Thursday, August 31, 2006

laying low. sitting up straight


It has been awhile, hasn't it?


1) I've been sick and tired. And sick. And tired. I get a little ... um ... hot under the collar about stuff sometimes which makes sleeping difficult which in turn makes waking difficult and wears down my immune system which ... Thus the whole business of being sick and tired.

2) I prefer writing in this blog to writing technical documentation. I also prefer checking for comments to writing technical documentation. Ok, I prefer almost anything to writing technical documentation. But right now, I need to write technical documentation! Shocking, I know, but true! Time's a wastin'! Clock's a tickin'! I gots deadlines!!

3) Related to #1, my new ambition in life is to follow my own advice. So I've started making myself sit still with my eyes closed for twenty minutes every morning. That's right, folks. Meditation.

4) My other new ambition is to get as close to eight hours of sleep a night as possible. That might sound like a modest goal to some of you but it has always been a challenge for me, even when nobody in the political or work arena is driving me bonkers.

My nights and mornings used to look like this:

Bed time 11ish
Wake up at 3
Toss and turn until 4 or later
Rise and shine at 5:45.
Stumble to medicine cabinet for vitamins
Stumble around with kettle/french press/coffee
Stretch while water boils/coffee brews
Rub Ruby's belly
Drink coffee & write from 6:30 to 7
Work by 9:30 or 10

I just can't squeeze in 30 minutes of writing, 20 minutes of meditation, an hour of exercise, 30 minutes of showering etc, and a 20 minute commute before I have to be at work at 9:30. Bedtime is now 10:30 on the dot and wake-y wake-y starts at 6:30.

Thus, no more blogging in the mornings. I must find some other time to do it.

Shit ... wait a minute. According to that bullshit, I could get up at 7:00 and still make it to work on time with 20 spare minutes for stumbling around. What in the world do I do with my mornings that 20 minutes isn't enough stumbling around time?

OK, enough excuses.

If I don't write in the mornings, it is because I'm laaaazy. And if you don't like that, you can biiiiiiite me!

Love always,
Z. Imbecile

Friday, August 25, 2006


Very few people get under my skin the way Dena S. did.

In fact, very few people - around six - get under my skin at all, but Dena S. was one of them. In fact, Dena S. was the queen bee. The king cobra. The royal bitch. I mean, she actually looked like a pit bull and, even though I had almost a foot and 40 pounds on her, she scared the crap out of me.

It was not as if I thought she'd bite me although she did sometimes snarl - OK, she didn't make the snarling noise but she did (really and truly) make the snarling face. The horror!

It was just that I was afraid because I never knew what would piss her off.

I always meant to write down some of the stuff she wrote to me. Now, six months later, I can't remember a shred of it ... Except that she chewed me out for working too hard and setting expectations too high; she badgered me into trading quarterly objectives (long story) with her; and then she complained about her quarterly objectives later and got them switched again.

I learned to dread the way she invaded on my desktop with that innocent little blue boxed "hey" of hers. MSN Instant Messenger was her favorite venom-delivery method and she used it with regularity and precision. She'd bait me with some sweet talk about the weekend and end up cheerfully accusing me of being the most evil and manipulative person on the planet.

She drove me so completely insane that I dropped every last shred of polite discourse and told her exactly what I wanted to which included, but was not limited to, "This is ridiculous." "No, I absolutely refuse." "What do you want from me?" "Why can't you just leave me alone?" and "If you have a problem with me, talk to our manager."

Eventually our manager talked to us. Separately. I'm not sure what he said to her but he said something to me that I will never forget.

He said: "You doan like Deena an thas okay. You doan haf to like heer but you do haf to work wit heer. Whatever you tink about heer personally, shee ees a good writeer."

He was Brazilian.

(I know it is a terrible representation of a Brazilian accent but at least you don't have to hear me try to do it. )

(She wasn't a good technical writer, by the way, but it is pointless to argue with a software developer over that. They don't know shit.)

