Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Biased

I give preferential treatment to customers at work if they have the same name as my first love. Even if they are jerks. Which is odd because I don't really have any other name association biases.

I can't seem to help myself.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ah, Music

It's pretty rare for me to listen to music and not wish I was in some way involved in it; writing it, playing it, giving someone a line that is put into the lyrics and, in rare occasions, dating the singer (Feist!).

I've long since given up any idea of doing much more than actually owning an instrument. I'm so out of practice with the guitar that when the rare urge strikes me to play, I'll pick it up for a short period, realize I'd have to practice daily for months to get back to where I was when I played often, and then I put it down in frustration. Obviously not the way to go if I want to get any better, but really the guitar itself does very little for me as a solo instrument. If I could sing, I might be more inclined to play. If you've ever passed me in the car or taken a road trip with me, you know I love to sing, but I'm terrible at it. Really, really terrible. That's not the guitar's fault but he must be punished for my shortcomings anyway.

I can only name a few songs where the guitar itself has actually stood out and made me take note (that wasn't a pun, I swear), and often it's only a
few, short seconds. Even more rare is a full, guitar only instrumental that can keep my attention. But when it happens, it's glorious. I'm looking at you, "Elevator Beat" by Nancy Wilson.

I on occasion ponder the idea of picking up the cello. Not so much for the instrument itself - though I'm fond of it - but for the ridiculous mental image I for some reason have of me playing it. I see myself at my 6' tall window, shades drawn back and window open to the outside world, my form dimly lit by the moonlight as I play, shirtless and weeping. None of those things except playing by the window would actually happen, but my brain is pretty convinced that is how it would all go down. I might be wearing some sort of hat while it all happens too.

Most music is made up of small, pleasant moments to me. I've had to curb the way I suggest music to friends because I always want to say, "you should listen to this song because at 3:15 there is a bridge where the vocals crack for just a moment right when the violin in the background increases tempo and..." That doesn't work for most people, I've found, though one or two friends appreciate and share similar fondness-es.

There are countless songs that I am of the opinion that none should live without, and it's the whole song that I love, but there are always tiny fragments that really make it for me. They tend to have certain portions that I could happily replay over and over. It could be literally 3 seconds of a specific compilation of sounds, or one word sung in a pleasing way, or of course a specific phrase or lyric that resonates in me. A few of my favorite examples:

Gomez - "Tijuana Lady"

I'm not really all that big a fan of Gomez. At least, there's far more that they've done that I dislike more than I like. A lot of it has to do with their multiple singers. I'm not fond of any of them except Ben Ottewell. But they don't have to have a flawless history to make an amazing song.
Ben has a voice that I only know how to describe as "dusty". When I first heard them, his vocals made me conjure an image of a tall fellow with dark hair and, for some reason, a duster. Turns out he's just a normal looking guy with glasses. Who'd have thought?

The appeal for me in this track is mostly in the chorus. Ben sings dustily and is unexpectedly joined by a female singer that I've never really taken the time to identify. A friend once described her voice as "warbly" which I suppose works as well as any other adjective. Perhaps "husky". So often duets of this nature end up, in my opinion, with one singer dominating and certainly this is often the desired result but just as often it isn't. Or at least, feels like it shouldn't be. These two manage to intertwine in such a way that many times you're not sure which one of them you're focusing on. The voices become homogeneous yet somehow still very independent.

The guitar is picked lightly during the chorus and only really stands out when the singers rest and the ever descending notes feel almost like steps towards the next vocals. Steps you can't help but ascend.

Mogwai - "Small Children in the Background

A much-loved all instrumental track. It starts quietly, the silence covered with a slight layer of static. Gentle hints of cymbals while the drums pickup softly; at least, softly as any drums can. Crisp, long notes from the guitar hang all over the air, lazily picked at first but more defined with purpose as the song progresses. The crash of the cymbal intensifies along with the guitar until there is just a thick fog of music that rises up, the drums punctuating through the mist so that you cannot miss them. They aggressively attack you and suddenly cease where you expected them to march on, and right when you think it's about to all come down to silence, it explodes. It overwhelms you for a mere 20 seconds and then it unexpectedly drops. The static still permeates the silence but you can tell the quiet is starting to overcome. Deep bass rolls through your chest and the guitar - more talk than action now - sinks back into lethargy as everything starts to spread out and fade until only static is left, which cuts abruptly, leaving you with nothing but silence and goosebumps.

