The Difference an Imaginary Line Can Make

When viewed from space our planet has no actual boundary lines. It’s all greens and blues with swirly clouds here and there. It’s a beautiful sphere of peace and harmony. Yet, when viewed from the surface, there are imaginary lines all over the place. Lines that tell us we’re in a certain country, and if we’re born there what nationality we must claim. Lines that break down each country into segments such as states, provinces, counties, and municipalities. It’s not enough that we’re already divided into physical continents by the oceans, with the exception of Europe and Asia. No, we had to go and mark out territories, and spend a lot of time fighting over what amounts to nothing more than imaginary lines.

I’d really like to know why it is we feel it’s necessary to do this. I know there’s greed involved, because the resources of the planet are valuable, and so we try to claim as many of those resources as we can. However, I was born into a set of rules I took no part in making. I didn’t decide where I wanted to be born, and neither did anyone else. The moment we emerge from the womb we are bound by laws and customs, and told we’re some sort of nationality. I was born in Canada, and so I’m Canadian, but as much as I love my country it was never a choice that I made. Either fate or mere happenstance determined that I took my first breath of air in this country. By doing so I was issued an identity packet. A birth certificate and social insurance number to be precise. Then because I was born in Ontario I was issued health insurance based on that.

So when did I choose any of this? Well, I didn’t. My only choice thus far has been to remain where I am, rather than relocate to some place of my choosing. What bothers me, however, are the rules that were slapped on me at the moment of my birth. Who decided that a red traffic light would mean you had to come to a full and complete stop? Who is it that determined a dandelion is a weed, when I grew up eating dandelion leaf salad, and others made dandelion wine – and that determination meant that your neighbours could complain if you had too many on your lawn? Some of the rules are so arbitrary that you can’t keep from shaking your head at them.

The imaginary lines have such a powerful effect on people that even those that speak the same language will become confused by the word usage of people from a different country. A good example of this has to do with the political system. In the United States, the word ‘liberal’ is interpreted as a political affiliation rather than the way in which the word is defined in the dictionary. Being Canadian means something completely different from being an American. A liberal, even in the political realm, does not mean the same thing. I once said someone was pretty liberal, and the person I said it to was insulted, when in that context all I meant was that they weren’t bigoted. I thought it was a compliment, but it certainly wasn’t taken that way.

It’s actually kind of amazing all the little differences an imaginary line can make. Sure, at their core most people are basically the same, but the way they process language and react in everyday situations can be the polar opposite of someone from a different country. There can be a lot of confusion and miscommunications. When I worked for a multi-national corporation years ago, I had to deal with these differences on a daily basis. My job involved financial, payroll and human resources tasks, and with everything I did I was constantly dealing with people in different places. What made it so bizarre was that everyone assumed things were done exactly the same everywhere else, and mostly because they simply couldn’t imagine things being done a different way.

When I talk to my American friends about political or social issues, I’m fascinated by the way people view themselves, their country, and countries outside their own. It’s like no other country exists outside of the US. If things are done a certain way there, they either assume it’s done the same elsewhere, or if they know it’s not they don’t understand why anyone would do things differently. I’m sure the reverse is true to some extent. Every country has its own way of dealing with the citizens it governs, and even when things aren’t perfectly smooth we think our way is the best possible way. By having friends in countries all over the world, however, I’ve learned about some of the options out there. I’ve learned to be grateful I was shoved into the world exactly where I am, because I know it could be a whole lot worse, but then I also know it could be a whole lot better.

I was drawn to watching Star Trek shows and movies long ago, and there was a message within the franchise that was embodied in pretty much every episode every made. It was the ideal society, where people that were not only different races and religions, but also different species, were basically considered the same. Sure the Federation, the Romulans and the Klingons were enemies, and those clashes were a good metaphor for racism and bigotry, but as the franchise played out from one series to the next, those clashes softened and soon there were real attempts to bring everyone together.

Throughout the years, my best hope for humanity was always along similar lines to Star Trek. I truly want everyone to have a place at the bargaining table, no matter what our differences might be. A world without persecution is something I’d like to see in my lifetime. I don’t think it will happen without some major precipitating event or catastrophe, and maybe it’s not meant to be, but it’s my hope for the world anyway. The creation of the International Space Station really boosted those hopes. The very idea that we would share space like that seemed to me a step in the right direction. Things might be a mess on the surface of our planet, but up there they have a pretty great perspective on things. Now we can only hope that everyone will start to see things with those eyes, where the imaginary lines are no longer relevant.

Terror, Stress and Mayhem…and a Few Changes, Too

Okay, I’ve been shamefully remiss. I get that. It’s very bad blog practice to leave your readers hanging for long stretches, as they tend to move on to more productive bloggers. For those who have remained to see what I have to say for myself, there is a great deal to cover.

Where I left off…well, I went back to school in an esoteric, online sort of way. I’m still taking my online classes through MIT, which would be plenty to stress me out I suppose. I’m taking two classes in computer science, rather than the four classes a full-time student would be taking. Technically I’ve already passed the one course, though I’m not yet finished with it. I still have two more lecture groups to go through, homework assignments from the previous two, and one final problem set. Plus I have my final exam which is probably worth a quarter of my final mark. However, with everything I’ve done so far, my grade is at 66% I think. If I stopped completely I believe I would still pass. That’s a bit of a relief in one sense, but I’m pretty hard on myself and intend to finish it out as best I can.

The real issue has been the fact that I’ve had a very sick ferret for a few weeks. He stopped eating and drinking, and had very bad diarrhea. They already poop about 6 to 8 times a day, so when they have the runs you can imagine how much poop that might be for clean-up detail. I couldn’t care less about that, though. I was too busy syringe-feeding Pepper every two hours. I have this stuff the vet gave me, called Carnivore Care (ferrets are obligate carnivores, and can only eat meat – cats are, too, but most people don’t know that). It’s a very expensive powder that gets mixed with water to varying consistencies, depending on feeding method. Well, it was expensive for the 70-gram pouch anyway. That was almost $40. I found out they had bigger packages, which were 340 grams (almost five times the amount), and they’re only $55. I was shocked at the price difference, as was my vet. So the last time I was in there, which was on Friday, I got the bigger bag. The bigger one should last me about a month. The small one lasted a week, so we’re talking $140 a month to keep him on this stuff if I hadn’t done a bit of research.

Pepper was exhibiting a lot of the same symptoms as my ferret that died a year and a half ago, so I was quite literally terrified. I thought I was going to lose him. However, I checked him for masses, and then my vet did, too, but he doesn’t appear to have any. We both think it’s an intestinal infection. He was put on one type of antibiotic right when he was starting to show interest in his kibble again, and it made him really sick within a couple of days so I was back to square one with him refusing to eat and being skin and bones again. I had to take him off that, but I did check with the emergency clinic first (it was a holiday weekend here in Canada – our Thanksgiving).

When I brought Pepper back in for a blood test, he was getting healthier again already, and now he’s on a different antibiotic. This one doesn’t seem to be making him sick, though I have to force him to take it. He completely hates it. If you’ve never had to scruff an animal that’s wriggly like a ferret, in order to force-feed them by syringe when it’s something they either despise or it makes them nauseous with the smell, it’s hard for me to describe how difficult it can be. You have to be heartless about it, and the only way to do that when you feel empathy toward animals is by loving them so much you refuse to let them die.

Without intervention Pepper would have died, there’s no question. It happens extremely fast with ferrets, too. Within a couple of days they can be nothing but skin and bones. Their high metabolic rate means they constantly have to be ingesting calories. They eat about six times a day. Once they stop, what little body fat they have just disappears. Pepper had become a skeleton with a very thin fur coat. That’s another thing that changes with the health of a ferret. You can see it in their fur. It got to the point where Pepper looked nothing like himself. His face completely changed. My vet used the word ‘gaunt’ which is probably the most appropriate description.

