Friday, December 29, 2006

Too many days since the last post...

And life hasn't been all that bad -- my creativity has mostly been soaked up by work, actually.

So let's talk about life. It's not all that bad. My 2000 Mustang GT is back on the road and better than ever. Energy suspension bushings, KYB adjustable shocks/struts, lower springs, louder pipes (BBK X-pipe, American Thunder flowmasters, it's a beautiful sound).

Family -- the usual issues, but mostly better. Lisa and I just celebrated 20 years of marriage. I got a new wedding band (White gold) and so did Lisa.

I haven't written much this year because I've been catching my breath, mostly. If 2007 is anything like 2006 I might be in for some really good times. Time will tell.

I have a rant directed at Ford's marketing people and plans for a station-wagon Mustang. That will go up here in the next couple of weeks.

Cheers, and happy new year!

Monday, October 02, 2006

The post-OLF Blues return (sort of)


This year was way more fun than last year. I think I was prepared as much as possible, I didn't have to speak, and that meant I could just attend and have a good time.

Except I got volunteered to do the A/V coordination and announce ballroom 3 speakers (fine by me, I'm a ham ;) -- didn't slow me down or limit me at all, actually. I had to say that Rich Bowen still somehow manages to 'learn' me more about apache, every time I see him talk.

Second one was the Novell desktop guy -- but I'm being somewhat opinionated here -- almost all of the talks were extremely good.

Go next year if you didn't get to do this one -- it's going to be bigger and better if history is any kind of indicator. More about this as time permits (work work work;)


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ohio LinuxFest 2006: Plans, presentations, and penguins

We're mentioned on! "Linux and open source software users in the Buckeye State who want to network with several hundred of their colleagues will get the chance when Ohio LinuxFest 2006 gets underway later this month. The one-day conference, to be held on Saturday, September 30, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in downtown Columbus, features presentations ... " Rock on!

read more | digg story

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ohio Linux Fest 2006!

Ohio Linux Fest -- The name says it all. Don't miss out if you live near Ohio, because the biggest Linux event in the area is about to go down September 30.

read more | digg story

Ohio Linux Fest 2006!

If you're into Linux, and haven't been living under a rock, you would have heard of Ohio Linux Fest. Go and register (follow the link to the article) now or you'll miss out on the biggest Linux geek fest this side of the Mississippi river ;) -=Fericyde=-

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September 11, 2001 was a nodal point in history. Everything changed. It's not like the delta on the curve wasn't already pretty high -- it's just that suddenly, we hit an inflection point, and the graph that marks change in our society suddenly took a drastic, upward bend there.

Like it or not, we're facing a point in history where mankind might do itself in with a pretty bad virus -- not AIDs, not the bird flu -- we're talking pure thought. I use the word 'pure' here in the strictest sense. Killing people, whether to stamp out Terrorism, or to justify your Islamic right to world domination -- either case is obviously not going to make the world a better place. Need examples? Go to CNN and FOX news and look at the stupid crap going on in the name of God and Country. No, I'm not just talking the idiocy of Osama, I'm also talking about the tendency of the far right and left to use what's going on as a political lever. Don't forget, we're on the side of God (yes, that's sarcasm).

Our society is changing. We're not really equipped to fight thought viruses. We're more about news coverage, heavy armor, nuclear threats and chemical warfare. The hard questions aren't being asked. How do you deal with people who think that God justifies their right to kill others? How do you end this without nuclear holocaust?

It's been too long since the nuclear scares of the 50's -- I'm too young to remember them, but I saw enough fear in the eyes of my mentors as a kid. I remember seeing the video about what to do when a bomb hits (by the way, if it's close, there ain't much to do).

I think as a society one of the sad after effects of technology is that you grow used to the idea that there's not much that can't be solved by more technology. Sadly, there isn't much that technology can do if a nuke hits. We have to learn to respect the bomb -- and it's a genie that very few view in a positive light. My biggest fear is in our retaliatory second moves if the idiot extremists get one on the shores of this country.

Enough of that. September 11 makes me aware that despite all of the violence and insanity in this world, I have much to be grateful for. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that some of what has happened has made us more introspective as a whole. Yes, there are people who will never be that way, but a large majority of the population I feel has taken the punch on the chin and decided to look inward.

We need to be grateful that we're still standing and stand together. We need to continue to make this country something that protects freedom and shines like there's no tomorrow. I'm grateful to have a job, a spouse I love, a healthy family -- isn't that all anyone could ever ask for?

It's hard to remember the good things sometimes, even when they're staring you in the face. I haven't been looking hard enough, that's all I'm saying.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Life is truly complex...

Time flies when you're having fun, and I am indeed, having fun.

There are moments, though, where the depression of last year haunts me. All I can say is that all of the pain aside, it's not a truly bad thing to have to adjust to in your life -- at least if you attack it the way I did.

I've developed an exercise strategy that involves about 10 hours a week of cardio, and about 2 hours a week of upper body exercise. In all, I've dropped about two inches at my waste -- but mainly, when I keep up with it, my sanity is fairly good. I'm able to weather some seriously hard emotional turbulence this way.

It's not like I haven't had a lot of that lately, but that's another story and it's very personal. What I can tell you is that I'm very blessed. I have a lot of friends who care about me and it shows in so many big and little ways that I'd have to be blind not to know I'm loved on this planet.

My time is split between work, working out, automotive work (it's a thing I like to believe is cathartic, but the jury is still out there for the moment) and my family. Between all of the insanity, it's easy to miss what a lucky guy I am to be here, in other words.

Thanks for your prayers,

Monday, June 19, 2006

Okay, so May kicked my butt hard...

