Friday, April 27, 2012

I am Wan; Hear Me Roar

Most of my friends have heard me joke about how I'm 60% woman.

I say this primarily because I'm sensitive.  I don't identify with the macho, tough guy persona.  I cry fairly easily.  I'm emotional. 

I joked for a while in college that I was actually growing a clitoris.  That there was an itchy nub of skin in my nether region was probably something I shouldn't have shared with the general public. 

But this week, my friends, all that humor came back to haunt me.

Last Tuesday, I had my first mammogram.

All those times I joked about women getting their boobs rolled up in the car door window?  Yep.  They rolled mine up in there, too.  Even though I don't have much to roll up.  Didn't matter.  I guess I'm lucky I've put on some weight so they had at least something to work with.

No alarms or worries-- it was just to rule things out.  I do indeed have a benign cyst in my left breast that is causing me some discomfort.  But no cancer, as far as we can tell.  Dodged that bullet.

So go ahead and call me girlfriend.  I deserve it.

And I might be up for some hormone therapy soon.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Folk Singer Phil Ochs Had Bipolar Disorder

Watch this great documentary.  I highly recommend it.  Here's the trailer.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Bigger Bang For Your Buck Theory

In 1957, hysteria swept over America as overnight we fell behind in the space race.  Russia had launched Sputnik, the first man made satellite to the earth.  America was haunted by the thought of the Russians beating us to outer space, and the implications that followed.  Would we soon be monitored, or even threatened, by superior communist space technology?

These days, there isn't much of a "Red Menace," and space exploration isn't stealing the headlines.  More prescient is the race to develop alternative energy technology in the age of "peak oil" and the threatening energy crisis as we look to move away from the use of fossil fuels. 

Although China is a commerce partner of the United States, many consider the country not as an ally but as a threat to American values.  So when the Chinese government announced a thorium research program in early 2011, many in the research community wondered if there might be another "Sputnik Moment" coming for the United States.

Thorium energy was developed in the United States in the 1960's during the Molten Salt Reactor research program.  The Nixon administration cancelled its development in the early 1970's to pursue plutonium technologies.  But there is definitely more research to be done on thorium, and it may provide an energy solution whose time has come.

Thorium is a safe and plentiful element that can be mined like many other heavy metals.  It has the potential to replace the use of coal plants, with many small "molten salt" reactors utilized, and a much lower refueling cost than conventional nuclear reactors.  Its benefits have been actively suppressed by the nuclear power industry, which lobbies for subsidies and other funding for a nuclear solution that has shown to be much more risky and dangerous, not to mention limited by the availability of uranium.  And nuclear reactors are far more expensive, volatile, and expansive of an undertaking than thorium reactors would be.

Thomas Wang of West Valley for Change, a political action group, provided much of the information for this article.  He indicates that thorium research may be an avenue that the United States could traverse to avoid being left behind in the energy conservation and alternative energy development frontiers.

Grinnell Yearbook Project Opens April 13th

Here's a story about my college, narrated by my friend's dad.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Peace Is Good Food

Another April blog entry.  Deal with it.

I'm writing tonight because it's what I do.  What I do well.  What I am trying to do with my life.  You wanna help?  Keep reading. 


So.  Um.  And also tell some friends about my blog.  Spread the word.  Let's get this thing started here.

I'm doing well, thank you.  I started a new job and had a really good night there tonight.  Love sitting in my shorts, listening to my favorite music, doing a simple task and doing it well.  And enjoying it.  It was like I hit a jackpot tonight and saw everything through the happy lens. 

I was tagging pictures.  Pictures of a lot of what people might consider as "nothing" or "ugly" or something like that.  But I was noticing how I was getting to see, through these pictures, a part of the world that I had never seen.  There were brilliant cloud formations, sunsets, trees, interesting mailboxes even.  There was so much beauty to behold.  My eye was trained-- I had to keep reminding myself not to dwell on things and move on to the next task.  But it was almost like watching a movie or a music video, with my iPod providing the audio track.  I drowned out the chatter of my coworkers and focused on the task and had fun doing it.

The big boss must have noticed, because she came out and checked on me, then offered me a new chair.  Thought that was nice.  The one I had been using had a broken arm support, and the new one has a nice springy aspirator that bounces when I sit down.  Felt nice to have something nice done for me.