My vet couldn’t draw any blood from him, sadly. She said it was only the second time in 27 years that she’d failed to get a blood sample from a ferret, and it’s not as though he was completely dehydrated at that point, either. I’d been syringe-feeding him for a couple of weeks by then. She said she’s had ferrets that weren’t even moving they were so dehydrated, so he must have really tiny veins. She’d like to try again, just for us to be sure this isn’t something that going to be a chronic issue that needs treatment beyond antibiotics. I think I’m going to wait a few weeks, though, now that Pepper is starting to plump up again, and he’s certainly getting his appetite back whenever there’s chicken involved.

I’m still syringe-feeding him the Carnivore Care. I’ve got a good supply of it, and he badly needs to gain weight. Our other ferret, Scooter, loves the stuff. When I have a syringe that’s only been partially finished by Pepper, I give the rest to Scooter. He’s packing on quite a bit of weight, and his coat is gorgeous now. No, he’s not actually getting fat, though I do call him my fat-boy. It’s almost unheard of for a ferret to become overweight. They burn calories too quickly.

The end result of it all is that Pepper is slowly putting some weight back on, which means he’s getting better, and the diarrhea seems to have gone away. He’s been on the new antibiotics for about four days now, with six days to go. I’ll be glad when that’s over with, because I hate forcing him. It’s a liquid, and I have to squirt it toward the back of his throat in order to be sure he swallows it rather than drools it back out. The danger is that animals can aspirate liquids when they’re being syringe-fed – especially when they’re struggling not to swallow it. It’s quite possible to drown them without intending to, so it has to be done at an angle. Same with the food, even when they really like it and they’re cooperating.

In the meantime, everyday life will intrude even under the most dire circumstances. I’ve got websites to maintain and change, I’ve got show stuff to work on to try to keep us on the air (our station is not broadcasting at this time, and there’s no guarantee they will in the future, so we’re making some changes to do it on our own for now), and I’ve got my schoolwork. This is why there haven’t been any new articles or blog posts from me for weeks now. Thankfully the people in my life that I have to answer to – to some extent anyway – completely understand my commitment to my pets. I would still do whatever I had to do, with or without their understanding, but it eases the stress to know they’re behind me when I make those choices.

I actually blew one of my assignments for my MIT course, because I couldn’t concentrate (feedings every 2 hours means almost no sleep, just like having a newborn). I was at the point where it just didn’t matter a damn to me. Thankfully they wipe out your lowest assignment score, because all my other assignments had 100%, and my mid-term was 87%, and this one I failed with 41%. That tells you where my priorities are anyway. It didn’t help that it was multiple choice, rather than coding. That’s where I fell down on my mid-term, too. I hate multiple choice. They’re wishy-washy, when they use terms that haven’t been covered in the course, and you only get one shot at answering them. I can test my code on my computer before submitting it, and correct any mistakes, so I get those ones right.

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with my life right now, including my writing. I’ve got studying to do, because I’m behind on the lectures and homework. The assignments have due dates, so I’ve done those, but I haven’t bothered doing the day-to-day stuff that doesn’t have a deadline. I let everything go that I could, in order to get as much downtime as possible.

There are going to be small changes to The Kovacs Perspective, by the way, but I’ll fill everyone in on that as soon as we’ve worked out the details. I have to make some changes to the website to accommodate what we’re having to do, and I’m just now getting the time to work on it. We were hoping we wouldn’t have any downtime at all, but when Pepper got sick he became my priority.

For those of you who have stuck around to continue reading, thank you for your support and understanding. For those that didn’t, though they won’t read this, I do understand why they’re not still here. It’s the nature of the beast when it comes to blogging. I went from posting every single day, to posting maybe once a month. Hopefully that will change in the near future. I’ve still got the second programming course coming up, but I’m kind of in a rhythm there now and getting used to the one day a week where my head goes nuts. Oh, wait, I forgot…that happens every day in my head.

Bisecting Algorithms, Calculus, and Monty Python

I feel bad for leaving people hanging, but if you follow me on Facebook you already know why. At least this time it’s been for a far better reason than pain. You see, I finally bit the bullet and ‘went back to school’ if you can call it that. I found out a year ago about something called MOOCs. It stands for Massive Open Online Courses. MOOCs are usually free, and they’re provided by some of the most prestigious universities and colleges in the world.

I was reading about something to do with Bill Gates, I believe, when they mentioned this initiative he’d been a big part of. The idea was to provide real educational instruction to anyone in the world so long as they had access to a computer and internet services.At first I didn’t think it would apply to me, since I don’t exactly live in a underdeveloped country – it’s a little to over-developed if you ask me. Turns out the courses are available to anyone in the world.

It took me a while to get up the energy, and I really had no idea what I wanted to get into, so there I was a year later and still not taking advantage of this amazing resource. The more I started building websites, though, the more I started to see that my knowledge belonged in the realm of antiquity, collecting dust while the young ‘uns zoomed past me. Some of my knowledge is still relevant, and having it was a good base for me because I could usually figure things out quite nicely, but with every website I created I was left frustrated and wanting to do more, without the ability to do so.

Most of the answer I was looking for were readily available online, so whenever I wanted to try something knew I could always figure out how to do it, but it felt a bit like cheating. I really wanted to know what to do and how to do it without looking it up all the time. So, I kept going back to a site with free course listings. It’s www.mooc-list.com in case you’re in the market for a really good, free education. I finally decided I would concentrate on programming more than web design, because I was starting to get a decent handle on that from hands-on experience. They had courses on there through everyone from Harvard to Yale, and from MIT to Oxford. You could say I was a little surprised. Some of those schools are damn near impossible to get into, and they cost a fortune.

mooc-list.com led me to edX. Originally I followed a Harvard course link, but within minutes I was looking at Intro to Computer Science and Programming from MIT. Harvard is great if you want to be a lawyer, but I don’t think anything beats an education in tech from MIT. I screwed up my courage and determination, and forged ahead with registering. It was totally painless. I could have taken the course completely free, but I decided to go the route of being a verified student for $50. The fee is just for administration costs for looking at your ID and comparing it to you webcam shot, so they know it’s really you taking the course. Then when they hand out the certificate at the end, your name is actually on it, rather than just getting a generic one that could belong to anyone.

For the time being I’m learning Python, a programming language that was actually named after that well-known comedy troupe, Monty Python. Apparently it’s supposed to be hilarious because of references within the language. I haven’t dissolved into gales of laughter just yet, but I’m only about a quarter of the way through the first part of the course. The second part is Computational Thinking and Data something-or-other. That starts at the end of October, a week before my first course is finished. Right when I’m dealing with my final exam, I’ll be delving into fresh territory. Of course, I’m doing that already because I’m also taking a course on solar energy from Delft University of Technology. By the time we’re done we’re supposed to be able to design our own PV (photovoltaic) system, and since I plan to run my home off solar I’d like to know what I’m doing (and whether or not my contractor is installing the right panels in the right configuration).

So far I’ve got 100% on everything for the programming course at a quarter through the lectures. I haven’t done much in the solar course, but my first assignment for that isn’t due until September 22nd. With the programming stuff I had two assignments two days apart, so I’ve been concentrating on that.

I don’t think I’m as smart as I used to be (or thought I was), because this course is supposed to be for people with little or no programming knowledge. Algebra is required, though it’s supposed to be at a high school level. It’s been nearly 30 years since I took algebra, though. It may not have changed much, but I sure haven’t been using it in my daily life – all the teachers said we would need algebra one day, and apparently my time has come. How I’m supposed to remember math I did more than half my life ago, I couldn’t tell you, but there it is. I didn’t feel all that old until I went back to school. The program information regarding prerequisites said we wouldn’t need calculus…but they lied. I need it, and I’ve never taken it.

There you have it folks. I thought I was glued to my laptop before – this is ridiculous. So hang in there for a bit. Once my head stops spinning I’ll be a little more attentive to my writing. In the meantime, I hope everyone out there is doing well. And remember, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

I’ll Get Around to it, I Really Will

I used to worry about my procrastination tendencies a lot. Now I don’t. Why? Well, procrastinating isn’t always the bad thing people take it for. You see, most often procrastinating saves me from doing something that turns out to be completely unnecessary. This applies to many, many things, including housework. Another thing is, I’ve learned something about myself over the years – if it really needs to be done, I will get it done eventually, and it will always be in time to meet whatever deadline life has thrown my way.

