On Death

2012/12/04 at 08:31

We have dealt with the deaths of several people close to us in the last few years. This comment on MetaFilter really speaks to me:

 This is what helplessness feels like. Nobody is good at watching someone they love pass away. In the face of fear and sadness and anger and denial, when your brain is spending most of its processing power yelling and then crying and then yelling again “No! Noooooo! No!” for days or weeks on end, you don’t always do the best things. You don’t do the things you’d imagined you would do. You don’t do the things you will wish you had done, when you spend the ensuing years reliving those final hours with your mom or your dad or your spouse. You feel like a drowning person, flailing about for something to hold onto, but there’s nothing to hold. You try all the coping methods that have worked in the past: tell a funny joke, give them something to be proud of, distract yourself, even lie and say it’s all going to be ok, but it all seems crass, and none of it stops the dying.

But that’s ok. It’s horrible and terrifying and you do everything wrong, and still somehow there is beauty in your very failure. You are being forced to face up to something huge, and your inability to handle it is part of what makes you human, part of the price you pay for loving deeply. There is a profound honesty in this fumbling, an admission that the loss of this person is leaving you directionless.

My hero

2010/04/07 at 21:12

Yesterday’s Fresh Air* featured an interview with Richard Phillips, the merchant marine captain whose ship was intercepted by Somali pirates. Capt. Phillips was taken hostage by the pirates and was freed after several days when US Navy sharpshooters killed the pirates.
I love Capt. Phillips’ no-nonsense description of the affair, especially this part (emphasis added):

DAVIES: How did you react emotionally to the experience in those first few days?
Capt. PHILLIPS: I did have problems. The first two nights, I would find myself waking up at five o’clock in the morning and just be crying my eyes out, bawling – something a New England sea captain doesn’t do too much. It was sort of strange to me. So I would, you know, throw some water in my face, and I was just going, what are you a wimp? I’m alive. What do you got to be complaining about? I was able to talk to -actually, one of the SEALs insisted I talk to a psychologist, and I did. And he really broke it down into chemicals that are excreted by your various glands and what happens, and he would ask me questions about things I had.
And the only problem I had was I would wake up, at that time – it happened twice to me, the first two nights I was off the life raft. After talking to him after the second morning, he gave me – he asked me, what did I do? And I said, well, I told you, just what I said. I’d throw water on my face. I’d go take a shower. I’d say what are you a wimp? What’s your problem? And he said, well, don’t do that. Don’t fight it. Let it flow. Let it flow as long as it goes. And so I followed his advice and I let it flow. I just sat there in my bed and I probably cried, bawled like a little kid for, I’m going to say two minutes. And then it ran its course, I dried up. Then I threw water on my face, I took a shower and started my day with my coffee, and I never had a problem after that.

That’s hard core.
* Dave Davies was filling in for Terri Gross, so I was able to listen without scratching my ears off. Did I mention that I love Fresh Air but hate Terri Gross’ interview style?

My 15 minutes of fame–or an hour weekly

2009/12/16 at 09:51

Earlier this week, I received a call from a producer at Voice America (internet) talk radio network. She wanted to know if I’d be interested in hosting my own weekly radio show.
I had never heard of Voice America and I was surprised at the offer. My first question: why me? She gave me a suspiciously non-specific answer, something like “Our hosts are people who are published or who are leaders in their fields.” Second question: so, what field do you think I lead? Her answer: software design. Okaaaaaaay.
I asked her a few more questions and ascertained that the offer does not come with remuneration. Since I’m already very busy, and because the whole conversation set off my scam warning bells, I declined.
After the call, I did a little Googling, and it appears that Voice America is indeed on the level, but I’m still perplexed at how the producer found me and why she thinks I might have something interesting enough to say that I’d draw a weekly audience–without her apparently having a firm idea of the topic that I would base my show on. I’m still scratching my head at the whole thing.
Do you have any knowledge of Voice America? Do you know anyone else who has been approached about hosting a show?

Church celebration

2009/10/09 at 14:16

Our church has recently been undergoing some significant renovation and repair work. During this work, a time capsule was discovered; it was placed when the sanctuary building was build 100 years ago.
A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the 100th anniversary of its sanctuary building. As part of the celebration, we placed a new time capsule behind the cornerstone. Here is some local news coverage from the event:

A study in contrasts

2009/09/13 at 09:09

A few days ago, I posted a Facebook update about http://www.rescuemarriage.org/ (it’s not available as I’m writing this; probably got too much traffic and the web host suspended the account). It’s a clever satire site pointing out the hypocrisy of people who supported California’s Proposition 8.
The reactions on Facebook are testimony to how different my life is now from the way I grew up. The two people who liked this post whose names are not blurred out in the image below are current liberal friends who clearly got the satire of the site. The third person who liked the post is someone I knew in high school. She regularly posts updates about rabidly conservative politics, so I’m 99.999% sure that she would not agree with the site if she had actually visited it. And the one person who says she has the same tacky painting of Jesus in her house is also someone I knew in high school. Ugh.

Observations of a Sheriff’s Patrolman

2009/08/24 at 11:02

My dad’s cousin is a sheriff’s deputy in a fairly rural Kansas county. He emails out his weekly report to some family members. They’re usually a good read, both for the kinds of things he encounters and for his dry humor. Highlights from this week’s report:

Deputies were called to a disturbance. When they arrived, the woman causing the disturbance ran out the back door and hid. The Deputies observed a dog standing outside the door to a camper wagging its tail. They opened the camper and found the intoxicated woman inside. She went to jail and later was found to have a warrant issued by another county. She may have to sober up in custody.
I received another call of a cow on highway [redacted] at mile post 58. I did not find anything. I talked to a stock raiser who told me that he thought it was one of his heifers. The heifer must have had a police scanner because it crawled back through the fence when I was dispatched.
I picked up a prisoner from another agency. She was wanted on a check warrant. She was 78 years old. She had a pace maker, and previously knee and hip replacement, as well as a stroke and a heart attack. It appears that a relative may have been passing her checks. She was transported home by a Deputy after court. Her son was in jail in another county, and her daughter did not have a car. The lady has problems we cannot solve.

