gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
It has been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I mostly agree with that, it's another variant of "know yourself" and other such truisms making it clear that you need to be in touch with yourself before you can make it anywhere.

I would like to point out that I did pretty well as a blissfully ignorant soldier and truck driver, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make here. For the last few weeks, starting literally the day after we returned from Burning Man, I have been having my brain stretched by my neuropsychologist.

These evaluations and tests run the board from the kind of surveys that ask you about your feelings to tests of my ability to retain information to my critical thinking abilities and perception. The results, just from where I'm sitting, have been interesting.

Also exhausting. I leave these sessions feeling wrung out. Some of these tests are extremely hard, forcing me to really push my brain to manage them. Thinking can be hard work, especially when you are forcing yourself into areas that don't work so well due to some traumatic incident. Like a stroke.

So what have I learned just from my observations? My ability to retain and recall information is crap. I forget things really fast or lose them entirely in moments. This is even more pronounced when it comes to numbers. I simply cannot hold numbers in my head. This helps me understand why I am so bad with handling money these days. I can't keep the idea that we only have X to spend when I'm looking at an item that costs Y. Trying to keep those two figures is too much for me, so all I see is Y, and forget that X even exists.

This is why I ask Kirsten for permission to spend any money that isn't cash-in-hand. Even a five-dollar download for Civilization VI has to be cleared through her. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since I think it's good to have one person being the final word on a family's finances, but it can be annoying. I'm a 52-year-old guy who needs permission to buy a book. But we deal with it.

While my ability to retrieve information is shot, I am much more likely to recall information if I'm prompted. We've done several exercises where there were lists of words in pairs. Trying to just remember the words was almost impossible. But when prompted with the first word, I was usually able to give the correct response. Same goes for the long lists of single words. Trying to remember them was a wash, but when asked for them by a category, like "vehicles" or "furniture", I was suddenly able to remember far more of the words than when just asked for the list.

I've also done many tests designed to examine my reasoning. Mostly puzzles and following directions. I'm happy to say those features seem to be working well. But again, when numbers come in I start to flounder. I suspect that my life-long troubles with math have only been made worse by the stroke. Thank Halford for calculators.

Where does this leave me? I'm not sure. I'm waiting for Dr. Dahl to score my last few assessments to see if we need to do a few more to nail down my exact diagnosis or if we are ready to move ahead with a treatment plan for my depression and hair-trigger emotional swings. I'm good with either path. To me, the important thing is moving forward.

But oddly, the most telling thing about my psyche that I've learned about in these past weeks didn't come in a nice office, but at Burning Man. I've volunteered with the Porta Potty Project a few times. It's a team that does education about how to keep the 1,400 blue rooms on the Playa in good shape, goes around to make sure that each john has toilet paper, and locks off the ones that have been vandalized or, um, desecrated beyond usability. This year, I learned that we might become an official part of the team that runs Black Rock City, and I might be able to drive my truck as an official vehicle to do the necessary work at the banks that lie in the deep Playa.

The way the concept of being able to drive in an official capacity again hit me is hard to describe. I spent nearly twenty years in the transportation industry, most of that as a truck driver. Even if it is just driving a couple of guys and boxes of toilet paper around, it will mean being a driver again. It will mean being part of a team. It will mean I have that part of me back if only for one week a year.

Here's hoping it happens.
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: (Burning_Man)
So, how was your summer? Mine was great right up until last Monday. And by “great” I mean I had unnecessary surgery, never really went anywhere, and mostly hid in my apartment. But there was one shining beacon on the horizon: Burning Man! Yes, ten days of glorious art and weirdness and. . . and. . . waiting in line for five hours to get in followed by daily dust storms with 45mph winds.

But even at that, I was at the Burn! Me and 70,000 other weirdos soaking up the goodness and fun. I was kissed by not one but two hot European young ladies (one from Rome, the other London), took part in restocking some of the 1,500 porta-potties in a howling dust storm, and despite an apocalyptic storm on Burn Night the Man Burn was a thing of beauty.