One other thing procrastination is good for, is giving you time to enjoy life. Sure, I might enjoy an activity more if I didn’t have things in the back of my head that needed doing, but because I’ve learned not to worry so much about those things, they really don’t bother me that much. There’s another message that sits in the back of my mind to argue with the worrier, and that is: You might not live through tomorrow.

No, I honestly don’t believe I’m going to die, but the possibility exists. If I die, will I really regret waiting another day to clean up the apartment. Nope. Will I regret not running an errand? Not on your life. Will I regret not enjoying myself? You bet I will. Will I regret not reading that book, or not learning that one additional thing on Wikipedia? Probably.

In a way I use procrastinating to sift through my priorities. It helps me determine the things that I really need (and want) to do with my life. Yesterday I finally got around to entering a writing contest. It was something I’d been meaning to do, and finally I did it. So, it was obviously important to me. My writing is important in a lot of ways. Sometimes it’s a way to vent personally, like in this blog. Sometimes it’s simply creative expression. Sometimes it’s a way to share wisdom or express anger at something going on in the world that others may not know is happening. It’s been a part of my life since I was twelve years old, so I know it always will be, even if I put it aside for a little while.

Of course, sometimes procrastinating gives me my best ideas, too, because while I’m procrastinating and messing around with computer games or other activities I enjoy, my brain never stops working. I ponder. I brainstorm. I work through issues related to tasks I need to accomplish. If I jump right in to do something, I may do many days’ work, only to realize after that I should have waited until I’d thought it through a little more, because most often an idea pops into my head when I least expect it – and that idea is usually so simple and quick that I have to say, “D’oh!”

I always meant to go back to school and further my education. Well, I haven’t signed up for the main courses just yet, but I have signed on with a place that offers coding courses. My coding skills are twenty years out of date. I can guess what I need to do, but it takes me longer to do things because of that. Now I’m going to update my skills, because I plan to build websites as a sideline. I can make a decent living at it if I do it even part-time, so it’s worth taking some time to learn the newest languages, including mobile application development.

I look around the apartment and know I need to clean, but unless there’s a good reason to get it done right then, I put it off. You know why? Because putting it off every time means I’ll have cleaned fewer times in my lifespan – and that can only be a good thing. Cleaning is never finished. It’s never perfect. I will never be satisfied with it. So, I’ve learned to simply not care. It’s very, very low on my list of priorities.

Then there are the long-term dreams. I talk about buying land, putting up a steel building, and living off the grid, and people say, “Why haven’t you done it yet?” Well, it’s certainly not because it’s not important to me. For one thing, it requires at least some cash, since I have no intention of getting a mortgage for it. I don’t need to, so why would I give my money to a greedy bank if I don’t have to? Not that I much like giving it to my landlord, but at least they’re technically human beings. Also, buying land means a lot of planning and research in my case. It has to be inexpensive, remote, and ideal for what I’m going to be using it for. I’ll need to have decent access to solar energy, so my panels can be installed at the right angle to catch it. I need to have decent ground water so I can have a well that won’t run dry in ten years. It needs to be at a decent price, and the zoning has to be right. Aside from the solar stuff, my real estate agent will be able to handle almost all of those details, but I have to know what details to ask for in the first place.

There are definitely decisions I’m slow about making, and the land and house situation is one of those things. Other things, like my education, took a long time because I had to figure out what I wanted to be educated in. Sure I’d gone for programming in my early twenties, but I changed my mind about it for a long time. I was concerned about my tendency to hyper-focus. I used to get absorbed by tasks, and would forget to eat or sleep. That would have been easy to do when banging out lines of code.

Time is life. That’s a fact I’ve known for many years – since before I took my programming course. I lost eleven people over a stretch of three years, and it shifted my priorities into questions of what would matter relating to life and death. Everything I thought about doing became a question of whether or not it was on my bucket list. Of course, that term wasn’t in use back then that I’m aware of, but you get the idea. I actually had big lists of things I wanted to accomplish with my life. Getting a book published was always on that list. Again, I’ll get around to it. If I don’t, it’s not like the world can’t do without one more novel. What I have managed to do is write articles that are sometimes read by thousands of people, and believe me, that’s no small thing in my mind.

So I spend my time doing the things I feel like doing, when I feel like doing them, and my time doesn’t feel like it’s been wasted. It feels like I’ve enjoyed and appreciated my life. I go through fits of being a workaholic, and I go through times of listlessness. And I just don’t care how others might view that. I fulfill my obligations to people, I try very hard not to let anyone down, and I make sure nobody is hurt by my actions or inaction. When it comes to activism, however, I have to limit myself to what’s psychologically safe for me to do. I have my own emotional limits there, so I’m careful. I’ve burned myself out before, and won’t do it again. Getting burnt out wasn’t a bad thing, either. It was something else that showed me the benefits of procrastination. I learned that running around, doing everything I could think of, was really a stupid way to live because I wasn’t actually living. I was simply doing. What kind of life is that?

Let’s Not Confuse Anyone With Logic Today, Shall We?

Laugh in the face of labels. Shudder in the face of stigmas. This is me. I have to have to most convoluted beliefs and opinions most people have seen, because everything seems to conflict. I’ve written about not being pigeon-holed politically before, but it bears repeating. Not out of resentment or frustration, but rather out of wonder for my own peculiarities. Not that I’m narcissistic or anything. Surely not!

I have some very outspoken friends – a large number of whom call themselves liberals. I have some conservative friends as well, lest anyone think I’m not equal-opportunity with my friendships. Admittedly the slant is more liberal, since many of my beliefs skew that way, but…I have to say there are some extremists there that scare me a little bit. Partially because we can’t afford to pay for the things they want done.

For starters, I don’t believe the government should be as involved in people’s lives as they are, although I do think they need to get their collective butts kicked for not getting involved where they should be. I’m tired of government being asked to take care of our every little need, because that means they control those things. I’m not big on being personally controlled by my government. My existing as a person should not be mandated by legislation that takes away my freedoms, or even my responsibilities. On the other hand, I think business should be very strictly legislated in order to protect the public. That’s where government is vital and necessary.

You should never be allowed to operate a business if it interferes with the personal rights of human beings. Whether than means sweatshops, chemical spills, or sexual harassment from your boss. Again on the other hand, you should be allowed to run a business that conforms to the laws, and that should also mean the laws of economics. If you can’t make a go of it, then your business should be allowed to die. Period. No corporate bail-outs. No tax loopholes that allow you to keep your money off-shore. If you do business in a country, then you pay the taxes that apply to that country. Businesses do use the services provided by government, such as roads, even if it’s only so that their employees can make it to work, but quite often businesses get deliveries or have personnel using those roads in the regular course of business.

Yet again there’s a conflict, because too many regulations make it impossible to run a business. We’re lucky in Canada compared to the U.S. I pay $60 every 5 years to have a registered business, and I file my taxes. That’s it. Everyone I’ve talked to in the States has said it’s a nightmare to run a business now because of the bureaucratic red tape. You spend too much time doing paperwork, not enough time making your business profitable, and so you end up filing still more paperwork to declare bankruptcy.

Of course, the paperwork that’s being imposed is simply government headcases doing make-work projects to justify their positions and paycheques. Government is very good at getting mired in the details, rather than seeing the big picture. Everything is minutely analyzed to the point where nothing gets done. It’s the big advantage corporations have over government, and why corporations are now running governments. They have the ability to act on a moment’s notice. They have decision-making power, and they have financial power, and the government has neither. Nearly every government in the world is in debt, and they can’t even decide what brand of toilet paper to use for the White House without forming committees that take a year and $5 million to finally settle on the issue. And in a place with so much crap floating around, they go through a lot of toilet paper.

When discussing this sort of thing, politics always rears its ugly head, because business is politics whether or not it’s government. They have their missions and mandates, their policies and peccadilloes. Talking about business often leads to discussing political affiliations, too, which makes very little sense to me. For one thing, I don’t see any political party out there that really knows a damn thing about business. I don’t care if they’re Republican or Democratic, liberal or conservative.

