gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
In the light of the current move to remove Confederate memorials and statues from public places (and thanks to the idiot Nazis who have accelerated that drive no end), I'd thought I'd turn my attention to the ten US Army posts still named for Confederates. In each case, I'm going to suggest a replacement name and give my reasons for why I think that person is the best choice.

In no particular order then:

  1. Fort Benning becomes Fort Bradley. Omar Bradley was an infantryman from the start and embraced combined arms warfare. As both a former commander of the Infantry School and the first commander of the 82nd Airborne (which received parachute training at Benning initially) the post would be well-served by this name.

  2. Fort Bragg becomes Fort Ridgway. Matthew Ridgway commanded the 82nd Airborne through most of WWII before commanding the XVIIIth Airborne Corps. Ridgway jumped on D-Day. Give the Home of the Airborne a name that reflects one of their own.

  3. Fort Hood becomes Fort Patton. Only fitting that the largest armor base in the Army, and a former site of a cavalry post, be named after the General synonymous with tanks in the service.

  4. Fort Lee becomes Fort Lafayette. Only about 50 miles from Yorktown, and holding the Army Ordnance, Quartermaster, and Transportation Schools, This is the perfect place to honor the French officer, and the French themselves, for all Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, did for our fledgling nation.

  5. Fort A. P. Hill becomes Fort DuPey. It's a training base and General DuPey was the first commander of the Training and Doctrine Command, better known as TRADOC. Also, I just know that troops will moan about a three-week deployment to Fort Dopey.

  6. Fort Pickett becomes Fort Morris. Seriously, the Virginia National Guard names its training base after the man associated with one of the biggest military disasters in American history? SGT Charles B. Morris earned the Medal of Honor in Vietnam and was born and raised in Virginia.

  7. Fort Polk becomes Fort Chennault. An officer from Louisiana who created the Flying Tigers in China and epitomized the idea of self-reliance and ingenuity in battle. Which is what they teach at the Joint Readiness Training Center

  8. Fort Rucker becomes Fort Baker. Addison Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions while leading a leading a B-17 raid on the Ploesti oil fields in 1944. Makes more sense for the Home of Army Aviation (and we're coming for the A-10s!)

  9. Camp Beauregard becomes Camp Villeré. Jaques Villeré was the second governor of Louisiana and before that was the commander of the 1st Division of Louisana Militia at the Battle of New Orleans. Can you think of a better name for the Louisiana National Guard's main training facility? (Yes, he owned slaves. You try finding great military leaders from that state who didn't.)

  10. Finally, Fort Gordon becomes Fort Sherman. Because fuck the Confederacy.

What you y'all think? More importantly, what silly nicknames will soliders come up for these new post names?
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
Today, I had to go out and drop off records requests at a couple of hospitals. My new psychologist wants complete records of my treatment for my stroke, which makes sense. One of these hospitals is O'Connor, where I was brought into the ER and did my first week or so of intensive treatment.

[personal profile] kshandra had done the grunt work of filling out the forms, all I had to do was drop them off. I lucked out and got the best disabled slot in the parking structure, walked in, dropped off my forms and walked back. Now, this spot is literally just inside the structure, so I stopped while still in the sunshine to fish my keys out of my pocket. While I was doing this, a human prune walked up beside me.

"Hmph" she sniffed, through a face that had last smiled during the Nixon administration, "look at that. How do you think that asshole conned a doctor into giving him a placard?"

Remember, I'm standing there 5 feet from my truck using a cane with my car keys in my hand.

"I don't know," I said in tones of mock concern, "but judging by the truck and the cooler in the back, I'm going to guess a Transient Ischemic Attack centered in the Left Parietal Lobe causing minor proprioception issues in the right extremities along with related stroke damage as well as Peripheral Neuropathy in both legs, most likely caused by the ABVD chemotherapy used to treat Stage IV-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma. But that's just a guess." I hobbled over to my truck and opened the door, looking up to where she was still stuck somewhere between embarrassed and angry, so I could tell her that the ER could help her with getting her bitchy, judgemental, head out of her sorry ass.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
Because some of you don't realize what going to Burning Man means in terms of self-reliance, here's what we have packed currently.