"So Aye wan you to do somteeng for me." he continued, "Aye wan you to tray to get along wit heer. Now, when you see heer, you feel angry, am Aye rayght? So Aye wan you to tink funnee toughts when you see heer. Aye wan you to tink 'Hey! Look there's dat funnee laydee.' No more angry. Just funnee. Funnee laydee. Okay?"

It didn't really work. She still snarled at me and I still cowered in person and then snarled over IM. And then our boss got fired and a few weeks later, I left.

But now, when I think of Dena S., I think of him saying that to me (No more angry. Just funny. Funny lady) and I laugh. I should probably think that whenever I encounter any of the six people who drive me completely bonkers. Right now, I just try not to look them in the eye.

Honestly, I never remember his advice when I need to. I remember it later when it does me no good. And then I laugh.

I wonder if it'll work with other stuff that fills me with bile ...

Funnee Bush administration ...

... hmmm ...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

abdicating responsibility

I am good at relaxing. In fact, I'm great. I know how to kick back and do nothing for hours at a time and, frankly, I love doing it.

But tonight and for the last several nights, I have taken relaxing to a whole new level.

Actually, that's inaccurate because it implies that I personally have achieved a level of relaxation unheard of by most people when in fact I'm sure a fair number of people - some of whom read this blog - are quite familiar with it.

I, friends, am high.

High as a kite.

whoo hoo.

Not on heroin nor marijuana. Not even on whatever that crap is that they put in Robitussin. Not benadryl or any other over-the-counter anti-histamines. And most definitely not on life.

I am high on antibiotics.

Yes, that's right. Anti. Biotics.

May cause drowsiness, indeed.

I haven't been this relaxed in ages. I don't give a flying fuck about any old thing. Hallelujah!

Amazingly, I get to be completely relaxed AND I get to act like a total, self-indulgent idiot (because I'm sick!) AND I get to drop any pretense of kindness or understanding (because I'm medicated!).

For the first time in my life, I think I understand addiction. Addiction is an excuse to act like a relaxed, self-indulgent, rude idiot. If only I could get a lifetime supply of this antibiotic, I too could be an addict.

NB: I don't really understand anything so don't listen to me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

tossing and turning

Some people have told me that they prefer my personal posts to my political ones.

Now seems like a great time to tell them that the political posts are personal. I don't write about this stuff because I think it is important on some lofty philosophical level. I write about it because a lot of it scares the crap out of me. I lie awake nights tossing and turning over it. I get headaches and stomaches.

I just wrote this long essay listing off the various things that scare me and why they scare me but I've realized I'm just rehashing old material. The truth is that I'm just scared. I strongly object to our government's actions in the Middle East, not because of some abstract political position, but because what they're doing is likely to increase incidents of terrorism.

I'm also heartbroken. I believe in freedom but I don't know what that means anymore. I feel like everything I love about this country is going into the trash alongside everybody's carry-on shampoo.

Tony Blair recently said that global terrorism "means that traditional civil liberties arguments are not so much wrong as just made for another age." If that's the case, I don't understand what we're trying to protect here and what we're trying to export over there. Is it democracy?

What is democracy without civil liberties?

What do you love about this country that does not rely on civil liberties as its foundation?

What is democracy without justice? What is justice unhinged from its guiding principles?

These are not rhetorical questions.

Monday, August 21, 2006

books books books booksbooksbooksbooksbooksbooks

I'm not familiar with the whole tagging thing but I thought this was a good idea, and, like Collier, I love to think about reading almost as much as I love to read.

So I'll pretend like Ryan tagged me. Here goes.

Changed my life?
The Old Testament. I know I'm a freak but it is true.

When I was little, the Exorcist and Damien and Salem's Lot were the shit in the movies and on TV and, as a Jewish kid, I realized that I didn't have the protection afforded my little Christian friends - the sign of the cross. So I came up with an elaborate form of security for myself which involved being an extremely devout Jew. I told myself that if Jesus were really the Big Kahuna, he'd approve of my devotion to my religion and family and extend his anti-vampire/devil powers over me. So I read the Old Testament every night before I went to bed.