Supposedly the Republican party wants to get rid of ‘big government,’ but they have no problem using big government to get their contracts or bring in bills that are to their advantage. They use big government to confuse people, and they hide behind it. Without big government they would have no bail-outs or tax loopholes. Less government would mean more control by the very citizens they’re bamboozling to get their own way. Pretty much any environmental issue will give you the perfect example for that.

The Liberal party wants to give money to everyone, and get rid of big business. Well, as previously mentioned, we can’t afford to give money to everyone. It’s just not possible. As for getting rid of big business, that’s when you lose the competitive marketplace and suddenly everything is run by a monopoly government that can charge you whatever it wants for services rendered. Antitrust laws are in place for a very good reason. If you think Microsoft has a heavy hand in your computer now, imagine what it would be like if they hadn’t been forced to separate into multiple business entities around 2001.

I’m kind of like that with Google, to be honest. Sure I use Blogger, my home page is set to Google Canada because I’m always doing research, and I occasionally use YouTube. However, there is no way I’m switching my browser to Chrome from Firefox because I feel they already have too many hands in my business and pockets. That’s a whole other issue, though, and concerns privacy stuff I intend to write about in a full article in the near future. It’s still disconcerting when you see how they sniff out your interests and display the ads that relate to the searches you’ve been conducting, and the contents of your e-mails.

Sadly, the privacy issues with the NSA are only the tip of the iceberg, and most people have no idea how bad it really is. There are ways around using subpoenas that are the result of international cooperation in the realm of espionage. Yes, it sounds paranoid, but when I do write the article you’ll see where the loophole is, and why it’s really so easy for anyone in government to get any data you’ve ever sent through a computer. So, even though big tech companies are cooperating with the government and giving out our information, even if they didn’t the information is readily available. It’s rather fascinating actually, and since I have no real worries about what I do online, it’s not a huge deal for me in that respect. It’s just a pisser, is all. Nothing is private, and it’s not just big brother government watching you. It’s every big company, too.

Admittedly it’s not really on an individual basis, unless you get flagged for some reason, and the data sniffing software that Google uses to direct their AdSense program isn’t read through in detail by human eyes. Not that I’m aware of anyway – except of course when it gets handed over to someone who is very interested in the things you may have been saying.

What’s truly funny about the battle between liberals and conservatives is that in a lot of ways they all want the same things – just in different areas. Conservatives want less interference in certain external freedoms, like gun control and business. Liberals want less interference in personal stuff, like who gets to marry whom, and what a person can do with their own body. Both sides want less interference in the sense that they just don’t want to be told what to do when it’s something that’s important to them. Hey! Me, too. The real issue is hypocrisy. It’s when people don’t seem to think others should be allowed the same choices that they’re allowed.

For instance, heterosexual conservatives are free to marry the partner of their choice, but they don’t want to allow gays or lesbians the choice when it has absolutely nothing to do with them. It does not cause mass hysteria or vengeful acts from religious deities of any kind. If you want proof, look at Canada. 9 years and counting for marriage equality. We haven’t blown up, and we’re generally considered one of the best countries in the world when it comes to our international reputation.

Poor people are told they can’t have birth control, or they shouldn’t have children because they can’t afford them, or they’re denied access to abortion, or that they should be spreading their seed as much as possible. There’s no agreement about ‘what poor people should do’ when it’s not even anyone’s business. Sure, I completely understand why people don’t want to pay other people to have kids. If the welfare system is being abused, I have a serious problem with that myself.

I’m fine with certain people who need welfare – up to a point. Disabled people, people who are truly looking for work and can’t find any, people who can only get part-time, people who can’t afford to work because it costs more money to be employed than what they make in their paycheques. Yes, that can happen. Try living on minimum wage with one child going to daycare that costs about $600 a month – no subsidy, no welfare – and then having to pay for transportation to get to and from work. Monthly bus passes are getting expensive (it’s close to $90 in Hamilton, Ontario, and in Toronto it’s more like $200 if I remember correctly), and buses don’t go to some places, which means the expense of a car. Monthly insurance of $200, gasoline for around $200 a month, repairs on a vehicle that’s probably really old. I remember not being able to afford a decent car, and the repairs alone made it worth looking into buying a new one on payments of $300 a month. Then there are student loans.

Then there’s the flipside; the people who take advantage of liberal largess. I don’t like the term ‘welfare queen,’ because it implies it’s only women who are milking the system. Well, think about it for a second. It’s usually the women who raise the children – yes, still, in this modern day and age, men seem to think they can shoot and shimmy out the door. So, is a woman with a child milking the system more so than a man who has no responsibilities at all? You can’t tell me they’re more deserving of help than a single mother. Never mind the mother, even – let’s look at the innocent kid who needs to eat. They have no way of getting out there to help themselves, so they need to be looked after, whatever the situation happens to be.

I do think women on assistance should be required to use birth control if they want to continue getting assistance. They shouldn’t be in a situation where they can keep pushing out young’uns just to get their monthly cheques. Men don’t have that advantage/loophole with the welfare system. And the fact is, you just can’t tell people not to have sex. Never mind that it’s a violation of rights and freedoms. You simply can’t stop people from doing it. Like your teenage son or daughter, for example. They’re actually less likely to go out and have sex if they’ve been properly educated on the subject. Look to the more advanced societies in Europe if you want proof of that. Average age for ‘losing virginity’ is around 18 there. In America it’s closer to 12 or 13. The U.S. has some very prudish notions when it comes to everyday sex, and the tighter the reins are held, the more determined the horse is to get the bit between its teeth.

When I talk to a close friend of mine who I’ve mentioned before as being somewhat conservative, I still manage to surprise him a fair bit when I bring up something I’m actually very conservative about. Things like government stuff. I really don’t want them in my personal business, treating me like a child who can’t decide what’s best for me. I was indoctrinated into the seatbelt law, and that’s fine with me now because I feel naked without one, but I do understand why people don’t think it’s the government’s business if you’re a fully-grown adult. The only possible exception to that would be the debatable point that maybe in an accident you can retain better control of a vehicle if your head isn’t thrust through the windshield at the time. I’m not sure what the statistics on that would be, but it might be a consideration. I wear mine because I don’t want to die, and statistically speaking you’re safer with it on. Sometimes they can kill you, but it’s usually the other way around.

The really big thing I’m more conservative about is my personal self-sufficiency. I want to live on my own property, doing whatever the hell I want to, as long as nobody is being hurt by my actions. I want to be able to have my own garden, and subsist on solar panels for my power usage. I do not want to be connected to the grid if I can help it. I want my own well, and a septic tank for my own bodily waste management. I do not want to pay for those services (other than hiring the honey wagon, because…shit stinks) because I won’t need them. Why should I pay not only the service fees, but the taxes that go with them, when I can get free water on my own damn land? Why do I have to pay an extra tax if I get a wind turbine, because it stands above the land out in the middle of nowhere? Who is it bothering? Would they be happier if I were adding more coal smoke pollution by using their power sources? Well, of course they would, because they’ve got their hands in that pie. But would my neighbours really prefer that if they actually thought about the consequences of more pollution rather than less? Are the ‘aesthetics’ really so important to them?

I guess what it all boils down to is greed. Every single thing I’ve talked about in this post is an irritation that is somehow started by greed. Politicians make more (and convoluted) laws because they want to stay in power and get more money from lobbyists. I see the NRA buying congress, and gun control laws (mild ones to close loopholes only) get tossed out because the vote has been bought and paid for, with no regard for what the majority of the population wants. How is it greed for the NRA, rather than them fighting for personal freedoms? Simple. Where do they get their money from? People who buy and sell guns. Follow the money trail. Always.

That applies to every single person in the world. What they do with their money tells you everything you need to know about them. If they donate to certain causes, you know they either believe in those causes, or they’re buying something from the PR or the connection. You have to see where their other money goes to determine that, and the sources for their own income. Generally with politicians it has nothing to do with where their heart is. In the regular population it most often does. Where do you think I donate my money?  Well, I bet anyone who’s read my blog for any length of time can tell you it probably has something to do with animals (not to mention the pictures and donation links I have on the left side, which are actually two of the places I donate to when I can). There’s one other ferret place, actually, which is closer to me geographically, and where I’ll be getting my next ferret very soon.

