Riding to sleep

I took a long ride tonight. I’ve been wanting to take the bike out for a ride for a very long time. I never have any real reason for riding it and never have the money to indulge in any real travel. But today I hit a wall and I needed to get out.

I first rode to Chinook. Why? Because it gave me a single, simple goal and allowed me to use a couple of “fast” roads to take the bike up to speed. I parked at the very top of the parking cluster and stopped in at the food court. Treating myself to a cheap meal I relaxed and finished a book I’d been reading. “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline. It’s a fascinating little book juxtaposing the life of an orphan in the 1930s with the life of an orphan in the aughts. Vivian was orphaned in New York in 1929 and bounced between a few homes of increasing misery before lucking out with a couple who owned a general goods store. Molly is orphaned in the 2000s and bounces from foster home to foster home before encountering Vivian.

It says something about me that, in the last few pages of the book, as the storyline becomes more and more positive, I kept waiting for the Bad News Hammer to fall. But everything ended up okay, families were reunited, and everything was a super duper happy ending.

I'm sorry everything worked out so well.

I’m sorry everything worked out so well.

Which kind of disappointed me, and cheapened the struggles. Everything up until that point had been painfully realistic, with loss and achievement fairly evenly matched. When things went truly horrid I had the sense that the characters would seize on a chance that would turn their fortunes around, and they did. And when things were going smooth and easy I expected the characters to hit some other terrible snag, someone might die or a home would be lost, and they would have to persevere. And they did.

But the super happy fun time ending kind of… fizzled the whole experience. It was just the kind of thing where I expect some producer was sitting off to one side and said “can we guarantee a happy ending?” lest the funding run out.

Other than the ending the book is very well written and thoroughly researched. I strongly recommend it, particularly if you’re looking for something with a Disney ending.

Having finished my book I returned to my bike and suited up for a full speed run. I quickly decided to make a long trip home. The sun was down and the twilight was just perfect. I took Glenmore to Deerfoot to Stoney to Crowchild. The whole ride home took me about 45 minutes and made me realize that, were I to suddenly be rich, I would need to ease myself back into long distance riding. My ass was decidedly sore by the end of it and my thigh muscles were shaky.

Still, if I were to be suddenly rich I could also afford some riding pegs and a better seat. Both problems solved.

The ride was good for my soul. The wind howling past my helmet and the thrum of the engine between my legs. The smell of the wild grass beside the road, and the firm grip of the tires through each turn. All of it was exactly what I needed.

Venus HumAnd now, having had very poor sleep for the past two or three days (I’m honestly not sure how long it’s been) I feel I might actually be able to sleep by midnight tonight. I’m tempted to go to bed now, but I fear that would turn into just an hour nap and I’d be wide awake at midnight.

I’m going to put a few minutes into playing Halo instead. The original game is so familiar it’s practically like playing solitaire. In the meantime I’ve found Venus Hum’s last album and have been absorbing it as I write. So pretty.

I can see again… sort of.

Ultrasonic Eyeball Scan

Relax, this won't hurt a bit

The eye measurement was… odd. Most of it simply involved staring into some device with a light at the center while it flashed and strobed other lights into my eyeball. One measurement, however, used sonar and involved having a cup placed against my eyeball and then filled with liquid. A very odd sensation to say the least.

My surgery is now a few hours less than two weeks away and I’m dying to see it done.

A side benefit of my measurement appointment, however, was some advice the doctor gave me. She was talking about after care for my surgery and I asked her about how I would go about getting my prescription updated for my glasses. I was wondering of I would just get one lense done at a time as each eye was operated on. She advised against it. Apparently it takes up to six weeks for eyes to fully heal and settle into their final shape, so getting a new prescription any time before that would be premature and, probably, a pretty big waste of money. Instead, she said, I would be better off just buying a pair of reading glasses from the rack at the drug store for a temporary crude fix until my eyes were ready. Just take in some reading material and try glasses on until I could read with relative comfort.

Of course, I thought, how simple.