2x 7-gallon water containers (1 more needed)
1x 5-gallon gasoline containers (2 more needed)
1x 5-gallon water cooler
1x Camp table
1x Camp kitchen

Consumables Box:
3x 24-pack Pabst Blue Ribbon (camp dues)
2x handles cheap vodka (camp dues)
1x 24-pack Diet Doctor Pepper
(dehydrated camp food from REI)
1x Beef Stew
2x Chicken Teriyaki with Rice
1x Beef Pho
2x Scrambled Eggs with Bacon
3x Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Peppers
5x Biscuits and Gravy
(end camp food)
2x dehydrated Garlic Mashed Potatoes
2x dehydrated Buttery Mashed Potatoes

Kitchen Box:
1x box of Nitrate gloves
1x box of quart Ziplock bags (partially used)
1x dish scraper
1x hanging LED light
1x stock pot
1x kettle
1x 3-quart sauce pan
1x serving spoon
1x butane lighter
4x campfire forks
1x kitchen tongs
1x bottle of Tapatio
1x kitchen shears
1x dustpan and whisk broom
1x camp stove
1x small propane bottle
1x propane hose
2x pot holders
1x 5-liter collapsible sink
2x drink cozies
1x 12-pack shelf stable milk
1x 12-pack orange juice
1x carving knife and fork
1x can of hot chocolate mix

Miscellaneous Box:
4x blinky valve stems (for the truck on Playa)
4x inflatable lawn flamingos w/ stakes
1x package sanitary pads
1x package bathing wipes
2x camp signs
1x bunny ears, white and purple
1x bag misc. batteries
1x bike lock
1x 20-foot extension cord
1x red rope light
1x Mega MadLibs
1x collapsible kite
1x spare goggles
1x compression strap
1x camp lantern
1x camo net (for trailer and shade structure)
1x trash bucket
1x 12-pack Cup o'Noodles (chicken)
4x rolls of single-ply toilet paper
3x neck coolers
1x head-scratching tool
2x collapsible water bottles
1x bag of ear plugs
1x bag of dehydrated Cheese Tortellini soup
3x spatulas
1x set measuring spoons
1x moop bag w. flashlight
1x pair of practice poi
1x bag of random lights
2x 32-ounce drink tumblers

The 4th case of PBR we need for camp dues, the solar panel (which was tested successfully today) and our dolly are all in the trailer.

And we're still not finished.

Burning Man sucks. Don't go!
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
(Sorry if this is choppy, my case manager called in the middle of writing it.)

The Great Hall of the Moot has been described as one of the most impressive spaces in known space. Under a soaring 50 meter dome featuring an Imperial Sunburst crafted from the remains of a First Imperium warship, lay the desks and benches of the nobles of the Moot, each a work of art celebrating the home County of the noble. At the center is the pure black marble of speaker's dais, and opposite the great main doors to the chamber is the raised throne of the Lord President of the Imperial Moot. An impressive sight, with banners for each of the 300-odd noble houses hanging from the ceiling, the trophies and relics in niches around the viewers' gallery. Not to be missed.

It's also almost empty most of the time. The full Moot only meets sporadically, usually to vote on measures and packages to be presented to the Emperor. The true work of the Moot happens in hearing chambers and offices.

But who are the nobles who serve in the Spire? Currently, there are 347 members of the Moot, each one either an Elector or representing an Elector. The vast majority of seats are held by Counts-Elector, with 12 Baron-Electors and one Duke-Elector. Only a fraction of the actual title-holders serves on Capital. Time and distance combined with the responsibilities of holding an Imperial title force many Counts-Elector to remain at their county capitals.

Various Imperial Orders have, over the years, refined who can serve in the Moot. All Electors are required to maintain a presence on Capital. As the Imperium grew, that presence was allowed to fall into the hands of family members "of appropriate rank." Which means that a Count-Elector's representative must be drawn from the immediate family. This is often a duty given to favored cousins, and one eagerly accepted, as the social whirl on Captial is unsurpassed anywhere in known space. For many noble families, a stop at Capital is de rigueur on a young noble's grand tour. A chance to learn the ins and outs of the Imperial bureaucracy and make important contacts for the future.

Such noble stand-ins are granted a limited Imperial Patent naming them Viscount [County name] for the duration of their tour in the Moot. This patent can be revoked by both the Emperor and the actual Elector. While serving as Viscount, the noble has all the powers of the elector but is expected to keep his lord well-briefed and obey any commands issued.

The day to day business of the Moot is advocacy. Each and every member sitting in the Great Hall is there to get the best for their homes. More money for defense, increased allocation of assets, subtle cloakroom maneuvering to solidify power in the home sector. The hallways of the Moot Spire are always filled with intrigue and secrets. Much of the open work is done in the Standing Committees. These ad hoc groups are formed with the permission of the Lord President, and some have endured for centuries. The Standing Committee on the K'kree Issue, for example, is made up of nobles from Gateway and advocates of a larger navy. They exist to convince the rest of the Moot and the Emperor that the K'kree are the greatest threat to the Imperium and that naval building and deployment should reflect that fact.

