by j-a

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Dec, 2002


Continued cleaning the basement today. I have an old huge (3'x3'x7') shelf in the back filled with pieces of wood up to approximately four feet long, all organized by board size. I'd put it on rollers years ago so that I could move it out from the wall to paint and waterproof when necessary, but as I added wood, the shoddy construction of the (self-built) rollers caused them to collapse. So today I spent the greater part of three hours trying to manipulate the rollers out from beneath the shelving without removing all of the wood, but I ended up having to remove the wood from the bottom three shelves (the heaviest stuff). As I removed the rollers by prying up on the shelf with a five-foot pry bar, I replaced them with a 4x4 block under each leg. I was going to rebuild the rollers, but I decided that it would be enough just to locate the shelf six inches from the wall. Tomorrow, I'm going to have to replace all of the wood and organize that back section of the basement, which is the worst area down there. Once that's done, it'll be a big improvement.


I've been repairing everything I can think of with Elmer's Squeez-N-Caulk silicone caulking. It permanently bonds to everything. Today I fixed a cut in the side of my shoe and my old leather boots that were coming apart at the heel.

In the basement, I restacked the wood shelves and began to take all my screen printing supplies off their shelf in order to move it to make room for a new printing table I scrounged from the junk on trash day.

Order is beginning to prevail in my life. I finally put away all of the magazines that have been stacked up against the deacon's bench in my dining room for over a year. I put them into the old tv cart that had previously held some of my video tapes, which I moved to the shelf along the south wall of my living room several weeks ago after I hit upon the idea to top the tapes that were there (over a hundred) with 1x4 boards so that I could stack another layer of tapes above them.

Slowly, things are coming together again. And all I had to do was attenuate my writing activities in order to attend to more practical aspects of life. I've been ignoring practical living for a long time while I've been absorbed in writing and website building. Junk, incomplete projects, etc., have been piling up all around the house and basement. It's nice to feel back in control of my environment again. It's about time I relegated writing, etc. to a few short hours in the morning and devote the rest of the day to my living space and lifestyle. And I get the added bonus of activity lifting my spirits and preventing a descent into winter depression. I'm living in an orderly and satisfying way, creating my lifestyle via handiwork and a calm peacefulness.

But tonight I've had a few thoughts about breaking the pattern and staying up all night instead of taking melatonin. I resist the urge, but can I resist it indefinitely? Probably not. I miss my freewheeling lifestyle. The trick, though, is that once I give in to it, I get back on schedule again within a day or two and not make it a more permanent situation.


Ran (actually, I drove) out to Home Depot to buy eight concrete blocks to support the laminated coffee table top (very smooth surface for making quality prints) that I'm turning into a screen printing table. I also picked up a bar of duct seal to more permanently seal the leaks above the area that keeps opening back up every few years after I seal it with roofing tar. I spent a few hours in the basement moving the shelving, removing a few rusted electrical outlets that were in the way, and constructing the table. Things are starting to come together. I should have done this a long time ago, but my mental constructs prevented it. I get too focused sometimes on one thing (usually writing) to the exclusion of all else.

When I come back up out of the cool (50 degrees) basement, I more appreciate the warmth of the house, which always seems cold when I don't spend time outside or in the basement. I really appreciate my house more in winter, when it's cold outside and cozy warm inside, hidden away from the harsh elements. I really appreciate it in the summer too, but it isn't the same kind of appreciation, it's not so obvious a thing, when you're hiding out from a harsh world when it's warm outside and you can sit on your back porch between high fences and hedges with an overgrown woods in the back.


In the basement, I got all the screens stacked neatly beneath the new screening table and began to de-rust the shelving unit (now that I got it out of the way of the slow drip of water from the outside that I'd caught on the top shelf in containers that always overflowed from neglect).

Each evening after I come up out of the nether world, I've been watching the mini-series Taken on the SciFi Channel, which pretty much ties up my evening time and used up my blank tapes with stuff on other channels, but I still managed to clean out the bathroom closet during commercial breaks and store all the excess in the small closets in the bedroom. I don't buy the basic premise for the series, but I'm hooked because it's so well done.

I've been watching a whole lot of tv (always in the evenings), because if I'm going to pay for the cable, even if it is half-price, I might as well take full advantage of it. I've developed a very slick system. I tape what I want to watch during the day and late at night (mostly movies) and I play them back during commercial breaks and in time slots when there's nothing else on that I want to watch in the evening. I think it's kind of cool to watch a whole movie during several days of commercials and breaks, like a kind of serial. The only problem is, still, I keep running out of tape space because there's a whole lot more I want to watch than I have time for. I'm up to 234 tapes. Will I buy ten more? I don't want to, but...


Three inches of snow overnight, and it doesn't look like it's going to let up, let alone melt any time soon. Guess I'm going to have to shovel it.

Began shoveling the snow at eight this evening. Six inches total. Cleared the front porch in front of the door, the steps, a path to the street and half the driveway. Then I went into the basement to finish rust-proofing the shelving unit, but when I opened the new jar of rust-proofing, it was hardened solid. I'd bought it quite a while ago, but the other stuff I was using (the same product in a different container and designated "Part #8" instead of "Part # 8A") was even older and it lasted until I used it up. But then, it had been occasionally shaken up (each time I used it), while the hardened stuff had never been well shaken. The critical rust-proofing ingredients were hardened in the bottom half of the jar, while the solvents were still viable on top. [Lesson: shake the new stuff up and maybe use it once or twice; sit it in a prominent place so that I remember to shake it occasionally.] So I finished wire brushing the last two shelves and got back upstairs in time to see the next installment of Taken at 9:00.


Finally got the entire basement floor (i.e., aisles) cleared, no small feat since some of the stuff has been sitting in boxes down there for eight years or more. Now I can sweep the floor from back to front and out the door with no impediments.

