Friday, September 21, 2012

Why does weather make people depressed?
I believe that the weather is merely a tool that people use to think that it’s okay to be depressed. 
There might be a more underlying cause of someone’s sadness or depressing but if the weather is crappy they say that it’s just the day.  The weather is crappy so I am going to be in a crappy mood all day. 
I, for one, strongly dislike when people think this way.  The weather cannot possible be perfect everyday and neither can a person’s life.  Which then leads to a question that I have.  Why let the weather determine your feelings? 
It bothers me when a person can be happy on a bright and sunny day but then if it’s raining the next day they are depressed.  Even if they are happy and are a generally happy person (only upset or sad when the weather is bad) they seem to switch that on and off whenever the weather is anything but bright and sunny. 
I am one to think that if you are a happy person then why let the weather bother you.  The weather is not going to hurt you.   It’s not going to destroy your happiness.  The weather, just like life, is far from perfect. 
Let’s all just live life to the fullest.  If we do that then we can generally be happy and why would we want to deny happiness to ourselves? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Here is something you should be reading.

Andrew Leon, who wrote the excellent book "The House On The Corner" (My review of that here), has been serializing his latest story, "Shadow Spinner," in chapter form.

Shadow Spinner is for some reason being billed as YA, probably because its star, Tiberius (or "Tib") is 10-going-on-11.  It's not pure YA, though:  Like Harry Potter or the Narnia books, this book so far reaches beyond a YA level to be interesting to adults, and that's probably because the first five chapters so far have less in common with Potter or the Pevensies than it does good Stephen King.

Shadow Spinner takes place in an anonymous suburb populated initially by (seemingly) Tib and his mom, and of course there's something weird going on, dealing with shadows, but Leon manages to do a great job rolling out the scares quickly and subtly, from the amazing first chapter to the latest one I read this morning, Chapter 5, in which the villain of the story as well as a whole other weird character are introduced and everything jumps up a notch.

To put it bluntly, Shadow Spinner so far well exceeds The House On The Corner and that is saying a lot.  I've been getting each installment as soon as it's up, and I love that Leon is serializing it, because that's the way a story like this should be read:  The author doling it out, piece by piece, slowly revealing the entire terrifying world I'm sure is in store for us.

You can get Chapter 5 HERE, on Amazon, for just $0.99 (it may be free at times, as Leon is doing that), but if you haven't been reading it so far, start with chapter 1 here, and I'd bookmark Leon's blog, Strange Pegs, to keep up with new installments.

I'd say Leon is reinventing the book, but really what he's doing is reintroducing the book to us:  He's taking what books should be: great writing, great stories, great charactrers -- and making them even better by serializing them. If you like books and reading SUPPORT THIS MAN.  Go read his stuff, and leave reviews.  That way, we'll get more from him and more from people who want to do writing like this.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I am on a one-week hiatus from working out, after spending another fruitless... depending on how you look at it*... day in the ER yesterday.

After my triumphant return to the below-10-minute miler club on Monday, I began to have the same kinds of problems that have plagued me in the past and while I made it to work on Monday, I had to leave at about 3:00 and go home, where I spent the rest of the night resting.

("Resting" in my house means "only occassionally giving in to Mr F's demands that I play "Ding-Dong" with him, with Ding-Dong being a game where I pick him up by his arm pits and hug him and then swing him like a bell, while saying "ding dong ding dong" until he gets tired, which takes a while, and "resting" also means that I only spent about 20 minutes playing Guns with Mr Bunches, using his new NERF pistols that I can't believe Sweetie got him because they're so clearly dangerous that she must have been distracted at the time)

When it came time to go work out yesterday morning, I opted to try to sleep in, since I hadn't so much slept the night before, and then when it came time to go to work, I instead opted for a dizzifying drive to the ER, where I was run through the usual series of tests to determine how serious my inability to breathe was this time.

(Their answer:  not very serious, in terms of inability to breathe.)

So I spent the day having X-rays taken, and pictures of my heart taken, and a stress test given

(Actual dialogue:

Doctor: So you passed the stress test.

Me: That's because I studied.)

and a student doctor sent in to talk with me for practice -- turns out he used to be a photographer for Sports Illustrated but gave it up to come back, at age 29, to medical school, so there's probably something inspirational in there for someone to latch onto.

