Thursday, March 27, 2008

My New Favorite Word

Menaissance. Let that just roll of your tongue. Men-ai-ssance. Menaissance.

This comes from an article Jeromy linked to on the decline of respect for traditional male traits. It's a good article and a topic I have certainly thought about especially since I saw and read Fight Club. No other book or movie for me has so perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the emasculated male and the anger that feeling engenders.

I do not have the feeling as strongly as many men, I think in large part because I have never been a "typical" male. I am of course a dork, nerd, geek, or whatever you want to call it. Reading and role-playing games are more likely to be on my list of activities than football and strip clubs. I am, though, completely comfortable with who I am. I feel secure in my masculinity without having to resort to activities enjoyed by a more average male.

That said, even I feel the change our culture has gone through with respect to what it means to be a man. Men are different from women and you can't expect to take away what it means to be a man without having men wonder what it is they are supposed to be and be angry when there are no good answers. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed last year's 3:10 to Yuma so much because one of the main themes explored by the movie is 'what does it mean to be a man?'

While I ponder this very serious topic, I intend to use the word 'menaissance' as much as possible. In fact I think when I go back to work on Monday, the first thing I'm going to say (loud and proud) is, "What this hospital needs is a menaissance!" Maybe I'll blow a party whistle, too, while I'm at it.

Lost Highway

I got to Salt Lake City about 45 minutes ago without a glitch. It was a long flight even if the clocks don't show it because of the time change. Having two bickering, disorganized parents with a loud two-year-old behind me wasn't the most exciting thing to have on the flight, but I tuned them out for the most part.

I finished the book I started on my first flight, The Ruins. It was good, if not great. The atmosphere was intense and the author keeps you on the edge of your seat. What kept it from being great, I think, was the characters. Too many of them came off as more annoying than sympathetic. They seemed like normal humans and I can see people acting the way they did in the situation they were in. Still a few of them were annoying. It's hard to get into a character and feel invested in them when you find yourself thinking, "Shut up, you whiny prick." I'd still recommend it, though, for anyone needing a light read. The setting, the story, and the atmosphere were all quite good.

My last flight, the one to Billings, leaves in just under two hours and I'll be home 90 minutes after that. I heard it's snowing there. Maybe it's my bad karma, but I can't help but think that it is officially spring and we have global warming so why is it snowing in Billings? Can't the snow stay up in Canada, yah?

In the Air Tonight

Sing it, Phil.

The flight to Atlanta was very pleasant. I much prefer flying in a 757 to flying in a DC9 or something tiny.I'm guessing weather here is going to be a preview of Billings; it's only about 50 degrees here. Okay, enough whining about the weather.

It's a good thing I checked the monitors here. My ticket said this next flight would be at gate B8, but it's actually at A6. No doubt this is related to all of the flight cancellations Delta announced today for safety checks or something. I'm glad none of min have been cancelled. Yet.

Google/Blogger need to work on the spellcheck. It's trying to tell me that "cancelled" is misspelled and in an ironic twist that "spellcheck" is also misspelled.

Anyway, the flight to Salt Lake takes off at 10:25, so I have an hour or so to kill. I'll probably dive back into my book which is good so far.

On the Road Again

Or in the air again. Or something. It's 6:15 Florida time; my flight leaves in just under an hour. I just picked up a book, The Ruins, to read on the way home. I haven't heard of it, but it looks interesting and the pickings are slim around here. I suppose I could have picked one of the books telling me how to get rich, but I didn't as tempting as it was.

I hope someone back in Billings has cranked up the temp to at least 70 degrees. While the mornings have been somewhat chilly here, the afternoons have been great and I'm feeling spoiled. So, if anyone back home is reading this, I will be back shortly before five o'clock, so make sure you adjust the temperature properly before then.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Getting Spoiled

I wonder if people who travel a lot for work start to get spoiled by the time they spend in hotels. I'm feeling it already. For example:

Problem: I'm hungry.
Solution: Call someone, room service, to bring me something.

Problem: I need a ride.
Solution: Call someone, the front desk, to get me a cab so someone else can drive me where I want to go when I want to go.

Problem: I need something, anything.
Solution: Call the front desk. There are several signs in my room telling me to call them if I need anything at all.

I could really get used to this. do I get a setup like this at home? Hmmm...

Training Complete

The workshop wrapped up about two hours ago. I suppose today was slightly better than yesterday. I learned a couple of things. Unfortunately it pertained to things we do not use our system for. I got to correct the instructor once again today. The other funny thing I noticed today was that I was easily the youngest person in the room, probably by ten years in fact. Come to think of it, last year's MS Access class was the same. There were probably a few people in their mid-30s, but the rest were definitely older. Darn kids these days ain't got no respect for lurnin'. And get off my lawn, too!