As much as I might rant about women’s rights, and things having to do with people, I generally write about those things because they’re a lot less painful for me to talk about than abused animals. I avoid animal abuse stuff usually because it devastates me, but that’s where my money goes. It doesn’t go to feminism causes. I’m independent in that way, too. I do not need to be a part of a group of women in order to bolster my ability to fight for my personal rights. I think it’s pretty clear to my readers by now that I’m perfectly capable of doing that by myself, and I’m just one of those people that isn’t usually disrespected in that way. They can either tell by looking at me, or it takes only one look from me, for them to realize they’re not going to get away with it. Not even banks mess with me when I want something done – and that includes the ones I’ve dealt with in the U.S.

So, I’m a bit of a conundrum or enigma for people if they try to define me by political affiliation. For that matter, the politics aren’t the same in Canada, so it wouldn’t apply here anyway. The way I look at things in life mostly has to do with whether or not something is anyone else’s business, and whether or not it makes any damn sense. People dealing with me in person don’t generally see the more passionate side of me that comes out in my writing. In person I can have the ultimate poker face, and ‘the logic is undeniable.’ I don’t argue from a source of emotion, and haven’t for years, which can be very frustrating when it comes to romantic relationships (for the men I get involved with anyway – they hate it when I get reasonable and logical). For that matter, I don’t spend much time arguing with anyone – even online. If people don’t agree with me, that’s fine. Not arguing doesn’t mean I agree with them.

Fewer Exquisite Sensibilities Would Be Nice

I used to be able to write a blog posting every single day. Sometimes I had a hard time constraining myself to that, and so I ended up writing several articles a week for other places just to be able to get my fix. These days it’s not like I have nothing to yap about; it’s just that sitting up at a computer in any position is usually pretty damned uncomfortable for me. I just can’t find the right spot, angle or contortion. Either on a bed or in a chair, it’s one thing or another that’s digging in, poking me, or generally just making me miserable.

My issue is chronic pain, and it’s pretty bad. I know what it’s like to give birth, so I have some basis for comparison when it comes to pain. I wouldn’t wish this on any woman going into labour. Not only because it goes on indefinitely, but because it is actually comparatively worse than childbirth. I didn’t think being in labour was that bad, actually, and went through seventeen and a half hours (where I was actually awake for it) au naturel – no pain killers whatsoever. I woke up in labour, and must have been in that state for some time, because my contractions were already ten minutes apart. I got up, puttered around the house, had a shower, chatted with a friend on the phone, and then tried to convince my parents that I was going to drive myself over to the hospital – it was only three blocks away after all. They shoved me into one of their cars instead.

So, you see, I’m not a whiny little baby when it comes to pain. I’ve dealt with it for most of my life in one form or another. It wasn’t until my late twenties that I stopped living with headaches 24-7. It was a total shock one day to realize I wasn’t in pain. Aside from headaches I had other issues going on during my childhood, such as sport-related injuries, and stress-responses to competition and a difficult childhood. I would wake up screaming from severe leg pains, and I had chest pains from muscle spasms that felt like I was a twelve-year-old on the verge of a heart attack.

Just over the last few weeks, though, I’ve been going through another bout that has been more than a little devastating. I’m right at the beginning of a new project, and I’ve got this wonderful new laptop that I would love to be utilizing to its fullest extent. I’m mentally raring to go, but my whole body is having a difference of opinion that I can’t seem to circumvent. Today has been my first day where I wasn’t pretty much writhing around from it.

Something I noticed with all this pain, though, is that it always spreads. I understand the mechanism behind it, but until I experience another bout of it I forget what it’s really like. You see, the brain interprets pain through nerve signals, and once those nerves have been excited, it’s very difficult to get them shut down again. They also spread false pain signals to other areas. Referred pain is the term my orthopedic surgeon used, and it’s very common. For example, when he was determining whether or not to remove my tailbone, he sent me for a lumbar MRI to make sure the pain I was feeling wasn’t referred pain from my back. I could have told him without the expensive test, because I’m pretty tuned in to what’s going on with my body, but in order to justify surgery, they have to prove it’s necessary to whatever insurance carriers apply to their patients.

There’s radicular pain, too, such as sciatica. It’s caused by damage to the nerve root sending pain down the length of the nerve. I experience that with my hip tear injuries, except the pain seems to shoot straight through the length of my femur into my already-damaged knees. It’s not the same thing as referred pain. Referred pain is almost like a ghost pain in the sense that you’re feeling the pain in a place where it isn’t actually happening. It’s a confusion in your brain’s perception of the locale. Radicular pain is actually happening where you think it’s happening, but is caused by a different area.

So between those two things, I’ve been having some ‘fun’ lately. It’s made me aware of parts of myself that I’d rather completely ignore. I’ve gotten to the point where I almost want to see about numbing myself from the waist down, except that if I ever hope to have a love life that’s a little too extreme for my tastes. Not much point in having sex if you can’t even feel it. All the muss without the fuss basically.

Every part of me has become overly sensitive, and I know a lack of physical activity will do nothing to help the situation. I need to be able to get moving again somehow. With this in mind I have a plan for myself. It doesn’t start until next week for two reasons. The first is that I’m completely wrung out from these last few weeks, and I need to catch up on my rest – lack of sleep was an initial trigger, actually. The second reason is that I have a million sedentary things I need to do which I’m way behind on. I managed to catch up on a couple of those this morning, having to do with website stuff, but that was just to repair some emergency damage from a domain transfer. Now I still have two websites to build from scratch, and I need to get on them.

When I get bad like that, I can’t even bring myself to do the things I know I could technically do. If I am physically capable of something, though, it doesn’t necessarily follow that I’m mentally able to deal with it. Stupid things like making phone calls, for example. I do not want to make calls and talk to other human beings when I’m that miserable. In fact, there’s only one person I talk to on the phone at those times, and I can still have great conversations with him. He’s one of those honestly uplifting people – an extreme rarity in this world. Even when he’s in a bad mood, he doesn’t suck the life out of other people with it. It’s an example I’d like to follow, but I don’t think I’m like that.

I had software I needed to install on my new laptop still, and plug-ins to deal with on a website. I had to pull stuff off my old computer, which incidentally took almost thirty minutes to boot up this morning – talk about culture shock, going from an Asus which loads from stem to stern in a few seconds, to a piece of crap like my old Compaq (which was extreme durable, mind you…just slow). A file transfer to my portable hard drive took another thirty minutes, and then uploading to the new one took only about five minutes – yet another interesting comparison on performance. No, I couldn’t do it over our home network, because for some reason it keeps resetting the sharing access and it would have taken longer just to fix that problem (yet again), because it has to process it every single time. Portable hard drives are faster, and I can just let them do their own thing while I futz around with something more interesting.

So, this week it looks like I’m catching up on stationary tasks. I’ll probably switch over to our newer router, now that my computer’s wi-fi is compatible with it – a technical issue with a crappy D-Link supposedly being backwards compatible, but it wasn’t. I might even delve into laundry so I don’t have to go commando for the rest of the week – possibly without even outerwear pants, as I’m really, really low on clean clothes. I’d rather not be frightening my daughter. She may be in her mid-twenties, but offspring can still be horrified by the traumatic sight of a naked parental figure. Seeing as how I need to do a video chat with my friend, too, I’ll spare him the burned retinas. For that matter, I’ll spare his poor dogs, too.

Next week, though, I need to get back into doing some yoga stretches at the very least. I’m still surprisingly flexible for someone with hip joint issues. I can still touch my toes, and can actually drag my knuckles on the ground like our primate cousins. I can’t do the splits, but then I haven’t been able to since I was a kid and I don’t intend to risk it now. I’m not entering into gymnastic sex competitions any time soon, though that might be a fun hobby to try one day. My current extreme there is belly dancing, which I absolutely love. It’s my all-time favourite aerobic exercise. I used to run, but I don’t think my knees can deal with it anymore.