And in the end, they decided that it wasn't my heart this time, just like it wasn't my heart last time, and sent me on home with directions to follow up with an entirely new set of doctors

(Actual dialogue:

Doctor:  I'd recommend Dr. [Name Redacted]

Me:  Is he good?

Doctor:  Well, he's funny.)

and now I have agreed with Sweetie that it wouldn't be the least prudent course of action to take a week off of working out, insofar as I somehow passed that stress test despite nearly throwing up during it and having to stop it earlier than they wanted.

So the song for today is Some Nights (Intro), by fun., and it's not the same song you heard the other day if you listen to these. 

*While I didn't get to work and I didn't get to work out and I didn't get any closer, really, to finding out why I can't do all those things as regularly as I'd like, I did read a lot of short stories by John Cheever and bought a new book about the Periodic Table Of The Elements, so there's that.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Why don't we break the rules already?" (Project CXC, Day XXV)

Doesn't Mr F kind of look like a wizard, there?

I broke the 10-minute mile mark today for 2 1/2 miles, getting an overall time of 24:52, for just under a 10-minute mile.

This is the second draft of this post, and marks a rare time that I've edited myself; the first draft had an explanation of the complicated way I ran but I realized that it was about as fun to read as the label on a box of spaghetti, so I deleted it, and instead I am going to post more pictures of Mr F:

I took those while he was swinging yesterday.

Today's workout: Running, 2.5 miles, 24:52.
Latest weight: 251
Today's song for which I can't think of anything to say about other than the fact that I can't think of anything to say about it:  Some Nights, fun.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Where have all the good songs gone? (Middle)

Lately I have been really into watching music videos and it's not like I've never watched them but I have been really fascinated with them. I love music, the lyrics to a song, the beat of a song, really every aspect of music I love.

But what I really like is when an artist can take a song and create an amazing video that represents what the song is about.

I will hear a song for the first time and then go home and research to see if the artist has made a music video for it yet. Once I find that video I immediately sit down and analyze that video. I look for the aspects or parts where the artist did a good job and I also look for the negatives.

For the most part I am not disappointed but lately I have been really kind of dumb founded as to why artists have been slacking.

One of my favorite music videos of all time is "No Rain" performed by Blind Melon. I loved the song the first time I heard it and then a couple years later when I watched to video I fell in love with it. I don't necessarily think that the lyrics were captured but if a music video can make me smile and laugh and feel sad and can make me feel different emotions in a just a few minutes than I think that they did a great job.

I am also in love with the video "Wake Me up When September Ends" by Green Day. What really drew me into this particular song was the video. I was not particularly a fan of the song until I saw the video and that was when I really listened to the song and had a new found appreciation for it.

The video made me smile and cry at the same time. I am not sure why but I think that I could put myself in that situation and I realized that I would felt the same as she did in that moment in her life.

Lady Gaga, in my opinion, does a great job with all of her music videos.  She takes a role and puts her own unique spin on it and just creates this character that sticks in your mind.  People may talk bad about her and how weird she is but they can’t say that they don’t respect her for being different and out there.  There has not been an artist in the past (that I can think of) that even comes close to her and her style. 

I am more disappointed in the videos that the boy bands are making now.  As well as the rappers that are out there.  All of their videos consist of women dancing provocatively and showing that they are there for one reason.  I, for one, find that disrespectful towards women and I think that we are worth more than that.

Justin Beiber has been a pet peeve of mine since his first single came out.  I mean he is very young and is singing about love and all that jazz which is nice and all but does he really understand what he’s singing about?  His videos are all the same as well.  Him chasing after a girl who likes him but she’s too shy to do anything about it and blah blah blah.  They are all predictable. 

So what I am saying is that it’s really hard to be impressed anymore with music videos and not just that but songs as well.  I wish we would go back to the good old days where CCR was respected and still listened to by young youth. 

What are your thoughts on this? (That is if you do think about this…) Has there been a song or even a music video that changed your outlook on something? 

The Dishwasher, 2 (Jobs v. Life)

Comic comes from Natalie Dee.
Jobs v Life is essays about all the jobs I've had, in chronological order.  So far there's been paperboy,  and McDonald's... click here for an explanation and table of contents.

