Friday, January 24, 2014

Not A Sound From The Pavement

Sometimes my memory reminds me of a ghost ship.

{Writing advice for this post appears in the last paragraph if you wish to skip the rambling}
Consider the Lyubov Orlova for example; a Russian cruise ship that’s been adrift for nearly a year, with nary a soul aboard (making pirate noises).  It comes and goes.  People see it, then it vanishes in the mists (more pirate noises).  That’s what ghost ships do, but this one’s even better.  Supposedly the Lyubov Orlova carries cannibal rats!  They’re cannibals for two reasons.  First, rats are like rabbits on Viagra when it comes to proliferation rates, and secondly, after a year there’s nothing else to eat on the ship except other rats.
I’m seeing a movie trailer in my brain about a tsunami of bloodthirsty rats hitting a small but moderately populated (think body counts) island in the north Atlantic.  Because it’s a European island the people don’t have guns and they have to fight the rats with cricket bats and bidet pipes.  The hero, played probably by Anthony Hopkins (supporting actress either Julia Louis-Dreyfus or Nicole Kidman) has to find and destroy the King Rat who’s really an evil spirit from Baba Yaga’s hut (Russian folklore and Dungeons & Dragons reference – look it up).
But getting back to my memory…  Yesterday, while driving errands, I had this great idea for a blog post.  It was super awesome and relevant and fascinating and enlightening; just about the best thing since the invention of the rat-trap.  This was the one that would have put me over the top:  fame, fortune, drag racing with Justin Bieber…
It just appeared from nowhere, like great ideas and ghost ships sometimes do.  Magnificent and haunting gloriousness aside, I stored said idea in my memory hole and continued with the errands.  Somewhere, the idea fell out.  A stop at the bank, the grocery store, the gas station, and all was lost.  I couldn’t remember a dalgone thing about it.  Still can’t.  And so, you’re reading this and not something that would cause cascading ululations of life-changing epiphany.
Point being:  writers need to write stuff down so they can remember it later.  Keep a notebook or send yourself an email with all those great ideas.  Of course, don’t do that while driving.  But I really wish I had taken the time to make myself a quick note for future reference.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cancer Update #7 - All's Well, For Now

Here’s the dealio… doc tells me my blood-work and body scans show no current signs of cancer.  Keyword:  current.  I go back in April for a rinse and repeat of the tests.

Now – this is good news – great news in fact.  But keep in mind, we’re talking five-freakin’-year bellcurves!  I mean, I’ll take my three months and be totally, completely, and ever irreversibly thankful.  But there’s April and the expectation that the other shoe could drop.  Then again, one of the great lessons here is that one never knows when the first shoe will drop.

In the meantime, the news continues to sink in.  The day the doc told me this good news, I felt like I was standing in the middle of a smoldering crater with a sense of now what?  There is a savor, I think, of PTSD (maybe, kinda-sorta?).  Having never been in combat I use the term in a highly unprofessional and completely non-clinical manner.  Apologies to those who have that real deal.  Then again, I’ve been in a number of tight spots and so my stress-memory isn’t as flabby as my midsection.  Bottom line here: sorting things will take a while.

Anyways – unless something happens, no more cancer updates for a while.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Waiting for the Orange Blossoms

I find something very human about the fact that a boat load of 52 Global Warming scientists on a discovery mission to help prove receding levels of Arctic sea ice were trapped by Arctic Sea ice and had to be rescued by Chinese helicopters.

For starters, where does one obtain a Global Warming science degree?  When I Google, 'BS Global Warming," I find many links, none of which lead to accredited universities.

Secondly, China is the world's largest polluter-nation and it was their helicopters, made in 100% non-OSHA, non-EPA approved assembly plants that had to get in there and airlift said scientists back to some warmer part of the planet.  Standing on principal, I expect the true believers stayed on board with the crew.

Those youngsters living for the ironic (the purposely bored ones with black, plastic-frame glasses, ugly clothes, hair shriven by dull left-handed scissors, the latest electronic gadgets, and a wall of awards for a lifetime of showing up) should be ecstatic.  I can see them now, giving one another knowing nods and raised eyebrows, sipping their organic fair-trade coco in their micro-fiber onesies, hoping mom doesn't come in and tell them to turn that gosh-darn music down in front of their friends.  I mean, they just got over the fact that they weren't the first generation to discover alcohol and sex; and now this?!