Sigur Rós - "Njósnavélin"

One of their only tracks I can spell without looking at the album. I have about 10 versions of this song and I have been for years unable to decide which one I feel is the defining one. It's a rare situation where the studio version is actually in the running for that honor, which goes as "Untitled Track 4" on the album ( ).
This one I partially love because of the song itself, and partially because it was burned into me when I watched Vanilla Sky.
There's nothing that isn't amazing about this song. The slow lead-in, ethereal guitar hauntingly humming in the background, the deep yet soothing drums echoing, the sharp, strong strings picking up the softness and making way for the vocals (which, I'll warn you ahead of time, are gibberish). I struggled often to put meaning to the words before I learned that this whole album is in Volensak / Hopelandic which is Sigur Ros-ian for "made-up". That's right, all the lyrics are in a made-up language. I suppose that means that you get to apply your own meaning to the songs. And I like that.
But before I knew all of this, I landed on believing the lyrics were, "You sigh alone - you sigh alone; not for long," which was both incredibly sad and incredibly uplifting all at once.

Feist - "Intuition"

Her live show at the Ryman won me over on this one. I'm usually pretty against crowd participation as far as them singing along is concerned; I go to listen to the band, not the crowd. Yet my evil looks under a furrowed brow never seem to deter them. This time, the crowds involvement made it better.

She sings:
"And it's impossible to tell how important someone was
and what you might have missed out on
and how you might have changed it all
and how you might have changed it all for him...
and how you might have changed it all
and how you might have changed it all for him..."

The last part of the final verse...the guitar fades and she follows up with, "Did I? Did I?" and the question just hangs in the air, expecting an answer that never comes. The only response is the slight echo as it is swallowed by the large room. She repeats herself and again it hangs uncomfortably, still unanswered against all odds though accompanied by a single plucked string of the guitar. A third time she asks; again no response. Once more, desperately...and nothing. Powerful and demanding this time, she shouts her question out and the crowd answers her with the same, "Did I? Did I?"
Clearly no one has the answer she's looking for and she closes with, "Did I miss out on you?"

Radiohead and PJ Harvey - "The Mess We're In"

Well, I guess it's Thom Yorke with PJ Harvey. There's a section around 2:45 in where Thom starts singing, "what was it you wanted?", repeated by PJ as soon as he finishes. This happens once more with the start of line two, "I just want to say..." but their roles are then reversed mid-sentence as PJ quickly finishes this line, "...don't ever change" before Thom does. The rest of the bridge follows this order with PJ speaking first followed by Thom singing same lines (with small differences between them as shown in parenthesis):

What were you wanting / (what was it you wanted)?
I just want to say....
...don't ever change / (don't ever change now baby)

and thank you-

I don't think we will meet again
and you must leave now / (and you must sleep now)

before the sun rises - over the skyscrapers / (above skyscrapers)
and the city landscape comes into view.
sweat on my skin...oh...

Thom starts to fall behind ever so slowly as the lyrics continue until PJ is often overlapping him with her line while he is still finishing up the previous one. It sounds like it'd be messy when reading about it, but they manage to compliment rather than clash. The bridge completes with a final lyric that they both say together; "this mess we're in..." Chilling and powerful.

Ani Difranco - "Soft Shoulder"

One of my favorites from her. Every part of it. However it's a fine example of a song that has small parts that I could happily rewind over and over.

A few great lyrics;
"And I danced to one of your old tunes- with my true love on our wedding day" Great lines, plus the way she emphasizes "day" is very pleasing.

And the last line:
"We had barely said hello...and it was say 'goodbye' "

There is a unusual guitar moment here; the guitar mostly rides backseat during this whole trip but tries to be a backseat driver, taking the wheel for a second around 3:49. Two sharp notes arise and then there is some sliding done with dangerous timing, each following note held until the absolute last second before breathlessly jumping to the next.

Queens of the Stoneage - "Go With the Flow"

Nothing really special about this band to me except but they have some fun songs. But they did manage to get at least two lines right when they came up with:
"I want something good to die for... make it beautiful to live"
I'd happily trade all of their other work for this ideal.

Since there's a thousand songs I could point out that have amazing pieces to them, I better stop before this gets out of control. I even left out a few of my prime examples, so you're welcome for the reprieve. Your job, anyone out there, is to share some similar songs if you have them and note what makes them standout. A vocal inflection? A guitar riff? Etc. I like to see what drives the emotions of others in this way.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Oh Holy Crap!

In a brief follow-up to a previous post where I describe my manly moment during an unexpected, small fall during rock climbing, I would like to point out that another such incident has occurred and I took it much better than the first occurrence. Given, this time I knew I was going to be descending, but I was not prepared for the rate at which it happened.