Yes, everything was fine until Monday, when we started tearing down our camp. This is where my troubles began. First of all, we brought far too much water. The suggested 1.5 gallons per person per day is aimed at the younger, more active set. As dancing ‘til dawn to crappy electronic dance music wasn’t on our agenda, we ended up with a lot of water. We gave away two 7-gallon containers - filled - to a campmate who just wanted the extra weight to balance his trailer for the trip home. The other two, which we like better ergonomically, were just loaded onto the truck full. That left our 5-gallon water cooler. It was about a quarter full, and kind of gritty (that dust gets everywhere!). So, being the helpful guy I am, I picked it up to carry it out to our greywater evaporator.

And promptly tripped on my hydration backpack. We had been discussing replacing the camelbacks with insulated bottles earlier, and I think the packs heard us. I go flying, and immediately lose proprioception in my right leg. I was a bit stressed. Left foot comes down fine, I drive my right foot into the densely-packed Playa. Hard.

Funny thing about peripheral neuropathy: when it comes to my legs, everything hurts. All the time. So I just shrugged it off and limped over to where Kirsten was sitting. We peeled my boot off to inspect the damage. No discoloration, no swelling. No way I’m getting my boot back on, so we switch to the shoes I’m supposed to wear in Reno. Hurts like a bitch, but with some help from campmates, we get out of Black Rock City and head for Reno!

Which is where I realize things are getting worse. Wednesday, Kirsten had an appointment for a facial, and then we were off to the local ER! I take her to the best places on vacation. After a set of X-rays, the doctor comes in and says “You really did a number on your foot.” Folks, I didn’t break a bone. I didn’t break two bones. No, friends and neighbors, I broke my 2, 3, & 4 metatarsals! Big time! Which is why I have this giant horking splint and a new silly way of getting around. 50 years old and this is the first time I’ve ever broken a bone.

But when I related this story to people, they seemed kind of let down. “Doug,” they said in one collective voice, “that’s so mundane. We expect more from you.”

Right. Buckle your seatbelts and read the back of your ticket.

Twas the night of the Man Burn, and all were drawn as close as we were allowed around the iconic figure of Man, brightly lit in red neon. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a monster dust storm blew up! The wrath of the Playa was upon us! That’s when I saw her: a little blind Girl Scout carrying a backpack of what I assumed were adulterated cookies, being led astray by her guide dog, who apparently broke the first rule of Burning Man: ask what’s in the food. Disregarding the storm, I lept from the truck, racing across the perimeter as gale force winds battered me.

Blinded by dust, I pressed on! But then, disaster! The static electricity from the storm ignited the fireworks on the Man, and the whole thing burst into flames! Now I wasn’t just fighting the wind and scourge of the dust, but fire tornadoes were now whipping across the desert floor. Clothing burned from (most of) my body, I swept the little girl (who turned out to be just 18, lucky me!) and her stoner dog up into my arms to race back to the now-cheering crowd. . .

That’s when the Paiute attacked. Upset about burners using Pyramid Lake without the proper permits, the entire reservation came at us on SUVs and ATVs and other Three Letter Acronyms. Having only Adventure Cane and an encyclopedic knowledge of Errol Flynn movies to guide me, I fought off the taco-selling tribe while forcing my way to the safety of the L3K line!

Where I tripped over some moron’s abandoned bike and broke my foot.

The End.
Brought to you by Vicodin and my clumsiness.

My video of Burn Night:
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
Almost all our Burning Man gear is storied in the warehouse at Kirsten's office. Today, we went over to sort it out and build an actual packing list.

This comes from being a solider and a truck driver. I want to know what is in what box, and know what we need to get before we leave. The plan is to have the Playa-only stuff on a pallet and wrapped in industrial plastic wrap. This will increase security if we decide to spend a night in Reno on the way up, and help secure the load. The stuff we'll need access to on the way or immediately on site (the tent box, the 7-day Igloo cooler, and our water and gasoline containers) will be easier to access.

We have four 3.6 cubic foot boxes that are now labeled "Bedroom", "Kitchen", "Consumables", and "Miscellaneous". We'll be taking a roll of pallet wrap with us, so when we pack for home we can put everything in the correct box, put it back on the pallet, and wrap it for home.

Organization is fun.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
Black Rock Playa
(ttto: "New York Minute" by the Eagles)

Since this was a really quick job, I left a lot of lines intact.

