Monthly Archives: November 2007

Random Babbling for 11/12/07

A few notes of no particular interest in no particular order.

After reading my blog entry from last night my wife has given me a two-week deadline to get the hell out of the house and get a friend. My objection that you don’t cure a 35-year problem in 2 weeks seemed to carry no weight with her. She has threatened the somewhat inane consequence that if I don’t meet her demands she’s going to sign me up for a random class at IUPUI. History 436 “The role of the meat packer’s union in the life of the 1930’s American housewife” here I come.

I do, however, have a plan to counteract her threat. For the next month I intend to practically ooze friendliness. If I so much as get a pizza coupon in the mail I’ll swoop down on the sender and shower then with my presence and woe to the checkout girl who dares make the token gesture of greeting. I may seem as much fun as a burlap sack full of drowned kittens but just wait until I’ve been in Gregarious mode for a few days. It’ll be friggin’ scary. Further, I’m going to pick a few random victims from my acquaintance and run a some experiments. It’ll be damned fun I think. For the next month, my eye is on you, America!

I’ve noticed lately that I’m in a bit of a funk. (Have you noticed? Surely you haven’t.) I realized part of the problem as my wife and I sat at dinner and a Beatles’ song came over the ‘slightly louder than it really needs to be’ sound system in the restaurant. As I was singing “Somewhere in her smile she knows…” loud enough to be heard 3 tables away it occurred to me that it had been a LONG time since I’d listened to any music… at all. I tend to swamp myself with background noise in the form of television or talk radio all day long and have forgotten that eventually that will drive a person insane. Tomorrow we burn/find some CDs and we party like it’s 1699.

I wonder how long it’ll take me to give up on the first random thought. My bet is on less than 24 hours.

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No Basis for Complaint

I’ve been keeping an eye on myself lately. Having written in this blog before about my relationships with others (or lack thereof) it’s surprising that I haven’t really looked at my own actions with a critical eye. Frankly, after having given myself a good inspection, it seems probable that I’m a jerk and a whiner. That said, I’m seriously annoyed that nobody has bothered to tell me so yet. Yeah, I know that just saying that is in itself being a whiner but let’s carry on and look at some of the available evidence.

We’ll start with Friday because that’s as far back as I can remember. Friday was my 35th birthday and as such I received 4 ‘go to lunch’ invitations all of which I turned down for various and silly reasons. One, amazingly was from an almost total stranger. While out geocaching another (female) geocacher showed up. After poking around in the weeds and swapping medium-sized talk for half an hour we finally found what we were looking for. She’d stated previously that she was meeting a friend for lunch and as we were saying our adieus she invited me to join them for lunch. Unsure whether she was just being polite or whether she was serious about her invitation I simply dodged it in a very awkward manner. Fifteen minutes later as I was sitting in the Qdoba parking lot eating a burrito in the car by myself the words, “What the hell is wrong with you?” floated through my mind. Fate had tried like hell to make my day a pleasant one by giving me some company and I’d done everything in my power to thwart it. I’d turned down 3 invitations and when the 4th arrived from out of the blue from a TOTAL STRANGER I’d even turned that down. And for what? So I could sit in the car and eat by myself? WTF?

Later, I realized that the ‘lunch with stranger’ debacle was actually a double death. I’d been internally complaining for a while that my available pool of ‘geocaching partners’ was basically empty and then, like magic, this person shows up and what do I do? Well of course, I’m rude to her (though unintentionally). Here, as before, fate threw me an option and I stepped on it for no reason. In retrospect I’m sure this is not the first such opportunity I’ve had to make a pleasant connection with another person outside of work but it seems I’ve consistently managed to bungle them.

Sadly, my family relationships reside in a similar vein but primarily due to neglect on my part. My in-laws, despite that the fact that we actually have quite a bit in common, no doubt believe I dislike them. Quite the contrary, I enjoy them immensely but consistently fail to make time for them. Similarly, I don’t make an effort to see my father and step-mother as I should. My mother, of course, has asked to be left alone so she doesn’t occupy space on the Christmas card list but that’s no excuse for ignoring the people who would welcome my attention. All that said, we’re still on good terms but there’s certainly room for improvement.

The last set of people to be addressed are those from work and since they are by nature ‘remote’ it’s hard to establish any real relationships beyond those that can be carried on via instant messenger. As of late even those people I used to know in person have started to vanish. One person I used to talk to on a fairly regular basis has refused to answer my correspondence for almost a year. Others have merely faded away never to be recovered even when I make attempts to reach out.