Upstairs, I cleaned out a large drawer in the kitchen, moving its contents (many different kinds of stationery, etc.) to one of the closets in the entryway where I'd previously stored all of my typing paper, computer paper, etc. that I moved from the living room bookshelf earlier this year. Then I moved kitchen stuff from one of the kitchen closets into the empty drawer to make room for stuff from the basement shelves so that I can use those shelves for screen printing supplies and the vacuum table for screen making.

My house is like one of those little puzzles that have one empty space into which you move individual squares of a multi-squared image until you get all of the squares into alignment to form a comprehensible picture. Every so often, I start to move things around to rearrange the picture, to bring it into clearer focus, or at least into a better organization (the image in my head may not be so clear in terms of pictures, but it's always looking ahead to practical and theoretical function. When I worked for a living, this was one of my main concerns, analyzing and organizing systems, not only for the present, but for future use and visions of expansion. I'm doing this same thing now in my basement, getting ready to do some future work that is currently impossible under presently (non-)organized conditions.

It's pretty sad when all you have to write about in your daily activities (as opposed to knowledge, world events, etc.) journal is house organization. Or maybe it isn't. Maybe this is what life is all about, really. Who am I to say? If it is, though, then I've been way off base a lot of the time. I can go for years never doing any real home organization and maintenance. In any case, the work I'm doing now will pay off in the future. Just wait. You'll see.


So anyway, raise your hand if you're older than 30 and have never been married.

Unless I meet the girl of my dreams tomorrow (which is unlikely as I don't plan on leaving my apartment tomorrow, much less wearing pants anytime in the near future), looks like I'm headed in that direction.

I never think about it but it seems I'm supposed to. I definitely don't want to be one of those guys who's a bachelor for life, and I eventually want kids, I think that's cool! But today, October 30, 2002, is my 27th birthday.

A strange, deep, complex nostalgia overcame me as I was cleaning out the drawer in the kitchen that contained old office supplies that I hadn't gotten into in over eight years--strange because I never feel nostalgic beyond a simple appreciation of past moments and because just minutes earlier I was emptying out the drawer just above it filled with left-overs from my ex-wife's residence here (checking account stubs, greeting cards and letters, vacation souvenirs, two bras, three pairs of bikini briefs, a Franco Harris sweatshirt, an old lamp modeled after a water pump that her brother made in high school shop class, etc.) and it didn't effect me one bit. Or maybe the nostalgia was a delayed effect, but I don't think so. I miss the old office stuff, as fond memories, far more than I miss her.

The memories prompt me, after I'm done reorganizing for the day, to spend the rest of the night during tv show commercial breaks considering who I am now, what I have become (actualized; I've always been this way, potentially) re living with a woman (this theme recurs periodically, probably annually, about this time of year):

I am an eccentric O-C hoarder who lives in a "dirty" (unkept, dusty, but increasingly organized) house, apart from other people. I like things my own way and would be disturbed to have to go back to the crowded life of intermixing the possessions of a woman in with mine. [My house is way too small. Maybe if I had a (much) bigger place, with a room dedicated to my own personal stuff.] I'm finally getting this house (and myself; the house is a metaphor/symbol) to a place where I want it to be (actually, it's always been exactly here, on this same street), and if I'd ever again hook up with a woman, we'd definitely have to move to a bigger place. My current ego can no longer accommodate a woman's needs without a larger metaphor to contain it. I would have to move, beyond my current self, which was always the case, but I never really understood that before in quite the way that I do now. It's a daunting idea.

I appreciate people in the present moment and hope that I've permanently transcended the needy feelings of requiring a woman's presence for more than that. If I get more than that, well, okay, I'll have to decide how I will accommodate it, but I no longer need it.

I've slowly and methodically weeded out of my life practices and activities that I've found to be noxious and/or toxic to my physical or mental well-being, such as tobacco, alcohol (except on rare occasions), marihuana (sadly, because of my heart arrhythmia), restaurants, bars, movie theaters, air travel... The list lengthens as the years go by and I successfully exclude addictions and attachments from my life. Maybe women is one of the items on that list.

How then, can I even meet women, let alone hook up with them under these conditions? Ive excluded all of the normal meeting places and situations from my repertoire. This is my current dilemma.

I go through this from time to time, wanting to find some adequate female (my standards used to be a lot higher). But what woman would want to hook up with a loser like me who doesn't work at a job, gets by on a minimal amount of money from investments, and is increasing obsessed with detachment and austerity as the years roll by? Not one with a healthy sense of self, that's for sure. And I don't think I could tolerate another woman as fucked up as myself. I've had enough of them already. I need to find a good-looking female Buddhist monk who isn't too deeply into dogma and still maintains a semi-attachment to a postmodern world of illusion.


Went out to the store late this afternoon. Too Cold. But I had to get cheese on sale for $2/lb. I'm sick of trying to lose weight on beef, pork, and chicken. Actually, I lost all the weight I gained on vacation and then some, but I gained back to my normal weight by eating a whole pizza yesterday. All is okay now. My world is in balance again. This evening, I did some token house organizing and then transferred my scheduling system over from my mini clipboard to my old daytimer. I could never really make that work as a home scheduling system until I modified my clipboard to a bi-weekly method. Then the solution became obvious. Too complicated to get into here (or too dry and boring), but the method has a long history of tiny step-by-step development, trial and error, etc.

I'm living such an ordinary life now, asleep by 12 or one, up by 8 or 9 (aided by melatonin). I almost feel normal again.



The organization goes on, and on, and on... I'm attempting to toast a bagel so that I can spread it with butter and get back to the tv before the show I'm watching starts again. But the bagel is too thick and I have to slice it into three sections, only two of which can fit into the toaster, so I toss the third section into the toaster oven that sits on top of the refrigerator. After I get the two slices out of the toaster and butter them, I go to the toaster oven, but as I reach in to get the half-toasted slice, I knock it and the wire rack it sits on down backwards into the heating element below, where it wedges and will not budge. Oh well, I still have two slices and the show is starting, so I hurry off back into the bedroom.

