Saturday, January 31, 2004

Numb and stupid.

Fourteen hours in bed and I still feel like death. I could elaborate, but it would take too much energy, really. I don't really want to waste my few minutes of lucidity on a whine. Especially when I could be doing homework, right?

In the past 24 hours, our phone has rang six times. That's five times more than it usually rings in a month.

It's warmer today, up to 6 degrees. I don't like it when it gets below zero, it makes me feel like vomiting whenever I go outside. Or into the freezer at work, for that matter. Hopefully we won't get anymore snow for a few days, because I'm having a hard time handling the car in our driveway. I've had to push it through the drifts more than once this week. Corollas suck with the snow.

Our neighbors are supposed to come over and watch a movie this evening. I need to clean the bathroom.

I gave up caffeine because I'm not sleeping well enough as it is, but I think I might have some coffee anyway.

Luna has energy to spare, I wish she'd let me burn some of it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

What's 31 x 75?

Take the answer and multiply it by 3. That's how many pounds of dough I had today. Three and a half tons, or something close to that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Death and Destruction.

The husband of one of Catherine's co-workers heard I like to build stuff, so he sent her home with a copy of Sim City 3000. It's pretty good, but so far all I've really felt like doing is getting cities all established, then killing all the people off with tornadoes and fires and earthquakes. And aliens. But it keeps me occupied during my insomniac hours. I can lay in bed and plan out new cities, then it's a really quick thing to build them up to the killing off point the next day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I need a union.

So, according to Indiana State Law, it is perfectly legal to make your employees--unless they're under 18--work for as many hours as possible without giving them time for breaks or lunch hours. That's the way to make your employees productive: work them until they're so tired they accidentally cut off a finger or two with a dough knife.

Monday, January 19, 2004


I hurt my foot today at work. I was pushing a stack of breadstick dough up the ramp into the flash freezer. Stick dough is pretty heavy...hmm...the dough alone would weigh something over 240 pounds, then there's the added weight of the 15 fiberglass trays. Anyway, it's a hard push, and I had my right foot kind of back in a runner's stretch to brace myself so the stack wouldn't roll back down the ramp as I went into the freezer. Unfortunately, the freezer door is set so it swings closed on its own, and it clipped my right heel straight across the achilles tendon. At first I thought I'd severed it, but it would appear not. It's in one piece, but I can barely stand on it. Fucking job.

I just thought...

...I should add a couple things to the "higher moments" list: I got a nice phone call from a friend today. I applied for one job in my field and three jobs outside my field. Catherine made me a sandwich out of two chocolate mint cookies and chocolate whipped cream.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Of course.

Last night at 8:15, I came down with a cold. I can actually pinpoint it to the minute. I was sitting in my chair, minding my own business, when suddenly I had to sneeze. And sneeze again. And again. I've had a handful of Kleenex in my hand ever since. Is this some god's idea of punishing me for being an atheist?

Kind of an up and down weekend. It had some higher moments: I got a letter from my foster parents, the first one in forever, I think. We had breakfast with Erika and Henry this morning. I made a loaf of bread and a batch of cookies yesterday. We scraped up some change and went to the dollar movie theater yesterday. So, it's not all bad, I guess. I'm just really tired of struggling against depression, and I'd like to just stop. I can't say I'm actively suicidal, but if someone else wanted to do the killing deed, I don't think I'd protest. I'm a bank robber's worst nightmare. If someone put a gun to my head and said, "Give me all the money or I'll pull the trigger," I'm afraid my reply would be, "Oh my gosh, would you? That would be SO fantastic of you!"

I don't know, it seems like there's a lot going on in the world, and I can hear people around me talking about it, but I can't focus on what they're actually saying. Current events are passing by in a haze, and I can't seem to make myself care about much of anything outside my own head. I spend all my time adding and subtracting, trying to make the numbers come out right, but they never change. I can't keep this job and retain the use of my body. I can't keep this job and not lose our house. But I can't seem to come up with any other alternatives. I was so tempted to accept the one job offer I've had, even though it wasn't in my field, but when I sat down and thought about the numbers, we'd still end up losing the house in the end, so what would be the point? I can't have surgery, because I'll lose my job, but my job is ensuring that I need surgery a lot sooner than I would have otherwise.