I took that advice and put it to use today. The prescription I picked out is, naturally, much stronger than my regular glasses… +2 in both lenses… but I can read, and that’s the important bit. I can read normal text and even some small text. This will go a long, long way to making the next two weeks much more bearable, and all for the cost of a night out at the movies.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been learning the computerized systems at work. As I’ve done so I’d swear my eyes have grown steadily worse. By the middle of last week I was forced to use the computer at work with my left eye shut just to keep my right eye from overcompensating for it. It was literally the only way I could read the text on the screen. And you’d think keeping one eye closed is a simple thing, but I suggest you try it for an hour or so. The accumulated strain results in a spectacular headache. Luckily simply relaxing with both eyes open can ease that ache considerably, but as soon as you have to go back to working with one eye that headache comes right back at full force.

Today I’ve been using my computer for a few hours with the reading glasses on and while I can feel the muscles in my eye having to work and re-work at focusing, I haven’t developed a headache yet. Best of all, I can read everything.

Yesterday was the first test of my apartment’s social functionality. I had a group of friends over for gaming around the big black table and I have to say it was a fair success. I may need to invest in some tv tables to give people a little more space for their stuff, but it seems like my place may become gaming central for our group since I’m centrally located.

Which is fine by me.

I lost money, but I’m okay with that.

I spent last night playing poker. I did not do well, financially, but the big blind was fifty cents so I didn’t lose a whole lot. I actually had myself ahead for about an hour in the middle there but then started really getting dumb with the mistakes and tanked quickly afterward.

I will never play “for real” in a casino where the money is considerably harder but I have spent more for an evening’s entertainment so I feel more or less alright about it.

I did feel rather awkward at times as I’m very new to the game and made some clear “newbie” mistakes. It didn’t help that said mistakes then played on my usual insecurities making me feel even more awkward leading to me making even more mistakes. I’ve really got to watch that spiral.

And I think my tactic of telling stories as a method of introducing myself to a new social circle actually worked against me for once. I suspect I was starting to annoy some of the other players.

Anyhoo… onward and outward, I guess.

The job continues to be great and I continue to feel incredibly grateful for it, every day. Even moreso on the weekends as I now have them off (except when extra work is necessary) and can co-ordinate with others for social activities.

Not that I’m actually doing that yet, but the potential is there. So far I’m just going along with other people’s plans, but at least I can *do* that now.

In other facets of the same situation, I’m now struggling with a decision that was so much easier a month ago. I have been pursuing the opportunity to go back to school this fall. Everyone I know has been very positive and encouraging about it, expressing how happy they are that I’m taking positive steps. That has been good.

But now I have a relatively good job. Not a *lot* of money, but at least something I can live on, doing work I enjoy for a company I honestly believe in. In order to continue my school pursuits I would have to quit that job, and chances are I would be looking to work somewhere else once my education was done. At least given the education I’m aiming at now.

So… do I ditch the hand I have now for a potentially great hand, or do I stick with the good and comfortable hand I’ve been dealt? There’s no guarantee the new hand would work for me, there never is, but rationally it makes a certain amount of sense.

On the gripping hand I could explore other educational directions, ones that fit better with, and perhaps augment, the job I find myself in right now. An appealing option, but I haven’t even worked in this business for a month yet and it seems foolhardy to adjust my life / career directions based on a few short weeks’ worth of experience. I haven’t even played directly with the product yet.

Hm, I think I may have just found a direction to move at least in so far as exploring more information. More information is a good thing, more often than not, and will provide me with a more confident decision in (hopefully) the near future.

On the purely frivolous side I’ve bought myself an iPod touch (or an “iPad mini”) and have been loving it. I would have gone for an iPhone instead but I only just started a new 3 year contract and therefore would not have qualified for the slightly less insane price. The Touch is doing a marvelous job so far.

Another year older, another day wiser…

I now have some pictures to go along with some of this so I suppose it’s time for an update.

Well, long past time, I’m sure. I haven’t written a lot of blogs in the past couple of years and… that’s something I need to fix. I really just need to open up a text window and start typing away.

I turned 44 a few weeks ago. I’ll spare you the existential angst I went through at the turn of double four… suffice to say I didn’t think I’d be where I am at this age. Then again, I didn’t have any firm idea of where I’d be at all so the outcome really isn’t surprising. It’s hard to be surprised when you don’t have any expectations.