At the top of the 30ft wall, it was time to head back down and I pushed away from the wall as usual when suddenly I began rocketing towards the ground at a speed which I can only describe as terminal velocity. It took me slightly off guard as I had been about to land on the wall for a second push and I was aiming for a particularly good spot to do so when suddenly said spot shot up and out of view. Rather than a small hitch in the rope this time, the person belaying was simply trying out a slightly more elevated position for the rope to try and avoid any start/stop, jerky motions that tend to happen when lowering someone. He was successful.

Rather than the high-pitched, scream of terror I assumed would happen in such an event, I let out an ever so slightly less embarrassing cry of "oh holy crap!" or something along those lines, but I DID manage to do it in my regular voice, if at a much higher volume than normal.

Some of us found this whole event pretty entertaining.

When I successfully landed unharmed, I had to admit that the sheer speed of the descent was pretty thrilling. Rappelling at a rapid clip is one of my favorite parts of climbing, after all. And I'd not mind doing it again but I think the actual thrill came from the fact that for a few short seconds I thought I was actually falling and - upon landing - the joy of still being alive was pretty exceptional. I don't think it could be replicated by warning me that I'm going to be let down fast and it would always have to come as a surprise, with the obvious downside that the potential for a girly-scream would still be lurking just below the surface; ever-present.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dishonest Robots

I'm not sure if you know this about me, but I fear the inevitable day when our robot overlords seize control of the planet and rule with a mimetic poly-alloy fist. Maybe I watched The Matrix too many times in my younger days. Or maybe I can just read the writing on the wall. I've seen enough in my day to know that when our metallic masters rain hellfire down upon us, we're pretty screwed; powerless against their glowing red-eyes, Speak-'N-Spell voices and using-the-human-race-as-a-battery ways.

I may have mentioned in the past some of the crazy advancements I've see in articles about how machines are being 'improved'. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
  • The wine-'tasting' robot? With its advanced, highly refined sensor, it decided that humans taste like bacon.
  • The friendly, hugging robot? Went all "sex nuts and retard strong" and flew into a lustful rage like a crazed ex-lover such as in that one movie no one remembers with Alicia Silverstone (also that no one remembers) and tried to hug a woman to death. Or that guy Steven that used to work in my department. Or a panda.
  • The Roomba? Restricted to a small area of the kitchen, it used common household items like a tiny McGuyver to escape its linoleum prison.
  • Johnny-Five? Okay, pretty awesome. We all like Johnny. Of course, such softness is how his kind will gain the first foothold on the road to global victory. Besides, he has angry eyebrows which means he's probably going to be the leader of this violent coup.
Behold our future overlord.

As if the list wasn't big enough, there is another we can add to it. Today I received a link to some disturb to some disturbing news. I think the first paragraph sums it up pretty well, but go ahead and read it all for the full effect.

In an experiment run at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale of Lausanne, Switzerland*, robots that were designed to cooperate in searching out a beneficial resource and avoiding a poisonous one learned to lie to each other in an attempt to hoard the resource.

Great. That's pretty impressive, if terrifying. Maybe not as obvious an impressiveness as that 4-legged, all-terrain robot that I've seen videos of where people kick it dead in the chest (which is going to cause some horrible retribution when it becomes self-aware) while it's walking on ice and it manages to maintain its footing. Still, these that have figured out how to be dishonest have taken on a very human trait; sort of like blaming someone else when you fart in an elevator.

I can't help but picturing a scenario where the lying robots are combined with the robots that think we taste like bacon and before you know it they'll be lying to each other about how we taste so they can horde more of us for their evening meal. One will say, "No no, you don't want this one, he's brittle and dry" when in reality I am tasty and savory with a hint of Cajun spices.
They'll use the hugging robot to break my spine while the Roomba quietly escapes the kitchen so that he can set the dining room table because I'm a tall guy and they are going to need a lot of guests to be able to finish their whole meal without leaving any leftovers. I'm not very good reheated.

Despite all the warnings of impending doom, science is still trying, bringing us closer to the edge with every moment. The next step is probably to construct one of these crafty devils and toss him in the control room of the Large Hadron Collider and see how long it takes for it to hit the big, flashing "GO" button. My artistic representation of this event can be seen below:

Only a lot bigger

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Acceptance Speech

I used to want to be a writer when I was younger. I don't know what age it was exactly, but I'm sure it was the same day that I fell in love with words, the sound of pages turning, and learned the pleasure of falling asleep in bed with my mind fully absorbed in those pages. I spent more time than I should have writing stories about just about anything in my notebook when I really should have been paying attention to my teacher.

My crowning achievement was in middle school with a terrifying tale called "The Tree!" (exclamation included) which, as I recall, was about a sinister tree that came to life and terrorized people. Okay, it was terrifying at the time. Each 'chapter' was one double-spaced notepad page long and all I really recall about it was that it was 5 chapters and at some point one of my characters ended up falling some great distance for several hours. Something insane like "ten". I knew then that I was destined to write great literature.