There are dozens of such committees that meet daily, drawing on the advice of the hordes of experts that descend on Capital every year. Every committee and faction chimes in on the many reports and proposals that get forwarded to the Emperor. Generally, a majority of the Moot must sign off on any document destined for the Palace, but this is not a hard rule. Minority reports are politically risky, as offended factions within the Moot can call for a new Lord President or work to sabotage rivals and their agendas.

There are two days when the full Moot meets in all their glory and finery. Holiday, when the Moot is formally opened for the new year, and the Emperor's Birthday, where the assembled nobles receive an Imperial address and renew their vows to the Imperium and to the Emperor.

The Loyal and Honorable Nobles of the Imperial Moot live in either spacious estates for the older, wealthier noble houses, or in luxury apartments in the Palace Districts. Most have large retinues of servants and advisors as well as personal house troops guarding their estates. The social circle of parties and receptions is seen as being just as important as the hearing rooms of the Spire for getting business done.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
Every visitor to Capital agrees that the highlight of the visit is the looming mass of the Imperial Palace, a burnished brass sphere a kilometer wide hovering 500 meters over Zhunastu Park. The museums, the precise drill of the Imperial Guard regiments, and the somber remains of the Palace of Martin II which was destroyed in the Civil War, all impress the visitor with the power and legacy of the Emperor of the Third Imperium.

However, 5 kilometers down the Imperial Promenade stands the Moot Spire, a needle soaring 3 kilometers into the sky, by law the only building on Capital allowed to be taller than the Palace. Most citizens understand vaguely that the Moot is where the nobles of the realm meet, but their actual function remains a mystery to most.

Cleon I created the Moot as a way to keep the new nobility under control and in one place. As the Imperium grew, that became impossible as more nobles were required to attend to their own fiefs. The Moot remains of vital importance to the Imperium and Emperor, as it holds two vital powers.

The first power is to confirm the heir to the throne and conduct the ceremonies acknowledging the heir and eventually crowning the new ruler. To this end, the Moot maintains an office that tracks all potential heirs and their place on the Succession List. As of 1115, this list has some 17,000 names on it. The Office on Succession and Continuity scours census data and reports to keep the list as up to date as possible. The Imperial Household also maintains an office that tracks heirs, but their list is much shorter.

The nobles who volunteer for this office take their duties seriously. The monitor the extended Imperial Family for signs that a candidate for the Iridium Throne would pose a danger to the stability of the Imperium. Imperial family members can expect to be asked for interviews, have their actions scrutinized, and their accomplishments judged. Only once in 500 years has the Office had to inform a sitting Emperor that his heir would not be passed by the office. The heir was quietly removed and granted an office in Gateway.

In 654, the Empress Arbellatra issued Imperial Edict 378, which gave the Moot the power to establish a Regency Council in any case where the Emperor died with no clear heir, the heir was below the age of 16, or the Emperor was missing in action but not confirmed dead. The Council is to be made up of the senior noble of each Imperial Sector in residence on Captial, the Second Fleet Lord, and the senior member of the Imperial family not in line to succeed to the throne. The Regency Council is charged with resolving the empty throne as quickly as possible with a legal heir.

(The preceding is part of my annoyance with the whole "Rebellion" in MegaTraveller. The idea that the Imperial government would grind to a complete stop is stupid. Even if Dulinor was able to pull a pistol in the Octagon and kill the Imperial family - and that's another groaner - the Moot would immediately summon a Regency Council and assume command.)

The second official power is to dissolve the Third Imperium. The Moot can, on a three-quarters vote, dissolve the Warrant of Restoration and strip the Emperor of all powers. Obviously, this is an act of last resort and was last invoked as a threat during the Civil War. All analysts and historians agree that this power would only be used if the Imperium was already failing, as a sort of lifeboat measure to allow local governments to bind together for survival.

Never the less, almost every year some noble with an ax to grind introduces a measure to dissolve the Imperium to the Moot. Such measures are usually shouted down in short measure, then a quiet inquiry into why the noble felt such a measure was necessary. The Vilani nobles can be relied on to try to dissolve the Imperium on a regular basis.

Moot spokesmen have denied for years that there are contingency plans locked away for how to assign Imperial assets should the Moot vote to end the Imperium. Rumors continue to fly over secret deals concerning post-Imperial states, re-flagged fleets, and even splinter states having their own governments ready to roll. Every few years someone leaks documents that "prove" the Imperium is about to fail.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about what the Honorable Nobles of the Moot do all day, and who they are.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
It's a new month, and time for some honest self-examination. I have been really, really bad about using this tool for anything. Novel preparation, Traveller world-building, even just blogging stuff. Using it as it was intended as a way to encourage the daily habit of writing 750 words every single day. Even if they are total crap, I have to be better about putting myself in the chair and opening the page and doing it.

