Tuesday, January 30, 2007

pen pals from region 10.

I'm at a conference today that is addressing employment and disability, I'm representing my company but also picking up on other information about the industry in general and connecting with contacts from other areas in region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington). I have quite a few contacts from Seattle who are here, many of which I have only talked to on the phone and never met in person. It kind of reminds me of having pen-pals, except we're working together to assist someone with a disability obtain (and maintain) employment.

It's an amazing range of activities that occur between the job seeker and the actual employment, the amount of bureaucracy and red tape from A to B can really take the wind out of your sails when you feel you're within reach of a goal. All of the over analyzing and job carving and support personnel connected to the end user job seeker, all of the forms and eligibility requirements, updated acronyms (just after you've familiarized yourself with the old ones) and political correctness, jobs created to support the support personnel...and I'm still not even talking about the job seeker. It's a whole industry built around helping people who help people.

When I was 9, I had a pen pal named Becky Applegate. She lived in Austin, Texas, and I've never met her in person. I think we only wrote to each other over the course of a couple of years, and I can't really remember anything about her other then she had many pets and for some reason I thought she was overweight. It was kind of fun and mysterious getting a letter from her once a month or so, but I guess the mutual drop off of interest in corresponding was the eventual demise of our written friendship. Every now and then I think about her, well, I guess I just think more about the fact that I wrote her when I was. I also wonder whatever happened to her, and wonder if she remembers or wonders what happened to me.

I'm great. I'm living life, trying to not be a sourpuss about petty things, trying to stay healthy and grow, learn and experience more, trying to help my neighbor (not neighbor in the literal sense, although I have moved furniture for her and drove her to the doctor's a couple of times), trying to treat others as I would want to be treated, trying to give when I have extra to give, you know, things are good. I eat, have a warm place to stay in the winter, even have a cat, which is not only a companion, but also a luxury item. Especially when he has to go to the vet.

There's two or three counselors here sitting in the audience knitting. Nothing like keeping your hands busy, idle hands are the devil's playthings, or however it goes.

So it goes.

I like meeting people I connect with, especially if we've had lengthy dialogue via email and over the phone. I consider networking one of my job perks, and 99% of the time networking goes well. The anxious self-conscious part of me always wonders after one of these meetings, "did I come off like a freak? Am I flaky?" and I guess to answer my own question, no comes to mind, because I wouldn't have the contact base or recurring networking if I was. Or maybe I am, but there's a degree of amusement I bring to the hypothetical table so that prompts return customers. Either way it helps me do my job and help people more. The end user benefits.

On a side note, there's a few sign language interpreters here, and I swear one of them has been staring at me the entire time I've been here. I know a little sign language, and thought it would be funny to sign something witty to him, but haven't come up with what I'd sign. My sign language vocabulary consists of signs for "work," "break," "tree," "popcorn," "happy," "beautiful," etc. so nothing is coming to mind that I can apply in this situation.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

my neighborhood

I wanted to express how much I like my neighborhood. Without jinxing myself or anything, the people are nice, crime is relatively low (but not non-existant or I'd start to wonder what was going on), the people who live here genuinely care about their residences, and they are a direct reflection of the eclectic creative personalities who this area is comprised of. I'm in close proximity to (read: walking distance) great restaurants, shops, parks, friend's houses, grocery stores, my art studio, downtown, it really is a great location. My apartment is a little smaller then I would want in an apartment but that's okay, it's worth having to compromise a little on space to have all those other benefits. We used to rent a big house in a crappy drug infested neighborhood, not harmless drugs like pot smoking hippies, but bad drugs, like crazy theif violent meth addicts. My landlord is the nicest landlord I have ever had, and I really am happy here. The neighborhood I live in is known as Sunnyside, and my art studio, which is about 9 blocks west and 9 blocks north is known as Buckman. I can ride my bike everywhere, and see people I recognize while I'm out and they wave hi or make small talk with me.

I really can't complain.

When I lived in New York, I also really liked the neighborhood I lived in too, although it was a different kind of neighborhood, it still was great. I think that area was known as Westerleigh, it's been a while so anyone local to NY correct me if I'm wrong...the landlord was kind of weirdo that reminded me of a giant pig and his son was a scary meathead who (rumor had it) murdered someone via vehicular manslaughter. But the apartment itself was unique, it was on the second floor of an old house, attached to 2 stores, and the kitchen was huge and the living room had window access to the roof of the bedroom on the first floor, which the cats loved to run around. I specifically remember seeing male cardinals around in spring. That apartment was close to a bus that would take you right to the ferry to Manhattan, and was walking distance to pizzerias, bagel shops and delis, a little store everyone I knew called "Viet-nam Bob's" (I can't actually recall what the real name of that store was, but I hear that it's no longer there).