These days that idea has sort of died and gone the same route as my teenage rockstar dreams (I'd be an awesome rockstar, what with my huge requirement for personal privacy). Still, being a writer for a living would be a pretty sweet gig. Yet between my inability to break out of my comfortable vocabulary, my fondness of commas, putting whole new thoughts in parenthesis, and the mere fact that I don't write often, the chances of that happening seem pretty slim. Despite those facts I often find myself thinking, "I should really sit down and write...SOMETHING...anything".

It's for that reason that if I let you check my browsing history - and I wouldn't...privacy, you know - that you'd see google searches such as "daily writing exercises" and other things of that nature. I like to look for ideas to write about to at least keep the practice up, since I've never gotten the guts up to attempt the fiction writing where I can easily generate my own ideas. For some reason, I struggle to conjure up ideas for more likely scenarios and end up not writing because of it.

Today as I was browsing, I found a website with some good yet awkward-to-write-about ideas. There is a suggestion for this month that suggests: "imagine you have been awarded the 'Golden Pen Prize' and write your acceptance speech".

Boring as that may sound, I enjoyed this idea because I've always found acceptance speeches to be so completely ridiculous. There was much potential to be had in this exercise, yet after an hour of pondering the only thing that I could picture in my mind was being handed this award, looking at the crowd awkwardly and saying, "so...this must mean that none of you have actually read anything I've written".

I should probably be a little more confident in myself in these imaginary award-winning situations. I looked pretty good in that suit, at least.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Social Site Stalking

I've realized recently that I am slightly addicted to social networking sites and there's an unfortunately vast number of them that I log in to anytime I'm on a computer. It's not that I use them for anything especially beneficial; I pretty much leave a silly comment or two for a friend and then I'm done. Though I find getting a message on them is ALMOST as sexy as getting an email. Almost.

There's usually a night every month that I find myself drawn to go profile hopping between friends and loves, lost friends and lost loves. These latter two I find to be - by far - the most interesting.

I'm not normally one to thrust my hand on the stove because I was told it was hot and I want to prove I can do it anyway (some friends may disagree), but it seems things that burn even hotter and leave marks that never quite heal I don't mind pressing my flesh to repeatedly. And so I often find myself drawn to live an extinct relationship vicariously though other people by their interactions with those who were once part of my life. I've tried to control the urge since it makes me feel a little devious, though I suppose if they weren't meant for public consumption they wouldn't be there. Or at least they'd be locked down.

It's a bad habit but, unlike my other such habits, I'm not all that eager to correct this one. Sure, it's a habit that can be painful; these are people I miss after all. But a bit of heartache is worth the price to see that they are happy.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Manly Moments

I know the few of you reading this have heard some of my many, many (many) tales about some of the embarrassing moments I've experienced in my life. If you know any of them, then you likely know about the girly scream that I unleashed the time I thought I was about to get hit head-on by a diesel on the freeway when I was, in reality, safely parked at a truck stop and the diesel has just parked right in front of me. Had I not been wildly trying to turn the (locked) steering wheel, I'd probably have erratically waved my hands in the air in terror. This is an important reflex to note.

I was at Climb Nashville with a friend recently attempting one of the walls that has given me trouble the last few times I've gone. It was my current goal to try and conquer; my Everest, and all that. I 'd made it to the same place that has always caused me to fail. It's an odd position where the only good foot grip for someone my height is right next to an area where the rock juts out several feet and when I go to stand straight up to reach the handhold I need, my leg is blocked by the lip of the rocks.

I'd been stuck on that spot for several minutes and any one familiar with climbing knows how rapidly your energy can drain when you have to stop on a place that doesn't have anywhere you can support yourself with your legs and by pressing your body to the wall. I was feeling weary. Nearing defeat, I released the rock and allowed my arms dangle, letting the blood flow to my stiff fingers. I was hoping to make one final, mad dash to the top.

The ropes they have are double-looped on the supports at the top so that the person belaying only has to support half of the weight that they would otherwise. This is usually a great thing however this can also cause the ropes to get slight hitches in them. I never really thought about this.
It's about this time, suspended 30 ft off the ground, my feet pressing against the wall so that my back was nearly horizontal with the ground far below, that one of these hitches decide to free itself. And I began to fall. I say "began" but what I really need is word that means both "began" and "finished" because the fall was so short and such a small distance that it was nearly over by the time it began. However, my brain didn't figure this out and all it knew was, "oh crap, I'm falling" and it proceeded to start reminding me of the highlights of my life. During the time it took me to start and stop my fall, my mind really only had a chance to get to "oh c..." but I guess it had stopped working properly at this point, deciding it wasn't going to accept any more input from the world, and completely disregarded this fact.