It's been hard. My birthday stresses me out, as I wrote about earlier. Hot weather really messes with my system, and we don't have air-conditioning at our place. And my mental state has continued to get worse. I'm going to say it: I think I'm suffering from depression. My moods have gotten deeper and darker like my emotional drive is a pendulum that is slowly losing momentum. I'm spending more and more time in the dark spaces of my head, questioning my basic value as a human being and wondering why the hell they ever woke me up from that damn coma four years ago.

There's another stressor - four years ago yesterday I had a stroke and 22 years ago in late July, I was diagnosed with Stage IV-B Hodgkins Lymphoma. So the happy days of summer are not the happiest for me. Probably why I hate my birthday so much; just another reminder that I am actually past my sell-by date in terms of how Hodgkins survivors do. I am beginning to realize that I'm never going to shout "Hello, Cleveland!" to a capacity crowd at Red Rocks, and my chances of topping Chris Garcia's Hugo Award acceptance speech grows ever dimmer with each rejection notice.

But the hardest thing for me is feeling useless. I used to be things. Light Weapons Infantryman, Training Driver, Truck Driver, Dispatcher. . . all those identities, which are so vital in our culture, have been taken from me. I'm a writer who can barely write. A gadfly at conventions. Someone who is only of the slightest help at Burning Man. I feel all my days of glory have passed me by far too soon and just when I was getting good at life, it was all taken from me piece by piece.

See, that's the real horror. I wasn't struck down in a day and told: "rebuild from the ashes, Berry." No, my competence was taken away in tiny chunks. Bit by bit parts failed, slice by slice I lost chances and doors closed. Did y'all know I was on the verge of working to get my Class B license and a much better paying job when I developed pulmonary embolisms and had to quit commercial driving? Road construction company in Fremont. They wanted me and would help me get that Class B and pay me double what I had been getting at Lord & Sons, plus a per diem for overnight runs. That fucking close.

Closed doors. That's all I can see these days. Except the one marked "exit" and I'm not quite ready for that one, even if some days it's only understanding how badly my death would hurt Kirsten and my family that keeps me here.

But there may be a crack, a light at the end of the tunnel that is not an oncoming train. I finally got some referrals for therapists, with a suggestion I schedule an evaluation meeting with a therapist and they can work with me to decide if I need full-on psychiatric care from an MD or if therapy might be the best bet. Waiting for a call back from one of the offices I was given to look at. Hopefully, I'll hear back soon.

Because when the pendulum isn't down in the dark places, I'm still me. I can still feel some hope, some joy, even have some energy. I want to write the Great American Fanzine Article, I want to finish my novel and sell fifty copies, I want to volunteer at BMIR at Burning Man to see if I can help out and be part of a team again. Damnit, I want to see the 49ers win the SuperBowl and the Sharks take the Stanely Cup.

Right now, I'm just waiting for a phone call and an appointment. No idea what that will lead to, or how long it will take, or if I'm going to be one of the Happy Pill People or sitting in a group. No matter what, I want it to happen because it represents a door opening.
gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
Still thinking about a revised Third Imperium for Traveller, and making it "crunchier" and a better setting with more holes and internal conflicts. This is definitely going to be a "weak Imperium" build, as a strong Imperium simply clamps down on too many opportunities for things to go pear-shaped. So today, I'm going to look at the man at the top, the Emperor of the Third Imperium.

There's an old saying in the Imperial corridors of power; "the Counts make plans for the next year, the Dukes make plans for the next decade, the Archdukes make plans for the next century, and the Emperor makes plans for dinner." Although a bit over the top, the truth of the matter is that the Emperor is too far removed from his empire to really have that big an influence on matters popping up in systems that can be months away from Captial. This is why the Imperium has become decentralized, looking to the Imperial hierarchy more for support than real-time leadership.

But in a very real sense, the person of the Emperor is the Imperium, and all authority flows from the commands given by him or his predecessors. Those commands come in several forms.

Imperial Edicts are the most formal and powerful of the Emperor's commands. An Edict is law and will be enforced throughout the 11,000 worlds of the Imperium without question. In the Imperium's 1,100 year history, fewer than 400 Edicts have been issued. Over a hundred were issued by Cleon I and Artemsus in the first century of the Imperium, and these Edicts defined and shaped the state and how it was to be run.

Second in precedence are Imperial Commands. These are orders from the Emperor that directly address issues facing the state. A command might be issued to a Sector Duke to mobilize his military forces to support another sector or a command that a former Count-Elector is an Enemy of the Imperium and is to be found, captured, or killed. Commands are less formal than Edicts and expire once they have been carried out.