In summary and to restate the title, all this leaves me with no basis for complaint about my relationships with others. While it is true that I have few friends and exactly zero that I can actually do anything with, that’s entirely my fault. Fate has thrown me into the path of quite a few nice people with whom I share common interests and done her best to foster bonds with them but in the end it’s my job to actually make those friendships happen. The tougher question, of course, is “What am I doing wrong?” In the case of last Friday’s encounter with a stranger it’s apparently just sheer social backwardness. One can do little about that without practice. I tend to hide my social discomfort behind a veil of humor and it’s hard to build a friendship with a clown who can take nothing seriously.

For most other people in my sphere of acquaintance I think the problem may lie in simple lack of effort. I’m more than willing to blog endlessly about my lack of personal connections but I fail to make the investments necessary to foster those bonds. That’s no one’s fault by my own. Last and probably least among the problems is my tendency to say (once I’m comfortable with you) whatever’s on my mind. If I have any talent whatsoever it’s for absolute candor. If you tell me that your deeply held belief system is based on something you heard while playing a Paul McCartney album backwards at 78 RPM then it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to keep the look of surprise from my face or avoid questioning you closely about it. To me, the greatest possible service you can do another person is to question their belief systems and that’s often uncomfortable at first. People hate to be uncomfortable and perhaps in some cases I have that effect.

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Reflecting on 100 Geocaches

Today I trundled out to find GCXD5E which makes 100 of these silly Geocache things I’ve found.

In collecting these I’ve tried to follow a not-exactly strict but somewhat tidy process of finding those closest to my house without major skipping rather than running all over the city looking for low-hanging fruit. This does tend to minimize driving time but raises the question of what the crap I’m supposed to do with some of these.

Take this one for example: GCYKJJ This thing is within 5 miles of my house so before I clear out that radius I’m going to have to either ignore it or spend a week trying to solve it. That said, it does actually appear to be have a solution; that is not something one can say with certainty about certain other fairly useless caches.

I’m convinced that GC10W36 is merely someone’s attempt to be an ass. I realize, of course, that there’s a demand for more difficult caches but when no one has solved your cache and it’s been sitting there (4.3 miles from my house) for 8 months you have to begin to wonder about motives. No doubt someone will eventually find the answer (by brute force if nothing else) but at this point I’m not motivated enough to bother. Why not just encrypt the coordinates and directions with MD5 and be done with it if you don’t wish the cache to ever be found?

Last on my tirade are the ‘crazy requirements’ caches like GC1601V. While I agree this is doable it seems to take what should be a simple hobby and change it into a long-term lifestyle choice. Again, there’s a place for this but from my lowly position at 100 caches it’s hard to relate to life amongst such stellar objects.

All the complaining aside, I have to admit there are some good caches out there but they’re outnumbered 2:1 by crappy ones that require only the ability to drive and a working pen. I’m far from a genius at this pastime but even I tend to grow bored of looking through bushes and under parking lot light poles. I suppose I could always park a mile away from the light pole and at least get some exercise out of it.

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On Man’s Desire to Destroy Himself

When I was a wee lad I spent many sleepless nights with the letters ICBM running through my head. I don’t remember how old I was when I learned that the human race could utterly obliterate itself with the press of a few buttons but it seemed likely to my young mind that if such a button existed there’d be some kook who would be happy to press it. One could only hope that the kook and the button were kept at a safe distance from each other.

After a few months of worrying needlessly about thermonuclear destruction, I finally decided that it just wasn’t worth spending energy on. If someone really wanted to destroy the planet there wasn’t a damn thing I personally could do about it so the issue wasn’t worth my attention. Plus, I naively reasoned, who could possibly want to immolate the planet given that they’d also end up as a Hiroshmia-style shadow on a sidewalk somewhere in the process? Or, at best, alone in a bomb shelter for the rest of their natural lives?

Twenty-five years later, it seems that a lot of the people on the planet want the world to end or are at least waiting eagerly for it. Eighty-Five percent of the people in this country describe themselves as belonging to some religion. In the case of Christians (by far the most populous group), the ‘end of days’ represents the final judgment of mankind by God and therefore is nothing to be feared. The Christians seem convinced that God will come down and take out the Muslims while the Muslims seem convinced of exactly the opposite. In both cases this is an outcome to be giddily anticipated since both sides believe they are indisputably correct in their thinking. The faithful go to heaven (just like those “In the even of rapture, this car will be unmanned.” bumper-stickers that I adore so much) while the non-believers get to remain sitting in the resulting bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Religious texts are pretty clear that the world ends in one big, nasty war and now, for the first time in history, we have the ability to truly take ourselves out and, as these televangelists enjoy saying, “fulfill prophesy” and we’re doing our best to make that happen. Israel must exist as a state for the rapture to occur so the American government does anything it can to keep it in place no matter how it may grate on the neighbor’s nerves. The Jews have their ‘spotless red heifer’ so we’re that much closer to rebuilding the temple and resuming animal sacrifices. As far as I know, the Muslims still await their Twelfth Imam (Allah be thanked).