When I left off telling about my job a a dishwasher at Chenequa Country Club -- the third job I ever had in my life -- I was here, talking about

cruising, which as I realize it has nothing at all to do with Chenequa Country Club but you're stuck with the me that's stuck on this story, and cruising it is.  Cruising was something we did about every three weeks, driving around on Highway 100, smoking and pretending we were cool and not bored and seeing girls and wondering what it would be like to talk to them, and cruising was Godawfulboring right up until the one night it was not, the last night we ever went cruising, and what made cruising not boring that night was that on that one night, instead of just cruising around, stopping at the stoplights, getting some food, and then going home, on that one night, instead, things took a wild, random turn for the bizarrely worse when at a stoplight, a guy got out of a car and ran over to our car and reached in through the front, open, passenger-seat window and grabbed my friend Fred and began punching him as hard and fast in the face as he could.

That is how one of the rare nights on which something happened began: we'd been cruising, on Highway 100, and then that took place, and we all began yelling.

I have to make a correction to the story, though, as since last time I have realized that it was not Fred who was being punched, it was my friend Bob.

Bob and Fred were best friends, both on the track team, both lived near each other for a while, and they hung out together.  I was a hanger-on to their duo, and that continued with both Bob and Fred working as waiters at Chenequa Country Club before I began as a dishwasher there.  The fact that we would all work together made it seem to me like it might be kind of cool to work there only it wasn't at all.

Bob was in the passenger seat, as I recall, and I was in the back seat behind the driver, with the driver being my older brother Bill, and Bob in the front passenger seat. 

I realized, after last time, that I was wrong on the placement of that front-seat passenger because it was only after going back and re-reading it to be being this segment that I remembered the critical factor, which was how this whole thing had started, which was that Fred, who was prone to doing things like this, had flipped off the guys in the other car.

We didn't know that as Bill started driving, doing so as soon as he could, which was both almost immediately and a lot longer than you want it to be when you are under attack, and while we waited for the light to change and the cars in front of us to move Bob was trying to roll up the window while also being punched in the face and finally we were moving, trying to get out of the stop-and-go cruising traffic on Highway 100 and away from the guys who were suddenly chasing us.

We didn't know why they had attacked Bob, or us, or whether they'd meant to attack just Bob or what was going on at all; all we knew was that we were being chased, and it was for real.  We got off of Highway 100 and into the side streets that ran through all the subdivisions and small strip malls around West Allis and Brookfield, Wisconsin, and in the dark of that night we were being pursued by an unknown number of guys in a car for no apparent reason, and they were not giving up.

As we drove, we were all shouting instructions to Bill about what to do and where to go; I suppose we were trying to lose them, but we weren't doing a very effective job of it, because when you actually go through something like that, it's way harder to lose someone than you immediately think, even in a bunch of residential streets.  Or maybe especially in a bunch of residential streets, where there are stop lights and other cars and it's not all that late and so while you are driving to save your life you also are driving, at least a little, somewhat responsibly, in that Bill would pause or at least slow down for stop signs, something they never do in the movies.

This went on for about forty years, or ten minutes, depending on whether you want to know how it felt or how long it actually took.  For about 10 minutes or so we sped as much as we could through quiet residential streets, with these guys after us, and it was during that time that Fred confessed that he had flipped the guys off at the stoplight, prompting us all to start yelling at him about why he would do that, while he yelled back his defense, being that he didn't know and he thought it would be funny.

I thought these guys were going to kill us.

I had only been in, at that point, about three fights in my entire life, if you don't count constantly fighting with my brothers which I don't because when we fought we had rules, like You can't hit each other in the face (a rule my older brother Bill would, not long after this event, break, along with my nose, when he punched me in the face when I wasn't even looking at him, resulting in a life-long bend in my nose), so when we fought as brothers, even those times we picked up weapons, which was sometimes, we almost never did any real harm to each other.