Once I’ve been stretching for a while, and doing it habitually a couple of times a day, I’ll go back to free weights. I think I’ll probably do some mild belly dance stuff, too. The hip motions really work the lower back, and loosening that area gets rid of a lot of pain for me.

In the meantime, though, we’ve got a beautiful thunderstorm happening right now, and I’m recording the sounds from it for a video segment I plan to record, so it’s probably best if I stop hammering away at my keyboard. Hopefully, if I get a better fitness routine going, I can circumvent future flare-ups like this last one and you’ll all hear a lot more from me. I love working, and when I’m able to I’m pretty manic about it. Flip you all on the see side. Oh wait. I think that’s supposed to be the other way around.

Blasting My Eardrums Until They Bleed

I have some issues with my hearing. I was told almost twenty years ago that I was probably going to go deaf in ten to fifteen years. It hasn’t happened, thankfully, but I have lost certain tones. I can’t tune a guitar by ear anymore, so I have to use a tuner, though I can tune within a song maybe – or maybe I’m just fooling myself there. Still, I’ve noticed some issues. I have selective hearing, but in a medical sense, rather than the psychological kind where you only hear what you want to hear. In my case I only hear the loudest thing in the room, which makes it difficult for me to hear anything in crowded rooms or offices. When I talk on the phone I can’t have anything else on. This might have been the originally prodding for my dislike of having a television going. I couldn’t hear anything else that was going on, and that can be a frightening thing.

I woke up completely deaf once, and it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced. The fact that I was still half asleep and didn’t have a clue what was going on didn’t help, of course, but to suddenly lose one of your senses, not expecting it at all, was rather terrifying. I thought it was permanent, and that my doctor from many years ago had been proven right. It lasted for about fifteen minutes. The only things I could hear were the vibration directly within my body, or from anything touching me. The throb of my heart, the rush of my blood through my veins (which is what you hear when you put a conch shell up to your ear – it’s not actually the ocean, no matter what your mom told you), and nothing at all coming through the air of my bedroom.

I don’t know what caused it, but my hearing snapped back to its usual level much to my relief. I wasn’t ready to be deaf yet. I hadn’t made my preparations, like having a flashing light for my doorbell, or a vibrating alarm for my bed. I wasn’t self-sufficient enough to live without my hearing. I’m still not, but that’s neither here nor there these days. These days I go through a different kind of disability – a lot of which is caused by all the drugs I have to take for pain and nausea, but also the limitations of my damaged body that has yet to be repaired. Thankfully I have my daughter to help me there. She’s my boots on the ground, so to speak. If it was was absolutely necessary, I could survive on my own, but it would be hella painful I tell ya!

My hearing has been a very important part of my life, though. The enjoyment I get from hearing or creating music can not be emphasized enough. Without music, what emotion would I really have to enjoy? I don’t like drama concerning other people, or in my own life. In some ways I get lonely and would love to be part of a good relationship, but dramatic emotional upheavals are rather terrifying to me. I just don’t have the energy for them, either. What energy I do have, I’d like it to go into worthwhile things. Hopeless and tumultuous romances are not worthwhile. Real love, being cherished and trusted, being accepted for who I am, knowing I can have absolute faith in someone – those are the things that would make romance worthwhile. I’m not holding my breath. It’s doesn’t do me any good to run out of oxygen at my age.

So music comes back into the picture. I started playing the piano when I was four years old. I actually used to perform and compete in music competitions. Won quite a bit, too. I wasn’t passionate about it then, but I was good at it. I played my first song at four, by ear, and from then on it’s been a big part of my life. I took both practical and theoretical music lessons then. I learned to play the guitar by ear, though I did turn to sheet music later on. I’ve played the French horn, timpani (really big drums), bells, real xylophones, chimes, you name it.

The only type of instrument I’ve never learned to play is a woodwind of any sort. My favourite was playing the set of Ludwig drums in my grade 11 music class. I could beat the crap out of them and nobody cared. It’s what you were supposed to do. Hell, I used to drum on the school walls, and later I used my drumsticks on stuff all over the house – books, my bed, my legs, anything to be pounding the crap out of something. I’m rather aggressive by nature. Sadly I feel like a wolf that’s lost its teeth these days.

My absolute favourite music genre is the most bizarre choice possible for a 42-year-old feminist. I have to say there aren’t a lot of female-friendly hip-hop artists out there. They all denigrate women it seems. If not in their lyrics, then in their videos with the ass-poppin’ and booty-shaking. The song I’m most crazy about right now is one by a group called Electrolightz. Miss Outta Control – people think it’s actually LMFAO who did the song, and I know parts sound like their work, but it wasn’t. Oddly it comes from The Sims 3 – or at least that’s where I first heard it – in the Simlish, of course. (For anyone who has never played a Sims game, Simlish is the garble that they speak to avoid having to use a real language – saves them money on translating, too, since the games are sold in pretty much every country in the world.) I should probably be embarrassed that I play The Sims, but I’m not. I don’t care what other people think, and if I can’t have a real life of my own, I’ll have a life that’s completely under my control. I do like my playing-God games. For those who are interested, here’s the real song (in English not Simlish). They need to work on their video production, but their audio is great. Easily managed by computer, though. Too bad the boys are a little young for me, but then people would say the music is too.

 
Miss Outta Control – Electrolightz – Official Video
 

About twelve years ago I started playing around with audio editing programs. I started out with Cool Edit Pro, which was bought out by Adobe and re-branded as Adobe Auditions. It’s in their Creative Suites packages. At the moment I’m using a free program called Audacity, which is actually pretty damn good, especially if you install the plug-ins that are also free. I use it for not only editing music, but also for voiceover work. Plus I’ve got a decent singing voice (some think it’s amazing, and others think it’s pretty good, so the truth is probably more to the ‘pretty good’ end of things) and I like to record using instrumental versions of songs. Karaoke on the computer basically.

To that end, I just bought myself a new headset (Turtle Beach model X12 in case you’re curious). I got it off eBay, new, and probably saved myself about $12. It’s a USB gaming headset, but it has microphone monitoring built in, and it’s actually got a built-in amplifier. It was meant for Xbox gaming, which requires amplification for the audio. The problem is, my laptop has one of those so-called ‘smart jacks’ which combines the headphone and microphone input into a single jack. It takes a 4-pole plug. Regular jacks are 3-pole. It’s nice that the plug is ‘smart’ enough to detect two separate devices, but it’s a relatively uncommon feature on any actual headsets out there. Ergo, I need a 4-pole TRRS jack adapter/splitter. Regular splitters don’t work. So, back to eBay I traipsed (electronically speaking), spending a measly $3 and change, including shipping. Still, it means waiting time for the item to be delivered.

The good news is that even though I can’t record with the microphone, I can still hear myself in the headphones when the headphones are plugged into the jack and the USB is connected. The great news is that the in-line amplifier makes it possible to crank my music past the enforced safety barriers contained in the hardware and software of my laptop. A restraint I chafe under. It’s none of their damn business if I want my ears to bleed. I crank it as loud as it will go without distortion from the bass boost. In part because it’s the only way I hear everything in the songs, but also because it’s just a damn good time. I loved doing that in my old car. I used an mp3 player with an FM transmitter, and just cranked it. I’m not the sort to blast a house stereo when I have close neighbours, but the road was fair game. And, yes, I know I look ridiculous, singing in my car to music that’s a full generation younger than I am. Ridiculous is good, though. It makes me happy. At the moment, with the potential for bleeding eardrums and my head actually vibrating inside from the noise, I’m just ridiculously happy. Might as well enjoy the moments!

Beware the Elephant Woman – She’s Lopsided!

I’ve been having a pretty severe issue with one of my molars. It desperately needs to be pulled, but I’m still waiting for my coverage to go through from my disability. I went to the dentist weeks ago, and she put me on antibiotics for a week. I’ve been off them now for about two weeks, and suddenly the abscess flared up again with a vengeance. Now I’m going to need another course of antibiotics before they can pull it, to counteract the possibility of blood poisoning going to my heart. Aargh!

