Another Year Gone By

As the year winds down it’s that time once again for reflection on the year past. Time to mentally catalog the past year and look forward to the upcoming year.

Travel-wise it was a mixed year. This was a year of small weekend getaways instead of big trips. This is the first year in the last six or seven that I did not make it to Tennessee. I miss my friends there. I did make a couple of quick trips to Atlanta, where I have two friends now. I went on a mini-adventure of camping in the Everglades, which was a lot of fun, and I spent a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend in St. Augustine. I think this was the first time I ever did St. Augustine “right” by staying downtown in the old city. We parked the car and didn’t need it again until we left a few days later. Not bad considering I started off the weekend by dropping my car keys down a storm drain just as we arrived at the hotel.

Speaking of which, if you’re ever looking for a place in St. Augustine I definitely recommend The Inn on Charlotte. I looked at a lot of places online before settling on this one, but after walking around and actually seeing some of the places I considered, I think we got the best of the bunch by far.

On and off through the year I continued reading Neil Gaiman and loved both Neverwhere and Anansi Boys. The man definitely knows how to tell a story.

Besides Mr. Gaiman, two titles stick out for me that I picked up on someone’s recommendation. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi is a fantastic story set in a near future that is very reminiscent of Blade Runner. It makes a couple of overt nods to Blade Runner and asks some of the same questions about what it means to be human, but the story stands on its own and is one of the best SF stories I’ve read in a long time.

The other title is The City & The City by China Miéville. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before; A murder mystery in a very soft SF setting that illustrates the way we percieve our world, or more importantly, the ways in which we don’t percieve the bits we don’t want to.

In movies, Touching Home and A Single Man were good. Inception was enjoyable. I found it funny to hear people say it was confusing since following deeply recursive computer code is what I do for a living. For me the best movie of the year was easily Winter’s Bone. It’s a dark movie that’s not meant to be happy or uplifting at all, but it was fantastic. Of course, Tron Legacy comes out in just a couple of days. Princess Bride and Casablanca at the Tampa Theatre were high points as well.

Musically, there were some real gems in 2010. Not many shows, but most of the ones I did see were fantastic. I FINALLY made it to the WMNF Tropical Heatwave. Despite the heat, the insane crowds, and the fact that it’s impossible to catch more than a few songs from any one band, it was an awesome show.

I finally got to see Assemblage 23 in Orlando, which was a real treat. Tom Shear writes songs that I wish I could have written. Vampire Weekend put on a good show at Jannus Landing Live but it was overshadowed by the fact that I saw my first Flaming Lips show there the very next day. I never paid much attention to the Lips, but a few people told me they put on a great show so I figured I’d go check it out. After seeing literally hundreds of shows it’s hard to impress me. I was impressed. There was more confetti than I’ve seen (including at Blue Man Group shows), dozens of huge balloons, streamers, and the singer rolling around the crowd in a huge hamster ball. That was just the first song!

The other big highlight was seeing Roger Waters play The Wall. I’ll probably never get to see that show again. I had chills through most of it. Of course the year wouldn’t be complete without another trip to Atlanta to see Metric.

So that was 2010. As always, the thing I’m most grateful for is YOU who take the time to read this and keep in touch. Let’s all make 2011 a better year!

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The Starbucks Dribble Cup

Coffee Cup

For three years I worked a block away from a Fourbucks Starbucks. It was an occasional indulgence when I didn’t feel like dealing with the office coffee machine. Now I work in a place with no coffee machine and no good options nearby. If I want to partake of the evil bean at work my only choice is to bring it there, and this has illustrated a point I was only dimly aware of when coffee was little more than an elevator ride away:

Starbucks cup lids suck.

Those lids turn every cup of coffee into a dribble cup. I noticed when I walked for coffee that I always seemed to spill some, but now that I’m driving it’s practically impossible to transport coffee without making a mess. I can rarely drink these things while standing still without at least some small amount of coffee escaping through some portion of the lid that is not the suck hole.