I awoke, sometime in late April to a bolt of thunder (I know this sounds bogus, but I swear it's true) -- staring straight at my alarm clock, which was reading precisely 5:04 -- and for some strange reason I read this as a warning. I thought "That's may 4th, I'll have to watch that day closely."

May 4th, it turns out, was to be a serious problem. It started out OK -- had a going away party in Cleveland for a Tech friend, and got to hang with some Key people I've missed for a while. I didn't drink -- I haven't had but a handful of drinks since the onset of depression, which I'm fighting and winning, thanks to not drinking and working out like a fiend. I figured that the day was mostly over at 11:00 PM when I got home, and decided to move a sofa back into my living room, which had been recently re-carpeted.

And accidentally dropped the sofa onto my right knee, which it turns out was worthy of a warning. The bottom edge of the sofa had a blunt edge, which cut into my right knee so deeply that I could see my tendon and down into the ... well, it was grizzly, let's just say. It made the most horrible sucking sound as I stood up.

And I realized that my life was about to change. The emergency room people told me that I was "lucky". This was a new definition of the word, one that I hadn't been previously acquainted with (apologies to Scott Adams). The tendon across my knee-cap had been lightly grazed, and would not need surgery. 12 stitches, some local anesthetic, and I was on my way home. Later, after I began howling, my wife would take a trip to the drug store at 3:00 AM in the morning, to get the heavy duty pain killers that I would need to make it through the night. My last sentence that night (morning) went (according to Lisa) "I think it's working *smile*".

I had planned a trip to Missouri for my 25th class reunion. I was going to drive -- 700 miles or so. It was looking like I was going to be bedridden, possibly. The month was already complicated by other relatives in the hospital, and then this, and then two days later I found myself seriously worried about my son. There were two highlights and one more downer.

The two highlights -- one being an incredible 25th class reunion, which went off about as well as could be imagined (I got to see 17 of 25 class members, which is pretty damn good percentage-wise), and one of my kick-ass coworkers joining my team at work.

Now for the big bummer -- kitchen fire. Yeah, smoke damage, the whole nine yards. May kicked my ass, in other words. And, believe it or not, it was fairly minor on the scale of life (which, after the recent depression thing, has been expanded greatly). In other words, it was a suck month, mostly, but compared to recent events, thanks to me dealing with my life changes, it was a mere speed-bump on the road of life.

Life tosses you these things, and the aftermath hasn't been pleasant for either Lisa or myself -- construction people here at all hours, my knee waking me up in the middle of the night -- but it's still manageable. I'm hoping for some slowdown soon. That would be really nice.

My Mustang is almost ready for summer -- two bent rims are being straightened and I decided (thanks to the knee) to pass the torch of the next level of modifications to some neighborhood kids who, near as I can tell, live to work on Mustangs. They were like kids in a candy store with the boxes of parts (Another blog entry there).

Oh, let's hope the ride will be bumpy in the car, and not so much in life. Thanks for listening!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Punking Matt Smith

Time: March 29, 2006. Location: the AppleBees' in Brunswick, OH The poor guy, all he wanted to do is to meet for dinner so we could shoot the usual shit -- and what happens? Some waitress insults him.

So, who is Matt? Matt is a friend that for years, I've insulted with the same running gag. It all began innocently -- well, not exactly -- one of the Matt Smith-ism's is "You're such a tool!"

This he would say to me on most occasions when I was simply trying to communicate some fact or other about work. Okay, so maybe at times I can be just as obnoxious, but everyone needs a signature style...

Anyway, Smith kept calling me a tool, so I started responding different ways, all more or less categorically placing the "tool-ness" squarely back in Smith's court.

Then I began a campaign: I began to "find" documents that "proved" that Smith was the _real_ tool. Artifacts began to appear on his cubicle wall, including (but not limited to) the following:

  1. A 24-inch long wrench, with Matt Smiths' name on it
  2. A print-out from a google search for the word "tool", which begins with the usual google "did you mean Matt Smith" and where all of the entries had his name in them.
  3. A screen-shot of Internet Explorers' tool menu, pulled down, and right under the "Mail and News" menu option, clearly, is the "Matt Smith" option.
  4. The man page for "Tool", which clearly had Matt Smith-ism's all over it.
You get the drift -- soon, other people were joining the party, and by the time Matt left the company (I know what you're thinking -- but seriously we're friends and it didn't have anything to do with me), his wall was almost covered with this crap.

So, back to last night.

For some reason, Matt is ultra-paranoid about me getting him with these kinds of practical jokes when we eat out. I'm sure it's not related to a while back when the door greeting people seemed to know he was a tool.

He comes in, all paranoid-like, and sits down. We have a good meal and we're talking (it's been like an hour and a half now, since he sat down -- his defenses are completely down). We're talking about recognition as a hacker, and I (totally casually) grab one of the waitresses who's simply vacuuming the floor.

"Do you recognize this guy?" I ask.

Short pause, and she says "Wait, yeah! The web. I saw a picture of you!" Matt's face lights up. "Weren't you on the tool section of the Craftsman web site?"

God, I wish I could have had this on video. It was a solid 5 minutes before I stopped laughing and Matt stopped threatening to slash my tires.

It's the little things in life that make it all worth while...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

On the Cover of the Rollin' Stone...

Ok, it's happened to me. I've had a few articles posted to slashdot -- this is even bigger for me -- I'm up on as of about an hour before this posting:$100_Laptop

I guess it's time to re-evaluate my priorities (mabye I'm just returning to normal, or rather, "FeriCyde normal").

Friday, March 17, 2006

Linux Disney Land Returns

Hopefully, not momentarily.

I might just be seeing balance return to my life -- what an amazing thing. When creative Linux writing returns (Ok, it's a stretch here, gotcha), you know I'm getting better.

The article can be found here.