AT&T U-Verse: So far so good

2009/08/06 at 08:55

For years, we’ve had cable TV and internet access from our local cable provider Suddenlink (the small local company was bought by Cox and then Suddenlink). We haven’t had any particular problems with either one. During this time, though, we’ve had several telephone providers. We tried Vonage and Suddenlink’s own VoIP phone service, but in both cases, we could never get good quality (I went around with Vonage’s support multiple times before I just gave up). We finally just went back to AT&T regular landline.
For the last several years, we’ve had a DVR provided by Suddenlink (a Motorola 6400 hundred series with a Microsoft OS). While we knew it wasn’t as good as Tivo, it was good enough. In fact, we’ve become addicted to being able to watch what we want when we want and to forwarding past commercials.
A few weeks ago, however, Suddenlink downloaded a completely different operating system to our DVR. The overall user experience was much poorer than before and we lost some significant functionality.
As a software engineer, that really pissed me off. Clearly, the motivations for this change had absolutely nothing to do with users and were, in fact, hostile to the users. That sealed the deal, we were shopping for a different TV provider.
After some research, we decided to give AT&T’s new U-Verse service a try, mostly because we could have integrated TV, cable and internet. We got a lot more functionality and a few more channels for a little less than we were paying for TV, phone and internet.
The AT&T installer spent four hours at our house yesterday getting it all hooked up. I was not home for the installation, but Katie reported that a knowledgeable-seeming 30+-year Southwestern Bell/AT&T employee did the installation and that it went without any problems.
When I got home last night, I connected my laptop to the wireless, explored the TV/DVR options and got our voice mail set up. Everything seemed to be working without any problems or complicated setup.
I have to say, so far I’m very impressed. It’s clear that U-verse was designed as an integrated service. We had considered getting a bundled deal from AT&T a couple of years ago, but it was clearly a cobbled-together offering: DSL, regular phone and satellite TV from Dish or DirecTV.
With U-verse, I can manage all aspects of my service from their web site. I particularly like being able to manage the DVR from the web site and getting voice mail via email or on the web site; the kids really like having DVR capability on both our TVs.
I’ll try to remember to post an update in a few weeks, after we’ve lived with U-verse for a while.
UPDATE: So, I got my first email notification of a voice mail message shortly after I wrote this post. It’s great that I can listen to the voice mail online, but the email falls a little short. It shows me the number that called and then includes a link to the U-Verse home page. After I click on it, I have to log in and go through about five more clicks to hear the message. Couldn’t they provide a direct link or even attach the *.wav file to the email? So clase, but so far. I guess it’s the 80/20 rule in action.

Odd coincidence

2009/07/17 at 14:57

In my previous post, I pondered how the people who tormented me in high school feel about that now: Do they realize what they did? Do they know it but not think it remarkable? Do they regret it?
I just read a blog post by Bob Sutton that may provide an answer:

This research is part of a long line of studies that show people can be remarkably clueless to their own behavior and how others perceive them. . . This helps explain a lot of things, for example why the Zogby survey a couple years ago found that over one-third of American’s reported being bullied at work and yet less than 1% ever ever reported bullying others.

Memories light the corners of my mind

2009/07/17 at 14:01

A guy who was teased mercilessly in high school explains on his blog “Why I won’t be at my high school reunion.”
After outlining the hell he experienced in high school, he says:

Now it’s twenty five years since I got out of that miserable fucking hell-hole. And people from my high school class are suddenly getting in touch, sending me email, trying to friend me on Facebook, and trying to convince me to bring my family to the reunion. (It’s a picnic reunion, full family invited.) Even some of the people who used to beat the crap out of me on a regular basis are getting in touch as if we’re old friends.
My reaction to them… What the fuck is wrong with you people? Why would you think that I would want to have anything to do with you? How do you have the chutzpah to act as if we’re old friends? How dare you? I see the RSVP list that one of you sent me, and I literally feel nauseous just remembering your names.

I was also teased mercilessly in high school (though not as badly as this guy describes). Thankfully, though, I also found a group of people (go, band queers!) who became close friends and commiserated with me. In the 25+ years since high school, I have let go of most of the anger and bitterness towards the teenage shits who caused me misery back then, but I do have a similar WTF reaction when these same people try to ‘friend’ me on Facebook now.
It makes me wonder, are these people just not aware of the pain they inflicted back in the day? Do they not care? I know that I was horribly mean to others who I considered below even myself in the adolescent hierarchy, one guy in particular. In fact, in some ways, I think I was mean (or meaner) precisely because I experienced such abuse myself.
But I was always aware of my meanness, and within a few years after high school, I regretted it. If I ever meet up with that one guy again, I will still apologize for what I did to him.

The best part of waking up…

2009/07/06 at 09:10

… does not include downing the last slurp of coffee from your travel mug on the way to work, only to get chunks of something.
I’m just saying, if you were on the road with me this morning and saw me suddenly swerve into the oncoming lane briefly, I was trying to quickly spit my coffee back through the opening in the travel mug without spilling it all over myself.