Warrants, Patents, and Charters are the next level of Imperial command. These are grants of authority from the Emperor to groups or individuals to carry out duties or activities. Every noble family has an Imperial Patent of Nobility and when a new person ascends to a position as Count-Elector or Duke, the Emperor will confirm their position with a new Patent. Any corporation seeking to do business on an interstellar scale will seek out a Limited Imperial Charter (LIC) which gives the company assurances of Imperial protection.

Warrants are a special case, as they directly give the holder the power to act for the Emperor. Many Warrants are limited in scope. Every naval officer holds a Warrant confirming his commission and allowing him to act for the Emperor inside Naval regulations and orders. Some Warrants have been vaguely worded due to Captial not having a good idea of what was happening.

This is is how Norris, Markgraf-Elector of Regina, was able to proclaim himself Erzherzog of Deneb. He had a Warrant in his possession which granted him full Imperial authority to take any steps needed to secure the Spinward regions of the Imperium from further threats. Norris decided that a united Domain under his leadership was the best answer to that. Strephon is still fuming over that trick.

It must be noted that many of these orders are first issued in the field, as it were, and sent to Capital for the Emperor's approval. This can take years for minor patents and commissions, so the standard has been to assume assent unless otherwise told.

Lastly, comes the Emperor's wishes or desires. These are minor commands that generally are used for issues inside the palace or dealing with the pomp and ceremony that surrounds the Imperial Household. The Emperor might state "It is the desire of the Emperor that Flumb fruit no longer be allowed inside the palace, or at any event attended by His Majesty." Wishes and desires are common when arranging large social events and ceremonials. It is commonly known that many of these orders come from the Imperial Family's large social staff and the Emperor considers such "mindless details" boring.

Day-to-day, the Emperor is a busy man. He is constantly dealing with reports of issues inside and outside his realm and tasked with decisions that can send thousands of warships into a battle or affect the economies of a hundred worlds. Luckily, just down the Promenade from the floating sphere of the Imperial Palace is the towering Moot Spire, where hundreds of nobles work to keep the Emperor informed and plot to keep him focused on their problems.

I'll cover them next.
gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
Well, we're 26 years late for that, but should we ever renew our vows, I'd love to hear this.

gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
Fair warning, this will contain so minor spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming. No major plot points, but some notes about characters and setting.

So, Spider-Man has finally come home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe where he belongs. Thank Odin! Because this is the movie that makes everyone's favorite wall-crawler the awkward kid he was for so so long in the comics. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a brilliant kid living with his hot Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) in Queens, NY. He attends a magnet school for science and technology, and, oh, is secretly the Spectacular Spider-Man.

The movie opens with Peter recording a video blog of his trip to Germany to take part in the airport battle scene from Captain America: Civil War. Despite being told repeatedly that he can't show anyone the footage, he keeps shooting. Because he's a kid. And that's what he is through most of the movie. He's what every 15-year-old boy is: eager to prove that he's an adult, and able to take on the world while not being ready. Having picked up a mentor/father figure in Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr., who has played this character enough times to have bought Rhode Island on the residuals alone) Parker keeps waiting for the Avengers to call him for his next assignment. His only confidant is his friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) a fellow geek outsider who thinks Spider-Man nearly getting vaporized is just the coolest thing ever.

What really makes the film work is you believe that these are all high school kids attending a science immersion school. Long-time nemesis Flash Thompson has gone from alpha male jock to arrogant academic jerk, for example. Which works. The writing is painfully accurate on just how awkward this age can be. Seeing Peter stumble with the girl he likes, trying to focus in class, it all works! Which makes the more fantastic elements work as well. Everyone is well directed and written, even a minor hood that Spider-Man tries to interrogate, but ends up getting helpful advice from.

But no superhero film can work without a great villain, and Spider-Man does not let us down. In the comics, The Vulture was a ridiculous figure, a senior-citizen with a flying suit. Here, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) is a wronged everyman who takes his revenge on the system by selling weapons based on alien technology to criminals. He is a deep character with a clear motivation and his own set of moral codes. He also has the badass flying suit. In Keaton's hands, the Vulture nearly steals the movie. You believe in him, and oddly, sympathize with him.

The producers managed to stick in enough Easter eggs to supply the White House egg roll. From the classic comic book theme to the Spider-Signal, old fans of the character will have plenty of moments that make them grin. Captain America makes several appearances narrating videos shown to the students, which tie into one of the two post-credits scenes.