There were a couple of gas stations nearby, and one night when I was hanging out with former roommates, we witnessed a late night gasoline mishap, and for some reason the gas was shooting all over the gas station property as if a geyser erupted. The employees at the gas station quickly grabbed all the rags they could find, and started blotting up the gas and shoving the rags under dilapadated vehciles also on the property. This scene went from funny to very dangerous, and we quiclky called 9-1-1. Shortly thereafter, the entire block was closed down, and there were so many emergency personnel there I hoped that there wasn't any other emergencies occuring anywhere else. It amazed me that they were trying to cover the whole situation up.

Usually, at that gas station there wasn't any trouble like that, in fact, that gas station seemed to be completely dead for the graveyard shift, and often we could see the night attendant through the plate glass windows sleeping in the office chair. The gas station had their phone number on the awning, and we would prank call this sleeping overnight guy and laugh about it for hours. I think he eventually took the phone off the hook.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

the amazing power of roaming wi-fi hot spots

I wrote this really indepth blog analyzing my feelings on Harrison Ford and his recent turning down to play an older Han Solo for $47 million dollars. It was great, I had examples, articles referenced, pictures, then I lost my internet connection and lost the whole blog entry. I was a bit put off about that and I admit that it's hard to get writing again after that. Usually I go through this process or writing the blog elsewhere on my computer where I can back up the file, but I got a little too big for my britches with the wi-fi luck I've been having, and now I have nothing to show for it.

Maybe I'll revisit that subject again, it's definately worth delving into. Today I had to stay home from work because we received a few inches of snow, which in itself isn't a reason to stay home, but in Portland, they don't know how to deal with snow and ice, and I think they make things worse in a way. I spent the day on the phone with people I work with who made it in, or sweeping the front steps for myself and a few neighbors, and I went to Safeway for any older neighbors who couldn't get out on their own. My old lady neighbor requested beefy chunky low sodium soups, a cinnamon bun and a quart of half and half. I just picked up two Amy's Organic spinach pizza.



Notice the bus a few cars back...it's positioned like that because the buses had no chains and no traction coming up the hill...I watched three buses crash into the telephone pole which is next to where I'm standing to take the picture.



The snow is pretty, even though the locals freak out. Some kid was sledding today and got hit by a car. I'm sure several kids did all over the area throughout the day, but I only caught one on the evening news. Everything looks so clean and white when it snows, and all of the sounds of daily life are muted by the soft white buffer. The snow was pretty fluffly, the kind of snow that you'd lay down and die in if you were lost in the wilderness.

Fortunately for me I'm only about 5 blocks from my house. I'm at a coffee shop right now, and some weird girl came into the room where I'm typing and is doing pushups and and stretches for no apparent reason. I guess it could be worse; she could be asking me for money. If she doesn't quit, I'll record her and post the video on YouTube.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

temporary dental epilogue

the dentist visit went much better then I could have aniticpated. It turns out that I have an exposed root, which is very sensitive, and it has a bacteria infection brought on by a lot of sugar (the Riccola cough drops I've been eating). The dentist was a nice woman, not too much older then me, who was very passionate about teeth. She spoke with an accent that sounded Eastern-European-ish, and explained the problem to me after poking and jamming that metal pick thing at my tooth and touching it with q-tips drenched in brown stuff. It was awful, I was involentarily reflexively squirming in my chair, as the assistnat put her hand on my arm as to reassure me. Now that I think about it maybe the assistant was making sure that I didn't hit the dentist. Not that it would have come to that.

I used to be responsible for accompanying severely developmentally disabled adults to dentist visits. Those appointments were always an adventure. First of all, the dentist's office would always prescribe heavy duty drugs for anyone I've had to take, so they could show up half-knocked out. Amazingly, many of the people these drugs were prescribed for are impervious to extreme amounts and mixtures of drugs. They would get to their appointment, and still manage to punch the dentist with a closed fist in the face. One appointment, this extremely agile and quick guy I was responisible for named Michael grabbed the pick and mirror out of the dentist's hand and threw it across the room. Then he climbed out of the chair, jumped over some equipment, openend the door and ran out of the room. Another woman I brought named Maria would scream and tried to head-butt the dentist whenever he came near. She also would grab any instruments, her paper bib around her neck, anything she can grab and throw at the dental staff in the room. Maria was blind, but had awesome aim. She was like a blind, short, mentally retarded Annie Oakley.

I think I'm probably one of the more challenging paitents at the dentist's office, but I don't think I'm too bad. I always gag when the technician shoves the tooth x-ray card into my mouth. I can't help that it makes my eyes water when it's wedged between the roof of my mouth and the soft fleshy pulp underneath my tongue. (forgot the technical term for that part of the body). Something interesting and bold about my new dentist's office I noticed, is that it was a very open enviroment, instead of seperate, private offices, the examination area was a large, open room, with several chairs seperated by large partitians. It kind of reminded me of a beauty parlor. Everything was painted either purple or a blue-green turquioise color.

I was very releived to hear that no root canals, crowns, or even fillings needed to happen. The dentist put a temporary varnish or seal or something on the exposed root part of my tooth, and I have to go back next week for a cleaning and a more permanent seal on that tooth.