After the show is over, I go back to the toaster oven, but I can't unwedge the bagel slice. But I do manage to shake a great deal of burnt residue onto the top of the fridge, so I begin to clean it up, and since a great deal of caked dust comes with the crumbs, I decide that it's long past time to clean off the fridge top. I take down all of the glass and plastic containers of dry food (beans, split peas, various types of macaroni, rice, coconut, lentils, barley, oatmeal) and I set them aside. But in order to remove the toaster oven, I have to unplug it, and it's plugged in behind the fridge. So I move the fridge out part way, intentionally not looking behind it, because I don't want to know what's back there, and I reach back and pull out the plug, remove the toaster over, and put the fridge back in place, because I've already decided that I'll put the oven somewhere else, because it's very inconvenient where it's been.

Half an hour later, everything is cleaned off and put back in place on top of the fridge and, after several trial placements that involve power consideration, breaker ratings, and the short cord lengths of the toaster and the toaster oven power cords, I have the toaster and the oven side by side, their cords running to a three way adapter plugged into the single outlet immediately behind them. I make a mental note never to use the two appliances at the same time, but inevitably, I'll forget and end up tripping breakers. You'd never know I was an electrician the way this house is wired with adaptors and extensions.


Fixed a three-step ladder that I got from my neighbor's junk years ago when he moved out. It's been sitting around since then, non-functional due to the missing step. It was a simple repair, but one of those things that just gets set aside for lack of time and/or sense of importance. I'm getting a lot of this type of stuff done now. I'm on a roll.

Started backing up my computer again after months of inattention. This is probably my most important goal. I've got to stop procrastinating. To this end, I began (re)writing my back-up plan. I've got to focus and get this done. A computer crash could wipe me out.


Fought not wanting to do anything all day. Managed to get a little bit done, shoveling the remaining snow on the sidewalk all the way back behind the house and up to the shed so that I could move some stuff up there from the basement that I'd piled up near the door when I cleaned it out. Some progress, but just.

Later, in bed and watching tv, I managed to simplify my credit card files, transferring them from manila folders to small business envelopes. The goal had been to outline all of the benefits of each card (warrantee insurance, travel insurance, etc.) so that I knew which card to use on which occasion, but I gave up that lofty exercise because they all seem to be the same any more, I came to realize, since they've all been converted from Visa to Mastercard by the issuing institutions. Apparently, there's a mass migration away from Visa. Some corporate shakeups must be in the works. So, some progress in this area too, but just. At least I got all that paperwork off of the shelf beside my bed.

In general, slow and begrudging progress. I'm afraid my manic edge may be wearing off. This is verified by the recurrent idea that comes up once again: I don't have to do anything (other than what I really have to do); i.e., I don't have to convince myself that there are certain things I must do daily in order to justify my life. So, if I do only one small thing a day, that's progress--as if progress of that kind is necessary. I should be more worried about the progress of my mind, or soul, or whatever. Whatever.


Awoke this morning after only five hours sleep. Why? Because I didn't take any melatonin last night. But, I awoke wide awake with my mind racing, taking off from a dream about astrology and explaining a complicated and lengthy theory of meta-logical (intuition-based) science to a dream character, a gay husband of my sister, who was calculating planet transits with a flexible clear plastic device that he embedded into soft earth and pointed at the horizon, causing images of the planets to appear in their horizon positions, as if in a planetarium. The point is, I was at my mental best in my complex awakening explanation. This points up with clarity the discrepancy between my biorhythms and a consensual sleep schedule. If I let myself freewheel, I am awake when I'm at my best and can (if I apply myself, via an effective scheduling system, I presume) get a whole lot more quality work done. But I don't, because: 1) I get phone calls in the middle of the day that disturb my sleep; 2) I don't take melatonin if I sleep during the day because I'll be too groggy if I need to get up for any reason (emergencies, unplanned social events, etc.) and so I sleep for only four or five hours, which results in me not being at my best anyway for very long after I'm awake, requiring further sleep and settling me into a two sleep sessions per day schedule; 3) My schedule system doesn't work on this kind of two sleep periods per day routine (but I suppose it could, if I worked with it enough); 4) But other social programming, like all the good tv programs being on in the evening, also interfere with the any effective schedule I might create. In general, maybe it's better that I adopt a not-so-productive daily (i.e., daylight) schedule that waxes and wanes in sync with my biorhythms and then so live with periodic decreased productiveness and "mania" [which seems to be becoming my word for an alert and non-depressed state of mind; maybe it's not really mania, maybe it only seems so in contrast with the "attenuated" (maybe it's not really "depressed") state.]

In order to get back onto a "normal" schedule, I'm going to have to fight taking a nap this afternoon. I wonder if I can do it, especially given the fact that I want to watch Taken at nine. But I could tape it. And it is repeated at other times.

Slept from 10:15 til 1:45, awakened five times by the phone, which I didn't answer, in between dreaming.

This afternoon, I learned, from an email newsletter, how to change the bgcolor of a web page or table via a mouse over. Cool. Simple stuff, really. I should have learned it a long time ago, but I never did. Another gap filled. I used the technique on the birthdays page of my website.

The thaw is on, and the roof is starting to leak again, fortunately over the kitchen sink. I went outside to check the gutter, and sure enough, there's an ice jam in the middle of the gutter above the kitchen. I'm going to have to seal the space between the gutter and the fascia once and for all somehow. But I can't do it until the spring.

While outside, I decided to do some work, and so I moved all of the unsplit logs that I'd had sitting in the garage up next to the shed, and I even split a few of them. Just another small step in the basement reorganization project.