Linux Disney land is back -- pray for me and that it's for good.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Winning Over The Male Psyche

Winning is baked into you if you're a guy in our culture. From the moment you're brought into this world, the social programming begins. Everything is about Winners and Losers. Think about all of the social contexts -- even the women are bought in the stupidity -- what's a guy in a bar scenario that no one wants to approach? "Loser!".

Losers abound.

Wasn't Jesus the ultimate Loser? Didn't the guy have an entire one-up on society and mankind (he was, after all, the Son of God, imbibed with immortal powers, and don't forget, perfect). Yet, he didn't chose to win -- he chose to lose -- the most important thing (we're led to believe) that a human can be given -- his life. He gave it away for us.

We didn't, after all, win it.

Jesus, What a loser.

Yes, this is on my mind today, as I laugh about an incident that illustrates just how stupid this mentality is. I was working out at the local Y yesterday, and bumped into an old friend. We got into a discussion about churches and I explained that I still hadn't exactly found one that would suit me. On that topic, I explained that one of the tiring aspects of my going to church usually boils down to the fact that the Sunday school classes are inevitably taught by 'coach' guy types -- these people, in my not so humble opinion, have more than lost out on spiritual growth. Why? Because they've bought into the entire sports paradigm as a way to run their spiritual lives.

This is a reflex, mostly -- it's something ingrained at such a fundamental level, it tosses them off the mark early. I think possibly I was lucky -- my father was not a big sports fanatic, and often spent time trying to make me think about social situations in a different way.

Back to the YMCA...

I was talking loudly, because I was winded, and on a treadmill at the time. I explained that I found very little about spiritual growth in sports, and that the male mentality of trying to paste life into these contexts was something that made me weary when it happened.

As if on Gods' queue, this guy, lifting weights, who had overheard me, chimed in:

guy: "Well, that's what it's all about, after all, isn't it?"

Me: "What?" (clearly, he'd only heard part of my conversation)

guy: "Winning -- life -- it's about winning."

Me: "No, it's not." I said. "That's what I'm trying to get across. Very little in life is about winning and losing."

This disturbed him somewhat.

guy: "No, think about it!" , he said, grinning.

Me: "I have, trust me." I countered. "What was the last thing you won? Did you win you paycheck, or was it a compromise?" More examples like this were being shouted out by me at this time. I'll skip them for brevity. I ended my quest to get him to think by pointing out that we get our salvation by Gods' graces -- not by winning it.

That made him think. He mumbled some bible verse that he was fond of and walked off. Still grinning, because he thought he'd "won" the argument.

Later I ran into my friend in the hallway -- she'd mercifully walked out in the middle of the "discussion".

"Well, how did that end?" She asked. Clearly I'd made more people than myself uncomfortable in this situation.

I explained that I wasn't trying to win or lose the "argument" -- but that clearly he was exactly the kind of thing I was fighting. I mean, how much better can you get -- his view was so slanted, he couldn't even step outside of the bounds of the small fence in his head. Possibly, he might have stopped and thought "Hey, maybe here's a chance to think about something outside of the bounds of what I've been taught. Maybe it's not time to win an argument -- maybe it's just time to discuss something."

My friend and I talked for about 10 minutes on various subjects related to this. I'm beginning to see that it's more than just an irritant -- this thing I've stumbled into is within myself, and it's going to be removed, or at least altered for comic effect. I'm certainly not going to sit back quietly and watch this kind of stupidity like a good spectator -- it's time to join the "game".

I do plan on going to church today (one of the side effects -- someone invited me to their church).

I'll keep an open mind -- that's probably going to be the first problem I face in church, by the way -- and enjoy myself.

Someone's gotta do it, might as well be me.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Freedom to let loose...

Talking to a friend recently about the ability to be childish, or rather, the freedom to be so. One of the things I've missed in my ranting about all things creative and male is the fact that guys are allowed to be childish in certain dimensions that aren't allowed on the feminine side.

Specifically, if you're a guy, you can, if you wish:

  • Act like you've recently just discovered puberty.
  • Drive a monster truck.
  • Play soldier, football or any other contact sport.
  • Get all muddy.
  • Shoot things (don't tell me all you hunters are seriously doing this because it's work, I'll laugh).
  • Do things that are dangerous, without regard to your well being (stuff like drinking games, wild off-roading, skydiving and high mountain climbing fall into this category)

Society allows men to be "boys". Women are expected to "grow up" at some point -- although this is showing signs of change, it's generally more frowned upon still. For example, people tend to shrug their shoulders when a man drops his fatherly duties and runs out on his wife. If the wife does it to the man, there's a lot of character questioning and eyebrow raising. The guy just wasn't ready to settle down, while the woman clearly has issues -- I mean, what kind of mother leaves her kids for crying out loud?

Yeah, it's one-sided, that's my point.

Guys are allowed to be childish, but only within similar confines of what I've outlined above.

Remember how Rosie Greer (he was a famous football player) loved needlepoint? Much noise was made about his hobby -- not because he was good at it (who knows, I never saw an example), but because he was a guy. God forbid he be creative with his hands here. Probably some people would question his sexual orientation -- outside of the room. Rosie looks like you don't really want to piss him off in this photo of the cover of his book.

Now, if Rosie's hobby had been lobbing sticks of dynamite at small animals, there would have been no story at all. That's a story about a real man there, not some pansy with needles that's probably making a scarf for his pet poodle.

But my friend had a point -- guys are really allowed more freedom to cut loose in our society. If you're female, you're allowed to cut loose along a reciprocating set of lines. You're allowed such things as:

  • Ability to dress creatively, within limits.
  • Make-up (see the hunting reference above).
  • Do Crafts and cooking (See Rosie, you crossed the line here).
  • The freedom to have a bubbly personality.
  • Artistic expression (What -- guys are allowed to do this?)
  • The ability to dance unimpeded by social norm. Don't tell me you recently saw a guy doing creative dance outside of a musical somewhere.
The lines get blurry when any of the above are crossed. Find a woman that likes to hunt deer or enjoys a good game of football, and you've probably got a gal that can chew tobacco with the best of em' -- it's simply frowned upon.