I really felt tonight that I was where I need to be.  I was comfortable, at peace.  I wasn't lamenting being where I was.  I was present in the moment, and it felt wonderful.  May we all feel such joy in the moment.

It's warm in here tonight, I'm sweating just sitting here writing.  I'm having my Smirnoff "tall-boy" of sorts, and life is good.  I'm making progress on my dreams.  I can feel it.  I'm healthy, and I know it now.  I have my faculties back.  I feel like I can handle things again.  I trust myself and my judgement.  Things are good.

Looking forward to May.  My birthday's right around the corner.  What are you gonna get me?  I love presents.

What do I want?  I want... I want you to buy my book when it comes out.  Wanna help me get it published?  We could try and work something out...  put in your pre-order of the Raging, Flaming Goat of Samos now, and I'll send it to you when it's ready.  Should be about ten bucks a book, I reckon.  Sure, you can send me cash, if you're so inclined.  Or a check.  Whatever.

At the end of next month, I'll be attending my Grinnell reunion in Grinnell, IA.  Really looking forward to seeing folks again.  I love me some Grinnellians.  Most of 'em.  Haven't met them all.

So.  Good night.  It was and it is.  So goodnight, I say.  Good night.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How Much Would You Pay to Buy This?

So I made the walk to 7-11 to get me something to drink.  Not proud of it, but it's what I do sometimes.  There are worse things I could do, right?  I was talking myself out of getting anything but a Smirnoff Ice.  After crossing El Camino Real, a figure appeared from  behind La Paloma.  I tried to gauge if he was approaching me as I had to walk by that way to get to 7-11.  That's when he started moving slowly towards me and spoke to me.

"Can you help me?" he said.

"Probably not," I said, sizing him up.  He seemed to have a bit of a speech impediment, or he may have been somewhat drunk.  He moved slowly.

"I'm trying to get something to eat," he said.  "I'm hungry."

"Well, I don't know--"

"I don't need any money,"  he explained.

"I don't have any cash," I said.

"Do you have a credit card?" he asked.  "I'm trying to get something to eat."

"I might be able to get you something," I rationalized, walking towards the 7-11.  He fell in behind me, and I walked to the door of the convenience store.  He said something about getting a pizza, and having a microwave back somewhere around the corner.  When I got the door I opened it and waited for him.  He thanked me as he caught up and walked through the open door.

"Here, I'll show you," he said and made his way towards the freezer box.  He selected a large frozen supreme pizza.  "One of these," he said.

I thought it kind of strange, but I went with it.  "Okay," I said.  I took the pizza and noted the price-- $7.99.  I then walked to the beer cooler and selected my drink-- a 24-oz. Smirnoff Ice-- and went to the register.

"Is that vodka?" he asked me.

"No, I think it's a malt beverage," I guessed, not really knowing what it is that I like to drink these days.

The clerk rung me up and the guy picked up his pizza and thanked me again.  I held the door for him again as we left the store, and he thanked me again.  "You're welcome," I said.  "Take care."

On the walk home I noticed a strangely shaped piece of something orange, so I examined it as I walked by.  I was a few steps past it when I decided to go back for it.  It turned out to be plastic with fabric on the back, maybe a part of a traffic cone of some sort.  When I got home I popped the top on my beverage and added the bottle cap and the piece of plastic to the "junk" pile of things I'm collecting for an art project.  But not before observing the piece of plastic and having thoughts about it inspiring drawings for me because of it's shape.  The artist in me was intrigued and inspired by this simple piece of unwanted trash.  But I had taken this thing and assigned value to it.  And I can make it more valuable by adding some more time and thought to it.  Just like the rest of the junk I've collected.  I've served the common good by picking up trash on the side of the road, and I can add value to the world by making art out if it.  That's adding money to the economy at the same time that I'm cleaning up my community.

So I allow myself my drink.  I allow that man his frozen pizza.  I allow value to be more than just cash and paychecks.  I can assign value, and adjust it.  I'm not tied to somebody else's restrictive means of assigning value.  Maybe they think that I'm lesser of a person because I collect trash and only make ten bucks an hour-- or work for free as a volunteer!  But even those values are not the monetary meaning we assume they are.  My time and labor can't be estimated and configured to equal a dollar amount.  If I collect garbage, arrange it into a piece of art in my garage, and then make it "available" to art collectors, what should all of that cost?  If I do it well, I might find that I can charge a significant amount of money for the art that I produce. 