I'm in an unknown house. db comes home from shopping and displays two candles she bought. I say "Why did you buy them? We have a boxes and boxes of candles stored in the bedroom closet." She explains that they're for someone else. Still, though, she could have used the stored ones, some of them are brand new; but I don't feel so bad now because I wouldn't want to just give them away. I walk away down a hallway and meet Jim, who shows me my Chinese characters book, which has been very damaged and has a lot of pages torn out. I get very angry. Near lucidity, I realize I am grinding my teeth. [This has been a problem, pointed out to me by my dentist, but rarely ever realized during the act, or afterwards. Why do I do this? Repressed anger.] I want to know who did it. He says "Danny." I can't get mad at Danny, so I start to angrily push Jim (who has turned into an older kid) around. [Danny is Jim as a kid. I couldn't get angry at him then? Because he was such an endearing kid? But I did get angry at him, a lot. But I was always regretful.] I go back into the living room and start to tear up the place violently, destroying things. [I'm not allowed to get angry at people, so I get angry at things.] If I can't have anything nice, I "reason," then no one can. But, I think, what am I angry at? Why doesn't anyone respect my stuff [me]? Why am I not loved [catered to; paid attention to]? Then, anger abating, I am sorry that db had to witness this outburst. I don't deserve her, especially since she has tried to sympathize with me and support me in my anger/hurt. She should leave me, I think. [She did. But not because of anger--at least not mine. But that's a different dream.] Awake, I understand that I am catered to, I am paid attention to. It's I, myself, who doesn't love me in that way. I project this lack of love onto others. I don't cater to them. (I don't love them?) And I stonewall them when they cater to me. I expect them to abandon me, when I will not respond, and they do, eventually. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wonder at how long some of them will actually hold out before abandoning me. This itself is evidence that they love me. But I wait them out until finally they begin to ignore me when they conclude that I will never respond to their care. I know I am loved, paid attention to, attractive, etc. I've proven it to myself many times, even recently. So, why then am I angry, really? I very seldom feel angry (any more) when awake. I can trace the behavior (dream anger; teeth grinding) to childhood, so it has nothing to do with the people who have subsequently been the focus of it, in dreams and awake. So what else can it be but the rejection by the mother-(or father-)object, whom later people come to represent?


Token progress in the basement, moving wood and stuff to the doorway to be moved up to the shed when it stops raining. It rained all day, then started snowing overnight. Gave up early on and watched tv. I think I've lost the mania for working.


Awoke at five am after only four hours of sleep, despite having taken melotonin. Went back to bed at eleven and slept for four more hours. Don't feel like doing anything, but in between sleeps I managed to post four new pieces to the website. That's something anyway.

Dreamed I was living with Linda F. and we were traveling to work together down the parkway in my new pick-up and trying to decide how to park in town to save money. Nice domestic feeling. Strange.

Finally caught up my taped notes. I've been putting it off for weeks and was dreading doing it, but as it turned out, there wasn't anything on the tape except movie blurbs that, if not so easy to process, are relatively mindless in terms of the difficulty of thought that has to be put into them. So it went rather well, all tolled.

Started downloading a few songs I wanted to get via WinMX, but it got out of hand and I ended up DLing nearly twenty songs. Then I left the software running because I had a huge backlog of queued songs that people were trying to upload from me, and I went to bed. At some point during the night, Juno automatically cut me off for "inactivity" (i.e., I wasn't at the computer to click the continue button that automatically appears after each four hour period of time whether you're transferring data or not).

Women, asserting themselves, get jobs. Men, laid off, fired, and/or feeling less than adequate, become "self-employed" and work a lot less for a lot less money, often augmenting rather than providing the bulk of the family income, frequently getting divorced when their women decide they can do better on their own or with someone more respectable, better-off, able to earn more money. This is a pattern I've noticed developing for a long time now, all of my life, really, but it's become so frequent recently. Some critics think this is a fair turn-around, a kind of social affirmative action plan for women when businesses favor their hiring to make up for the low representation of women in their critical jobs. It's a shame that we can't have fairness all around and must rob Peter to pay Pauline. The pendulum swings the other way. Inequities abound, in the other direction. The pendulum never stops swinging, because we don't know how to treat everyone fairly. It's an inherent species flaw.


Got up this morning and connected back to the Internet, and immediately all of the songs that were cut off when Juno disconnected me last night jumped to life again. Don't these people ever shut off their machines? Some of these connections are even 56K. It's one pm and I'm still uploading and downloading as I do my usual daily computer routine. My computer's been on for over 24 hours.


In a sudden fit of ambition, I called the auto shop at the bottom of the street and made arrangements to drop off my car for inspection. Every year I always put it off until the last minute, but this year I'm going to get it done early. I seem to be too focused on goals and tend to put off doing stuff in favor of writing tasks down on my schedule. I've got to remember that the journey is the destination. I'm always thinking I need to be getting somewhere and end up forgetting where it is I am. I tend to program spontaneity out of my life via trying to schedule it, but I seldom follow up on the schedule anyway and end up living more spontaneously than I'd planned, negating the negation. The most obvious and immediate example of this is my house. I'm forever fixing it up, trying to achieve some goal of perfection that will never exist, and usually the only time I ever make any real advancement is when I don't plan to do it, but just end up doing it on the spur on the moment. Yet I continue to plan, thinking I can plan the flaws away, although, despite all of its flaws, and there are some major ones (lack of space, broken and tilted front steps, roof and basement leaks), I love this house despite my planning self. I've got to appreciate it more in the moment and stop worrying about what I want to get done to improve it. The same thing goes for all my other plans. I've got to focus more on the present. My life is pretty good, despite the minimal income I live on. I got it made. How many other people don't have to go out to a nasty job every day and work for a living?

The car didn't need any repairs. Ed must have forgot that he warned me at last year's inspection that I'd need a new neck for the gas tank this year. Either he missed it or it didn't really need one.