And what's so bad about a gal who does dip anyway? I have a neighbor who's daughter-in-law dips. It seriously bums her out. Her son dips too, but she's never mentioned it to me being an issue. Why? Because as a guy, you're allowed to spit all you want. It's "un-lady-like" for her daughter-in-law to spit, so she crossed the line.

Why I'm blathering on about all of this, I'll never know ;)

Okay, I know why, and if you've been reading here, so do you. You know that I'm making a point of some of the gender lines in our society. More to this point, my issues isn't with what I'm allowed to do -- it's with the constraints. There are too many constraints on what you're allowed to do for one gender or another -- and it makes for friction at times.

Closing this argument with a small story.

About 15 years ago we had some friends with a son and daughter who were within a year or so of age. The son was in a baseball league, as was the daughter. Turns out that the daughter was a better ball player (and she was younger, to boot), so the parents were forced to act quickly to resolve the issue.

What they did fixed the problem, although the daughter wasn't too happy about it, hearing my wife describe all of the problems that were created as part of the solution. The motivations described here are not inferred at all -- the parents were blatant about their reasons for doing all of it, and completely missed the obvious sense of inequity they were creating.

They didn't want little Johnny to have an inferiority complex, so, you guessed it, they pulled the daughter out of the league -- and put her on the junior cheerleader team.

Yeah, I'm sure that didn't affect the daughters' sense of self at all.

Just for thoughts,

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Funny thing, even the word "suit" has a series of connotations that I can't totally explain. I used to use it a lot in articles to refer to business-types (often the enemy of geek-types, BTW). That is, until I realized one day, recently, that I had become a "suit".

And even more to the point, enjoyed wearing them.

But why, I had to ask myself, do I enjoy suits? I mean, I didn't used to like the damn things. They were a serious pain to wear -- and I'm kind of a rough and tumble guy in real life (honest). Yet, here I was, enjoying something that by my own admission, is kind of bland when you look at it.

Then it struck me last week, after I was trying on a nice suit in a department store -- I realized why, suddenly, I liked them.

They're one of the few things about masculine culture that doesn't make me wretch, or want to hide under a rock. I mean, I simply get embarrassed watching James Bond movies -- it's not that I don't like the action -- it's the stupid phony reaction shots from the female-models-posed-as-secret-agents. The stupid setups where James Bond has some really cool gadget -- they're playing on the juvenile testosterone responses of the typical male 14-year-old mindset -- and it bugs me.

Sports bugs me for similar reasons. Watch a football game, and who's getting paid the most? (Answer -- the jock-strap wearing loons damaging their bodies in the name of the game). Who's getting paid far less to wear far less, do far less and act far stupider? (Answer -- the cheerleaders). It reinforces the male "bread winner while the wife watches" stereotype. Odd, you never much get to see interviews where they highlight this or that cheerleader on their cheering prowess. It doesn't seem quite as important as the dude that broke his leg on that last touchdown run, or the guy that turned the direction of the game for the winning team.

That's because there's another game altogether going on here: It's called gender discrimination.

Think I'm some kind of militant feminist? Guess the fuck what, I'm not -- I'm a militant masculinist (there's a word not in the dictionary) -- I want to advance the general perception of masculinity as something that I can identify with and not feel like I'm out of place because my arms aren't dragging on the floor whilst I walk.

I'd simply like to see something going on in society that reinforces intelligence over this inherent stupidity. Monster garage is far more challenging, so maybe something will give here someday -- but I'm not holding my breath.

Actually, lots of intellectual coolness goes on every day on the tube, it's just that the most popular crap reinforces the things I hate, so really I'm just whining about that.

Back to the suits.

I like them because they're one of the few things masculine that I can identify with without shame.

And there's a (very small) amount of room for some creativity -- color, fit coordination and so on. It's kind of sad (that aspect). I was trolling the discount racks at another store in the mall, and found this display. "What's in style" read this huge sign, and it points to the lack of pleats on the pants, the "side vents" on the jacket and some other completely lame feature that I seriously could give a rats ass about, no self-respecting person would honestly care about -- except some weird "suit Nazi", which I'm sure exists somewhere, yet I haven't met.

So maybe there is some silly stuff about them, but hey, I'm willing to have fun with it, regardless.

Fun. Suits?


Yeah, Fun! Cheers!


Sunday, February 19, 2006

The word for today: Acceptance

Okay, the ride has been a bit bumpy lately, but for some good reasons -- some discovery on my part. I'm dumping some of my thoughts here, so bear with me.

Let's talk about a basic human need: acceptance. It appears that one of my issues in my life has centered around feelings of being a fish out of water. Not just because I'm a creative male (see a few dozen prior blog entries), but because I grew up in a small Mid-Western farming community as a ministers' kid with a bi-racial heritage. The community was mostly made up of farmers and their kids -- almost all from the same German heritage (and all related to each other, but I digress). My parents were anomalies -- they both had master's degrees in social work, and white collar jobs -- Dad was a minister, Mom a social worker.

We moved in in 1969 -- I was 5 years old at the time -- and right away we didn't fit. Three boys, all with long hair in a conservative community that had (even at that date) not seen boys that didn't have buzz-cuts. I was the only kid in class that wore Guayabera shirts to school (It's a Cuban shirt -- very popular in Puerto Rico, but unfortunately for me, never seen before by any of my classmates). To say I felt that I never fit in much is a huge understatement.