That right there is the price of admission to the human club in all of its sometimes wildly disappointing and often ridiculous glory.  Things like this tend to become lost in the twerk-induced marginalia of our modern lives.

Tonight, in this neck of the woods, the temperature is supposed to bottom out somewhere around seventeen below zero, and that's when the wind doesn't blow.  I spent two hours today shoveling snow and will do more tomorrow.  But I'm not saying Global Warming isn't real.  I don't know and in the big scheme of things I don't care.  All I'm hoping for tonight is that the power doesn't go out and what I do know is that orange trees still won't blossom in central Illinois.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 - No Predictions Here

I was going to blog a list of predictions for the coming year.  But then thought it might be better to write about some less certain, but very sure, reality.

Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:  who can know it?

On New Year's Eve I had opportunity to play one of those games where you take a card, read the word on the card, and then try to draw it.  Then, if your team guesses the word, they roll the die and move their little marker along the board.  This is all sand-glassed.  Time is of the essence.  I think the game was called Win, Lose, or Draw.
One of the cards I pulled had the word Hercules on it.  How does one draw Hercules in two minutes?  Never-mind that I draw about as well as a person who just had his hand crushed in a vice.  Yet I persevered, drawing a box with a baby in it and then a snake.  Then, I x-ed out the snake.  Then I drew a stick figure with bulging arms.  We got the point when one of my teammates got the clues.  There were seven people on each team.  This was the first time in my life when knowing that infant Hercules killed a serpent in the cradle proved useful.  He actually killed two, but that time thing.
Let's go with the anecdote.  Two out of every seven people know one obscure fact about Hercules and  that information will be useful once in a lifetime.  Ahh… the bane of the liberal arts.
Part of the problem with the oft-intoned, 'follow your heart' is that often the heart leads one astray.  I mean, it's not like I ever got a decent job because I knew the differences between Ionic and Doric columns or that I can talk a bit about how one of the cornerstones of Western Literature (that would be the Illiad) is little more than a barroom brawl over a woman.  Nine years of war could have been avoided had Agamemnon decided to follow something other than his love for a two-timing, albeit supremely beautiful, Helen.  Though, I fear, our appreciation for hollow wooden-horses would be much less.  See how fascinating that all is?  That and three bucks will get me a cup of burnt coffee at Starbucks.
Point being, I currently work with a whole parcel of adjunct instructors at a community college.  These are very-well educated people.  Yet the adjuncts make perhaps a third of what the full-time professors make.  They do the same work and, in many cases, have the same letters after their names, but they make dimes on the dollar to what the full-timers make.  This situation is typical of colleges throughout the country and I am not griping about the full-timers.  This divide is not the Professors' fault.
You see, colleges are businesses.  Decades ago, collegiate management bean-counted to the realization that it's more profitable to pay part-timers without benefits than it is to pay full-timers with benefits.  When I say benefits I'm talking about little things like retirement, healthcare, and paid time off.  Thus, most colleges are staffed majoritatively (I just made that word up) by part-time instructors.  Never mind what the coaches make.
My guess is, many of my coworkers followed their hearts in college.  I think that's what I did.  Then again, my memory is a bit fuzzy on a few things from that timeframe.
To whit, upon reading the above, many will say, "Get a different job."  Begrudgingly, they are correct.  If one doesn't like their current place of employment, then seek elsewhere.  It is what it is, and let us realize that following one's heart comes with certain costs.
There's talk about raising the minimum wage to whatever they want to raise it to.  I have conflicting thoughts on this.  But I would be less than honest if I didn't confess that the thought of a burger-flipper, who may or may not have graduated high school, making more money than a person with a PhD trying instill a love for learning any specific topic, royally pisses me off.  When the drive-through attendant is making twenty-dollars an hour and when the happy meal costs ten, get back with me.  And in the meantime, what value education, when the college graduate needs two jobs to eat?
Or, consider the fact that a man playing a game (football) for one year can make exponentially more than a man who boils pre-fabricated French fries in vats of oil, eight hours a day, for a decade.  Interesting consideration, is it not?  Again, following one's heart comes with certain costs.
That sound of bone crunching into a stone wall is me banging my forehead against reality.  Complaining doesn't reframe reality, or much of anything else.  It's not always the best artists who win the game.