This has been a great day for the Democrats, on two fronts: Trent Lott is digging himself in deeper and deeper and Al Gore announced that he won't run for president in 2004. Thank the god of politics for that one.


While organizing the basement this afternoon, I moved a 60 lb. sack of concrete and hurt my lower back. I didn't know it right away until I came back upstairs and started to connect my turntable up to the computer to convert vinyl into mp3s. I leaned too far over to reach the back of the machine and pop. It's not too bad, i.e., it's not as bad as it's been in the past, but it's bad enough to inconvenience me. Shit.

On the more positive side, I've finally got the procedure down for converting music on vinyl to a digital format. I haven't been able to do this because my turntable mysteriously stopped working a few years ago and I couldn't justify buying a new one (even if I could have actually found one). But last year I got one out of my neighbor's trash and put it in the basement and I finally got around to testing it out, and it works. Now all I need is an adaptor to patch two phono outputs to one stereo mini plug or the headphone mini output to a stereo mini. I'm planning on going up to Radio Shack tomorrow to get it, but who knows if I'll make it. We'll see.

Whenever I start to see how I am becoming like everyone else, I set about to change, I so much want to be unique. But you can't be unique in this sense, because someone else somewhere will always be similar to you. But, at least, you can be unique within the locale in which you exist, except that locale is fast becoming an anachronism as the world connects via media. And anyway, if I keep changing, I'll always wonder who it is I am. You can become lost as your identity evolves. So, I should try to stablize my personality in order to keep myself found and directed. On the other hand, I learn so much by adopting the personality traits of people or fictional characters who are my role models. This is another schizoid orientation.


Slept exactly right for eight hours and my back pain went away. But it came right back when I bent over to tie my shoe. "Pop!" Double shit on a stick.

Jim called and said he got the job to clean out the house. He, I, and my three nephews will do it. He wants me to call Castriola's about a Dumpster. It was one of the places I kept getting a busy signal from when I'd called earlier. He said he'd heard they were the cheapest.

This afternoon, the computer locked up as I was trying to surf the net and write in MSWorks at the same time. When I rebooted, I found I had lost all of my e-mail folders. I had to reconstruct them from my back-ups. It took over an hour. But at least I had them backed up. I'm so glad I practice safe computing.

After organizing the basement, getting stuff into place so that I can move around and work in a sane and orderly manner, I'm finally down to doing the important stuff: sorting all the nuts, bolts, screws, washers, nails, misc. hardware, etc. that over the years have been dropped into jars, coffee cans, and old Pepsi bottles with the necks cut off.

Finally learned how to convert mp3s from one bitrate to another (patch cord from line out to line in). I can do it with the windows sound recorder and a LAME program called Wave Squeezer. Now I can download mp3s with high bitrates that use up a lot of disk space and convert them to 128 kbps to save space.

As the weather gets colder and the days shorter, millions of Americans get depressed. They suffer from a condition called seasonal affective disorder. Symptoms include lethargy or fatigue, weight gain, inability to concentrate or focus, irritability, anxiety and occasionally despair. How do you treat it? Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported that there are many options. "The biggest thing is to understand that your biological clock is sort of getting thrown off by this change in light patterns," said Dr. Gupta. "Getting outside and getting daylight can be [helpful]. Regular exercise appears to help. Possible low-dose melatonin may also help to reset your biological clock."
[CNN Newsletter]
Very non-typically for me, I haven't felt this way at all this winter, except for a few brief episodes awakening in the night, which are completely gone by morning. I'm going to work on the assumption that it's the almost daily dose of melatonin I take.

"Soft-landing scenario"...That's the buzz phrase I'm picking up today to explain what GOP senators in Washington are hoping for in the Lott situation...This soft landing scenario would "encourage Lott to step down under face-saving conditions, which could include another prestigious Senate office."

I'll remember that when I have to dismiss my first underling: "Buddy, don't think of it as a getting fired, think of it as a soft landing scenario"...Geez, you gotta love the obfuscation of language...

[Dominic Bellone, HB Newsletter]
Hey, maybe this'll work as a retro justification of my having been fired so many years ago, because, despite my bosses' lame attempts to make it a soft landing, I landed very hard, so that I it took me years to recover and left an indelible scar on my bruised psyche. But this is just a lot of whining now. I'm over it and a bit more grown up, no thanks to those prick bastards I used to work for who thought more of themselves than their employees, no matter what they proclaimed to those employees and to the outside world about how well they treated them. Hmm. Maybe I'm not so much over this after all. But there's no affect left. I feel nothing about it all any more. Or maybe it's been successfully repressed to join all of the similar stuff dating back to childhood that's stored down there. What a great device the ego is, huh?


I was out shopping all afternoon. One would think, at this time of the year, that I'd be out shopping for presents, but I'm not. I never buy presents at Christmas, except maybe for myself. I got rust converter for the car (and dash lights that plug into the cigarette lighter that I wasn't looking for, but needed), patch cords to input LPs into the computer in stereo, and more video tapes (yep, I'm running out again; I'd hoped that canceling the cable was going to solve this problem, but...)

Back at home, I patched the turntable to the computer in stereo and spent the rest of the night trying to make it work without left track distortion. Just before I was ready to finally give up and attribute the problem to a bad turntable amp or preamp, I realized that I had adjusted everything except the turntable volume (the only output is from the speakers; there's no preamp output).