One of the more surprising things I've learned to date was that I was still a likable guy. My favorite grade school teacher and my friends that I kept contact with have related this to me countless times -- but it doesn't sink in at my gut. More on this as we go along.

One of the benefits I love about living in Ohio is the diversity. If I say something like "My Mom is Puerto-Rican." people respond with "My dad is Italian.", or "I'm 25 percent native American.", or "I'm Irish." It's never the same answer and I love it. I can't say I felt that way growing up, and it made me feel much like a stranger in a strange land (no, I'm going off on the inevitable Robert Heinlein tangent here).

If I had to pick a heavier impact, though, it would be from the former difference -- the fact that I never felt that I was accepted for being who I was. Besides the creative direction, there's a devilishly deviant part of my personality that bends me toward a social personality trait that I call "Center of the Room".

Not that the motivation for this trait is all that rare -- it's not really all that rare to find someone who wants attention -- the rare part is where everyone else in the room is actually wishing for it at the same time. That's because humor is involved, a lot of sarcastic whit, rowdiness and inevitable self-deprecating insanity. As one of my high school friends pointed out (yes, this has been going on for quite some time), if it was boring, and I came along, it wasn't boring for long.

People that know me fairly well know that there's a mischievous side to my personality that manifests itself heavily in social situations. I can't stand things being dry for long, so I tend to be the guy that steps in and says "Let's have a party." Actually, I don't say it -- I just start the mayhem without any kind of announcement.

This works really well at most social events, like parties for example. It makes for some interesting meetings at work. It's definitely not the kind of thing you do a funeral (no, I'm more socially grounded than that, although some funerals could have been spiced up a bit more, I've always resisted the temptation).

But often, even after the laughter has died down (okay, right after the laughter dies down) I feel, or at times have felt, pretty much the same feeling I've always felt. It's an uneasy feeling that there was something not quite right about this aspect of my personality -- usually this depends upon how I'm feeling that day. If I'm having a bad day, it's bad, on good days, it's awesome. It was hard to understand.

That is, until about a year ago, when I by chance I ran into someone with extremely similar personality traits, and realized that they definitely made my day go faster and that the laughter was just as good for everyone else as it was for me. The other thing I discovered is that, like me, they could be laughing on the outside, and not doing so well on the inside. It's a very lonely feeling because you're the only one in the room who knows just how bad you really feel.

Mistakenly, they, at times, felt phony, just like I had. What they did teach me, however, was that it's a defense mechanism -- something that had never occurred to me at all. Thinking back, sometimes it is. But what a way to defend yourself. Recently I've found myself taking a back seat to this person -- a decidedly good seat -- in the audience. There can only be one center anyway for the best effect, so this isn't a bad thing. What's really good is the fact that for once I don't feel quite so lonely -- it's OK to make everyone feel good, even if you yourself aren't doing so well. Plus I get to watch, learn new techniques and so on, from a vantage point that simply wasn't available before.

Is it phony if it helps people get along, and you enjoy yourself just for a bit? I know enough now to say that when I've been the center of the room, one of the reasons that a lot of the stuff comes off so funny is because I've done self-deprecating things, sarcastic jokes that people know are grounded in how I really feel and so on -- I'm simply too truthful to myself and my audience to be deceitful (the exception is practical jokes, which is another really, really long blog entry, lemme tell ya).

The reason it feels phony at times is grounded in the moments when you're laughing on the outside and crying on the inside. This is not because you're being fake -- it's because you're two people -- one is social, and the other is personal. Just because they don't line up doesn't always mean that either of them is a fake. For a lot of people, these two beings always coincide, and that's a simple way to go through life -- they don't often coincide for me because I've been this way a long, long time.

In this case, the reason I'm lonely has very little to do with the number of people in the room with me -- it has to do with the fact that for some alien reason, no one seems to see how fucked up things are -- or worse, they seem to know but just don't seem to care to do anything about it.

And I've been the kind of guy that does care and have my share of scars from battles where I did in fact do something about it when no one else was lifting a proverbial finger. As some people know, I've taken on Microsoft and other corporations, lobbied the government and through my work with Linux, worked world-wide to change perceptions of things that were simply not right. I tend to side with the underdog if I perceive that something is wrong.

This can be good when you win -- but can I win if the underdog is the creative American male? Just who is the enemy in this context? The enemy in this case is society. This is a fight that I can't win, unfortunately -- I can only hope to voice some opinions and look for some change (inevitable) over the course of my lifetime.

And so we arrive at my particular malady. I'm fighting a ghost. I cannot win this battle -- I will not surrender, but I must admit that the change I'm fighting for is simply impossible to effect anytime soon.

Does this sound like a stupid reason to be depressed? Sometimes depression is brought on by the fact that some part of your life sucks. In other words, maybe I'm seriously depressed for a worthy cause. In my case, the reason may seem stupid to a lot of people. It's no longer trivial to me, ever since I lost a childhood friend with a remarkably creative personality to what can only be described as social stupidity.

I think that's one of the reasons that I've fallen into such a funk lately (not all of it, but a sizable chunk of the problem). I simply can't stand some of the stupidity around me embedded in the read only memory of our society -- The social instructions for how people raise their kids for failure in life, or worse, a life as a man where you're allowed to be functional, successful and so on -- but not allowed to be creative, funny, bubbly or anything else outside of the realm of the stock male persona of bare-chested action super-hero. For sure you shouldn't cry at a movies, hug your best friend if he's male, or sing to yourself and get caught (all big social no-nos if you're a guy).


Whatever you do, don't enjoy playing dress-up -- wait, that might be changing, thanks to "Queer eye for the straight guy".

-or is it?