The three fights I had been in were two of the usual kinds of fights, in grade school, where nothing much happens.  One had been against Mark Hanley, a kid whose parents were friends with my parents, but who I never cared much for.  I don't remember why I fought Mark Hanley, other than that I didn't much care for him and I had (have, but it's easier to control at age 43 than at age 10 or 12) a terrible temper.  The fight with Mark Hanley took place on a baseball diamond and involved only a few punches and maybe some wrestling.  I don't remember it well but I remember that I didn't get badly hurt at all and neither did he, and Mark and I after that remained wary acquaintances until high school where I never recall talking to him ever again.  Maybe he moved.

Another fight was with Dean Larsen, in 5th grade, and I got in trouble for it, because Dean Larsen was making fun of me wearing glasses and an eye patch.  When I think back about Dean Larsen, I remember him as being taller and stronger than everyone in the 5th grade, and the rumor was that he'd been held back, but even if he had been held back, it couldn't account for how I remember Dean, because I remember him as being grown-up sized, double my height, and that can't be, right?  I'm sure I've inflated how large he was to make up for how badly that fight went, when I charged Dean Larsen for making fun of me and tried to punch him and he easily got me in a headlock and tackled me and pulled my glasses off and gave me a facewash until a teacher broke it up and I got sent to the principal's office for starting a fight.

After 5th grade, in our district, everyone changed schools and went to junior high for 6th-8th grades at Hartland North, and I don't recall seeing Dean there, so maybe I've completely blanked him from my mind after that.

The only other fight was one I got into when I was about 17; my uncle, Mark, was staying with us at the time, as my grandmother had recently died and Mark was only about 20 years old.  Mark and I had gone out on one Friday night to a "teen bar," where we could shoot pool and dance and smoke and he could meet girls and I could hope to meet girls, and there was a guy there who was picking a fight with me and finally I said I would fight him, although I can't imagine what I was thinking when I agreed to that.

I left, with Mark, and he left, with his friends, and a bunch of people who knew what was going on left, too, and we met on the sidewalk outside the teen bar, which was called "Jellybeans," and which held a weekly lip-synch contest where once I had come in second by doing a lipsynch to Adam Ant's Strip.

(I did not strip all the way down; I had a pair of shorts under my jeans.)

(You didn't get any prizes for being second, though.)

Outside, me and this guy faced each other, about three inches apart, each daring the other to hit first.  We had a belief, back then, that if you hit first you could be arrested, whereas if you hit second you could never be in trouble at all.   I know now that that rule is not exactly accurate, but that's what we thought back then, so many fights started the way this one did:

Him:  Go ahead.  Hit me.

Me:  No.  You hit me.  [I was desperately praying that he would not hit me because by then I had calmed down and realized that there wasn't any chance, really, that I would come out of this in any shape I wanted to be in.]

OTHERS:  Hit him.
This went on for a few minutes, until this happened:

Him:  Hit me.

You probably think you can guess what happened next, and if you guessed "I turned around and said to my uncle, Did you see that? I hit him!" only to turn back and get pasted in the face myself and fall to the ground," you guessed correctly.

Two punches, one from each, and I was down, but that fight was not over because he kicked me, again and again, forcing me to cover my face because he was trying to kick it, and I stood up only to have him trip me and knock me down again and start kicking me and I got up again only to have him punch me in the head and I went down again and he started kicking me again...

...I have to point out that as I understood the Rules of Fights, one does not kick.  This really seemed unfair to me.  Also, painful.

...and after a few minutes of that, my uncle somehow pulled me out and kind of pulled rank -- he was a year or two older than everyone else -- and it stopped and they left and he helped me get into the car and we drove home, leaving me to wonder to this day why he waited until the third round of kicks to stop the bout.

All of that is to say that while I had been in a few fights in my life, they had never gone well, and in the most serious one, I am pretty sure I'd have been hospitalized by Kick Guy if not for my uncle finally deciding to help me out of that one, and thus, as we drove through neighborhood after neighborhood and could not shake these guys, I was 100% positive that I was going to die this way, so I was quietly awaiting my fate when we hatched a desperate plan.

We had, in the car with us, a bottle of Schnapps.