Anyway, I'll fly back home tomorrow morning. It's funny how being away even for such a short time makes you appreciate little things that much more. Mom better be taking good care of Tiberius, too. I don't how I ended up letting a well-known cat-hater take care of the coolest cat in the world, but I did. Don't worry, Tiberius, I'll make it up to you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Aren't Drugs Wonderful?

Since my pharmacy did not get my Provigil to me before I left Billings, I have had to resort to other methods in an attempt to stay conscious throughout the day, namely caffeine. I have had six or seven cans of pop today (and gone to the bathroom at least that many times) and I just bought a 20 oz. bottle of Pepsi. It seems to have helped a bit, but I still feel pretty fatigued. Why can't I just get my pills?! I mean, that is the American way, isn't it? Not feeling your best? Take a pill! Shoot up! Drugs will make all of your problems go away, so go on, help yourself! Take some more. If a little makes you feel better, taking more will make you feel GREAT!

Whew. I wish I didn't need a pill to help me stay awake.

Sometimes It's Best to Just Keep Your Mouth Shut

Not me this time, but someone in the class today. I was the first person to arrive save the instructor. The next person in was an, uh, interesting character. He was talking with the teacher about something, don't remember what, when he declared that he was a "genius." He did not say this with irony or as a joke. No, he was dead serious. He also had to say that school was very easy and that he never struggled. I swear this was not me. Anyway, he made oddball comments throughout the day, but the best part was that he and his partner were the last ones done on every freakin' exercise we did today. Everyone would have to sit around and wait for the two of them to finish and it didn't appear that Mr. Genius's partner was holding him back any. The two of them were equally culpable in the molasses pace. It was hard not to make a crack about the "genius" and his blistering speed but I refrained. No doubt he was completely clueless as to the disparity between his words and his actions.

I suppose that makes him fit in with a good chunk of humanity.

A Moment of Silence Please

Jeromy recently wrote about spending some time at a Catholic hermitage. There is no electricity. It's just you, alone with yourself. The more I think about it, the more I think I would like to spend some time there. In fact, I think that next spring or summer after I have finished school, I am going to spend a week there. It will be time spent refocusing after a few hectic years and time to contemplate my life and exactly what I want to do and where I want to go. The space and silence will help give me clarity. I can't wait.

Being Challenged

I went to class this morning excited, ready to learn some new stuff about the software we use at the hospital for security access.

Alas, 'twas not meant to be.

The trainer did seem to know what he was talking about. Mostly. I did correct him twice about some questions that came up. It reminded me of the two-day workshop I attended last year for MS Access. The instructor twice asked me how I would do something, once in regards to a question another student asked and once about a problem he was trying to figure out. *sigh* I didn't learn much if anything in that workshop either.

Anyway, the class was so...basic. I can't think of one thing the instructor covered that I hadn't already learned either from pouring over the user manual or just figuring it out on my own. I'm hoping tomorrow will be better, but based on what I saw today, I'm not holding my breath.

It is rather frustrating going to classes like this and not learning anything because you know as much or more than the instructor or at least what he is teaching. I'm sure someone will say, "Shane, it sounds like you're whining about being smart." But, I'm not. Most of my K-12 education was like this, as well. I was bored. I want to be challenged and it seems there are few I encounter who can. Argh, it sounds like I'm bragging now. I'm truly not. I do not consider my intellect to make me in any way better than anyone else. It is simply one of the gifts I have been given, one I am grateful for. The opportunity to really use it, though, to stretch it and see how far it goes has not been given me. I hope that when I graduate and get a "real" job, I will find situations that challenge me, but right now I am not getting them. I crave the moment they do come because I know that at some point they will. Will I be ready? I think so.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Florida Bound IV

It's about 12:30 am local time and I just now arrived at my hotel. I'm tired and I have to get up in just a few hours.

Before I crash, though, I have to say that I did finish The Kite Runner. It is one of the best books I have ever read. Gut wrenching and haunting. Very highly recommended.

Florida Bound III

Well, things were going well until I got to Newark. This place is a maze worthy of a Minotaur and no one seems to know their way around. By the time I got someone to tell me exactly which gate I was supposed to be in and someone to tell me exactly where that gate was, the lady at the gate said, "I'm sorry. Boarding closed about 30 seconds ago."

Would she help me out? Of course not. "You're going to have to go to the Customer Service desk." I go there and the lady seems to not understand what I need.

"I need to get as close as possible to Sarasota tonight," I tell her.

"We have a few flights to Sarasota tomorrow."

"No, I need to be there before tomorrow. I need to get a flight as close as possible to Sarasota tonight."