I mean, do straight guys really have to sit around and get gay people to show them how to let go of social stupidity? It's nothing against the gay community -- it's aimed squarely at the fact that society says I'm not supposed to be this way. Yes, by the way, I've recently decided that I like dressing up (no -- not in my wife's cloths, either -- mine). I like it a lot. Oddly enough, no homosexual tendencies have manifested themselves in my personality, despite this known non-heterosexual male trait. Okay, I need to cut down on the sarcasm a bit here, but you get the point -- and I could seriously care less about this one. The main point I'm driving to here revolves around being able to be yourself, and not some unemotional automaton.


Getting back to the basic human need of acceptance here.

I haven't felt totally accepted by society. Not even my wife at times understands me, and she's been around me for over 2 decades -- although she's been working on it, lately a lot more than ever. At the core of my frustration is a basic indignity -- I know I'm not a bad person. I care, I show I care, and I have feedback that tells me that people know I care. I'm a productive member of society. I may be a bit on the non-standard side, but so the fuck what? I shouldn't have these feelings but for the want of some dark things that happened in the past at times when I was vulnerable.

Somehow I, unlike some of my friends, got past the issues -- but I'm here on the other side looking at the damage and at what could be better for want of a little less stupidity and social constraint. Maybe more guys like me would be around or there might be just a bit more joy in my day. In any case, I'm simply not satisfied to watch from the sidelines anymore.

Or it may be that I want something impossible: I want society to hug me back and say "You're OK just the way you are, Paul".

And that's simply never going to happen.

See -- I can't fight society. I can't "win" this battle -- it's a loss before I get started. There's no one listening or fighting back. I'm swinging at air. It's a reflexive action on my part (part of my personality) to fight something that's wrong -- but in this case, my gut reflex is to do something extremely depressive and pointless.

In order to overcome this, I've seriously got to lighten up on this one.

It might be kind of funny to at least talk through the problems. I'm thinking maybe a book about it would be nice. I need to set the boundary conditions a bit here, but it's a start.

In any case, thanks for listening in the mean time.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Tremble your way to fitness

The reference is to a George Carlin routine where he announces a whole slew of bogus book titles in a row, like:

  • Cooking with heat.
  • Marriage for one!
  • How to kill a rat with an oboe.
  • I gave up, died and it worked!

But I digress. Recently having breakfast with a friend, she said "Wow! You look great! What have you been doing?"

My response: "It's called neurosis. Be thankful it hasn't happened to you."

Funny thing is, I've been working out very regularly for the past 3-4 months. Not just because it's the right thing to do, but because I, for the first time in my life, need the stress relief that a good workout brings to the table.

I've found that it's the only way I can easily make it through the day, and that for all of the positives that a workout brings, one of the biggest and more consistent benefits is longer sleeping patterns (still work to do there, trust me).

But slowly I find my self in more and more grounded states of mind.

The thing is, I wouldn't be so damn healthy if it weren't for the stress and recent life challenges I've faced. I never thought I'd get into fitness by being overly stressed -- I've always had to work hard at a regular workout regimen.

Up to now, that is. Prior, it's always been like "Oh God, another trip to the dentist" kind of mentality. Now it's like "How many minutes left before I can leave to go work out?!?! Are we there yet?"

Okay, it might be more of an obsessive/compulsive thing too. If so, it would be one of those rare moments where OCD actually has helped my cause.

And I'm also convinced that somehow it's affected my persona -- no idea how I know this, I just feel it from time to time. Maybe I'm becoming more fit, but I honestly feel that at times the whole "wear your heart on your sleeve" thing, coupled with the recent events I've experienced are somehow meshing into a condition that has changed the way either people react to me, or vise versa.

Or maybe I'm just going nuts. Oh well. At least I'll look good while I'm staring at the walls in the asylum.


PS: I found the complete list of Carlin's "Join the book-club" monologue here.

The word for today is deliverance.

I've recently experienced the phenomena, but the word can mean different things to different people. So what does it mean in FeriCyde context?

This is my definition (okay, some of it is derived from work by Scott Peck).

Several thoughts together. The Lords prayer clearly states:

".. and deliver us from evil ..."

This on the surface may seem a trivial thought, but like a lot of simple things in Christianity, I've found that there are deeper, multi-layer meanings and more powerful implications.

And then there's the whole exorcism process, which although it might sound like it has limited application, in fact can be applied to a host of ills. I applied it to my recent thought-related problems, for example, and it worked fine.

Of course, I might really have been possessed too, but who the heck knows?

More importantly -- did it matter? Seriously?

There are several stages to an exorcism -- one of the first stages is identification of the pretext, and one of the final stages is deliverance. For more on these things, if you're curious (not everyone should be curious, by the way), please read Scott Pecks The people of the Lie. If that's not enough, he has later work on exercism, which will really turn your head (okay, I couldn't resist the pun).


Until the day dawn, and the shadows flee away.
Songs of Solomon, 2-17
Deliverance is the end result of the process of delivery, of being carried through the rough to the point of relief. I sincerely believe that at some of the roughest points of my life, I was carried by some external force through the rough waters. I simply have had experiences that were larger than my life and experience could have tolerated.

Higher powers, in other words, do the heavy lifting. I chose the identifier of angels, but your religious paradigm may provide other names.

Rough points. In my most recent experience, I simply could not sleep. I went to bed and woke with the same thoughts (imagine an endless loop of the same thought patterns that simply would not go away). My sleep patterns were approaching less than an hour a night and showing no signs of getting better.

This had the rather drowning effect of making my waking moments even more depressing. It also makes for extreme emotional instability, but I digress.

There were other life complications, which I can't share here. I asked as many spiritual friends as I could to pray for me -- all at around the same time, and I carefully asked certain ones for a specific result: deliverance.

And for the first time in months, I awoke with something like 5-6 hours of sleep, and a clear mind.

I had been delivered.