On the saner side of things, I realize that the average person (ok, let me back up. I hope like HELL that the average person) isn’t REALLY looking forward to the end of the planet. We’re all looking for the best possible future for our children and our children’s children… right?

That’s why we generally don’t give a crap about the environment, dump chemicals into our waterways, spew poison into the air, kill all the animals we want for any reason that suits us (the Bible says they’re here just for us after all) and cut down all the forests…

Um, and that’s why instead of trying to make the world a better place for everyone we spend a trillion dollars on a war that’s really just a ‘Crusade’. (yeah, remember when this all started and Bush was dumb enough to call the war a Crusade? It’s OK though because when the comment was translated into Arabic is came out as “War of the Cross”. That’s not TOO overtly religious.)

So is man just innately self-destructive? Sure we’ve had our petty squabbles about women and land and goldmines and butter for time immemorial but does that mean we have to constantly raise the stakes in even the most mundane argument until we reach our eventual annihilation? It seems that religion, the one thing that’s supposed to keep us being nice to each other, isn’t helping but in fact pushing us in the opposite direction. Why would you avoid an outcome that is actually your ultimate and final reward? The fact that the world hasn’t come to an end yet at the hands of the American theocracy makes me seriously question the piety of those in power. What ARE you waiting for?

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Happy 2nd Anniversary to me

For those that don’t remember, flashback to one year ago today. (You know, isn’t that just the greatest thing? I can negotiate a flashback to my personal thoughts from a whole year ago in this thing with a few keystrokes.)

Yes indeed, it has now been 2 solid years (and a day) since I have had regular face-to-face contact with any humans other than my family! As you might have guessed, I am now utterly and completely insane! Because, as we all know,

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy.
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy.
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy.
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy.
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy.
All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy.

Now where’d I put that axe?

Alright, alright, very real murderous thoughts aside, let’s look at this with a bit of impartiality.

OK, so as far as any personal office relationships I might have had two years ago… yeah, those are shot to hell. I go into the office and half the people don’t know who I am. Apparently I carry myself off with enough aplomb that people don’t call the cops at least. So if it ever comes down to “let’s fire the people we know the least about” I’m as cooked as goose liver in a fancy French cafe. That said, I *am* logged into my work computer at 9 p.m on a Friday night (rather than down at the Harley Motorbike Rally with one of my honeys) waiting for a customer to email about some problem or other so they’d be mega-silly to get rid of me. *hem* Never mind that there’s no space for ‘personal blog’ on my time sheet.

My blog is officially a piece of shit. In the old days I had an hour or more a day to let my mind wander over all sorts of random topics. Now I’m lucky to find time to actually do my job, get the random household chores done that I’m responsible for, get everyone where they’re supposed go to in the morning and back home at night before it’s suddenly time to go to bed again. Frankly, I’m not sure how I ever managed to do all this and commute to work as well. All that said, our house has never been tidier.

All that said, most of the mind-bending isolation has worn off utterly. I’m now completely accustomed to the fact that for the most part I go weeks only speaking to my wife, her parents and our children. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I spoke to anyone else face-to-face who didn’t want to either take money from me or rip teeth out of my face. Granted, I have a horrible memory but one shouldn’t have to look at a CALENDAR to answer such a question. Such is the life of the modern, American misanthrope I suppose.

One thing I have done is replace the random office chatter. Now rather than listening to the inane conversation floating over cubical walls I listen to inane nationally-syndicated talk radio. The only problem with that is that it’s often the same sad crap from one month to the next. One can only listen to narrow-minded conservative talking heads complain about how narrow-minded the liberal talking heads are for so long before one goes completely mad. That’s when it’s time for a little bit of TV-land reruns from before I was born. Talk about TV that was made to ignore.

Lastly, I seem to have reverted to a lifestyle I adopted as a child. You’ll recall from the autobiography that I spent a lot of my 13-year stretch at the Sim’s Street Academy for Unruly and Incorrigibly Sneaky boys reading anything I could lay my hands on. Lately I’ve taken to that practice more and more but haven’t completed the process by documenting what new ideas came out of whatever I was reading.

When I was in the office, I would take in the office babble, assimilate it and then poop it out into blog entries. These entries constitute what my wife refers to the ‘interesting’ part of my blog. Whenever she tells people about this thing she always makes a very clear distinction between the ‘interesting’ bits and the politely termed ‘other’ bits. She’s completely right of course; nobody gives two poops about my opinion of ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ but they might give a crap (or at least get really pissed) if I wrote in more detail about what I think the book has to say about Americans and their bigoted and self-centered attitudes. The blog’s focus for far too long has been on the specific. I need to return to the practice of taking the very personal events of the day and distilling them into a more generally meaningful output that anyone can relate to.
When this transition finally happens, I think I will have officially recovered from the loss of community and ‘inner quiet’ that working in an actual office and driving to it each day provided.

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