"Okay, I can get you to Ft. Lauderdal
insert italic tagse."

"If that is the closest you can get me, then fine," I say.

I get my ticket and find my way to the gate which is rather easy this time because I've been up and down this terminal a few times this afternoon. I sit down, pull out my computer and check the distance from Ft. Lauderdale to my class. I nearly need CPR when I see that it is almost 400 miles. Yeah, that's not going to work.

I find another CS desk and explain to the guy at the counter what has happened and what I need.

"I don't know who set this up for you," he says. You and me both, buddy. "I can get you a flight to Tampa. It's 30 miles from Sarasota."

Much better. I get my ticket switched to that. Unfortunately, this flight does not leave until 6:45. The plane lands in Tampa a little before 10. Then I have to rent a car, drive to Sarasota to get my luggage, and then to turn around and drive to Bradenton where my hotel and class are. Argh.

It's going to be a long night.

Florida Bound II

I am now sitting in the airport at Newark, New Jersey. The flight here was good for the most part. I can get a little queasy when flying. I felt fine on my first flight and the majority of this one was fine, too, but toward the end we hit some mild turbulence. It didn't help that I was sitting in the back, the second to last row, so for the last twenty minutes or so of the flight, my stomach was not agreeable. I kept its contents in, though, so it wasn't all bad.

Flying can be somewhat of a strange experience. Perhaps it is the fact that I have not done it very much, but I can't help but feel slightly disconcerted when I do. Only about six-and-a-half real hours have passed since I left Billings, but because of the time changes, I am eight-and-a-half hours ahead. Even with the extra two hours I'm thinking, "Really?" 'cause it feels like the whole day is done and it should be bedtime.

I forgot to bring some reading material for my flights. I packed some school books to do homework during downtime, but all of that stuff is in the bag I checked. Not wanting to go through another flight reading the sales mags on the plane, I picked up The Kite Runner in Minneapolis. I got through about two-thirds of it coming to Newark and I'm sure I will finish it before I hit Sarasota. I guess I'll have to pick up another book for the journey home on Thursday.

It is a damn good book, by the way, and you should read it.

Florida Bound

I'm sitting in Minneapolis/St. Paul right now waiting for my next flight. Getting started this morning was a bit hectic. Jeromy was a little late picking me up, so I was rushed when I got to the airport. Every staff member from Northwest to TSA was chastising me along the way.

"You're running late."
"You need to be here sooner."
"We do open at 4:30."
"We're going to give your seat away if you don't hurry up."

I rushed through everything and got onto the plane. As soon as I got it, they shut the door. I sat down and breathed a sigh of relief that I did not miss my flight. My relief did not last long, however, as I realized that I left my cell phone and belt with security. Typical. Even better, Northwest staff here in the Twin Cities told me, without even looking at me, that I had to wait until I got to my final destination in order to file a lost and found claim. No doubt what she really meant was that she did not want to be bothered to help me. Typical. Bunch of savages in this town. Heh.

The flight was good, though. It's snowy here in Minnesota, but in a few hours, I will be in sunny Florida. A check of the weather reveals that it is currently 66 down in Sarasota and the high is supposed to be 83. Woot!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Who's the Tolerant One Now?

PZ Meyers, noted atheist and opponent of ID, was not allowed to attend a screening of Expelled, a film about the wonders of creationism.

I went to attend a screening of the creationist propaganda movie, Expelled, a few minutes ago. Well, I tried … but I was Expelled! It was kind of weird — I was standing in line, hadn't even gotten to the point where I had to sign in and show ID, and a policeman pulled me out of line and told me I could not go in. I asked why, of course, and he said that a producer of the film had specifically instructed him that I was not to be allowed to attend. The officer also told me that if I tried to go in, I would be arrested. I assured him that I wasn't going to cause any trouble.

Meyers was even interviewed for the movie. Even better, though, is that he was going with Richard Dawkins, another very vocal opponent of ID, who was allowed to go in.. They didn't recognize him apparently.

Still, though, if you want to be taken seriously on a topic, you need to be willing to debate people who disagree with you. If you can't, you just look scared. Unfortunately, far too many proponents of ID and Young Earth Creationism do not feel a need to take on their critics because "God is on their side." These people always bring to mind this great picture:

Clinton's Hopes

Matt Yglesias can't understand the Democratic leadership regarding their primary campaign.

Under the circumstances, I find it maddening that the party leadership isn't acting to push [Clinton] out of the race.

Amen. At this point, the odds are so slim of her winning that she is only hurting Obama and helping McCain for the general election. Of course she seems to think McCain would be a better President so maybe that's her new goal.

Weekly Music Video

Jeromy sent me a link to a great 80s video. "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" from Journey. Does it get much better than cheesy goodness like this?