I didn't know if it was permanent then (I think it is now, by the way). I was not totally cured of the problems, but in control of my head. This was the good part.

The bad part was that I felt like I had been spiritually run through a meat grinder. My emotions were raw, but in check. It was as if someone had found the volume button for my emotional/creative side and turned it up a few notches. This was different than what I had been experiencing, which was mostly depressive, destructive, unwelcome thoughts and pain, so it was OK. Stuff that was good was so amazingly good (feeling-wise) that it's hard to describe. Bad stuff hurt like hell, but I knew I was going to be OK.

My head hurt like crazy. This went away after a week, so it points to some sort of chemical shift. For this reason I've been cutting out as many unnecessary chemicals as I can(*).

Deliverance implies being carried. It implies external forces in your life. It points to divine powers interacting or interceding in your life -- their finest moments applied to your most dire needs. It may also imply something a bit less obvious: You need to turn the wheel over to God for a bit, because clearly it's in his hands for the duration. This "letting go" can be a bit humbling. I know it was for me.

If you are in the rough waters of your life, I pray for your deliverance.

I pray that you will be carried to that point when you emerge from the rapids into the calmness of the still waters -- when you can look back at the mayhem and the insanity of it all and breath a sigh of relief.

I pray for your delivery. Godspeed.

Unnecessary Chemicals I've tossed out, and why... I've taken the attitude that alcohol is not my friend for a few reasons:
  • On the spiritual plane, Alcohol is recognized as something that opens your soul (supposedly it lowers your "vibration" in metaphysical speak), --something I simply don't want to risk.
  • Physically/Emotionally, it's supposed to lower inhibitions. Try not to laugh at this if you know me personally.
  • It's a depressant. The warming effects of the moment that I might get drinking the stuff just isn't worth the higher depression I'm going to feel later.
  • The situations where I drink are just the kind of events where I simply don't want to risk or feel negativity. I need all of the control I can muster.
Reading up on artificial sweeteners, it looks like things like Splenda and NutraSweet aren't so hot either. I've taken to avoiding them more.

I gave up caffeine. This has helped me sleep in some situations (not all of them good, like driving to work and meetings, for example).

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Atkins diet and McDonalds

I keep forgetting to blog this, so here it is.

I'm on the Atkins diet plan (have been, since October of 2002 -- for the most part). It's worked well for me, I've taken off at least 50 lbs of fat, and with a good solid workout program it's helped quite a bit for me toward reaching my goals.

One of the problems with Atkins is finding food, and one of the small secrets I've discovered is that it's really not all that hard -- if you know the right questions to ask.

For example, at McDonalds, the menu is arguably anti-Atkins. Just about everything comes with a bun, and stuff that doesn't is coated in sugar in some form. Or so it would seem.

In reality, it's pretty easy to not only eat Atkins-ready food, but on a much lighter budget than you would imagine.

  • Eggs: You can simply order the eggs like this at the counter: "I'll have 3 round eggs, please." (cost -- in my area, $1.20)
  • Alternatively, you can get a burrito meal and ditch the hash brown -- it's still usually less than 4 bucks. Arguably, the eggs are a better deal.
  • You can also simply order what you want: "I'll have two eggs, scrambled and two sausage (patties or links). They'll get em for you. I recommend the round eggs -- this insures that they're real eggs and I find them convenient to eat. They're the same eggs they put in the sandwitches, so they usually have a ready supply.
  • On the Lunch/Dinner front, I can't emphasize enough that they actually have salads.
  • If you really want to go cheap, however, you can get a big piece of lettuce and a couple of hamburger patties (at least in my area) for a buck by simply saying "I'll have a double-cheeseburger without a bun." -- the double cheeseburger is on the dollar menu, and I usually get two of them (for a whopping 2 bucks, I'm full). It's a bargain. You may have to wait just a tad, but it works just fine for the diet.
It's possible to eat Atkins just about anywhere but a pretzel stand -- that's what I'm trying to say. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The bad boss blog

I've got a good boss. It's not something to be taken lightly (it happens far less than often in IT).

Reading this article reminded me of the the fact: You can't help but come away (if you have experience in IT) by nodding your head in agreement. I think I've had every example they point to in this article. The thing is, most weren't all that bad, with the exception of a moron that used to quote from a sci-fi movie every time I wrote automation.

I'm not going to blog about that, because I'm afraid some other management moron might take that as a good example of management, as opposed to what it was (comical stupidity in action). No, rather, I'd like to share some of my own insight.

If you have a bad manager, you have to look away from your relationship with them and focus instead upon what you're at work for -- solutions to problems. You have to find ways to provide those solutions in the framework that you've been given -- and that might include working with someone who's difficult.

Unless you get fired for doing the right thing (longer story there -- let's avoid that one) you should be ok. I found that having a good relationship with everyone else was a sure way to gain the traction needed with someone who's troublesome. Worked for me the 2 or 3 times that the problems were there.

Anyway, it's a good article -- read it and laugh.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Startling Revelation: "I am Male"

Ok, so it's a sarcastic piece of work. Irreverent, even. Basically, continued commentary on something kind of funny that recently happened to me.

Remember the speech (if you're a nice guy, that is) as a kid you used to get from really wild girls that didn't want to go out with you because they wanted a "real man"? The "you're too nice a guy" speech?

Well, there's an inverse one, I guess. This one I just recently got was essentially "You're married, and I can't hang out with you." Kind of funny and sad at the same time -- this was an acquaintance that I met at work a while back (a couple of years ago) and thought had some spiritual similarities -- maybe they would make a good friend. I suspect if I were a single male or a female, there would be no issues.

At the time, I was kind of busy, but after the recent stuff that happened to me, I started looking up friends (male and female) to stay in touch. Possibly, make some new friends that would help me get a broader perspective on myself and the world around me.