And I guess I've made it all worse by not letting anyone know what's going on. Although...I think when people ask, "Hey, how's it going?" they really just want to hear "Great, just fine," or at most, "Well, things have been tough, but they're looking up, we're going to make it." They don't want to hear "I feel like I have a gun pointed at my head all the time, and I don't think I'm going to make it." Today was the first time I told any of our "in person" friends even part of what's going on with us. I probably should have been up front about the fact that I couldn't find real work last summer, at least then I could call up my friends and talk about it now. Maybe. I'm not sure.

So...ending with a positive thought...maybe something good will happen tomorrow. Maybe I can start turning my life around.

Friday, January 16, 2004

I'm awake.

I'm up out of bed, at least for awhile. I've got two days to patch up my body and spirit, and then I get to start the same cycle over again. I think...the world was designed for people stronger than me, both mentally and physically.

Sunday, January 11, 2004


I hate not being able to do something. Pretty much if I'm not good at something right away, I quit. I've been trying to paint w/watercolor for a couple of weeks now--and really, I should know how to paint and draw since I did have at least four studio courses as an undergrad--and I'm just getting frustrated. I need lessons. There is a really good artist in town that gives lessons, but it's something like $130 per semester. That's a really good price, but absolutely impossible given that I was $30 overdrawn before I received my $209 paycheck this morning. Anyway, I start out doing something I like, and end up hating it. Case(s) in point:

Winter Snow

Sailboats on a Lake

I wish I could paint what I want to paint.


You do insane things when you can't sleep. Things like mentally flipping through your address book and thinking up things that you would have liked to have written on your Christmas cards if only you weren't such a wuss. There are a couple people in particular to whom I would have liked to have written some harsh words, but I never will. I'll just make myself crazy by doing it in my head in the middle of the night.

Things I wish I would have written in my Christmas cards (in quasi-alphabetical order, a couple of you may recognize yourselves):

S-Actually, I meant exactly what I said on my card. I wish we could just go have dinner and coffee and catch up with each other. It's high on my list of priorities.

D-I suppose time and distance just does in a friendship after awhile. Part of me thinks I should keep trying, part of me wonders if I'd even recognize you if I bumped into you on the street.

S-We need to spend more time at the Swamp. And driving around in an old pickup truck.

L-Family relationships will never be my strength. Don't hope for too much.

S-Damn. I wish I hadn't wasted all those years hiding. If I'd known how things would turn out, I would have done things completely differently. Life sucks, and I made it suck more.

D and K-It's hard to believe you even care sometimes. I'm thinking I should probably care a little less.

S-Yeah, I never understood the marriage thing. I just did not get how you could go from laughing at him one day to marrying him the next, and I probably never will.

M-Ha, can you believe I actually wrote the card this year? We owe you so much, and I should definitely write to you more often. Maybe we'll move back to Oregon some day.

A-Oops. I didn't send you a card. Well, you're online so much it doesn't seem necessary. Sorry.

L-Bruce is still out in the garage. I'm not sure exactly why you disappeared, but I hope you found what you were looking for in a husband.

J-I'm afraid to track you down because I don't want to find out that you're dead.

D and D-I thought you would intimidate me less as I got older. Every time I talk to you, I feel like a total failure. Don't you think I should grow out of this already?

K-I can't believe I sent you an e-mail in April and you didn't read it until December. That is completely lame. But I still like you.

D-I think we both know I'd be dead right now if it wasn't for you. Congratulations on everything good. You're the best.

M-Sorry, I'm broke. I swear I'll send you something good to eat if I ever get a job. I swear.

C-I lied, like fourteen times. I could have stopped at your place on our way to Indiana, but I was too much of a coward. I was embarrassed to have you see me. If I had any guts at all, I'd tell you this, but I'm not going to.