I wait, putting in the token time on projects day after day, week after week, and then everything comes together all at once and I become overwhelmed. This attitude resulted from having gone out shopping yesterday and finally finding a lot of things I'd been looking for. Today, I go out again, gathering up the remaining things I didn't get yesterday. First, I went back to CompUSA to verify that I got the right rebate slip for the CD-Rs I bought yesterday, since the size on the slip I got was different from the one on the product. Next, I went to Eckert to get an Ace bandage, a hot water bottle to replace the plastic milk bottle I've been using, and Plax [which was ridiculously expensive ($5.59) and their store brand was $4.49, which was more than I used to pay for the name brand Plax at Phar-Mor before they went out of business (maybe that's the reason), and the ingredients were completely different. So I went to CVS to see how their prices compare, and I found that they are significantly lower. Could have saved a whole dollar on the Ace bandage, and the CVS equivalent of Plax was only 2.99 and the ingredients were exactly the same. Lesson: shop at CVS, not Eckert.

When I got home, since I needed to print out a form from an .html file, I began to work on my printer, hoping to unclog the black ink so that I could use my refill kit instead of buying a new cartridge. To my amazement, it worked on the first try. But I discovered that a part of the problem had been that I was out of magenta, which can be a component, I guess, of some black print. But the missing magenta didn't critically affect the copy I wanted to print. I guess I'm going to have to buy a color refill kit too.

Next, I began the task of putting together the paperwork for my heating subsidy. Since I needed my gas and electric receipts, I began sorting out all of the receipts for the past two years that I'd tossed into huge envelopes and filed away in the file cabinet. It took me three hours. (I did it as I watched tv.) But now I have a new filing system with everything divided by vendor and filed in three categories: credit cards, utilities, and financial/insurance. A good anal evening, all tolled.


Happy New Year. Let the holidays begin. Today marks the first day of winter, the shortest day of the year, the real new year. The cycle starts all over again. For the next twelve days, I usually celebrate by doing nothing. But I feel like working and so I shall continue, because I do enough nothing when I'm in a different mood. But I'll keep the holiday spirit in conscious mind for the next twelve days while I work, because I am always at my best when I am functionally productive. Accomplishing things is my way of celebrating life, and I've been celebrating now for at least a solid month or more. This will be a special year, I think. But the omens aren't all good:

I went up to the Post Office today to use the copy machine. While I was copying, a heard a guy talking on his cell phone and to another person who was getting stamps out of the vending machine. I tried not to pay any attention to them, trying to concentrate on what I was doing, trying to comprehend the obtuse machine instructions (or maybe it's me who's obtuse) while keeping my papers organized without having any place to lay them out. But eventually the sense of the voices soaked into my thick brain. It seems that someone left a wallet with a lot of money and credit cards in it at the stamp vending machines. The guy (an obvious socially-minded citizen, a clean-cut sort of business type, I knew; even though I hadn't bothered to look over at him, I just knew what he looked liked) called a number he found in the wallet and left a message on the person's answering machine telling them that he'd found the wallet and how they could contact him. As I was leaving the building, he was asking others who had come in if they knew where Deerfield Drive was. He looked at me and I shook my head no as I departed, realizing, as this was the first time I actually looked at him, that my earlier intuition about his appearance was exactly correct. Then, outside, I did a huey and headed back in, realizing we could call the fire hall and someone there would know where Deerfield Drive was. As I entered, I said, "You have a cell phone."

He said, Yes, I have a cell phone."

I said "Call the number..."

But he interrupted me, saying "Wait a minute, here's someone."

I turned and saw a young black woman trailed by a small kid heading into the building. It was obvious by the desperate, intentional way that she walked that it was her wallet. I turned and left, my mission brought up short as he said to her "Are you the one who lost this wallet." I observed them over my shoulder as she took it from him and turned away without a single word. No thanks, no nothing. Amazing. Merry Fucking Christmas, people.

When I got home from the Post Office, I started to work on the rust on the car with a spray rust converter I bought at K-Mart. I thought it'd be the same as the paint-on stuff, which I also bought at Pep Boys, but it's not. It's more like the oil base that was left in the old stuff I had after it'd hardened. I'll take a look at the results tomorrow and if it looks the same, I'll use the other stuff too before I paint it and add some Bondo where the old repairs are starting to break away.

I went to bed at about one in the morning, but despite having taken melatonin, I awoke at 2:45 and couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up and built a fire and started to burn up all the scrap from the basement reorg that's been piling up, and meanwhile, I started copying mp3 files to the new CD-Rs (not burning them as .wav files, but just copying them directly, to save them so that I can remove them from my overly crowded C drive) that I bought at CompUSA, 100 for $4.99. (Not a bad deal.) And while I waited for the files to copy, I fed the fire, which had developed a nice thick bed of wood coals, with lots and lots of old cardboard, while damping the stove perfectly to provide the fuel with a rapid stream of moving air and making the stove exceedingly hot, and pouring water from a plant watering can onto the stove's top and watching it hiss away into steam to raise the humidity in my home and prevent my usual winter dry skin malady, which I've avoided thus far by constructing a homemade, powerless humidifier from a large towel wrapped around an eighteen inch stick that sticks up out of a gallon wide-mouthed water jug that I set in front of the heat register of the gas furnace and, in addition, by hanging wet towels from hooks in the wall over the register around the water bottle to further contain the heat to dehydrate the wrapped towel even faster. And, to my amazement, it works. I have yet to experience any dry skin problems so far this season. I've managed to raise the humidity in my house from below fifty to over sixty and keep it there. It's a pain in the butt to be continually exchanging the dry towel for a wet one and refilling the gallon jug with the plant watering can, but I don't mind. It's nice to have formed the habit, wetting, wringing out, and re-hanging the towel in the kitchen sink as I pass by the register and notice that the towel is dry. The steam hissing off the wood stove reminds me of a steam room. I'm turning my winter home into a spa.

At about dawn, as the fire dies down and the water is all evaporated on the slate floor around the stove where it has splashed after spurting off the hot stove, I give it up and go back to bed. The humidity is up to sixty-five, with a temperature of seventy-five, pretty high since humidity drops with rising temperature. My former high of sixty-two was achieved with a house temp of sixty-eight.