Billy got up
Headed out the door
Went out to the Playa
Was never seen no more
They found his clothing
Scattered outside the Empire Store
And he won't be down at the office in the morning

He had a home
The love of a girl
But men get lost sometimes
As the city unfurls
One day he crossed that line
And he was too much in this world
But I guess it doesn't matter anymore

On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa
Things can get pretty strange
On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa

Lying here in the darkness
I hear the noise camps' beat
Somebody dancing at a rave
Somebody's brittle and weak
You find a camp that partially sane
You better hold it close all week
The wolf is always at the door

On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa
Things can get pretty strange
On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa

And in this time
When darkness falls to fires
And people come home
To this place they love
You better take a fool's advice
And take care of your own
One day they're here
Next day they're gone

I pulled my coat over my shoulders
And took a walk through the Temple gates
Strangers milling around me
The glowing city in the distance waits
A funeral program pinned to a tower
A desperate note from the heart,
"I'm here all alone, please come back"

What the head makes cloudy
The heart makes very clear
Those days were so much brighter
In the time when we were there
I know that someday next year
We'll make these dark clouds disappear
Until that day, I have to believe
I believe, I believe...

On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa
Things can get pretty strange
On the Black Rock Playa
Everything can change
On the Black Rock Playa

On the Black Rock Playa...
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
Conversation at Offhand Manor last night while watching old Law&Order episodes:

Me: "OK, step one, win the lottery."

Kiri: "And then?"

Me: "We build a big teddy bear on the Playa, and inside there are hammocks with bears in them so people can climb in and have a cuddle."

Kiri: "That's awesome!"

Me: "Then we set it on fire."

Kiri: "At the end of the week, right?"

Me: ". . . I suppose that would work as well."
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Glare of Sarcasm)
When I was about 6 years old, my family went on a Mexican cruise on the old S.S. Spirit of London. Being unbearably cute, I owned that ship. Being heavily into my Cowboy phase (which was immediately after my Joe Namath phase), I would slide up to any of the bars on the ship and in my best (adorable little) drawl order "7-Up. And put it in a dirty glass."

It seems I'm back to that order now.

A few weeks ago we went to the birthday celebration for my sister's girls. I fully expected to come home with something, and wasn't surprised. I've had a a bad immune system for twenty years. But things kept getting worse. I couldn't eat. I felt like there was an obstruction in my gut. Ensign Wheatbiscuit* was having the time of his life with the waste disposal controls. I couldn't sleep. Finally, Last Tuesday, [personal profile] kshandra and I drove to see my doctor. I asked for a hospital admission. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I loath hospitals. So you know how bad off I was.

In the ER they set me up for labs and gave me morphine. I actually slept for the first time in days. The decision was that I needed to by admitted for no other reason than my Potassium was dangerously low. This has happened before, and can easily kill you.

I won't bore you with hospital stories. It sucked, and Kiri came close to strapping me to the bed at one point when I hadn't had anything by mouth for close to 48 hours. But we did get a diagnosis:

Acute Alcoholic Pancreatitis

I'm not an alcoholic; Hell I've got an open bottle of Jack Daniels that I haven't touched in years. I just like beer and wine, and have been drinking fairly consistently since I got to my first duty station in the Army. For the record, that was January, 1985. I stopped getting shitfaced after I woke up with a tattoo. But years and years of a few beers a day, wine with dinner... they've added up.

So, as of last week, I'm on the wagon. I've been doing some reading and even one can of beer can now leave me in agony. Not worth it. I'm not happy that this wasn't my choice, but I'll deal.

There was one funny thing. I still had about 8 beers in the fridge. I heard one of our twenty-something neighbors leaving and popped out. The conversation went like this:

"Hey, you guys drink Budweiser?"

"Well, man.. we don't really.."

"Stop. Let me put it this way. I just got out of the hospital and can never drink alcohol again. I've got close to ten ice-cold Buds. I can either give them to you, or pour them down the sink. Now, do you guys drink Budweiser?"

"Oh, sure.. love it!"

Sometimes you have to frame the question correctly.