It is, however, easy to be disappointed when you don’t have any expectation. And that revelation… surprised me.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Turning 44.

I have a wealth of friends, more than any man’s share I’m sure, and they all went to great lengths to ensure I enjoyed my birthday. Ronya, in particular, went to amazing lengths.

First there was a dinner party at Shane and Dianne’s place on Friday night with the tribe. Lots of candy and cake and a bit of Scene It: Disney style. We were all kind of curious as to why every single answer had to be prefaced with the word “Disney’s” until we got our first question about Toy Story, the answer to which was “Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story”. It pretty soon became a running joke that every answer was “Disney’s Something” unless the clue was digitally rendered in which case it was “Disney/Pixar’s Something”. It’s amazing how often copyright issues turn even the simplest things into lame jokes.

Playing Xbox at the Chinook Theater

Playing Xbox at the Chinook Theater

Saturday morning a small collection of us showed up at the Scotiabank Theater in Chinook Mall to play some Xbox. Ronya had rented out the the theater for a couple of hours and we got to play Left 4 Dead, Halo 3, and Dead or Alive 4 on the biggest projection TV screen in the world. DOA4 is even better when the jiggly bits are each bigger than you are, but Left 4 Dead was just creepy with zombies twenty feet tall and 130 decibels loud.

Playing DOA4 on the biggest widescreen ever.

Playing DOA4 on the biggest widescreen ever.

After the Xbox we transitioned over to my favorite pub, Limericks, for a lunch of my favorite greasy, cheesy food. It was a bit touch and go at first, though. It took me three tries to finally find a patio chair that wasn’t broken. The food, weather, and company very quickly made up for it, though.

After lunch… well, I had a nap, didn’t I? I’m not getting any younger, you know. An exciting day like that will take a lot out of a man my age.

After my afternoon nap we ventured up into the far northwest to Tony and Mary Ann’s’ place where we grazed on fine food and alcohol. My friends got to enjoy doodling on me like a curved, spongy white board for a while. Dianne had purchased me a plain white t-shirt and then made we wear it while everyone doodled on my with markers and fabric color pens. It’s an odd feeling being written on and it kind of made me appreciate what it might be like to be a notebook. Ronya drew epaulets on both my shoulders but many people felt they looked more like irradiated penises aiming for my ears. Others wrote across my back that I was offering free hugs… after a mail in rebate. I think my favorite bit was the pocket that got drawn on my chest, complete with pocket protector and a varied selection of pens.

Being a human sketch pad tickles

Being a human sketch pad tickles

As the dye dried on my shirt we then dove into Rock Band: The Beatles, drinks well in hand to best adapt to the mindset of the band. I have never, and probably will never, sing for Rock Band but I was given to understand that the addition of two other singers and the potential for harmonizing made the game both more interesting and more difficult. For me it was just cool playing with six people all at once.

We played through the storyline of the entire game. The best I can say is it’s definitely worth playing through once, but beyond that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of replay-ability. Perhaps if they actually had the whole library of Beatles tunes instead of just the 35 selected tracks, or if they had even just built the game around all their chart-able hits, it might have been worth going back and playing some of them again. But some of their track choices, while providing and interesting perspective on the band’s development (you could actually *feel* the disintegration of the band’s normal cohesion throughout the last set) weren’t compelling enough to go back and play again.

That being said if they made the tracks available for download for regular Rock Band I’d be willing to download about half of them.

Playing Rock Band Beatles

Playing Rock Band Beatles

Last but certainly not least, Ronya’s family pooled money together to buy me the Carcassonne Big Box, a collection of the basic Carcassonne game and five of it’s more popular expansions.

We’ve played the game almost every day since we got it and I’m nowhere near tired of it yet. The game box itself contains an interesting feature that appeals to my detail oriented nature: the interior of the box is formed in such a way that each set of tiles ( the basic and each of the expansions ) has it’s own precision fit storage slot. This way you can pick and choose which expansions to use for the game you’re playing. (ie. if you’re feeling particularly adversarial you can put in the princess / dragon / fairy expansion) The tiles themselves are watermarked with a little symbol depicting the expansion they’re from so it’s easy to sort them all out later and put them back in their respective holes.