Even better is the fact that the infection is now likely antibiotic-resistant, so they’ll have to put me on something a lot more aggressive in order to get rid of it. I really do think I look like the guy in The Elephant Man, which was, of course, based on a real person’s life; it just didn’t have much to do with bad teeth. The whole lower half of the right side of my face is one big lump, and even half of my lips are swollen.

If I put my teeth together the way I normally do when I close my mouth (yes, every once in a while I do close my mouth), my lips don’t want to close. If I put my lips together, my teeth want to remain apart. There is a very good chance I’ll start drooling very soon – and not just from my misshapen face. Honesty compels me to admit that I am severely self-medicated at the moment. For a few hours I put up with the pain, but then it got to the point where I thought I was going to go crazy – and I live with constant pain that’s actually worse than giving birth, so that should tell you how bad my face and mouth are hurting at the moment. Okay, well, not necessarily at the moment, since I’m doped to the gills, but they certainly were before taking my painkillers.

I hate having to be on pills all the time. I have a standing prescription for a neuropathic painkiller called Gabapentin, which is mostly effective for the pain in my hip joints. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than nothing. I always forget how much pain I really have, until I have to go without my prescription for a day or two. Now, with my molar abscess I’m also taking Tylenol with codeine. Yippee! That also means being on Gravol constantly, because of my sensitivity to narcotics. They make me really nauseous.

Nausea is only one reason I hate taking pills, though. Another reason is that I don’t like my mental faculties being impaired like this. A third reason boils down to side effects. Ingesting large amounts of acetaminophen (Tylenol) is terrible for your liver, and every once in a while I experience liver damage from them. Thankfully the liver is an organ that actually repairs itself, so the damage is temporary. Liver damage has the effect of causing hypoglycemia in me, too, so when I start shaking and shuddering because my body is literally starving from lack of sugar I know it’s time to stop taking the Tylenol.

At the moment, though, even if I start having problems with low blood sugar, I can’t do without painkillers. I’ll be making a very stern phone call about my coverage (in my weirdly distorted voice), but I can’t do it until tomorrow. I’ve already talked to the receptionist at my dentist’s office, and my only other option is to come in and pay for it myself. I’ll put up with the pain and drugs for a few more days, thanks. Rent is coming up soon, and just having spent money on a shiny new laptop means that we’re cutting things fairly close this month.

Sometimes when it gets this bad with pain and pills I doze off a lot. Tylenol and codeine wear off fairly quickly, though, so it isn’t long before I’m woken up again,

I’ve had problems with my teeth before, and when I had one of them pulled I ended up with a dry socket. That’s supposed to be excruciating, yet I barely noticed it. It was more like I just realized there was no clot in the space where the tooth used to be. Otherwise I might never have known.

Yes, I realize I’m being a bit of a whiner – okay more than a bit – but I suddenly felt like writing something, and this is what came out of it. Not exactly enviable prose, but it’s keeping me in the habit anyway. Or maybe I’m just going by the premise that if I have to suffer, so should my readers!

April, Bloody April – Unlucky for Some, and Definitely for Us

This was, at one time, a home filled with loving pets. There was a time we had three cats and a ferret. However, due to blockages and damaged kidneys – never mind the $2400 in vet bills that was spent – our one cat had to be put down on April 17th, just over 6 years ago. His name was Whiskey, and every time the Metallica song, “Whiskey in the Jar,” came on, his head would turn right toward the speaker when he heard his name. Losing Whiskey was very difficult for me. It was just after the break-up of my marriage, and in fact his health issues started right before the break-up, so every bit of misery was tied in together.

The one thing that got me through losing my cat and my marriage, aside from having my daughter as a roommate, was Stimpy. He was my first ferret, and he stole my heart even before he came home with me. He belonged to a friend of my ex whose daughter was ignoring him, so they decided to take me up on my offer to take him home. I loved him more than my own life. I would have defended him to the death if the circumstances had ever happened. Then he developed tumours in his kidneys, followed by tumours in his pancreas. He developed insulinoma and died – on April 8th of last year. By this time we had another ferret, named Pepper, and so far he’s managed to get us through the devastating loss of Stimpy by making us laugh every single day. It’s the same thing Stimpy did for me for the five years we had him.

Stimpy – August 2007 – April 8th, 2013

It’s been over a year now since we lost Stimpy, and so fate has stepped in to deliver another loss to our happy little menagerie. We lost another cat – his name was Rabbit – on April 20th, just a few days ago. Rabbit was my daughter’s cat rather than mine, and I didn’t have the emotional connection to him that my daughter had, but it’s still damn depressing to watch an animal die. In this case it was a matter of him being really old. Since he was a stray when we took him in, we’re not sure of his exact age, but we think he was 18, since we had him for 17 years and he appeared to be a yearling when he appeared in our lives.

Rabbit – est. 1996 – April 20th, 2014

Now we have Dip (otherwise known as Dippy-Do), who is our last remaining cat, and we’ve still got Pepper, our last remaining ferret. Dip, who was named for the white tip of her tail that made her look as though she had dipped her tail into a can of paint, is now a lonely kitty, but she’s getting up there in age, too. She’s considered an elderly cat, though she still seems like a kitten to us. As far as I’m concerned, we won’t be getting any more cats. I’m all about the ferrets these days. I can’t resist them, and I don’t connect with cats the way I used to. I love all animals in general, but I need ferrets in my life. They keep me sane.

Dip – Summer 2000 – Present
Pepper & Teddy Bear – Autumn 2010 to Present

So, as soon as possible, we’ll be taking a trip to the ferret shelter in Mississauga. We just have to be certain we’re properly set up for another 2-pound toddler. That’s basically what a ferret is like, in case you were wondering. They have full mobility, they’re really tiny, they’re smarter than cats & dogs, and they get into a ton of mischief. Some ferrets only weigh about a pound, too, so they’re even tinier and can get into the smallest holes, finding themselves trapped in walls, or even getting outside the house or into the furnace where really bad things happen to them. So, a ferret requires preparation in the physical sense, but also monetarily. As ferrets age, they can become very expensive when it comes to vet bills.

Being in the physical situation I’m in right now, there are also limits to what I can do to care for animals. My daughter has taken over anything cat-related, and I deal with ferret ‘stuff.’ Mostly that means cleaning up poop and such, usually in specific corners where there are newspapers or puppy pads put down, but sometimes there are the inappropriate accidents to deal with, too. It depends on how stubborn your ferret is with his or her potty training, and whether or not they’re ‘fixed,’ because marking territory is a very big deal, particularly for male ferrets I believe. I could be wrong there, since I’ve never actually had a female ferret. I’m a little afraid of getting one, as the species is dimorphic, meaning there’s a big difference in size between male and female and the females are smaller. So, I’d have to be really worried about the tiniest holes – like where the register pipes come into the apartment, or areas around the back of the fridge or in the stove.

Unlike most ferret people, I don’t cage mine. I did a very thorough job of ferret-proofing (yes, that’s a real term used by ferret people) so that I could give my boys as much freedom as possible. When I’m sleeping, though, I confine Pepper to the bedroom with me so I can hear everything he’s doing. No matter how well you ferret-proof, you still need to keep an eye on them. If I had to leave to go to a regular job, I would have a cage. I wouldn’t feel secure leaving a ferret unconfined for that many hours, I don’t think.

Losing this latest pet has brought back the loss of Stimpy even more than usual. I still think about him all the time, and I still miss him every single day. There’s a hole left behind from the loss of him, more so than I’ve ever felt with another pet. He was extraordinarily special to me, and the connection I had with him was something I’ve never felt capable of expressing coherently. Pepper soothes the ache, though, and I look forward to bringing another ferret home. When I do go to get one, though, I’ll be bringing home the one that most needs a forever home. I can handle any personality and still feel vast quantities of love for a ferret, so it doesn’t matter how ‘difficult’ he or she might be.

One thing I will say for myself, and for my daughter, is that when we do bring home pets, those pets are never left behind or gotten rid of. As far as we’re concerned those pets are family, and if they’re not welcome, then neither are we. Thankfully I live in a province where landlords are not allowed to kick you out for having a pet, unless they destroy the property or interfere with another tenant’s enjoyment of their home.