Don't judge us.  I know that teenage drinking is kind of wrong and that drinking and driving is wrong, but first off, Bill was driving and he was not drinking, and secondly, this was back roundabout in 1988 and while drinking and driving is always wrong and I get that -- I was mowed into by a drunk driver a few years later and broke my neck -- back then drinking and driving was wrong on the level of, say, jaywalking, or not shoveling your driveway.  Here is an actual thing that happened to me when I was 20:

We had been at a party, and we had been drinking, as we were wont to do at parties.  Around about 1 or 2 a.m. when we ran out of alcohol and the party wound down and the people like me who did not have girlfriends to make out with had to go home because everyone was making out with their girlfriends started leaving, we had to decide who was going to drive.

I was chosen to drive on the basis of having had the least to drink: our choices were Fred, who could barely stand up, Bob, who could stand up but not much more, and me, plus my younger brother Matt who also, I believe, was stoned. 

So I got the car keys and the responsibility of driving, and I drove carefully and did pretty well for the five or so miles home, a trip that involved going through downtown Hartland and within a block or two of the police station before hitting the long straight road that led to our subdivision.

We were on that road, and apparently I was speeding, because I got pulled over by the local cop who knew us the best, Officer Begin (his name was pronounced Bay-gen, in case you are wondering, which you probably weren't.  If you weren't, I apologize for wasting your time, but it seemed more important when I wrote it that you know how to pronounce his name even though, I assure you, the pronunciation of his name does not factor into this story at all.)

Officer Begin pulled me over just one block away from the street I lived on, and our house was only three blocks up that street, so we were 1/3 of a mile from home when I got pulled over, and this is how seriously drinking and driving was not taken back then: I wasn't worried about drinking and driving, I was worried about underage drinking, and speeding.

Officer Begin came up to the car and looked us over.  He knew me, and he knew our family, mostly because of Bill, who was constantly in low-grade trouble, and sometimes in middle- or high-grade trouble.

"Where you going, Briane?" he asked me quietly.

I mumbled something about going home, aware that I was kind of slurring my words.

"You tired?" Officer Begin asked.

Fred, in the backseat, was laughing and paying no attention to the fact that the cop was asking me questions.  I agreed I was tired.

"Have you been drinking tonight?" the cop asked all of us.

We all assured him that we had not, all except Fred, who was laughing about something else now.

Officer Begin sighed and said to me: "Just go straight home, okay?"

And he walked back to his car and turned off the lights and left.  We drove home.

So we had a bottle of Schnapps in the car with us, because that was what kids did then, and our plan, as we tried to shake the guys who were chasing us, was this:  We would throw that bottle at their car.

We didn't know what it would do, to throw the bottle at them.  It was pretty much the only thing we could think to do because we were 20 miles from home and lost in the subdivisions and needed to end this and get on the freeway and go home but we didn't want them following us to our houses, so as we rounded a corner and the car gained on us, these guys who had been chasing us now for about 20 minutes, Bob leaned out the window and held up  the bottle of Schnapps -- it was one of those heavy, thick flask-sized bottles, built like a glass brick -- and he threw it.

We heard the bottle smash against their car, and out the back window we could see that he'd hit the front of the car and hit it good, and what happened next was the only reason that plan worked.

The driver of the other car stopped his car cold, slamming on the brakes, and opened his door, and began running after us! 

We had been about 20 yards away when Bob threw the bottle and this guy gets out and starts running after us, and we all realized immediately that this was it, this was our break, and began hollering for Bill to floor it and he did, taking off like a shot as the guy continued to try to chase us on foot for nearly a block but we of course left him behind, and Bill took a turn and another turn and then he was alone in an area we didn't recognize.

"Turn off the headlights," we told him, and he did that.  We assumed the guy had gotten back into his car and was looking for us, but we were far enough ahead, we figured, that we could continue to sneak around, and that was what we did for about 15 more minutes, driving as quickly as we could with our lights off, all of us silent; the feeling was like in one of those submarine movies where the entire crew sits motionless, sweating, in the green glow, waiting to see if they have been discovered.

We weren't.  We made it out of that neighborhood, got our bearings, and got on the highway, and headed home.  We took backroads through our town to make sure nobody was following us, because we were smart that way.

And only that way.

PS: I realize that this has nothing whatsoever to do with dishwashing.  Next time I will talk about the actual job, but maybe the point is that work, jobs, have so little to do with what life is all about that I cannot directly think about a job like dishwashing, and so instead my brain gets redirected to the good parts.