The action set pieces, big and small, work, although some are a little too busy. We saw it in 2-D, which I suspect has something to do with that problem. But there were a few moments where the screen was just a mess of flying objects. Spider-Man's advanced, Stark designed, Spider-suit is a character in its own right.

Problems? There were a few. Some of the jokes fell flat, Aunt May was critically underused, and Flash Thompson was never given the moment of humanity needed to make him more than an aggressor, though that they may be saving for the next movie.

As I said above, there are two post credit scenes. The first, coming in the middle of the credits, gives us a view of Adrian Toomes that raises a lot of questions. The second does nothing to tease the next Marvel movie or tie-in Spider-Man to the larger Cinematic Universe, but at our showing it drew one of the biggest laughs of the show.

One of my metrics for how much I enjoyed a movie is how well do I remember the trailers. Since trailers are designed to catch your interest and lodge the film in your head, how well you can recall those trailers shows how deeply you were involved in the feature presentation. In this case, I couldn't tell you what trailers we saw. Spider-Man: Homecoming was just that fun. I give it 4.5 Penguins out of a possible five. Go see it.

The only bad thing about the day was as we were leaving my right ankle decided to remind me that I have hypokalemic periodic paralysis. That was no fun, even though it loosened up pretty quickly.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Oh, so many choices! But this is a song that I loved even as a very little kid, and still love today.


gridlore: Photo: Rob Halford on stage from the 1982 "Screaming for Vengeance" tour (Music - Rob Halford)
Dear person sitting in front of us at the Iron Maiden concert last night.

You are a self-centered ass, and completely ignorant of concert etiquette.

First of all, you skipped the opening act. Sucks to be you, Ghost was amazing. But then, once Iron Maiden took the stage, you spent the entire show with your phone out, taping the entire thing. Which wouldn't be so bad, but you had the camera's light on. You keep turning the phone to take selfies, meaning you kept shining that light right in my eyes as I was trying to watch Maiden.

So I hope that when you got home and reviewed the footage, you'll appreciate the fact that almost all of your selfie shots feature my raised middle fingers waving around behind you.

Up the Irons! And up yours!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
I grew up in an amazing musical age.

gridlore: Photo: Rob Halford on stage from the 1982 "Screaming for Vengeance" tour (Music - Rob Halford)
RIP Dimebag.


gridlore: Doug with Kirsten, both in nice clothes for a wedding. (Me - with Kirsten)
Soldier Field, Chicago. July 9th, 1995. Jerry Garcia plays his last concert. This is the last song he ever performed. A month later he died of a heart attack in a drug/alcohol rehab clinic.

Thank you, Jerry.

gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
It's my birthday in a couple of days, and I'm going to ask you all to please ignore it. I have a lot of reasons for not particularly like my birthday, which I'll go into in a moment, but I really shouldn't have to do that. I should be able to ask my friends to be cool about it. But that never works.

We'll go backward. Isn't it grand how every social media site trumpets that it is your birthday to hundreds of people you might not know that well? Well, I hate it. I've removed my date of birth from both Facebook and Twitter, but I have little faith in them remembering that setting. As a result, I have in the past received hundreds of birthday wishes from people I've never met and have little clue about. That reduces a birthday wish to a rote machine action. *Ping* Fred has a birthday. Send cake? y/n.

Screw it, let's go all over the place. I was born on Independence Day. Seems cool, right? All those fireworks and parades for you? Except that when I was growing up it meant my friends - the few I had - usually had plans with family around the 4th. Then I got a little sister for my 5th birthday. Yup, we share the day, five years apart.

So now I was not only sharing the day with the country but with a sibling. As you can imagine, this quickly meant having to alternate who got the big day. I'd celebrate my birthday on the 3rd, or the 5th, every other year. And still, trying to get parties together sucked.

To be honest, the only thing I liked about my birthday was a massive taco feast and my favorite cake. Even presents lost their luster as I grew older. I became extremely cynical about the entire 4th of July thing by the time I was 16.

Then I joined the Army. You think the US Army takes Independence Day off? Ha! I spent my 19th birthday marching in a parade in dress greens then manning a table where I explained the M-16A1 to a parade of goobers. Did I mention that this parade was in Columbus, Ga? It was near 100 degrees and the humidity had to be in the low 90s. And I was there in a freaking suit.

Needless to say, I didn't celebrate that much that year, or any year after that. I just endured my birthday. It's just another day, really. I don't see why such a fuss is made over the simple reality of surviving 365 days.

Because when I think of survival, I look at what I've been through. I've come close to dying several times since 1995, and it deeply affected how I look at like. This was where I started actively hating my birthday. I'll freely admit it was based on a rather nihilistic outlook. I'm doomed to die, why are you reminding me that I'm one day closer to that! It sounds silly, but as someone who is keenly aware of personal mortality, I prefer to look ahead and strive for the new, rather than celebrate the meaningless passage of time.