But where from here? We've informed our camp at Burning Man that I will not be partaking, and that if anyone slips up and offers me a beer not to feel bad about it. Thanksgiving will be alcohol free, as will all other such events. We're working on a lower-fat diet for me, and one that focus more on snaking when needed, as I'm still not really good with full meals. Lots of poultry and ground lamb, lots of soups, and even less beef than I eat now. Sadly, I've never cared for seafood.

Overall, I'm good. This is a big adjustment, I mean I've had a beer can in my hand for a long time, but I'll make it.

But I swear, if there's an after life I expect to be greeted with an ice-cold pint of pale lager and a double pepperoni, sausage and garlic pizza. With Parmesan Twists, slightly underdone.

* For the uninitiated, I've described my body and its troubles by describing myself as this vast steampunk device, complete with brass and teak control room and a very, very British crew. Ensign Wheatbiscuit has been running amok for years, obsessed with the Solid Waste Controls, but causing trouble wherever he goes. I found it a kinder way to explain my latest illness with going into too much actual detail.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)

[Very loosely adapted from "(I've Got A) Golden Ticket"]

I never thought that I would be,
Looking forward to misery,
Dust and sun and gale-force winds,
But lots and lots of beer!

'Cause I got my fucking ticket!
I got my pass to Burning Man.

Over the hills and far away,
I could die there in many ways.
But I'll party, sing and shout,
And drink up all that beer!

'Cause I got my fucking ticket!
I'm on my way to Burning Man.

Rolling past the Will-Call line,
Fuck your Burn, 'cause I got mine.
Pitch the tent and set up camp,
But first, let's drink some beer!

'Cause I got my fucking ticket!
I got my pass to Burning Man.
I got my fucking ticket,
And life is grand!

gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
And it's still Saturday! )

After the show, we traveled to Oakland where a friend of Kiri's had offered us a place to sleep for the night, so we wouldn't have to drive all the way home and have her have to come back to SF the next day. This nice lady had very friendly dogs. I was pleased.

Welcome to the ORG. Be one with the ORG )

So far, a great weekend, and now I'm resting.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)

We've started getting ready for Burning Man​. All our gear is stored at EarthBaby, so today we filled Ranger Darby with the stuff we've accumulated and headed over to sort and repack.

We've picked a few things, like new sleeping bags, a camp kitchen and stove, and two really strong large storage boxes. (Thank you REI and Costco.) This allowed us to repack things and more importantly, edit as we went. Somethings were obvious candidates for being removed from the packing list: The old sleeping bags, the old suitcases, unused mess kits that we've replaced with Bento boxes.

We found that we could fit all the bedding stuff into one of the new storage boxes. The other boxes is filled with Miscellaneous Fun! Also, the Coleman stove and some camp food. Which are also fun. When you add Tapatío in large quantities.

I wanted to get this out of the way early so we could inventory and be ready for what we need to do next. Mission accomplished. Now resting because we're going to see the San Jose Giants later this evening.

By the way, Burning Man sucks, don't go.

The Man burns in 91 days.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Me - Drama)
Yeah, I've fallen off doing my daily goals posts. Promise to get back on that horse.

But it has been an interesting weekend. Yesterday I attended my first softball game of the year, watching the younger of the Smash Sisters play for the Firebombs. Thank Willie Mays, the team colors are orange and black. This is the under-8 division, so the rules are a bit wonky. Games are 4 innings. Teams are limited to 3 runs an inning except for the 4th. Four balls to a batter doesn't mean a walk, but rather the batter's coach comes into pitch. Honestly, a lot of these girls just wait for the coach to come in. But it's a lot of fun, and Regan had quite a game! She pitched the 1st inning and got 3 strikeouts while allowing one run. All of the hits came on coach pitches. At the plate, she was 2 for 2 with a run and an RBI. Which she insists means Really Big Ice Cream. Who am I to argue? She would have had two runs, but for the three-run rule. Fireballs won 9-2. They were the home team, meaning they scored the maximum runs in each inning.

Go Firebombs!