Yes, I’m so anal I’m gushing about the organizational packaging that came with the game more than the actual game itself.

But the game itself is great fun as well. So far I think I’ve only won two actual games but I don’t care, it’s just fun to play.

Big thanks to all my friends and family, and to my tribe, for setting up an awesome birthday weekend.

Eye wear my son glasses at night

Yep, itll have to come out.

Yep, it'll have to come out.

Went to the optometrist today. Received both some reassuring and disturbing news.

As I’d mentioned before when my mother was my age she was changing eyeglass prescriptions more and more frequently. By her late forties she was getting new lenses every six months or so. At the time I’d attributed it to her work, retouching film negatives with brushes as small as a single hair in size.

Well, my eyesight has been bothering me in increasing amounts over the past couple of years. I’ve gone through a couple of different eyeglass prescriptions already, and this after my prescription hadn’t changed in over twenty years. I started to worry that I’d wind up with my vision degrading as fast as my mother’s did.

I found out last year that I have a cataract on the lens of my left eye. My optometrist strongly suggested I get a physical in case this was indicative of something more. I followed her suggestion and, thankfully, found myself to be still fat but otherwise healthy. (and with cholesterol still lower than Ronya’s, a fact that continues to driver her nuts)

Today I found out that my right eye is also developing a cataract. Up until recently my right eye had been compensating for the blur in the left, but that’s no longer the case. Now, unfortunately, it’s time for surgery.

On the one hand I’m nervous because someone is going to be cutting into my eye. On the other hand I’m reassured that it’s an incredibly simple procedure these days and even the elderly that go through it recover easily. It takes about 15 minutes and some local anesthetic. They replace the cloudy lens with an artificial one and, presto, your vision is clear.

Which I’m eager to get, quite honestly. Right now any light source I look at has a foggy corona around it, something that makes driving at night just that much more difficult. I’m thinking I’m going to let Ronya drive at night until I get this fixed.

The downside is that the artificial lens, while clear, isn’t as pliable as the natural lens. This means I will definitely need reading glasses after the surgery is done. Which I’m more or less okay with because I’d kind of like to have reading glasses *now*. I’m already having to pull books away an extra foot or so to be able to read them clearly. Some of that is the cataract but a fair amount of that is simply my aging lenses getting more and more rigid on their own. Replacing them won’t be much of a loss.

The other slight downside is that it *is* a simple procedure done with local anesthetic. If someone is going to operate on my eye part of me would much rather be unconscious for the whole thing. If I’m awake and aware of everything going on I’m going to develop nightmares, I’m sure of it.

So now I have to wait for a specialist to contact me for an appointment, which I’m told will take a month or two, and then we will schedule the surgery, which I’m told could take as much as a year. I’m not in dire need (I’m annoyed but I can still see and function) so others will take precedence.

I’d rather wait the extra time under our current coverage than be able to have ready access to a procedure I can’t afford. At least this way I’ll get it done *eventually*.

In related news, Josh Silver’s self adjustable eyeglasses (which I wrote about here last year) are being talked about again, this time at TED.

A good weekend

Well, I did eventually take the bike out. Ronya and I used our bikes to get around yesterday. As you can tell I didn’t die. Not sure how effective my hand signals were but I was reassured by having Ronya and her working brake lights behind me.

I still want to fix my own brake lights but I think I’m going to need a voltage meter or something to figure out where the disconnect is. Would be nice if it were just a simple loose wire or something.

Friday was Roarke’s birthday and the original plan was to take him and his brothers to see Monsters vs. Aliens but alas our vouchers were not valid for the show while it’s still in Imax 3D. Instead we rented a couple of videos and brought everyone to our place. We played some rock band and the boys played some Halo while the adults played some Zombies upstairs. I believe it was Ronya who finally won through the simple expedience of having the last zombie move off the helicopter landing pad. We had such helpful zombies they actually chose to move out of our way to facilitate our escape. Well, Ronya’s escape really.