I watched movies on tape in bed until nine when I fell asleep and slept for four and a half hours. And now, hey, it's the middle of the next day, so why am I still writing in yesterday's journal entry?


Got a late start today, but finally managed to get into the garage and continue working on the rust on the car. Applied the paint-on rust converter. Second application tomorrow. Then primer. Then some Bondo in a few small spots. Then rusting proofing and/or paint.


Just another day doing the same old things, token progress in a lot of different areas: converting vinyl LPs to mp3, converting rust to primer on my car, organizing nuts and bolts in the basement, watching Seinfeld reruns on tv. Putting in the time.


I primed all of the former rust spots on the car today in preparation for taking it out in the weather tomorrow. Then I spent the rest of the day and night sorting out all the installation file downloads on my computer and copying them to CDRs in preparation from removing them from my hard drive, all while burning up in the wood stove all the excess paper and cardboard I'd accumulated over the summer. Now, it's ten pm and Joyce hasn't called yet. I'm hoping that she'll call tomorrow to remind me that it's Christmas and that I'm invited over, because I can't remember if she said that I'm invited for Christmas when I was there on Thanksgiving. If she doesn't call tomorrow, I guess I'll have to call her.

I hadn't known that he was in the grips of something like the rabbit in Jimmy Stewart's movie, or that he had stopped working and secluded himself in his room. How serious was his condition, I wondered, was it a case of nervous breakdown, or was he clearly schizophrenic?
Kenzaburo Oe, Aghwee The Sky Monster
And which am I, if either, now that I'm definitively well over the nervous breakdown (stress) part but continue to remain indoors most of the time?


Joyce called at noon and woke me, asking if I remembered that it was Christmas and was I coming over. She said I didn't need an invitation on any Christmas, that it's automatic, like when we used to go to my Mom's house every year. But I kind of think I should be invited anyway, because who knows if she's working or whatever and what their schedule is. Got up, got ready, and went over to spend the whole day at their house. Usual stuff. I tried to talk with Jim about a few things, but he didn't seem to want to talk, so I left him alone and talked with Joyce for a long time in the kitchen while she prepared dinner, about religion and medicine and politics and a lot of other stuff. I was in an unusually talkative mood and she was her usual talkative self so we spent the day interrupting each other to get our individual points across.

After dinner, Jim, Joyce, Jay, Danny and I sat in the living room and watched tv. Jay and Danny sat across the room and, observing me in profile, Jay said "Doesn't Uncle Joe look like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings." Danny agreed.

I said "Oh, great. That's Ian McKellan. He's gay. And he's dead now."

Joyce said, no, it wasn't him. Then, I remembered that he was in Harry Potter and Gandalf was played by Richard Harris, and he's dead too.

Joyce said "Well, that's pretty good, isn't it, to look like Richard Harris?" I agreed. You can't do much better than that, appearance wise.

[A few days later I see a tv spot where Ian McKellan was in fact Gandalf. So it must have been Richard Harris in Harry Potter.]


Typical reaction after I've been out among people: I don't want to return to my usual schedule. I dreamed I was Michael Caine in bed in a huge hotel room getting a blowjob from Susan Sarandon. Michele Pfeiffer shows up in the doorway in a flimsy nightgown. I am given the choice of having Susan continuing what she's doing or Michele climbing on top of me. Tough choice. Unfortunately, the dream changes direction and neither occurs. I hate when that happens.


The winter syndrome is setting in. I blame going out for Christmas as having caused this, but I can see how it had started days before, but I managed to resist it until Christmas day by determinedly working to my schedule despite my desire to abandon it. Now, the habit broken, I wallow in a guilty semi-scheduled anti-purpose, struggling to reestablish a structured lifestyle. Will I succeed, or will it all fall apart in a fit of winter ennui? Stay tuned. To my credit, however, I did manage to get down to the basement today and clean up a little bit and undercoat the passenger side rocker panel (do they still call them that?) of my car. Looks good, a black strip along the bottom of the doors outlining the white upper body. I think I'm going to detail the lower car edges all in black, around the wheel wells, etc. It'll match the black pin striping.

Slept for an hour and a half and awoke at nine pm wide awake. So I got up and started the wood stove, hauled some wood up from the driveway and started burning up what's left of the basement residue while I saved mp3 files to CDRs. But I'm having a problem. My CD drive doesn't want to read the new CDs, which is odd because it reads the previous four I made just fine. And it reads the CD-RWs fine too. I'm feeling a bit put-out at the inconsistency, as if it's a cosmic motive in the air, a bit of belligerence perpetrated by the gods of electronics, or even more universal gods that rule over general principles and from time to time make plans go awry, life generally difficult, and people irritable and miserable. This is just another way of saying that the winter season is seeping into my psychology and affecting me. My lower back has been paining me again and now my middle back is starting to act up. I wish I were in Arizona on the desert plains.

Because of my recurrent affect/attitude, I hardly ever finish anything except for short projects. It seems like I'm always starting over. Either that or I'm a continuer, a more positive way to define myself. I continue projects on after a long period of inattention. But starting over in between the continuations generates so many more projects than I can ever finish. I need to fight this propensity I have toward not finishing, but I recognize how it is born of a desire not to beat my head against a wall and cause myself undue stress when it is far better to live life as it comes and not push so hard to get things done that do not want to be done so readily in the present moment.