S-I was so worried about your present, I don't even remember if I sent a card. If I did, I hope I wrote something about how much your friendship means to me. I'd say that more emphatically, but I'm embarrassed enough as it is.

B-Cool. Every time I hear from you, I think a) damn, I like that girl and b) thank god I left academia. It's totally ridiculous that we haven't seen each other since Jack-in-the-Box.

T-You're off my list. Since I probably bored you to death in the first place, I don't think you'll mind.

F-I'm too insecure to be your friend. I can't keep up intellectually, and it bugs the hell out of me.

K-We've had some really great times, and I am really glad you're my friend. If you ever tell me I need to lose weight again, though, it's over.

D-See F.

T-Where the #*$#! are you? You can't just show up once every five years and think that's okay, because it's not. I deserve better than that.

B-Hey, it snowed in Seattle! We may have a friendship based on memories, but damn, good memories they are. Catherine has to put up with the frozen pipes story every winter.

A-I guess I understand why you left town w/out saying a word. Congrats on C. and the baby. You know where we are if you ever want to talk.

B-Damn, I owe you an e-mail.

L-I wouldn't have guessed you'd be the one I'd keep in touch with out of the entire group. Turned out to be a good development, though, didn't it? Let's do London.

S-Divorce her and move home.

M-Thanks for keeping in touch. Everytime I hear from you, it's like a little bit of home. I miss everything, even crying on the fifth floor of the library. Wish I was there.

J-Okay, I'm really trying. How many times can I track you down? Thank god your mother likes me and doesn't mind being used as a mail stop. I'm not saying I'm going to give up, but I am registering a protest. Listen to your mom and keep in touch with me.

B-Yeah, you're like J. only without the mother. In your case, though, I am giving up. I tried. And tried. I get the message.

C-Graduate already.

T-Fuck off.

P and D-I hope you're both okay. It's not like you not to write.

L-I refuse to feel bad about leaving graduate school. Maybe you didn't mean to make me feel bad on purpose, but that's what happened. I am not a failure, and I'm not wasting my life.

K-I'm not worried, we'll pick up where we left off. S. might be 20 years old by then, but I'm not worried.

D-Well, I screwed up our friendship, I know that. I appreciate it that you're at least talking to me now. I know we're never going to get back to where we were, but something is better than nothing.

L-I give up, I really do. What do you want me to do? I like you a lot, I really do, but you've got to put more effort into our friendship. I'm tired of giving you the benefit of the doubt, so I think I'm not going to do it anymore.

P-How much do we have in common?

D-Yeah, get married, disappear. That's how it works.

L-Time and distance. I think things would be good if we moved closer, though.

M-Sorry, but I wouldn't have married you, anyway. So much for our friendship.

D-Congratulations on the baby and the job. I still think what you said about the war was the stupidest thing I've ever heard. But I like you anyway.

Cool things I own.

Whenever someone tries to out-geek me, I challenge them to show me their stamp collection. Unless they can prove to me that they, too, stayed home from a party in high school to work on stamps, they are relegated to second place when it comes to the international geek awards.

My stamp collection isn't all that cool, really. I inherited my brother's collection when he graduated from high school, and I collected world stamps sort of haphazardly through college. In grad school, I started collecting British India stamps. I even wrote a paper about the 1937 issues (yeah, that was the paper that proved to everyone involved that I had no future in academia). Catherine started collecting around then, jacking all my U.S. stamps to add to her own collection, and I started working on Russian and Soviet stamps. I've got a pretty solid late-Soviet collection: I've got every run from 1985-1992, for obvious reasons. My 1948-1985 collection is kind of spotty, but still interesting. For some reason, my 1918-1948 volume is almost completely blank.

Anyway, today I was sorting some stamps, and I realized I have some pretty neat things that I acquired accidentally. My favorite stamps are the ones from tsarist Russia. My oldest one Russian stamp is from 1889. My oldest British stamp is from 1882, a 14-dot Queen Victoria 1d. Catherine's oldest stamp is from 1857. She's got some others from the Civil War, and a couple from right after.