I honestly think that the good bits - about being kind to strangers, loving thy neighbor as thyself, judging not etc - sunk in pretty well. Not perfectly, but not too badly.

Also, the dictionary.

I've read more than once?
I am chronic re-reader so I won't list them all. I can't even begin to list all the double-reads.

The Old Testament - 5 times?
The Chronicles of Narnia - Gosh ... except for the Last Battle, which I read only once ... 8 times? (This one might've had as much impact on my character as the first.)
Pride and Prejudice - 4 times, plus one time in Spanish
A Room with a View - 5 times
The Corrections - 3 times
Crime and Punishment - 4 times
Ellison's The Invisible Man - 3 times
Catch 22 - 3 times

I'd want on a desert island?
The Boy Scouts Guide
The first narrator in Wilkie Collin's The Moonstone reads Robinson Crusoe as if it were the Bible and he's incredibly funny so I'd probably give that a shot.

Made me cry?
Of Mice and Men
The first half of David Copperfield. (The second half kinda sucks)
The Idiot by Dostoevsky

Made me laugh?
Charles Dickens (Great Expectations and The Pickwick Papers are tops) always makes me laugh
The first half of the Moonstone, narrated by the guy who only reads Robinson Crusoe.
Jane Austen
The salmon scene and the talking shit scene in The Corrections almost made me piss my pants.
Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet

I wish had written?
The Corrections
Wonder Boys

I wish had never been written?
The Old Testament?

... as if humans wouldn't find some other spiritual justification to destroy each other ...

I'm currently reading?
I am between books at the moment. Just finished Into the Wild and might start another John Krakauer book or Kafka on the Shore by Murakami.

I’ve been meaning to read?
Lordy, where to begin?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

history lessons


Sorry for picking on you about the history lesson.
Half my day at work is taken up with listening to people explain "why we did it this way" either to justify continuing to repeat a bad habit or to absolve themselves of guilt for perpetuating the bad habit because it was someone else's idea or it originated from circumstances beyond their control.

Even when they're not trying to justify repeating the bad habit, they throw their hands up in the air and saying "It's not my fault! It wasn't my idea! He's the one who started it!!"

But after these people spend all this time explaining to you why things are the way they are, if you suggest trying to do things differently, they start the whole story over again.

I could give you some examples but they'd be boring crap about software development and I don't want to subject you to that.

People do it all the time and it drives me completely nuts. But that's not your fault. It is just a huge pet peeve of mine and I took it out on you.

So solly,

Monday, August 14, 2006


Both sides of the war on terror debate would be a lot better off if we'd drop as much silly rhetoric as possible.

Just because the Bush administration has thrown around this idea of "freedom haters" for five years doesn't mean that any of us has to cling to it any longer, either to mock the opposition or to extol our country's comparative virtues.

We're in a fucked up situation and all the name-calling, tattle-telling, and case-building in the world is not going to solve the problem. Neither is all the bomb-throwing, collateral-damaging, and racial-profiling. Even history-reciting, blame-laying, and spell-checking won't cut it.

(I know, I called Tony Snow an asshole the other day. I take it back ... sort of)

Stop arguing about who did what, when, how, where, and why. Stop trying to figure out who is really to blame, who is the worst of the lot. Stop thinking about the solution in terms of punishment or retribution.

It doesn't help.

However, thinking about it in the terms Bryan suggests might actually do some good.

my humblest apologies

To those of you who left comments on the previous post over the weekened. They are now available for public consumption.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Uncle Sam wants you!

In case you haven't been paying attention, god forbid, good old Joe Lieberman, one of the few Democratic senators who still supports the war in Iraq, lost Connecticut's Democratic primary to a rich guy named Ned Lamont whose platform was "I'm not Joe Lieberman" which roughly translates to "I'm not a lackey for the Bush Administration." and "I hate the war."