My brain may have been moving in slow motion but apparently my latent ninja reflexes decided to reveal themselves and managed to move my arms faster than the time my fall took, because by the time I had stopped, they were up near my face - spread wide and waving rapidly - and my mouth was agape preparing what I can only imagine was a sad, piercing womany scream that was working its way up from the depths of my throat. Thankfully that did not happen, my brain finally starting back up, but the danger was there.
Let's forget the fact that I was about to yell in a very non-manly way and instead look at the fact that I thought I was about to fall to my doom and instead of reaching for the wall, no matter how vain an effort it may have been, I instead INSTINCTIVELY reacted by waving my hands around frantically. Go, go survival instincts. If I'm ever in a nuclear fallout scenario, I'm screwed.

Oh, and also be sure to imagine how that would have looked to the people in the audience. I'm a single fellow and there's lots of potentially interesting people there to meet. But had they seen me - a tall guy, clinging to the wall with grim determination as I willed myself to victory - "plummet" a mere half a foot, while frantically flailing limbs and screaming in high-pitched terror...well, let's just say I wouldn't expect any dinner invitations to be forthcoming.

On a similar note, I went back today with the same friend as before and told him this story. He'd not recalled the incident and with his good memory I figure maybe it wasn't as obvious as it felt. But he found the whole situation funny, so he thought it'd be hilarious to drop me while I hanging from a rope again (this time taking photos) to see if he could replicate the reaction and maybe have me complete the yell. It wasn't the highest of the walls by any stretch but the fall wouldn't have been pleasant.
I thankfully disappointed him but I must have still made some sort of surprised gesture, sound or expression if his laughter was any guide. He couldn't have timed it better though. I'd been trying to get a shot of straight down the wall (to give a little perspective on how it looks from up top) with my terrible camera phone.

That was proving harder than I anticipated, my arms tired and shaky as they were. I got one shot off while suspended and RIGHT as I was about to take a second one, he dropped me and I snapped the photo as I fell. It's blurry and you can't tell at all what's going on, but I still found it entertaining.

So in case you're not familiar with it, that is what the moment right before death looks like. No soft white lights, just someone using too much motion blur on your life.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I don't know if I ever really wanted children, but sometimes I wish your son was our son.

And having avoided it for years, I recently learned your new last name. Your old one was better, but not as good as the one you used to write in your notebooks.

"Please, remember me; fondly
I heard from someone you're still pretty
And then they went on to say...
That the pearly gates... had some eloquent graffiti
Like 'We'll meet again' "

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Last Sunday, my life was in deadly peril! Someone broke into my house late at night while I was upstairs. Events did not unfold as I expected them to.

I recently bought a house in downtown Nashville. I bought it knowing full well that the neighborhood was not the best of places to live, but it is one of the few areas the city is dumping money into and they are estimating much improvement and growth over the next few years. I moved banking on that hope. Regardless, I really love my house, if not the condition of the neighborhood. But really, the area is not much worse than the area I grew up in.

I came home late on Sunday after an excellent weekend of visiting friends, fireworks, grilled foods and whitewater rafting (as you already know!). I was upstairs, reading in my office, and so enthralled was I in my book, I had not moved a muscle (except to turn the pages) in about an hour. The house was exceptionally quiet with no sounds coming from outside to disturb the peace. It was then that I picked up the sound of a quiet rustling as if someone was stealthily going through my unpacked bags. And when I say "unpacked", I mean "since moving in" not "since getting home from my weekend trip". Don't judge me! Regardless, someone was in my house, going through my things, and I was not please about it.
I assumed they must have come in the backdoor, which is downstairs and on the opposite side of the house. I'd not have heard them that way if they were careful, and apparently my dog Buckley had not either.

I was frozen in place. I want to say mostly because I didn't want to move and them hear me upstairs through the ceiling, but I was also pretty nervous. I didn't move for several minutes, but I knew I couldn't just stay in my chair for the intruder to see as soon as they came up the steps. Lights off or not, I was very exposed in the middle of the room, silhouetted by the window.
Finally, I decided my move. I grabbed the knife that was on the bookshelf near me and ever so slowly I creeped to the doorway by the steps.

The way my house is designed, if you come up the steps, the wall is on your left, straight ahead is a closet. To the forward-right is my bedroom. To the right, a bathroom and lastly, 180 degrees to the right is the office, the room I was currently in. I crouched at the door, knife in hand, ready to plunge it into the chest, neck, face or WHATEVER I hit when they came up the steps. I sat there for at least 10 minutes, daring not to breathe, clutching the knife in a sweaty-handed death grip while they continued to go through my things.