So on Tuesday, I turn 51. I'll be the same person I was the day before and the day after. Since we got the Omaha Steaks order, we'll celebrate with a nice steak dinner, and the next night we go to see Iron Maiden at Oracle Arena with Ghost opening. The weekend brings the new Spider-Man movie. This would be a great week if it were in June or August.

So this is my request to you all. If you know me personally. If we've spoken face to face or worked on a project together, if you are someone I KNOW, feel free to mention the landmark. You don't have to, but if there is some cultural touchstone that compels you to do so, go for it. If the only reason you know my birthday is July 4th is a notification, and you don't really know me, please refrain.

Look, I know this sounds really anti-social. But it's how my brain works. Last year I nearly smashed my computer over this. It's one of the myriad issues I hope to get into when I get a referral for a therapist. Who knows, this time next year I might be demanding a trip to Reno. After All, I'll be 52 and finally be playing with a full deck!

One birthday present I would like, the California Lottery's MegaMillions game is up to $167 million. The draw is Tuesday.
gridlore: The word Giants over a baseball (Baseball - SF Giants)
Flashback to 2010. The Giants win the National League West on the last day of the season. Giants Nation goes nuts with the hope that this might finally be the year. The Giants came west in 1958, and in that time managed only three National League pennants, and no World Series wins. We were due.

Bay Area musician/producer Ashkon grabs a karaoke version of Journey's Don't Stop Believing and writes lyrics to celebrate that this might be the season.

It was. San Francisco Giants, your 2010 World Series Champions. Swing and miss, and that's it.

This still makes me very happy, as it takes me back to the excitement of that October, as we came closer and closer to the win. Fun note, of all the players mentioned, only Buster Posey is still with the Giants.

Black and Orange 'till I die.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Yeah, I took a few weeks off. I'm disabled, I get to do that.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
It's a common theme, almost an accepted fact, that the hardest thing is admitting you have a problem. I beg to differ. For me, the hardest thing is asking for help.

Last Friday I asked for help.

It's no secret to anyone who has known me for more than a few weeks that I've been dealing with severe health problems since 1995. Stage IV-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma, messed up lungs, peripheral neuropathy that makes it hard to walk or stand, and of course the stroke that left me unable to function for more than a few hours at a time.

But through all of this, I soldiered on. Literally, I credit my time in the Army for my will to survive. After all, I could be in the ICU, tubes jammed into every orifice that can take one, and still think that I'm good, because Drill Sergeant Colom wasn't there yelling at me. I really hated that little fucker.

Yes, my sense of humor has helped.

But as I was saying, every time I got knocked down I pulled myself off the mat and went back to work. Even to the point of causing myself more injury, because I saw my intrinsic value as a person as being tied up in what I did for a living. I've always been a blue-collar guy. I was happiest when I was working jobs where I could say at the end of the day "I accomplished something." Getting people to and from airports, hauling PODS containers, and best of all, tackling the longest, hardest route at Lord&Sons and rocking it every single day.

It couldn't last. There was just too much damage from cancer and chemotherapy. My body was like a car that had been in a serious accident, repairs had been made but it will never work right again. So I lost my job at SuperShuttle to my health, lost Lord&Sons to blood clots in my lungs, and lost my last job, as a dispatcher, to the stroke.

That was almost four years ago. Four years of not having that essential part of the American identity. "What do you do?" is a question I can't answer. I'm not retired, saying that I'm disabled invites questions I don't like answering or scornful looks, and the idea of an outwardly healthy looking middle-aged man being disabled is something not a lot of people can accept.

The worst part is most days I feel fine. To quote the next President of the United States, Joe Walsh, "everybody's so different, I haven't changed." I really think that I could climb back into my truck and drive the Livermore Valley route, or dispatch for a limo or share ride service. But then reality crashes down. I can't work, not even as a grave shift cashier in a gas station because I burn out too quickly and can't handle stress very well anymore.

Which leaves me sitting here in my apartment. I have plenty to distract me; books, the internet, a TV with a Roku box attached (the Xbox 360 gave me a Red Ring of Doom a few weeks back, we need to find a replacement) but it can feel like a prison. I do get out for my writing group and the YMCA, but that requires me to be functional. Not a good bet on any given day.

None of this has been good for my mental state. I've found myself in a downward spiral of late. Getting angry and frustrated far too quickly at minor things. Catching myself falling into destructive patterns of thinking. Not at the self-harm level yet, but letting my inner demons take over and convince me that I am worthless, that I'll never be published, that I'm a drag on everyone around me. These feelings aren't constant, but they are there and they are becoming more frequent.

