach us a lesson.

To an extent, there is a national dialogue going on about gay rights and the like. Unfortunately, we remain too sensitive to our selfish beliefs that we cannot accept them and grant then the rights of "normal folk." (Homosexuals aren't just bad...they're yucky, too!) But these heated debates often engage those who are directly involved. They don't drag people into it who haven't said or done anything one way or another. The WBC goes to military funerals because of the press coverage such events receive and make a great deal of noise over their twisted beliefs. They get their faces on the news and are allowed to say their messages of hate all too loudly.

It's amusing when it kind of backfires. You see, I saw a YouTube clip involving one of these nutcases talking to someone on the FOX News Network. Fox is in its own class of lunacy, spouting their own messages of hate and fear-mongering. So when a news anchor on FOX calls you a nut, you have to be pretty out there...and that's exactly what happened. How off the wall does one have to be for THAT to happen?

Here's the irony. Had a punch been thrown, or even a stray rock tossed in the general direction of the funeral procession, (and no one attending the funeral could even see the protesters when Matthew was laid to rest), that would have been assault, or attempted assault, and their signs would have turned it into a hate crime. Free speech would have gone right out the window, and the courts would have taken this far more seriously.

Alas, there wasn't even the threat of physical violence. Despite the fact that no one is actually debating the asshats, just calling them such, they get to say whatever it is that they want to whomever they want. There was once a funny quote I came across. I don't remember who said it, but it was, "Two monologues do not make a dialogue." There is no national dialogue with these people. And even if sentiments are similar, I don't think anyone else is out there stating it the way they are.

The worst of it is that they have their kids involved. One of the most heartbreaking images I saw while reading up on this ruling today was a pair of small girls wearing shirts that read, "G-d hates fags." And in an interview, one girl had no idea what her protest sign said, although it had those exact same words. One can only hope that they will grow up one day and realize exactly how wrong their parents were.

I feel just a bit better for having been allowed to rant. And because it's been upheld in the Supreme Court, I would like to add as a final note that G-d hates bigots.

Be well, all, and DFTBA!