Yes, it does. How about a two'fer this week. Here's a live performance of "Don't Stop Believin'"

Admit it. You were singing along, weren't you? How could you not? It's freakin' Journey.

Weekly Secret


Parent Talks With My Daughters

My daughters, Erica and Shaena, are 10 and 11 now. I've had the talk with them twice now, you know...*coughsexcough*..., in which I initiated it because I knew it was high time. I knew their mother had told them some garbage and I didn't want them learning about stuff from kids at school or something, so I took the plunge. They went all right and I'm glad I did it. I didn't intend to just leave it there, either, but to have them semi-regularly as they got older and I needed to introduce new info.

Well, twice in the last couple of months, the girls have somewhat forced my hand. The first time, we were getting ready for dinner. I was at the dining room table; my daughters were in the kitchen...whispering. Uh, oh. I caught a few snippets - "making out," "boys," "barely a Christian." Here we go, I though. Time to talk.

I called them over to the table and asked them to tell me what they were talking about. The gist of it was that a girl at their school was saying that a girl from another school that they all know is "barely a Christian" because she said she likes to "make out" with boys. This should be interesting. I ask them what making out is. Shaena says, "Kissing," as Erica blurts out, "Sex!" Hmmmm, being a father is great. I ask them what they think about kissing boys. Is it okay. Both say not really unless you're married or "at least in your 20s." Maybe I should make this the rule. Yeah, like that would work. I explain to them why kissing boys is not a bad thing and that when they are older and start dating, I won't have a problem with them doing some kissing. There was some "gross" and "icky" thrown around, but I think they understood what I was saying. Mostly, anyway.

The other situation was more, uh...interesting. It also gets bonus points for having my mother at the table. I don't remember what led up to the topic, but we got to have a lovely discussion about, drum roll please, wait for it, cue dramatic music...masturbation. What a great dinner topic. Erica said that Lisa (their evil grandmother) "thinks we're masturbating if we just scratch an itch between our legs." Oh, the humanity. I ask them what masturbating is. "Mom said it's when you touch your body parts and think about someone you think is cute." Tempted to get into a semantic discussion of the definition at this point, but they are my daughters. I ask them what they mean by "body parts." "You know, down there," and they point. "You mean vagina," I say. "Oh, Dad, don't say that," they both say and get the grossed out look on their faces. I break away from the main topic for a minute to tell them that it is perfectly okay to say "penis" or "vagina." Unfortunately, they are not allowed to say those words at home. They have to use euphemisms. Argh. We also briefly talk about embarrassment and I tell them that in all honesty I am not much more comfortable than they are during talks like these.

Anyway, we get back to the the edifying dinner topic of *coughmasturbationcough*. So, I talk to them about what masturbation, telling them that it is any sort of touching of one's self for pleasure and that boys and girls can do it. I tell them that it is not in and of itself a bad thing, that everyone has done it at least once learning about their body. I also tell them that I would not be mad at them for doing it, but that it's probably not something they should do a lot and that it is an activity to be done in private. I was definitely squirming in my seat during this. Mom was, too, and the looks on her face were so comical, I tried not to look at her much.

You know as a parent that you have to have these kinds of talks. Well, okay, some parents know they need to; far too many hope that if they don't talk about it, their kid won't know about it and won't engage in sexual activity. Yeah, if only. But, like I was saying, I know that I have to have these talks and I do rehearse what I will say, but it doesn't make it any easier. It's certainly not my favorite part of parenting, though I do admit it is amusing after the fact. I also know that it's good for them. Better they get good information from me than crappy information from friends, TV, movies, or their mother and grandmother for that matter.

Pharmacy Hijinks

The pharmacy I order my Provigil from, Caremark, has kindly set me up to not have any Provigil next week. I called my doc to get a refill and he sent it in. Well, a few days later, instead of sending me an email saying they are sending it, they send me an email saying I owe them money. "What the hell?" I say. Normally, they send me the bill after they send me the pills. Then the next day, they call me to say they can't send me the pills until I get my account current. I told the lady I was and I pulled up my account records to give her the check number and the day it was sent from my bank. She still couldn't find it, but she said she would look into it. "If I can't find the record of it, I'll call you, but if I do, I won't call." Whatever. She didn't call back and sure enough I got the email later confirming that my pills were being sent out.

This was last Thursday, though, and the email was sent after regular business hours. So, no doubt my package was mailed yesterday. It's not going to get delivered tomorrow (Sunday) and I leave early Monday morning for Florida. I've got half a pill left and I won't be back until Thursday afternoon. If the fatigue hits too hard, I may have to try quaffing a bunch of caffeine to get through my workshop. Argh.