I think what really made me notice was a trip to Dunkin Donuts. Whoever makes those lids has it right. The roads are broken up around my work and I can still drive them fairly aggressively and be absolutely confident that not a single drop will escape the cup. Contrast that to Starbucks where I can’t even get out the door without licking coffee off of my hand.

As successful as Starbucks has been you’d think they could do a better job on something so fundamental to serving beverages.

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The Great Moose Conspiracy

A post about my distaste for contributing to the mindless drivel on the internet naturally has to be followed with a post full of mindless drivel.

We love our conspiracy theories. Some people think our current president is secretly a Muslim Marxist. Others think the previous one somehow masterminded 9/11. People in groups fascinate me, mostly for how they can abandon all common sense in certain circumstances and believe things that are completely nonsensical and/or demonstrably false. To carry on the great tradition of conspiracy theories, I offer one of my own.

Several years ago, I uncovered the Great Moose Conspiracy. “Uncovered” in this case means “made up” and “conspiracy” means “coincidence” but that is the underpinning of many of our conspiracy theories so stick with me here.

I have cats. A simple statement to make, but it conveys information about how many cats there are. You know I have more than one because I used the plural form.

I have moose. Ok, I don’t really have any moose due to association restrictions, but here you have less information. Would I have one moose or several moose? Yes I realize that you could often figure it out by noticing if I said “a” moose or noting the difference between “moose is” and “moose are” but remember this is a conspiracy, so we have to discard information that doesn’t support our theory. Anyone who points to this information is probably a part of the cover-up.

Now you see our problem with moose: The singular is the same as the plural, so when I say “moose” you don’t know if I’m talking about one moose, several moose, or all moose.

Why is the singular the same as the plural? Who is it that doesn’t want us to know how many moose there are? Why don’t they want us to know?

It was a chilling discovery, but then I realized that it went much deeper. Deer, Elk, Bison. With so many animals involved, it’s just too much evidence to be a coincidence. There’s no telling how deep this rabbit (moose?) hole goes. When I pieced it together it was like a veil had been lifted and I could see clearly for the first time. Who’s behind it? Why are they doing it? I don’t know yet, but I suspect Satanic Canadiens are building an army of ungulates for some purpose that is both sinister and polite (they are Canadian after all).

The theory might not catch on since it doesn’t involve a figure that’s in the news every day. I’m missing that presidential link, and I know if I can tie it to him I’ll get a few million people to believe it. Right now I’m hoping it can stand on it’s own. As conspiracy theories go it’s not the most fleshed-out yet, but it’s at least as plausible as many of the others I’ve heard on TV.

Who’s with me?

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(In)frequency

“I have nothing to say, I am saying it, and that is poetry”
-John Cage

I have had some sort of website for as long as I can remember now. I’m getting older and my memory isn’t what it used to be, so “as long as I can remember” may not mean much. I’d say that’s a topic for another day, but I know I’ll forget to write about it. I never really held the illusion that I would post updates on a daily basis. I don’t think I ever thought it would be as infrequent as once a month or so, but that seems to be the rate that I’ve maintained.

Why so infrequent then? There are a few reasons for that:

I’m generally a private person. While this has changed a lot over the last few years, I’m still not going to post a lot of the little details of who / what / when regarding my daily life. If you want to know, ask. I try to respect the privacy of other people as well, so I don’t generally mention anyone else in this space. Some stories just don’t get told here. I have a handwritten journal for those stories. You won’t be reading them here. You won’t be reading them at all unless you’re the person cleaning out my house after I die. If you are, I apologize in advance for the melodramatic crap you will wade through.

Politics and religion. I have a great deal to say about both. You won’t read it here. Those are two subjects that I doubt I will change anyone’s mind on. I’d like to think that my mind is still open, but the way that public discourse has deteriorated lately it’s difficult to have a respectful conversation about those subjects. Because feelings are easily trampled without context and body language, I think it’s something best discussed in person.