I'm at an old workplace, socializing in the old building with the screen makers and visitors before we are "herded" into a church (near the new building) that is like going into a (well-decorated) "sunken" (partially underground, i.e., you have to go down stairs into it) building. I split off from the others and find my own seat among sparsely seated cohesive groups of people other than employees. But I change seats several times because I'm unhappy with the conditions. Then, as the "services" proceed, I look up at the walls and ceiling and notice that "soil" (that looks like used coffee grounds) is seeping in through the mortar between the concrete blocks. Recognizing an impending catastrophe, like perhaps the collapse of the building, amid mild protests from my work associates, I leave the church area and go into another part of the building that is like a civic auditorium. Here I find a seat among a visiting troop of entertainers, some of whom are young naked women with wonderfully shaped breasts. We (other guys and I) are not supposed to be "attentive" to these women, they are supposed to be an "artistic" part of the event, but we secretly lust after them. After these women and the people they are seated with leave their seats in the auditorium and go backstage to get ready for their show, I get up and go backstage too, walking through narrow corridors until I come to some kind of a "central" area. I'm supposed to sit here and remain quiet and content, but I am not. I feel uncomfortable and "anxious" and I can't understand why I must remain here when I am not happy. Looking for a way out, I walk around the room, which is round and lined along the walls with all kinds of technical devices like tape recorders, control panels, etc. The people who operate this room are concerned about me moving around and wanting to get out. Some of them are aliens, dressed like nurses and acting perfectly human, but with wrinkled alien faces and speaking a strange language that the human "nurses" can understand, but I can't. I awaken with the question remaining in my mind: Why must I remain in a place where I am uncomfortable, a place which I feel is threatening (like the church seeping coffee grounds or a place like the places I used to work at, especially the last one) when I can just get up and leave? Obviously, it is I, myself, who kept me in those places, because I needed to make money to survive. So I am the aliens, or rather, the aliens are aspects of my inner self. A part of me, inside, that is alien to what I think of as myself, and yet I recognize it as somewhat human-like.


This afternoon when I booted my computer, I notice that the automatic backup file isn't backing up. Another glitch. Prick bastard electronics god at work again spreading his irritable malfeasance.

Things are starting to work again (like the auto backup program). You see, it's much better to sit back and wait out caustic situations than to beat your head against a wall. If you run into a roadblock, go another way. If a project doesn't want to work, work on another project, or go to bed and watch tv or fantasize. Tomorrow, tomorrow...

I undercoated the driver's side rocker panel. All that's left is the detailing and I'll be done with the car's bodywork.

I stayed up late watching taped movies. Fell asleep at four am.


Back to sleeping four hours twice a day. My brief flirtation with normality seems to be coming to an end. I got up, wide awake, at midnight after four and quarter hours sleep. (Didn't take melatonin, so it's my own damn fault. But I've been needing a normality break anyway.) So, unable to sleep, I did the most logical thing I could do. I got on the Internet. Finally, after several shopping trips to local stores and four non-consecutive days of searching the Net, I found the fuse I needed for my console tv in the living room. (I was starting to get pissed about it.) It only costs 15 cents, but there was a minimum order of five (they're packaged in sets of five) and the shipping charge was $6, a bit high for such a small package, but I was glad to pay it. $6.75 is not so much to pay for an item that seems to be in short supply. What surprised me the most was that so many sites had the item, but none of them had any way of ordering it online, referring you instead to distant (from me) suppliers or asking you to send them an e-mail to arrange for a credit check and order placement (They were all B2B sites.)


Jim called late this morning and woke me up. He wants me to arrange to have the Dumpster delivered next Monday. So I got up (after only two hours sleep, drank a cup of (real) coffee, drank a beer, and called. But the woman I needed to talk to isn't in today, so I left a message on her voice mail for her to call me back, because I definitely want to talk to her and not someone else, because the last time I talked to her, she was so nice, and I was nice back, and we had a great phone rapport going.

Next, feeling like I was starting out on a roll, I called Dominion Peoples, my natural gas transmission company, to try to figure out their policy on transferring my "welfare" credit to my gas supplier (a separate company), because sometimes they will transfer a credit and sometimes they won't. Their official policy, I've been told in the past, is not to transfer, that the credit is issued to Dominion Peoples alone. As I talk to Mimi, a customer service rep, I realize I have totally confused her with my simple question ["Why was $14.70 credited to my gas supplier on my November bill (and previous small amounts on my September and October bills) if it's their policy not to transfer credits]. She doesn't know the answer and rather than just admit that, she's giving me the run around, explaining things on my bill that I already understand and avoiding my simple question. I realize as I'm talking to her that I could end up having those credits removed and having to pay the amounts, and that for my own benefit I should give it up and be happy that I got any credit transferred at all. But as I'm waiting on hold, where she put me when, via my persistent (but intentionally very sweet and personable) questioning, I convinced her that she didn't know what she was talking about and had better ask someone else, I decide that the total three months of credit ($25) isn't that much to pay if I have to and, besides, I'm beginning to see a hole in their defense that I might be able to work to my advantage. My logic is as follows:

To this end, I will not accept any form of the argument: "That's the way it's done around here." I want a real reason. If that reason turns out to be non-negotiable, well then, fine. I can accept that. But I'd be very unhappy with myself if I let it go without pursuing this to its logical conclusion, up through the ranks to someone who definitively will take responsibility, which, I'm assuming, not too many people will do, so that I may be able to take this matter up fairly high and get a decision in my favor. We'll see.


Mary Geyer returned my call about renting the Dumpster. It's all set for next Monday. So that's done and out of the way. Now, this afternoon, I'm going shopping, because it's warm out (56 degrees). [What is the character code for 'degrees' anyway? I always end up spelling it out.)

I bought a lot of junk food on sale, so I guess my diet is put off for another week until I consumer it all. And I bought more car lights for the interior and a cigarette lighter adaptor to run multiple power outputs. And I finally found some Elmer's Squeeze 'N Caulk (at K-Mart), my all-purpose sealer/glue. And I got the cable jacks so that I can split my tv cable and run yet another line (this makes five), this one to the basement, so that I can watch tv while I'm down there puttering around at night. I put an old black and white tv down there, run off the VCR so that I can use its cable ready tuner, so I won't be able to change channels in the basement and will have to set the channel before I go down. But that's okay. At least I won't miss Seinfeld.