Today, Kiri and I had some errands to run. An order for a propane lantern had arrived at REI (and we got out of there without buying anything else); we picked up some storage things at Bed, Bath, and Beyond as spring cleaning will happen here at Offhand Manor; and got Kiri a new cot and a distribution post for the propane stuff we're bring to Burning Man at Stevens Creek Surplus. Alas, I had picked up a bug, probably at the ball game, and was feeling quite miserable. Immodium tends to give me terrible stomach aches, and this was a monster. Feeling better now. Will try to eat in a bit.

Now I need to write. Class tomorrow.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Penguin - Carpe)
Among the things we wanted to get now that I've decided to return to Burning Man was our own camp stove and some better camp kitchen. Checking online, we found a great one on closeout, and bought it, electing to pick it up at one of the local stores.

Along with a side trip to get Darby washed and picking up some stuff from [personal profile] kshandra's office, the trip should have been easy. It's Saturday! what could go wrong?

Dear Ghods.

From her office, Kiri's plan was to take 87 to 280 to Lawrence Expressway. But traffic was horrid! Each exit was backed up onto the freeway. We elected to skip Lawrence (a crappy interchange at the best of times) and go on to Wolfe Road... which was still jammed! We eventual worked out way clear and made it down to REI, but seriously, what the actual fuck? KCBS told us there had been an accident, but it was long cleared.

REI is my favorite toy store. We mostly planned and compared, but picked up a carabiner cup for me, a thing of lip balm with a carabiner lid for Kiri, and a small radio with weather alert channels (also on clearance.) We also looked at camp stoves, making a tentative choice; played with toys (some of the visibility stuff is going with me next year); and examined the camp food selection. This requires some explanation. Kirsten gets a commissary pass, as she work long hours for the DMV. In years past, this hasn't been a problem. But with me going, we need to feed the penguin.

We had a lot of success with vacuum sealing things like spaghetti and taco meat. But I like my breakfasts. Luckily, Mountain House makes several very yummy breakfast options. So picking up several of those over the next few months is a good idea.

We also looked at cot pads. Being able to use my sleeping bag a a blanket would really help with the random muscle twitches my peripheral neuropathy gives me. Finally, I was getting done (as a side note, if you ever see me at an event looking lost and saying "Okay" over and over... make me sit down and get me something to drink. That is the warning sign that I am shutting down hard.) so we picked up our camp kitchen...

... remember the camp kitchen? We were there to pick up the camp kitchen...

... which is light as a feather. As always, the REI staff were incredible. One more stop for weekly shopping, and we are done.

Literally,and in every sense of the word.

If anybody wants to get me an awesome WinterGift™ a good-sized REI Gift Card would work.
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
Photos are up, as are the videos we took.

More in the next few days as I process this.
gridlore: Photo: penguin chick with its wings outstretched, captioned "Yay!" (Penguin - Yay!)
We've decided to use my old iPod for our driving music to and from Burning Man. I'm putting together a couple of Genius play lists. This is based off Fire on the Mountain.

  1. The Marshall Tucker Band - Fire On The Mountain

  2. Molly Hatchet - Flirtin' With Disaster

  3. The Allman Brothers Band - Statesboro Blues (Live)

  4. Lynyrd Skynyrd - The Ballad of Curtis Loew

  5. The Outlaws - (Ghost) Riders In The Sky

  6. Grand Funk Railroad - We're An American Band

  7. The Band - Up On Cripple Creek (Live)

  8. Traffic - Dear Mr. Fantasy 

  9. Bad Company - Shooting Star (Live) 

  10. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Gimme Back My Bullets 

  11. The Allman Brothers Band - Whipping Post

  12. The Outlaws - Green Grass And High Tides

  13. Nazareth - Hair Of The Dog

  14. Sammy Hagar - I Can't Drive 55

  15. Rick Derringer - Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo (Live)

  16. The Band - It Makes No Difference (Live)

  17. George Thorogood & The Destroyers - Move It On Over 

  18. Eric Clapton - Let It Rain

  19. Peter Frampton  - Do You Feel Like We Do (Remixed Version) (Live)

  20. Uriah Heep - Easy Livin' 

  21. John Mellencamp - Rain On the Scarecrow

  22. The Band - Shape I'm In (Live)

  23. Jethro Tull - Locomotive Breath 

  24. Grateful Dead - Casey Jones (Live)

  25.  Lynyrd Skynyrd - Call Me The Breeze


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

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