All of this is part of exposing the smoke and mirrors that our culture is based upon.  The monetary system is a farce.  A joke.  An illusion, at best.  My heart isn't worth a million dollars, or even a trillion dollars.  My guts and toil and effort are valuable, whether I get paid or not.  Whether I get noticed or not.  Whether it makes a difference to anyone or not.  If I take pride in what I do, then there's value in doing it.  How much value is up to me to decide, and I don't have to put a dollar sign on it for it to mean something.

If I do ten situps and ten push ups a day every day for a year, how much will that cost me?  How much will I benefit?  We don't always see the value in doing things that way in our culture today.  We're more likely to invest money in a treadmill or a gym membership.  Why must we always start with spending money? 

Because it's in the rules of the game.  Hell, you might even say it's the American Dream.  Work hard.  Get a mortgage.  Pay homage to the economy.  Worship the almighty dollar. 

We don't need money any more than we need jobs or government or a president.  We can add value to the world just by being ourselves.  Just by doing what is right by ourselves and unto others.  Go ahead-- get taken advantage of.  Buy the frozen pizza for the hungry guy.  Even though your budget is tight.  You can make lemonade.  You can be the change you want to see in the world.

So what are you waiting for?  Go do it!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Roll Away the Stone

It's Easter.  Time for bunnies laying colored eggs with chocolate centers.  Time for resurrection.  Time for family to gather and eat and argue.

I don't know.  Whatever.  Traditions don't always make sense.  Really, rarely do they make sense.  Why the hiding of eggs?  Why the this and the that?  Why?  Why? Why?

Why can't my dog sit still since we got him back from the vet?  He got groomed, and now he is trotting all over the house, from place to place, dragging his butt on the carpet, trying to settle into a place, but can't seem to get comfortable.  Did they shoot him up with caffeine?

Today is my last official day of unemployment.  I start the new job tomorrow in Mountain View at 2:45.  I have some mixed emotions about going back to work.  I know it's what I need to be doing, but I lament the loss of "free time" to follow my muse and do the things that are of interest to me when I'm inspired to do so.  I'm trading time for money, and at a bargain rate (for my employer.  I am worth a lot more than they'll be paying.) 

I'm forcing myself to write right now.  I know there are things that I have to say, but I'm balking at doing it.  The voice is loudly silent.  Sometimes it's the inaction that speaks.  The omitted word, or the silence, that says the most profound thing.

On that note, I leave you to ponder your own silence.  Happy Easter.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Fungus Connection

Welcome to April, 2012.  Here comes baseball.  Bring your mitt.  And watch for the spitter.

Still feeling pretty good.  Just wanted to make some quick notes before I try and get some sleep.  Tomorrow's a big day.  Job interview in the afternoon.  A step in the right direction.  I feel good about it; confident.  I think it's a job that I can do.  And I think it will lead to bigger and better things.  Somehow.  It's all going to work out.  I just have a gut feeling on this.

Returning to work is a milestone type of step in my recovery.  I don't think I would have been able to be ready for this transition if I hadn't taken the time and did the work to aid my own recovery.  That meant leaving a secure, well paying job with a lot of benefits.  But the benefit I needed I couldn't get from that job.  So it had to go.  And so did I.  I don't regret leaving the City.  But I wouldn't rule out returning, either.

It's been a rough time, being unemployed the last 20 months, waiting for PERS to make a decision and help us out financially, monitoring my mood and my sleep and my hygiene.  I needed the time to find myself again, to stabilize my medications and my spirit.  I can't tell you what it was that has made me feel whole again, but I don't think it was any one single thing.  It was a lot of things-- regular attendance at support groups; writing and blogging and approaching my dreams of making a career of my writing and art; regular check ups with my doctors and therapists; lots of rest and riding out of depression and the blahs, the muddying of the colors in my world.  I've done a lot of things, stretched myself, put myself out there.  I remember how frightened I was when I first started this blog-- scared that I'd start writing and would overnight lose my privacy to hundreds if not thousands of people clamoring for my autograph.  Now, I would like more people, more traffic at my blog than I've been able to attract and am doing things to try and build a platform and an audience.

It's all a part of the networking, like rivers, or mycelium, or the internet.  A web of connections that holds greater concepts together, makes a fabric of knowledge and wisdom.  We weave with our efforts of living and learning.  Such is the process we know as life.  I'm living proof.