Saturday I got four new tires for the Yaris. Some of the radial wire was starting to show through the front tires and the mechanic pointed out how the rear tires weren’t far off themselves, so we now have four brand new all season radials. That should last us through the next winter, I hope.

Saturday afternoon the girls put their heads togethe and made soap, which is now curing on our countertops, while I napped and observed and occasionally gave a judicial sniff to the mixture. The essential oils didn’t seem to be adding much of a scent to the soap so they wound up using a lot of it. Now we’re hoping it’s not the kind of situation where the scent intensifies over time as the soap cures. Time will tell, I suppose.

I spent Saturday evening visiting my old college friends Gordon and Leslie in their home just south of Carstairs. Apparently my coming over triggered a wave of visitation and we wound up having dinner for a dozen. It was all good food, of course, and Gordon runs his own catering business. Leslie used to work at Microsoft and was able to explain at least one of the main reasons Vista is such a big pile of Suck. Basic synopsis: it’s not her fault.

Sunday Ronya and I suited up and rode off to get me measured up for yet another tuxedo, this time for an impending wedding in July. My previous tux rental back in October worked out as a major benefit as the company has my measurements on file. I just had to make sure the different style of shoes fit (my sneakers? Size 12. Dress shoes? Size 14 and a half. WTF?) and we wound up picking a different jacket simply because the first choice of jacket didn’t go up to a size 60. It was… interesting to note that many of my measurements approached twice that of the Tracy, the Best woMan.

From there we rode to John’s place for a barbecue and some more games. I have to say, an entire weekend of visiting friends and playing games definitely appeals to me.

Ronya and I took the long road home late at night, a route that wound up taking even longer as much of 84th Street NE turns out to be permanently closed. Deciding on an alternate route in the dark was a little nerve wracking for me but we managed and got home safe and sound, if a bit chilled.

And now, off to work.

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Still Alive

I’m still alive, even if my personal site is down. Interesting how it’s been down for, what, a couple of weeks now and I’m only now taking steps to switch it’s hosting elsewhere. Goes to show where my priorities are these days. Now I need to take care of some other priorities, I think.

One of those is re-connecting with friends beyond the two lovely ladies in my life. I really need to get out more. I know, I know, I said that before Christmas too. Consider this something of a belated resolution. Tonight will make a good start on that, I hope.

Our home net connection was finally stable enough to upload the rest of our Cancun photos and the whole set is here. Thank god for Flickr or I wouldn’t be able to share these until I had my site back up.

The photos aren’t in any order, sadly, and I haven’t labeled/captioned the majority of them yet, so it’s all just a jumble. My apologies. Again, not much time in front of the computer these days.

On the advice of Tremaine I bought some better undershirts for the cold weather and I have to say they’ve been working very well. Will definitely buy more. I’m just lucky they make them in XXL, which isn’t quite the right fit but since they’re undershirts, and won’t be seen by the general public, I’m not as wigged about the “stuffed sausage” look as I might be otherwise. They do their job, they keep the moisture off my skin and thus keep me from getting chilled in the afternoon. At -10C that’s pretty good, at -32C with wind chill taking it to -49C that’s a life saver.

Weekend update

Thursday: Worked, went out for beers with Tammy
Friday: Worked, spent evening playing Xbox and other games with Dianne. Introduced her to Jeff Dunham on YouTube. “Oh My GAaaawd!”
Saturday: Breakfast in the morning with Ronya, Mary Ann, and Tony at the Harley Davidson cafe in Inglewood. Not bad food, happily half empty which made it one of the more pleasant weekend brunches in a long while. After which Ronya and I spent a little of our christmas cash before driving up to Red Deer for her paternal grandfather’s 90th birthday. From there we drove back to Mary Ann and Tony’s place to visit with Connie and Colin who drove in for New Year’s. We got to break in my brand new, all expansions included game of Settlers with two games. I think Connie won one and Mary Ann won the other. Both Ronya and I didn’t care who won and just had a grand time building stuff.
Sunday: quiet breakfast with my hon before heading out to do some shopping and maybe a coffee shop.
Tomorrow: back to work. Sigh.