I do hope April doesn’t really become a cursed month, but then maybe it’s better this way. Our misery during anniversaries can be confined to that month. You never stop feeling the loss of a pet if you loved them, but the anniversaries are just that little bit more difficult for us.

Comfortable in My Own Skin

It’s a very good thing I’m not the type of person to get cabin fever. I live a very secluded life these days. I’m content with it, though. Sure I’m frustrated by the fact that my healthcare is so crappy I may have to wait a couple of years before I can get my surgery (just one of those things I’ve found out recently that have made me a bit cranky and even more introverted than usual), but I’ll do what I have to do to keep myself occupied and content.

I did forget to mention in my last post that I’ve rediscovered the joys of being single, through no fault of my own apparently. I managed to get myself dumped – by e-mail no less – but it was a good thing as far as I was concerned. For the first little bit I was really into the relationship, but then drew back almost completely when I saw he didn’t have the same enthusiasm. I was actually somewhat content to let things go on casually, but I guess he felt guilty and thought he’d be causing me serious hurt down the road, so he decided it was for my own good that I be released from the relationship. Kinda sounded a bit pompous to me, but that’s okay. After all, I was starting to make excuses about the weather being too bad for him to drive all that way. I guess he didn’t notice.

So here I am, back to being a single entity, and it’s rather a thrill. The thing is, if I’m going to be with someone, I want it to be someone who makes me feel good whenever we talk. Someone who is always encouraging, and doesn’t suck all the energy out of me. My last serious relationship, which ended about 6 years ago, completely exhausted me. For several years I simply had no interest in being with anyone. I felt the odd spark here and there, but didn’t want to pursue anything. Just the thought of getting involved, and dealing with all the crap relationships tend to generate, made me want to crawl under the covers for a week. I just could not bring myself to consider going there.

I’m at a point now where I’d be okay with a relationship, but only with the right person, and the guy I was seeing for a few months there was apparently not the right person. There was a lot of good there, but it was actually making me tired. I felt like I was forcing things, and as though I was obligated to text or call, and try to carry on conversations when I just didn’t feel like it. That made me tired all over again, so that I just chilled for a few months (as anyone who reads my blog would have seen from my lack of posting). I wasn’t upset or depressed – just tired.

Of course, taking a break from writing meant I lost all my momentum there. It goes back to that inertia thing. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, while a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Well, I’ve been at rest in practically every way lately, which means having to kickstart myself – as in, a good kick in the ass most likely.

Thankfully I’ve got really good friends who keep me attached to the world even when I don’t necessarily feel like it. I have friends that just want a quick e-mail to let them know I’m still alive, and then I’ve got my friend and business partner who calls me all the time. He’s one of those people that has a knack for getting people going, too, which is always a bonus. Even when he nags me, I don’t take offense or get irritated, and in fact the nagging does push me to get things done. I guess the nagging is more like really good encouragement. Then again, he is a teacher, and from what I can see he’d have to be a damn good one.

Even feeling like a lazy git, it doesn’t seem to bother me all that much. I’ve learned to accept my limitations in some ways. I get work done when I feel up to it, and don’t force myself when I’m not. At one time I was posting in this blog every day, along with writing an additional two or three articles each week. I stopped enjoying my writing, I think. That didn’t occur to me until now, which is surprising, but the fact is I just couldn’t bring myself to start tapping at the keys. Of course, having a new laptop that does everything it’s supposed to do makes a huge difference in my attitude. I waited a long time for this little treasure, so I’m very content.

One really good thing lately has been the fact that my daughter has been working for several months now, so between the two of us we’re able to live decently instead of just getting by. Hence, the new laptop. We’re no longer worried about the monthly bills, or how we’re going to manage to buy enough groceries each week. In the last couple of years we’ve really noticed the changes in food prices, I tell ya. It’s unbelievable. I mean, I used to be able to feed three people on $20 a week. Now that wouldn’t last a single person for 3 or 4 days. Minimum wage is going up here again. I can’t remember how much, but it’s a pretty good hike, so that means things will be a little bit better, too, since it’s more than what my daughter makes now, even though she’s getting a little more than minimum wage.

I’ve started doing some website design, too. Just a little bit, but I’m learning a lot. I’m delving into Flash finally, so that should be an interesting (and steep) learning curve for me. I don’t do well with graphics programs like PhotoShop, but hopefully my experience with music and video editing, along with my limited background in computer programming, will be of assistance there. When I need a good graphic or logo design, though, I generally ask my daughter to do it. It saves me tons of time, because it would take me forever to do what she can do in a couple of hours, even when she’s doing multiple things to give me options to choose from.

I was taught how to use a computer back when there were no ready-made programs to use and if you wanted the computer to do something you had to type in the information yourself. The programming language was called Basic back then, and later they went to VisualBasic with the graphical user interface (known as GUI in geek). Banging out lines of code was rather simple, actually, and some of the newer programs and languages have complicated things in their own way, because generally you have to learn to use the program that you’re going to be programming with.

When you use things like Expression Web, you still have to deal with HTML (5 generally, if you want your website to work properly), but you also have to learn where everything is in the interface. Of course, you no longer have to write the code to insert a button, but you do need to understand how the coding works in case you need to make changes – sometimes those changes can screw up what you’ve done, and you have to dig in and figure out where it went wrong. I’ve had some really stupid and frustrating errors, but at least I can say I’m learning a new skill. There are a lot of 42-year-olds out there who just don’t bother anymore.

That’s something I’m rather proud of, actually. I have one of those inquiring minds where I just want to keep leaning things, and I’m not talking about butting into anyone else’s business. I’ve never been nosy in that way. In fact, people tend to tell me more than I want to know, simply because they know they can confide in me. It’s one thing when your closest friends do that – it’s expected in a real friendship. When people you don’t really know start doing it, though, you just kind of shake your head in wonder. I’ve never understood how people have always just had that kind of trust in me, but maybe it’s instinctive. I simply don’t gossip. I have no interest in hurting people, or having to deal with confrontations from people because I shared with the wrong person, and those are only a couple of reasons I don’t discuss the business of other people.

I’m like that in relationships, too. There are things that happen between two people that are absolutely no one’s business, and I will never discuss intimate details. I’ve had men ask me questions about former lovers/boyfriends/husbands, and I’m just not going there. Quite frankly they should consider that a good thing, because then they know I won’t be discussing those details about them. As open as I try to be about myself, particularly when writing articles on things that are personal to me, or writing blog posts, I always keep in mind the reaction and feelings of another person should they read what I’ve written about them. I don’t generally use names, unless the person is deceased, or it’s something positive they’re doing that I feel deserves recognition.

Now I know this has been a rather rambling post about a multitude of things, but as I said in my last blog, I just really need to get back in the habit of writing. Once I start doing it more regularly, I’ll start paying more attention to the things I see happening in the world – that’s when my posts will become more focused again. I’ve got new things going on that I’m not quite ready to talk about, too, but I think it’ll be interesting for my readers when all is revealed. At least I hope so! I can only hope I haven’t lost the knack for writing to the point where no one finds it interesting anymore. I did finally write an article for a website I occasionally contribute to. If you’re interested in semi-political stuff, you can find it here. It’s called The Current Evils of Indoctrination and Complacency. Something that’s happening with frightening consistency these days.

Part of me has been avoiding non-fiction writing to try to get into the swing of doing fiction. Now I’ve got three separate books started, and all three are the start of a potential series. Aargh. I really need to focus on one thing and just get it done. My original book is about 25% completed now, and this is about the 4th or 5th draft, so once I get this draft done it’ll be ready to be sent off. I haven’t decided exactly where just yet, but I’ll deal with that when the time comes. My second book is about demons, so it’s in the realm of fantasy. The first one is serial-killer-murder-mystery stuff. The third one somehow popped into my had from a dream, and delves into international spy territory. It’s not something it ever occurred to me that I might want to write one day. The dream was a damn good one, though, so I went with it.

I have no more excuses with my writing and other projects. Having a new laptop that I can actually use on my lap means I really can write anywhere, no matter how miserable I am. Hopefully I latch onto that and get moving again. I’ve been missing something vital in my life, not having my writing, so I need to reclaim it.