I think there’s too much chatter already. I created a Twitter account to follow a friend who was on vacation. I’ve never posted anything to it. I don’t see the point in constantly talking if I don’t have anything to say. Obviously not everyone on the internet feels this way, but I’m smart enough to realize that nobody cares if I had a ham sandwich today.

Speaking of mindless chatter, there’s the subject of Facebook. Love it or hate it, it does have that critical mass of users that makes it the go-to website for maintaining contact with my friends. Many of my friends had my website address and email address but it took the constant visibility of Facebook to get them engaged in conversation. Since that’s where their eyeballs tend to be, that’s where most of the daily small talk and chit-chat goes. This space gets the more (I hope) thoughtful musings that don’t fit into the confines of a Facebook status message.

It’s deceptively easy to get caught up in the world of social media. Check email, check Facebook, check Flickr, go back to see if any new emails came in while checking other stuff. It’s a never-ending cycle of self-importance, and of waiting for something to happen instead of making things happen. I spend enough time as it is keeping up with my friends on Facebook, reading various blogs, and surfing the intertubes for things of interest. It could take up every bit of my free time if I let it. I don’t. If that means that I drop off of social media sites for a week or two at a time, I’m ok with that. If it means that I don’t update this site but once a month or so, that’s ok too.

I have no illusions of being the next celebrated blogger. This is a small site for myself and for any friends or family that want to read my occasional ramblings. I try to edit myself and keep it to things that are worth reading. We all need to get out and live our lives while we can. I don’t want to let the constant voyeurism of the online life prevent me from living my life.

That means that if you’re one of the people that checks this space, more often than not it will be the same as it was the last time you stopped by. I’d rather you spend 5 seconds checking if it’s changed than 2 minutes reading some mindless drivel about the Great Moose Conspiracy.

Thoughts?

Next up: The Great Moose Conspiracy.

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New Photo Gallery

What a month. With a crazy work schedule, another death of a loved one, and the faint glimmer of what may be a social life, I haven’t had much time for anything else. I usually take my camera everywhere, but for this last month I left it home most of the time. I just knew that I wouldn’t have any time to shoot pictures.

I did manage to set up a new online photo gallery. Hit the photos link up on the menu, or go to http://photos.blueronin.com to see my new gallery. This one can handle sales of prints, so if you’re one of the people who always told me that you’d love to have one of my prints hanging on your wall, here’s your chance 😉

This won’t be as all-encompassing as my Flickr site. I’m only going to publish things that I feel are print-worthy, and available sizes will be roughly limited based on the size of the source image. I’m dipping my toes into the water, so I’m curious to find out what (if anything) sells.

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Time Marches On

“I’m killing time while I wait for life to shower me with meaning and happiness.”
– Bill Watterson

It’s hard to believe that it’s already August, yet here we are. My teacher friends are going back to work, and residents of the Gulf Coast are paying a little extra attention to the tropical storm activity which picks up near the end of summer. Where does the time go?

One day at a time, our future becomes our past. The potential of What Could Be gets steamrolled by the reality of what is. In our dreams we have many perfect days in our future. Days spent on some adventure, traveling, spending time with friends, being in love. One by one, those days give way to the seemingly endless drumming rhythm of life:
work/eat/sleep/rinse/repeat

In my 20’s I was comfortable with this passage of time. Like practically everyone else at that age, I felt like I had plenty of time to do the things I wanted to do. I thought that I was exactly where I wanted to be. Time was on my side. Not so much anymore.

Somewhere along the way that changed. Time started to have meaning. I missed an opportunity to tell someone how I felt about them before that chance was gone forever. I stood looking down on the Golden Gate Bridge, realizing that “some day” took far too many years to become reality. I realized that I would never have another conversation with my mother. I learned that this game is being played for keeps, and that I’d better start making some of those dreams into realities.