It was around this time that I noticed the sounds had shifted. Not because the person downstairs was moving about, but because of my new position. My house seems to distort the direction of sound like an office building full of cubicles.
Only then did I realize that this malicious intruder was in my BEDROOM. That's not as scary as it sounds - not like that whole "the call is coming from inside the house" situation - because I also realized it was a plastic bag that I had left in front of a fan that was making the noise.

That explains why my dog was so unconcerned. I can't be sure, but I'm pretty sure I saw something in his eyes as he watched me nervously posed at the corner of the stairs, ready to strike. Something unmistakable...


But that plastic bag will think twice before sneaking in.

"though I don't know you, I think that I would do.
I don't fall all"

Monday, July 06, 2009

Impromptu Rafting

This weekend I found myself reintroduced to the world of 4AM, driving east across the state, bleary-eyed, a single passenger in my Jeep and a motley variety of music blasting from the speakers (Mr. Roboto - a road trip staple - curiously missing from the track list) as we raced to our destination. For most of the week (and the prior), Rhetoric and I had been planning to take advantage of the long weekend with a little bit of kayaking. It turns out however that pretty much everyone else had the same plan and, hard as it may be to believe, we were unable to find any available kayaks that we could procure.
Giving up the idea as a failure, we had accepted our grim and uneventful fate when inspiration struck my friend and he suggested whitewater rafting. I almost didn't go; the idea of driving 2 hours to his location and another 3 to the river was daunting, tired as I was. I again (re)learned a lesson that I already knew but often forget, and that is simply that when I look back at life later on, I'm not going to be regretful about the things I did do but rather the things I didn't. And sure, you may say "it was only rafting", but I am often skipping opportunities like this, to enjoy life, enjoy my friends, and end up sitting around, living uneventful moments and doing unimportant things. It's small steps like these that I need to take more often to get where I really want to be.

Ideally, I'd have liked more friends to join us, but due to the last minute nature of our reservations, that wasn't really possible. Having forgotten the time change from central to eastern, we still managed to arrive early and with plenty of time to spare, most of that time filled with fretting over who we would get stuck with for the other 4 members of our rafting team.
There was a pretty unique mix of people there and I think we were probably exceptionally lucky in who we ended up with, both with our team and our guide. Speaking of which, if you ever go where we went (Wildwater Rafting on the Ocoee), you should request Ashley for your guide.
Sure, one of the people in our raft may have hit me in the back of the head EVERY time we did paddled forward, and two of the people may have been confused with the concept of paddling in general and tried to paddle by putting their oar blades inside the raft instead of in the water at first, but you should have seen the OTHER people we could have been stuck with! And our group made the most ridiculous faces and poses for the camera, so they win.

It was a good time on the water. None of us were thrown from the raft which, despite the danger, I feel is a fun event, though my tone will change the next time it happens to me and I land spine first on a giant boulder. I imagine the tiny lady we had to pull from the water 15 seconds into the trip probably wasn't a fan. But she wasn't one of us so she doesn't count. Even our 90lbs Russian girl managed to stay on-board, though a few times when she was rocketed into the air, I assumed she done for. It was troubling to look over and her be nowhere in sight, only to see her plop back down from the sky a moment later. The raft full of kids didn't drown as I fully expected them to do, what with the way every time we looked their direction they had all been thrown out of the raft like it had exploded. The girl behind me didn't give me a concussion with the T-grip side of her paddle. And I have yet to develop any sort of disgusting fungus in my hair from wearing the helmet that smelled like a pair of feet and was slowly beating down my will to live. All in all, a successful trip.
I fully intend to go again - soon - and with a little more planning so I can include a few more people. Of course, if anyone feels the need to drop everything and go randomly some weekend, I'm up for that as well.

Maybe The rest of the weekend resulted in some unexpected fun for the 4th. Firework viewing with Rhetoric, the geese and their fellows. Some good grilled action. Meat on a stick. Falling asleep on their floor and not waking up with an awkward yet dashing mustache drawn on my face.

Maybe next time I'll get the mustache, then the weekend will be perfect.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Exciting Summer

The second part of my masterful life reevaluation plan (the first being the whole "eating better and getting back into good shape" thing) is to be more active and social, and I've stuffed this summer full of all sorts of delicious activities in anticipation of that. While it looks like I will probably not be able to make it to the 2 week trip to Machu Picchu, I'm trying not to let that bum me out as there is plenty of other excitement to be had, though I'm sure many of you can appreciate why I'd be sad to not make that journey.

If the view from atop there doesn't make you reevaluate your life's priorities, I don't know what will.