Whitehouse spokesperson Tony Snow had an interesting take on this development. He strongly suggested that Ned Lamont and his supporters did not take the war on terror seriously.

So ... pulling out of Iraq is equivalent to not taking the war on terror seriously?

Is this brand of bullshit still effective?

We now know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We also know that Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al Quaida. None of the terrorists caught since 9/11 have been Iraqi. Many of the counter-insurgents in Iraq are from other Arab countries.

What on God's green earth does the war in Iraq or any of our other efforts in the Middle East have to do with the war on terror???

I'll tell you:

* We're detaining, torturing, humiliating, raping, and killing innocent people in Iraq.

(OK. You're right! We're also detaining, torturing, humiliating, and killing the bad guys. But let us not forget about the innocents. Nobody else is)

* We're funding Israel's efforts in Lebanon and the resultant "collateral damage." That's right folks! Conservatives estimate that one-fifth of the US budget for foreign aid goes to Israel. That might be news to you but it is not to other nations in the Middle East.

* We claim to be importing democracy but we disavow it if we don't like the election results, as in the Palestinian territories.

OK. I get it now. We're acting like total shitheads in that part of the world because we want MORE terrorists.

Tony Snow, stop talking to us as if we are dumbasses. Save that for your boss.


Thursday, August 10, 2006


My thoughts won't gel. My sentences are lumpy and lifeless. Try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

this post intentionally left blank.

No news is good news.

And we really need some good news these days, don't we?

Monday, August 07, 2006

wrong action

They say that children acquire new languages more quickly than adults.

I'm sorry, but that's just crap. After eight months in Mexico, I spoke Spanish much better than any of the eight-month olds I met there.

You wanna know what I think?


Well, then why the hell are you reading this blog?

I think that kids are not so much better at language than adults as they are better at screwups. Think about it this way ... a kid's life is a life rife with screwups and everybody seems to think that's adorable.

Kids don't know nothing about nothing. They don't know how to do or say anything right. Strung with muscles and tendons that they don't know how to operate, their fat little legs are wobbly, their fat little fingers are wonky, and their crazy fat little arms randomly shoot out in odd directions. The balls they throw land at their own feet or even behind them. They talk to themselves. They call pasta "sketti." They eat dirt.

... at least they used to before the Germ Police took over the Childhood Safety Administration in our collective heads. But, left to their own devices, kids would at least sample the many offerings of Chef Mother Earth ...

And what do we do?

We cheer them on. We beam. We clap. We toss them into the air. Of course, we "correct" them when they do something really dangerous but otherwise, they can do no wrong, even when they're smearing birthday cake all over their faces or calling a cookie a "tootie."

Why do we do this? Because we know that kids are self-correcting. They are little mistake-making machines because they learn from their mistakes. Over the course of six or seven years, they learn how to operate their extremeties and their tongues. Then, hopefully, they spend the next fifteen or so years stuffing their heads with as much information and skills as possible.

As we get older, the number of praiseworthy errors we can make shrinks to zero. Nobody beams at us when we misspell "necessary." Nobody tosses us in the air when we fumble a football. And the whole cafeteria might break into applause when we drop our tray but it isn't because they think it's cute.

Certain errors are permissable, but most definitely not praiseworthy, because, at 25 or even 30, we're still "young." But eventually, we reach a point at which we're not supposed to make any mistakes ever again. Have you noticed that? Are you there yet? Tripping, forgetting something, flipping a bitch, we can feel such profound embarrassment. How much worse do we feel if we screw up something really important?

And yet, ten or 20 years ago, if you tried something new, someone would throw their hands up and say "YAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!" even if you landed on your ass in the attempt. On some deeply subconscious level, we know that a kid has to try (and mess up) to learn and get better. Why don't we cut ourselves the same slack?