So last Friday I was speaking with my Case Nurse at Anthem Blue Cross. And I summoned the courage to ask about mental health coverage. I'm just waiting for a call from their Behavioral Health unit for a referral. I have no idea what kind of help I need, maybe I just need a person I can scream about the unfairness of life too, or maybe I need a prescription for happy pills to help me keep my head above water. Or both, or neither. I just know that I can't dump all this on Kirsten. She has her own issues to deal with and has already been a saint dealing with my decline.

I am entering unknown lands here. All I know is that I've probably needed this kind of help for years, but it took me this long to ask for it.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
True story: I first heard of Bill Kirchen, and his amazing take on Hot Rod Lincoln while I was still driving for PODS. I had been sent to drop a container in the Santa Cruz Mountains during a raging rainstorm. It would have been a hard drop on a sunny day, and I was doing it in running water up to my ankles.

Driving home, with my shoes on the floor of the passenger side of the cab, and my socks on the dash near the vents, driving my big truck on Highway 9 in a deluge, I was listening to KPIG, and they played this. I was hooked. We've seen him a couple of times, and every time he plays Hot Rod Lincoln it's different.


gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
It's not often that I wake up and remember what it is I've been dreaming, but today was an exception. I frankly had a bad night's sleep, caused mainly by some stomach upset and my legs being their usual awful selves. So I was a bit surprised when I woke up around 0645 with a vivid image of a dream still with me.

Having lost too many good ideas to procrastination, I got dressed and headed out to my computer. I was under a bit of a deadline, as I had an appointment for my regular blood work and after that my writing group, so I had to be out the door by 0830 at the absolute latest.

Even though I'm not at all a fast or accurate typist, and my spelling leaves much to be desired, I was able to flesh out the image in my head into a short, but serviceable, story. Printed it out for the writing group (I did have another piece, a long, pretty much complete story that we didn't get to this week. I'll be reading that one next Monday) and stuffed it in the portfolio and out the door.

My good seemed to be holding. I was the only car in the McDonald's drive-thru, there was an adorable baby at the lab, and everyone loved what I had written. Then I found I had locked my keys in the truck and things went a bit downhill. But I hope you enjoy this thing that has sprung from my head.

The Modern Cassandra

Working in San Francisco has many benefits, one of those being exposure to all sorts of lunatics. At least that's what I thought as I emerged from the depths of the Montgomery Street BART station on that June morning.

He was standing on a wooden crate, with a beatific smile and shiny eyes framed by what we used to call "Jesusbro-fro" back in college. What caught me eye was the silver jacket he was wearing, it looked like the cheesy space jacket we all wanted as kids. Seeing the growing crowd emerging from the station, he began to speak.

"Friends, please hear me out. I know I sound crazy, but I have just returned from . . . the future! And I leave for there tomorrow. Hard to believe, I know, but please hear me out, for I must warn you of something terrible. But first, here's Dave with sports." He subtly shifted his manner and spoke with the rhythm of a long-time broadcaster. For a lunatic, this guy was good.

"Thank you, Dave. Tonight, the Warriors will beat the Cavaliers 108-92, taking the NBA Finals in five games." That got a small cheer from to commuters passing by. "In July, the Giants will go on a record-smashing winning streak, take the NL West and sweep the Yankees to win the World Series. Finally, The 49ers will have a chance to make the playoffs as the Wild Card, but fall just short, finishing the season 9-7. Sadly, that's all the sports news left. Now that I've established my bonafides . . ."

At that point, I had gotten my coffee and muffin from the street cart and was hurrying up the street to my office. So I missed the rest of his rant. Once settled in at my desk, I took a moment to write the guy's predictions down.

That night, the Warriors beat the Cavs 108-92.

Then the Giants won 26 straight games in July. By the time the World Series rolled around, I wasn't even watching the games, I was too busy trying to find the man who had made the predictions. A friend got me access to surveillance camera footage of the plaza at Montgomery Street. There he was, ranting away. He spoke for about ten minutes after I left the scene, looked around, and dejectedly went down the stairs into the Muni/BART station. Those cameras showed him entering a station restroom and never leaving.

By the time the 49ers faltered during a late drive in Week 17 and finished the season 9-7, I was a wreck. The words "all the sports news left" haunted me. I even hired lip readers to try to figure out what he was saying and spent thousands on ads trying to contact anyone who might have heard more of his message.

In legend, Cassandra was cursed to know the future and have no one believe her. This man's curse was to know the future and have no one listen.

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gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
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