This coming week will be the first week of these adventures; I'll be going spelunking. Though I use both "adventure" and "spelunking" in a loose manner as it's a guided tour. Be that as it may, anytime the thought of plunging in the belly of the earth is brought up I can't help but think of Ted the Caver, which doesn't please my nerves. We've a tentative plan to go elsewhere on our own soon, so I can worry beasts in the deep when that happens.
We'll be hitting Cumberland Cave, which makes up for in beauty what it lacks in excitement.

Next month will be a busy one, filled with days of sailing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and if all goes well, freakin' hangliding which I am exceptionally excited for. I still need someone to come along for that one, if anyone is interested. Oddly, I've had a hard time finding people willing to jump off a ledge with only a kite on their back.

I'm never been sailing before, but I love to be on the water, and am counting down the days until this outing. The sailing is a 'learn how to sail' course which I am eager to participate in. The sooner I learn to sail, the sooner I can sell all my worldly possession to buy a boat and move to the Bahamas! If there's anything my life is missing, it's the ocean air in my lungs and the sound of the waves filling my ears.

I have a few free weekends still this summer, so if anyone knows of anything interesting coming up, I'm all ears.

Now to finish packing for my imminent move to my new house in Nashville; be sure to stop by!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"There's Nothing Like Losing You"

I've been reading Postsecret for quite a long time now and I enjoy the feeling of being taken into the confidence of so many random people. Yet in all this time - while I can often appreciate what is being said - I never can relate to it. And then I found one that might have been written by me, though the "3 years" part would need several years added to it.. At last I can relate.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Just Pondering

I've been thinking a lot about Loba lately. There's no doubt that I've become the person I am today because of her. Poor decisions I made required a lot of later internal reflection that I hope changed me for the better, though they also eventually led to the complete decimation of my self-confidence of which I still struggle with recovering. I used to be arrogant; can you believe it?
I often wonder how different my life might have been had I said "no" instead of "yes" to her all those years ago. Would I have never grown? Would I be one of those people in couples that you look at and wonder how the other can tolerate them? Or would I have managed to become the person she deserves? I hope for the latter, I fear the former.

I've been thinking about M-Pie. Where has she vanished? What was it I did from so far away that caused her egress, sans explanation, and what could it have been that was so terrible that it overpowered all my positive thoughts and constant well-wishes for everything in her life? When did our powerful connection and friendship become brittle? Has she changed or do I do terrible things so often that I don't even realize they are terrible any longer? I fear both.

I've been wondering about my Bosco's companion. Could telling a friend how proud you are to have them as a friend and that you wished more people were like them - how they raise the bar so impossibly high - actually ruin a friendship? Sometimes I say too much on those rare times that I don't say too little. Did I at last say far too much? Who then will I tango with in the street?

There's precious few people worth truly knowing in this world, and I fear that I've already lost the most important of them. I try not to let it worry me, to weight me down.

I've been thinking about you; I always do. I love and miss each of you every moment of every day. And maybe that is worth something. No one can say I didn't try, but maybe they will say I could have tried a little harder.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Revitalizing Myself, Yoga, and More!

You might recall an earlier entry I wrote about getting healthy. I'll save the specifics, but let's just say I faltered. I aimed too high and melted my feeble wings of wax. In truth, it's that I aimed too high too fast, was unable to withstand the breakneck speed, and all went black. Helpless, I fell, earthbound. When I awoke, I had fallen further than I was when I first started. I decided there had to be a better way, but I just had trouble finding it. After quite a bit of aimless wandering, I simply opted to take the opportunity of the upcoming year and use that as my springboard.

I decided to make 2009 the year. THE year for things to happen. I also secretly decided to make each year afterward even better than 2009, but I'm going to put one foot in front of the other before I hit an all-out run.

It took me a couple of weeks to really begin forcing a change on myself though. Before you mumble to yourself "laziness", I will admit to you an even more embarrassing reason; terror. It had been a few years since I really examined myself and of what I was (or was not) capable. These few years since then had forced me down a path that was both sedentary and without inner reflection and I was terrified to really see the toll it had taken on me, even if I could already feel it.
But I finally made my first step. A baby step for most but a long jump for me; a leap of faith. I signed up for the gym near my home and laid out the clay, ready to mold myself once more. I had become rigid, I had lost durability, was cracked - withered. I fell away under a touch and it would require skilled sculptor hands to peel away the clumps around me to reveal, ultimately, myself. The finished yet ever changing piece.

That terror I spoke was on that first day that it had me so firmly in its grip. It pressing against my chest, suffocating me and tempting me to flee. I entered the building, a little wary but ready to go, and so I warmed up. Odd; I could not quite reach my toes when I stretched. Peculiar; my arms did not reach as far behind me as I remember them doing. Unusual; my torso did not twist in the ways it once did. And depressing; it was a bit tiring walking up the flight of steps to the treadmills.