Whether you know me or not, do me a favor TODAY:

  • Tell someone that you love them. Don’t do it in passing. Look them in the eyes.
  • Call your parents.
  • Call someone you’ve been meaning to call for far too long now.
  • Start making plans for a trip you’ve always wanted to take.

Do one of these today. Do another one tomorrow. If you don’t make the time now, when will you?

Time. It’s the stuff that life is made of.

1 Comment Posted in philosophy, thoughts
No Weirdos

Weird – (adj) Strikingly odd or unusual.

When I lived in New York I loved to spend time in Manhattan. I wish I had taken better advantage of so much of the culture when I lived there. I went to some of the museums and a couple of Broadway plays, but never really looked into the restaurants or off-Broadway theater.

I did go to concerts though. Hundreds of them. One of my favorite areas was Greenwich Village with all of its nightclubs. Besides having a large gay population, the Village is a neighborhood where you will find tons of artists, musicians, and all sorts of “alt” types. Because of the eclectic nature of the people who lived there, it was fun to read through the personals section of the local paper, the Village Voice. I was talking with someone the other day and remembered one of the ads that I saw. It went something like this:

“Bi hermaphrodite likes bondage, latex, and roleplay. Looking for man who likes to give and receive. Serious inquiries only. No weirdos.”

Those last two words are what made the ad stick in my memory years after the fact. No weirdos.

Now I try not to judge people. Especially not by what they do with other consenting adults behind closed doors. With that disclaimer in place I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you’re a guy who’s seriously looking to get tied up in a rubber suit to play both top and bottom for a she-male, then you’re at least a little weird. I’m not saying that you’re a bad human being, but you have to admit that that particular behavior is at the very least “strikingly odd or unusual.”

I remember laughing about it at the time. In that particular way that you think about the perfect thing to say just after you should have said it, I wish I had that moment back. I would have written to the guy.

I would have written to him with this simple request: “Could you please explain to me what you would consider ‘weird.’ Please provide two or three examples.”

From my perspective I would think that he was a little weird himself, but think for a minute: If he’s weird to me, like way “out there” weird, then whatever he thinks is unacceptably weird would probably make my brain explode. I mean if you’re a going to place an ad like that, what constitutes a weirdo that you don’t want to deal with?

I didn’t ask the question, so now I’ll always wonder. How weird can weird get?

3 Comments Posted in thoughts
Tagged
A Few 2010 Movie Selections

I’ve seen a couple of good movies over the last week and that got me to thinking that I should start making notes of the good ones that I’ve seen so far this year. I’m sure I’m already forgetting something.

Inception
trailer
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan who also made Memento, this one is as much of a mind game as Memento but it is written in a way that will be more accessible to the mass summer audience it is targeted at. It reminds me more of The Matrix, in that much of the action takes place inside the mind where the rules of our physical world don’t necessarily apply.

The visual effects were nice, but not central to the story in the way that they were in The Matrix. I think that parts of the plot felt a little forced. I counted 5-7 different Very Bad Things that would happen (some invalidated others) if the protagonist failed in his mission. Characters with a more simple and focused motivation might have made that part of the story feel a bit more natural. The writing really did manage to balance several layers of interdependent action in a way that was relatively easy to follow. No small feat when you consider all that is going on. This was probably the best “summer blockbuster” I’ve seen in a while.

Winter’s Bone
trailer
This is one of the best movies of the year so far. The setting is a poor rural area of Missouri and it is shot in a way that even the few scenes where the sun is shining feel dark and cold. I don’t think there’s a bright saturated color to be found anywhere in the film.

The story follows a young 17 year old girl who is caring for her two younger siblings as well as a near-catatonic mother. She has one week to find her absent father before the family property is seized.

This is my favorite kind of character, fictional or not. The person who is tasked with bearing much more of a burden than any human should have to suffer, and who manages to carry on and do what needs to be done. The role is played by Jennifer Lawrence and she does the best acting job I’ve seen in a long time. She looks like a good friend of mine to boot.