The neat thing about stamp collecting is that you don't have to try very hard to find neat things. I don't even remember how I got my tsarist stamps, they just sort of showed up one day, probably in a general lot. Also neat is how philately skews your perception of the world. Since my world collection is built around my brother's old album, which he got in 1971, my knowledge of geography is totally whack. Three quarters of the countries in the original album don't exist, and I have to sit and think about how I want to re-categorize the world every time I get a new stamp. How do I handle the Balkans? Do I continue to put stamps under the old countries, do I buy new pages, do I just stick them on blank pages and try to remember where I put them? Russia is particularly challenging with all its imperial landgrabbing, and all the redrawing of the borders after every war, and I get a kick out of it.

Stamp collectors/dealers in general are nice people. It's a great industry. Stamp dealers will send you lots worth hundreds of dollars in the mail, and trust that you'll pay for the ones you want to keep and send back the ones you don't. How cool is that? The guy who owned the hobby store I used to go to in Oregon used to send me home with a huge bag of stamps, trusting me to bring them all back after I'd picked out the ones I wanted, and to tell him honestly how many I kept at home. I know the stamps aren't exactly priceless treasures, but it's still a nice way to do business.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Things not to talk about.

Last night we had a conversation--albeit a short one--about finding a chronic pain support group. For me, presumably, since I'm the one who mentioned it. Is that the next logical step? I don't know.

I think I do a pretty job of keeping it together, all things considered. I am exceptionally good at gritting my teeth and making it through the day one hour--one minute--at a time, especially given the requirements of my job. Pain is very personal and private, I'm discovering, and I don't want it to be on public display. Only Catherine gets to see the very worst parts of my day, and even then I can sometimes manage to exclude her. Anyway, most of the time, I think it's not a very big deal. I can suck it up, it's not like I'm dying of cancer or anything, and with a bit of luck, nothing will get any worse.

But then there are those moments when I really don't think I can take care of it at all. Today's my day off, and I'm annoyed that I can't move around a lot, but at least I can keep myself busy in the daytime. Nights can be absolutely ruinous, though. You can't sleep because you can't get comfortable, or worse, you can't stay asleep, because every time you move, you jar some sensitive body part and wake yourself back up. And even worse is when everything hurts so much that you even ache when you're asleep. Night before last I dreamed that I was curled up on the floor of the waiting room of the doctor's office, trying to get pain medication, and the pharmacist wouldn't give it to me because the doctor wasn't writing the scrip properly, so I was just going to have to wait or go without, no matter how much I was suffering. When I woke up, I hurt in exactly the places I hurt in my dream, and my bed was soaked with sweat from fighting against it. I'm sure Catherine didn't mind me sharing her half the bed after that, but personally, I'd rather just get a good night's sleep.

So, I don't know. A support group? It sounds like a good idea, but then again, it's not my favorite topic, so I'm not sure it would do me any good because I wouldn't want to talk about it. And I hate talking to strangers, anyway. I've looked at some internet groups but that just seems like too much work. It's easy to talk about hard subjects in text, but hard to get to really know the person/people at the other end. I don't want to first sort through the complexities of internet communication, then get to the real issue, it would take too much time and energy. Or maybe I'm just looking for a convenient excuse to do nothing. That seems a little more likely.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

How to tell you need a new job.

If you find yourself arguing with your co-workers about the treatments for STDs--and you work in the food service industry--you should get a new job.

I'm sure the guys at work will be very glad to find I actually have printed evidence to support my side of the argument: if you contract bull-headed clap, you do NOT have to hit your penis with a mallet to cure it. Idiot boys. I can't believe I went to graduate school for this.
Fourteen pieces.

Five crushed beneath the tread of careless conversation.

Four banished to the corner with a shrug of indifference.

Three etched with blood drawn by sharp edges of malice.

Two abandoned then forgotten with the passing of time.