That's why they're better at learning language. Learning a language demands screwups. It demands trial and error. A kid throws out a semi-random series of words ("Doggie bees sofa") and we throw back a set of interpretations ("The dog was stung by a bee on the sofa?" "The dog is on the sofa? Oh. The dog is on the sofa ... RUBY! Get DOWN. NOW!"). We begin to understand the kid's syntax, but more importantly, the kid makes note of ours! That's how she learns. If a child didn't speak until she could speak perfectly, she'd be a mute.

Something similar happens with pretty much every skill you acquire until you achieve stasis (see definition #2). And then failure (ie trying new things and acquiring new skills) must cease and desist!

Why? Why must we achieve stasis? Why do we torture ourselves over mistakes? Why do we fear failure? It isn't as if anybody's going to die because our book didn't get published or we screwed up an audition. So why do we dread it so? Why do we sometimes choose to not try rather than to try and risk failing?

The Zens say that you should live a life of right action. But if you ask them how you learn right action, you know what they say? Take wrong action.

Friday, August 04, 2006

the tiny space we occupy

Oh we are so small. So very very puny.

This is something that has never really scared me ... my insignificance in the universe. Either I don't really comprehend it ...

Or I understand better than most and have come to accept it in a way that most people have not (aren't I great?) ...

Or my personal attitude about the whole thing (which is "who gives a shit, really.") makes it easy to ignore the consequences.

But to stay authentic, I will just hang by my personal attitude which is who gives a shit, really. I mean, my life is significant to me. And I'm the only one who really matters.

Ha ha!

Seriously though. I am.

I mean, you are too.

To you.


Maybe ...

I guess I'd need to have indepth interviews with people who do feel uncomfortable about their insignificance in the universe to "really understand" them but ... maybe these people believe that their life should have significance outside of themselves. Maybe that is the problem, the scary part of feeling like a molecule in the universe.

Whereas I, who have suffered from the most absurd narcissitic wounding and worry constantly about what other people are thinking about me, have never actually believed that what they were thinking was actually important in the Big Picture. It is kind of an absurd contradiction. I waste a TON of energy on that day-to-day, but never was fooled into thinking that it meant something in the history of the universe.

It's like if I had been fretting over the way some counter girl smirked at me and someone had said to me "The whole of human existence is just the blink of an eye in the history of the universe." I would have said "Oh yeah, great. But why was that girl so RUDE to me!?!"

Because really in the universe of one human existence, only the individual moments count. Of course, it might be a shame to waste any of them fretting over a counter girl's smirk but perhaps they are better spent that way than getting bogged down in how depressingly unimportant your finest moment is in the Grand Scheme of Things.

Here's another way to look at this ... if human existence is the blink of an eye, how many existences are you blinking in and out of being every day of your life? Consider the possibility that YOU are a complete universe, that you started with a big bang (wink, wink), that you are infinite and constantly expanding. That in your anonymity and insignificance you have the chance to make the tiny space you occupy into something absolutely spectacular for yourself.

Every moment, every millisecond, your universe recreates itself. Every moment is a renewal, a new opportunity, an eternity, the only thing that is real.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

the samurai medidates on it day and night

You know what's funny? What's funny is you would never guess from seeing me that I am obsessed with death. But of course, you would never guess from seeing you that you were obsessed with death either.

What!?! You're not obsessed with death?

I don't believe you. Not one jot, not one tiddle. Not even an iota.

See, you are. You are! I could argue that you are because it is part of the human condition and you are human. (right?) But that is kinda beside the point. Which is that YOU are obsessed with death. You are.

Look at it this way. Do you love horror movies? Books about serial killers? TV shows about Gangsters? About police car chases? Xtreme sports? CSI? CSI Miami?

Do you watch war movies? Listen to or tell war stories? Do you tell the stories about the soldiers who die? Or the children and women who are killed? Deforestation, pollution, species diversity, genetically modified crops, global warming?