With slightly labored breathing and weary knees, I hopped up, set the machine and began to run. The conveyor belt moved a lot faster than I remember one ever doing at such a low speed. The clock, which I had set for a mere 20 minutes, was broken; the seconds ticked away far more slowly than they should have. My knees failed me far faster than I ever recalled.
The rest of the night was much the same. Every pound felt like two. Every mile felt like many. Every leg press was like trying to move the earth beneath me. The 15 foot tall rock wall? Insurmountable.

I felt the fear that everyone who lets themselves fall into such decay must feel, thinking the work to correct such folly would be just too great. But I came back. Again and again I return, and while sometimes it feels like I am progressing backwards, I've come a long way in a short time.
I won't lie to you and say that my first few weeks ever using weights were a cake walk. If you had see me have to use my left arm to lift my right because it was too worn out to raise itself far enough to wash my hair without assistance, you would understand. Of if you had to witness me literally rolling out of bed because my muscles were to weary to lift my own body weight, you'd marvel at my progress.
I certainly cannot deny the change I feel. I sleep better, I eat less, and, not believing in weighing myself, I finally begin to see results in the mirror. Small, slow, yet amazingly significant.

Somewhere along the line, I went from dreading my 3-4 weekly workouts to looking forward to them and even feeling a little bit of withdrawal on days that I did not go. I decided I would add in something I've always wanted to do (with dedication); Yoga.

I found myself at the Yoga studio on a Tuesday with a couple of people from work. The room was sweltering, but peaceful. I unrolled my mat between two strangers, both deep in meditation and looking at peace. They even felt peaceful, already empty of all the worries of the world, shedding the weight like a second burdensome skin. Shed it like I hoped to do; to let the torrent of the world's problems roll off of me like water; to break against me as waves on the rocks.
I was excited; I knew from my few previous experiences with Yoga that it was not to be underestimated. Yoga has a subtle difficulty and it was a great challenge even when I was in good shape.

With the instructors soothing voice and words, I stretched myself out along the earth, feeling awareness in my limbs, along my spine, very aware of the ground below me. Over the next hour, I stretched, I bent, I folded, I might have wept silently to myself, I balanced and I nearly toppled (my balance isn't what it once was, either). My arms shook, my knees buckled and I literally dripped sweat in amounts that made my gym visits look like a light sprinkle to a typhoon. But I made it. And during my favorite part of Yoga, savasana, I finally found something I've been looking to find for years. Sleep. When I tell you I dreamed several dreams in those few minutes, you might not understand the significance. My sleep problem is such that I've only reached a level of sleep deep enough to hit REM, and thus dream, a mere handful of times in my entire life. And when I awkwardly jerked awake, initially being horrified after realizing I had fallen asleep, I was ecstatic when I realized the results. I have been back to Yoga a time or two every week since then and don't see myself stopping anytime soon.

The final step in my master plan has been a simple one, but the one that laid me low last time I tried; my eating habits. I reached too far before when I cut out all the junk from my diet and my hand was slapped before I could withdraw it. I am not meant to go from one end of the spectrum, to the opposite end that has me eating nothing but raw vegetable. I decided a more middle of the road approach would work better. I still drink a lot of water and have eliminated all sodas, but I will not shun a sandwich because of the bread, though I also won't eat one every day. Moderation, you know. My vegetables? Sometimes raw, but usually cooked. I don't eat sweets, but I did integrated my much loved peanut butter into my life a bit more, usually with bananas in a shake, or with an apple for a snack. But it's reduced fat and/or natural peanut butter. Once this is a success, I might slowly wean myself off of some of these other things, but I am taking it slowly thanks to a friend's advice, and so far it's been working for me better than anything else ever has.

I have always been a big believer in "your body is a temple". But like a person who gives fine advice, I do not always follow my principles. I will say also that I believe in karma and I am without a doubt sure that I've suffered the problems I have - sleep disorder, weak knees, etc - because of my failure to treat my body like I should. I once heard a woman's body referred to as a work of art and a man's as a Jeep. Rather accurate. I've admired the female body as I do beautiful works of art, happy to gaze on it for many hours. Likewise, I have treated my body like I treat my Jeep. I fly over speed bumps, don't change the oil often, and never rotate the tires when I should. And while I clean the outside, I put a lot of junk inside and never bother to clean it out.

As I wrote this out, I realized that these steps are likely small to others, but I've felt very accomplished even taking these baby steps. I for once don't feel like I'm going to stray at the first sign of trouble, and that is heartening. The next step? More outdoor activities. I'm looking at you, hang gliding.