Sunday, January 04, 2004


Yesterday we drove down to the Falls of the Ohio. It's really a trip to be taken in the summertime, otherwise the river runs too high and covers the fossil beds. But Catherine wanted to go down before the Lewis and Clark exhibit is taken down later this spring, so we made the drive. Spent a little time walking along the levee, watch a couple of films on the ice and and the Corps of Discovery, and then drove home. It started raining just as we were leaving, and the radio announced floodwatches until further notice. Probably shouldn't be walking along the banks of the Ohio in flood season, I guess.

More water here than we've seen in the five years since we've had our house. The creek is over its banks, our back yard is looking rather like a lake, our neighbor's back yard is looking rather like a Great Lake. The sump pump has been running non-stop, and the drain we had put in the floor of the basement is apparently doing what it does best, draining flood waters. The creek is more likely to flood to the south than the north, so we're not in any danger of floating away, so as long as our basement eventually dries out, it's all okay, I guess.

Other uses for water: Of the half-dozen watercolors I've churned out this week, Catherine chose this one for her birthday present:

City Gate


As it turns out, January is a good month for classic cars.

Friday, January 02, 2004


Whenever I absolutely can't stand being American, I remind myself that it could be worse: I could be Russian. As much horror as the United States is responsible for in the world, Russia is responsible for so much more. We might be bad, but we're no where near as fucked up as Russia. After all, we've only been able to screw things up as a nation for something over 200 years. Russia has been at for centuries upon centuries, all the way back to Kievan Rus'.

I'm reading Black Earth: A Journey through Russia After the Fall. This is my third book on Russia in two weeks, and I'm starting to forget which stories belong to which book at this point, but the main theme of them all is clear: Russia has never tolerated anyone from the outside very well. Not Russian? Then I'll shoot you. Not Soviet? Then I'll shoot you. Not Russian again? Then I'll shoot you.

I thought Meier's chapters on Chechnya were a little fragmented and difficult to follow, but then again, the entire history of Russian interference with the region is impossible to follow, so he probably couldn't help it. I understand--in the geopolitical sense of things--why Russia wants to dominate the Caucuses and environs, especially Chechnya (really, anywhere that will serve as an access point to the Baku oilfields and other natural resources), but Putin hasn't a chance in the world of winning this war. He should have done the right thing last time, after the Chechens won the first war, and seriously supported Chechen independence. Instead, he puts Russia back into it with another war, and it's not a war he's going to win, at least not until he kills every single Chechen on the face of the planet (he's trying pretty hard, so maybe he can do it).

The problem is, in between the first war and Putin's War, global politics shifted. This is an entirely different kind of war. The first one was for independence. Putin's War is a holy war. In the few years between the two wars, Islam--always present, but sort of low level--really caught fire. Now Allah (or at least the Wahhabi) is behind the Chechen independence movement, and who has ever been able to win a war against a religion? Well, really, it goes both ways. The Chechen independence movement gets some power from the jihad-ic aspects, a real desire to fight and beat the "westerners." But on the other hand, it's kind of good for Russia, because even though they can't win, they can now sell the war to the world as a fight against Islamic terrorism, which perfectly explains why the U.S. sits on its hands and does absolutely nothing as the Russians obliterate entire Chechen villages. That and the fact we stand to benefit from Russia's oilfields if we find the right Russian "businessman" to sell us shares in his oil export company.

I think Russia continues to underestimate the south. If the Chechens were going to just roll over and die, they would have done so a long time ago. I mean, my god, the Russians have been fighting the south *forever*. Slog through the Igor' tale and you'll know what I mean--the Caucuses have always been a sea of blood and bones. Fast forward to the 19th century, and it's hard to miss Lermontov's "zloj Chechen'". And if you miss his, certainly you'll see Tolstoy's. Look at the Soviets--they knew what they were doing when they divided up the southern areas--split the ethnic groups, resettle them, separate them, do anything to oppress them, because otherwise they'll do what they always do, rise up and kill themselves a few Russians before breakfast.

Anyway, Black Earth is a good book, and it's helpful to step outside of U.S. politics every once in awhile and remind myself that there are other nations and people involved in the fate of humanity, not just the United States and Americans.