This was a somber, but deeply affecting story. It will stick with me for a while.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
trailer
This movie is NOT for everybody. Know two things before you attempt to watch it: The original Swedish title for the movie is “Män som hatar kvinnor” (translated: Men Who Hate Women) and it has not been rated by the MPAA. this is certainly because it would receive an NC-17 rating. I did not know either of these things before seeing the movie.

It has a very powerful character in it, but you may never get that far. I can’t really recommend this movie. I can just give you some of the facts and you’ll have to decide for yourself. I know of two people who could not watch it past a certain scene and they both mentioned the fact that they had no warning about the content.

This is your warning.

The scene in question, to put it bluntly, is a rape scene. It is not gory or sexual in any way. It’s just violent, disturbing, and really brutal to see on screen. Being a Swedish import it goes far beyond the level of anything that Hollywood would try, and they ARE remaking it. It’s one of those things about the character that probably should have been suggested rather than shown, but there you have it.

If you can make it past that scene, the victim goes on to get her revenge and becomes a central character in the movie. She’s a true badass and is played by a fantastic actress, Noomi Rapace. Other than that one scene the movie is a very dark whodunit thriller chasing after the kind of twisted persona that brings Hannibal Lecter to mind.

Remember, you’ve been warned.

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Stuff

“The price of getting what you want, is getting what you once wanted.”
– Neil Gaiman, Dream Country: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I don’t know that I’d ever make a good Buddhist. One of the central concepts of Buddhism is that of the Four Noble Truths. It breaks down something like this:

  • Suffering is a part of life.
  • We suffer because we crave things, and we become attached.
  • To eliminate suffering, we must eliminate our craving and attachment.
  • The fourth truth basically says “Here’s our recipe for achieving #3, follow it (The Noble Eightfold Path) and you can become enlightened.”

Like most people, I think the early part of my life was spent in the endless pursuit of stuff. Get a better job to afford a nicer car and live in a bigger place with nicer stuff. Rinse and repeat. Bit by bit over the last few years, I’ve been reversing that trend. Sometimes voluntarily, other times not. At an ever-increasing pace I seem to be either giving up or losing the things I used to consider essential.

This has had some benefits. I’ve been able to strip away a lot of the unimportant things in my life. Unfortunately, I also lost some of the things I didn’t want to give up along the way. I can’t help it, but I still crave some things and I still become attached. I don’t WANT to lose my close friends or relationships, and I don’t know that it will ever be easy for me to do so. I don’t know that I will ever be fully able to give up attachment to those connections. I’m not sure that I want to. Moving around a bunch as a kid meant always losing my friends. Now as an (alleged) adult I’d prefer to keep those contacts if at all possible. Is that really being possessive? Maybe it is when you consider that I am asking for time and attention from someone else. Maybe it also means that I’m avoiding the lesson of learning how to let go.

I do look forward to giving up more “stuff” though. I’m becoming a fan of “experience gifts.” The idea is that you give an experience instead of a thing. Take someone to dinner, make them dinner, spend time with them, even something as simple as buying them a movie ticket. That to me sounds much better than giving a person something that will sit on a shelf collecting dust for the next ten years.

Enough of that. (Enuff about stuff)

Tai Chi is starting to become really fun. I still don’t know the moves and get all crossed up at times, but I’ve found that by focusing my mind on the simple things like balance and the placement of my hands and feet I’m able to clear my mind much more effectively than by any other method I’ve tried. The last couple of weeks I’ve felt like I floated out of the building at the end of the lesson.

The class was also something of a test case for me being able to have some sort of life outside of work. It’s only one night a week, but I’ve worked a ton of late nights this year, and out of the four weeks I’ve attended this class I’ve already come close to missing it twice. Some recent changes at work will hopefully cut down on the chaos and allow me to complete the class.

-R

1 Comment Posted in philosophy, thoughts
I finally did it

After slacking for a couple of years, I finally became a member of the International Taoist Tai Chi Society. Two lessons in and I feel like a fool, but I just take that to mean that I’m learning something.

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