Anyway, the thought process kicked of a silly series -- the "I have a penis" thing, kind of made its way to the top of my consciousness. I suspect I'm going to be using it more and more as a way of driving home some of the silliness you have to put up with if you're a guy that cares in our society.

Yes, I'm male -- "I have a penis" -- let's get over it. That's the general point here. Essentially, it would be nice if there were a way to remove sex, in other words, from the under-tones of normal social operations. I can't say that I am an innocent bystander here -- I joke a lot about stuff and sex is often part of the running gag.

Anyway, in the series of thoughts, I thought about what I might have said to this prior acquaintance to diffuse the future problem that would present itself (essentially, me backing off, not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable, and at the same time thinking "probably not the deepest spiritual contact, after all", at the same time ;). My guess, in other words, is that this disclaimer (joke) thing is completely unusable.

But, it's still funny.

WARNING: Contains graphic sexual connotations -- please don't get your panties in a bunch if you're the type to be offended by the words "Penis", "Farm Animals" or references to inanely stupid guy movies, all in the same place. Without further ado, click on the following to read my DISCLAIMER: I HAVE A PENIS.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Communicating with friends

I've been spending less time blogging lately -- and more time trying to connect with people I've met over the past few years.

This past year has been a bit of a rough one from a spiritual perspective, and one of the things I've decided is that I haven't kept the friends updated and with me that I should have. On that front, I've discovered something interesting. The guys are no problem to connect with -- no baggage, they understand that I'm saying hi.

The topics they usually want to talk most about are:

  1. Cars
  2. Technology (cars are a subset, but a big enough one to merit their own entry)
  3. Politics
  4. Sports
  5. Sports
  6. Sports
On the short list, you might have a close friend, in which case you can talk sometimes about stuff like
  1. Family
  2. "The Wife"
  3. Housing projects
  4. Hobbies
Really close friends can finally hope to bridge the gap of things like your sex life, spirituality, personal development and so on. The point I'm driving home is that I have very few male friends that will focus on such items -- certainly not outside of one on one situations. Group bonding is almost the exclusive domain of the first group.

Unless you count church -- specifically Sunday school situations, in which case you rarely get the kind of depth that you really need. Usually you get canned material, dumbed down concepts and so on. I've actually given up on Sunday school for my personal development -- the last scenario involved some jock-strapped moron who kept making sports and sport team references to spiritual growth issues.

Sorry, I rarely find the simplified rule-sets of sports to map into the complex multi-dimensionality that the complex "game" of life tosses your way. Actually, what I find instead, is that watching a game of sports is enjoyable for several reasons:

  1. You know the score -- the "losing" team is easy to identify. Pick the losing team in a game of divorce, for example. Right, you now understand why coaches rarely are employed as marriage-counselor gurus.
  2. Everyone can easily tell what's going on. Unlike the complex game of life, sporting events present the observers with easy to judge situations. It would be unthinkable, for example, for someone to get to the end of a Browns game, and have one of the referees simply call the entire game because he was in charge. This kind of stuff happens all the time in real life.
  3. Everyone can easily identify who is on what side of the good/vs/evil equation and so on. No need to guess like in real life.
These kinds of things make sports a bad paradigm map for something like spiritual growth. Unfortunately, talking about your growth issues with someone who's trying to bring Mickey Mantel into the conversation tends to dampen it a bit if you can see where I'm coming from here.

So I gave up after a few tries, trying to find a Sunday school situation where true spiritual growth would be the topic on the table. Instead, I used a couple of good friends and my wife as the place for this to happen, and it (mostly) works. The problem is monoculture.

Now we're back to the real issue at hand. The culture of being male in this country kind of goes contrary to the direction of focusing upon spiritual growth. It's really bad, actually, for a lot of guys from what I can tell. Since women can, in fact, easily focus upon stuff like that without worry, they tend to (from my experience, so far) be a lot further down the pike.

This arms them to better survive difficult situations, but doesn't help you if you have any kind of male-centric things to talk about (much). The problem is perception oriented. Thinking you know what it's like to be a guy in this society is akin to believing you know what it's like to be an airline pilot cause you've seen it done on TV.

These are all observations (and general ones at that), but I think some of you are silently nodding your heads in understanding. Where is this headed? I don't know.

I'll talk more about it in the next blog entry.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Happy New Year

Well, it's another year. This will be an interesting year. If things stay somewhat stable in my life, I'll be very happy.

Spent the better part of new years day talking with my brother Art. Art and I are pretty close these days, which is amazing, because growing up, and until slightly after we graduated high school, we were more like arch enemies than friends. Laughing new years day, because he was telling one of his daughters that she would someday be friends with her little brother (She wasn't buying it, and probably I wouldn't have either, if you could go back to that time and tell me).

Funny how these things happen.

One of the funniest things is how much alike we are for stuff that's clearly built "into the ROM" (ROM in computer speak is "read only memory", meaning stuff that's baked into our character before we're born). For example, playing solitaire, which he's never seen me do, he clearly pointed out that I had not stacked the cards a particular, anal-retentitve way, just before the game ended. This was FreeCell, by the way, which we both enjoy.

In Linux, when the game nears the end, you can just get the cards sorted out, or you can stack them neatly in their respective 4 king piles -- and for some stupid reason that I can't explain, I like to do this, even though the number of extra moves can be somewhat tedious (okay, we're talking a computer game here -- probably about 10 extra mouse moves, big frickin' deal). Art and I do this instinctively -- even though we've never played the game in front of each other until the other day, that is.

It would be kind of silly, if it weren't for all the other stuff that's very similar. Other experiences with my adopted son lead me to believe that the whole nature versus nurture debate has some grounding more in the nature side than I would have wanted to believe. Such is complex life...