Patricides? Infanticides? Child molester/murderers? Teenager killers inspired by ROCK **STARS**? Sharks attacks, killer dogs, iguanas infected with salmonella, armadillos with leprosy. Grackles and sparrows in the Whole Foods parking lot who might have bird flu?

How many stories do you know about people your age who have died of cancer, car wrecks, random diseases? How often do you tell them? How many links do you send out to your friends to articles about some seemingly harmless product or habit that might ruin your life?

It doesn't sound like hypochondria. It certainly doesn't sound like an unnatural fixation. It sounds normal right? You are normal. You are no different from anyone else. You are just talking about what's really happening in the world. You are just telling it like it really is.

Why is that? Because that's how we live. That's what we see, what we read about. Death surrounds us. Death consumes us. Literally -- of course -- someday. And figuratively, nearly all the time.

Selling your soul, selling out, getting married, having a baby, having an orgasm, sneezing. Making a choice. Think about that. Everytime you choose something, the alternative, the other path, dies off and withers away. That's how we tend to think of it. That option is gone. Forever. And we're doomed.

Sleeping. Sleeping is a little death. A Death Rollup, a tasy treat, a break from life. Alcohol, drugs, yoga -- all ways to shuffle off a coil or two for the time being. We NEED it. A little bit here and there and eventually ALOT. We need death. Very few people care to admit this. Alot of people would probably think I'm nuts for saying it.

This idea runs counter to the other strongest urge in us. The more surface one, the more socially acceptable. The struggle for life, of course! Don't think that I want to die. I absolutely positively do not. Or that I am suggesting you want too. I know you don't. I can feel you seething on the other end of this.

You want to live!!!!! We all want to live! We want to live so badly that we have forgotten that we also want to (and in fact, NEED to) die. In fact, the idea is considered unacceptable and even perverse by many people. So we push that urge down deep underneath everything else. We have forgotten that it is just as important as the other.

And we have practically managed to convince ourselves, through amazing advances in medical technology and new information about nutrition, santitation, and exercise, that we might actually live forever. So the impulse toward death seeps out in the form of scary (but TRUE!) stories, signs of the End Times, desperate and paranoid overprotectiveness of our children and cats.

On the winter wonderland morning of New Year's Day, 2001 in Denton, Tx, some of my friends heard a loud and ever louder quacking out front. It was a duck in the middle of the road, miles and miles from any pond. They corralled him, and while debating the next step, a stranger showed up to claim him. One of witness told me later, "It was a harbinger." "Of what?" I asked. "You know, doom."

An escaped pet duck waddling down the street on New Year's Day becomes a harbinger of Doom. What kind of Doom is it harbinging? That you are going to die. Someday, no matter what you do, you are going to die. Really.

Don't forget it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

flip a bitch

I flip a bitch at least once a day.

Some days, I flip three or four bitches in a row before I can even leave for work.

That's not to say that a line of nasty ladies parade past my house every morning and I feel compelled to give them the finger. Although we do live in a neighborhood where some angry-looking ladies parade, we try to stay on good terms with them.

No, "to flip a bitch" is to make a u-turn. While people generally use this expression in the car, it seems appropriate whenever you have to turn around.

Examples include:

At home, heading out for work: "Oh, shit. I forgot my lunch." "Dammit, my phone!" "Oh God! The dog!" "Did I leave the oven on?"

At work, heading to a meeting: "Where am I going again?" "You need that, too?" "A pen would be helpful."

And, of course, in the car: Most of the above plus "That was the turn? ... thanks."

The word "bitch" is reserved for mean, ugly, difficult things. When I think about flipping one, I imagine giving the bird to a mean lady or using a spatula to smack down a snarling dog lunging at me from the bottom of an iron skillet.

But when you hear someone else use that expression, you can tell that they consider the task of flipping a bitch an onerous one.

I really hope you've never heard this expression before, this flipping of bitches. But now that you have, you can probably see that it says alot about how our society views error and the correction of error.

Out of time. Tune in later for more.