Friday, January 12, 2007

anti-dentite

I've had a nagging pain in my left jaw for over a week now; I thought my face hurt because I was sick and never even considered dental distress. I'm almost completely recovered from my laundry list of ailments, but somehow I feel like having eaten alot of Ricola cough drops ate a hole in my jaw from between two lower left teeth. I have a new dental insurance carrier, and called and explained my situation. I sheepishly explained that I haven't been to the dentist since 1998, but that was only because between now and then I haven't really had a job that offered dental insurance. They were really nice at the dentist, and managed to get me into an appointment tomorrow morning at 10:15. I couldn't believe my ears, and had to ask the receptionist to repeat and confirm the appointment information. In the past when I had dental insurance, there was about two weeks between the time you made the appointment and when the appointment actually was.

I have strong mixed feelings now; I'm glad I'm getting in to see the dentist so quick. My jaw feels pretty uncomfortable, there's definitely a problem that needs attention. On the other hand, I hate the dentist, all the scraping, digging, poking, prodding...it's just awful. I can't help but think about my tooth getting filled. The whole experience is freaky, and visits to the dentist for me rate in the same group as chewing on tinfoil, scraping styrophone, or scratching nails on a chalk board. The way my luck has been going lately, I'll probably need a root canal or something extreme like that.

But at the same time, I am glad that dental technology is has advanced, and that I can go get treatment, get problems fixed and be comfortable.

I've have such bad teeth. I mean I brush and floss and do everything I can at this point in the game, but I've had many cavities filled, chipped teeth, had teeth extracted, and worst of all, I had braces on for 5 years, but only was seeing an orthodontist for the first two. The last three years of wearing braces I moved in with a different divorced parent, who didn't follow up and take me to an orthodontist to continue the course of treatment braces were providing.

I ended up taking most of my braces off when I was 17, at high school, during final exams. I skipped an exam because I was failing that class anyway, and asked one of the custodians if I could borrow his needle-nosed pliers to pull the wires out. I removed the brackes with the tines on a fork; it was the perfect shape to slide under the bracket, they popped right off my teeth. Eating food immediately became a much more enjoyable experience.

The only parts of my braces I couldn't remove myself were these metal bands which wrapped aound my back teeth, and connected the wires that were set in the brackets. When I was 21, I finally had those removed, and needed emergency reconstructive surgery on my back teeth because they had started to decay after all those years under the metal brackets.

Anyway, wish me luck that it's only a filling I need tomorrow.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

winter-ish

The pictures below were taken this morning in Gresham, east of Portland. It was about 8 AM, and a combination of slightly higher eleveation and a juicy snow shower passing overhead caused the final portion of my commute to work to transform into a winter wonderland. Everything was dark and had a blue-white overcast to it. The entire city of Portland and all surrounding metro areas cancelled or delayed school for the day, and traffic was moving slowly, many accidents and people losing control of their cars. All because of about 2 - 3 inches of snow. And not consistent snow cover, either. I live in the inner SE area, around 400 ft sea level, and when I left for work, the weather could be best described as "crunchy rain." There was no white accumliation or ice to be seen. I took advantage of all the delays and took a few pictures while I was driving.




it was kind of a neat phenomina (I probably spelled that wrong), it wasn't so much snow that you had to shovel, or were inconvieneiced, and it wasn't so cold that you couldn't enjoy the weather. The tempatures got up to about 35 today, so the snow started to melt a little, but now I guess that it's down to about 20 degrees right now, so any remaining snow is going to refreeze.

Fun!

I've had trouble getting to sleep lately; I think it's been half being sick and uncomfortable, and half busy brain i.e. can't stop thinking. I think about everything sometimes, and can't even help it. I even think about the fact that I'm not sleeping and thinking, then think about the Lunesta commercial with the butterfly and think to myself "boy that is so me!"

Sometimes I get up and walk around my dark apartment, and watch the sleeping rest of my block through the blinds in my kitchen. The streetlight casts silent shadows across the lineolium floor that Marcus quietly walks on. I just think Marcus gets up with me because he sees it as an opportunity to get fed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

the storm that wasn't

this morning and today was the day the "big artic blast" was due to hit the Portland Metro Area. As usual, everyone freaked out, running news and weather crawls on every network station, issuing alerts on the radio, it was battle stations here while they showed footage of the local department of transportation gear up for this "storm" and prepare their vechiles for battle against mother nature. Some schools were closed for the day, or at the very least faced a 2 hour delay, and many other activites were cancelled in anticipation of this storm. All of the news and weather people speuclated that we'd have freezing rain, there would be snow and slush, frozen roads and black ice, it would be a real treacherous experience for anyone commuting or traveling.


The picture above depicts what the weather actually looked like today, as you can see it wasn't freezing, it hung around at about 40 degrees, and it was far from wet. The sun even shone for most of the day.

I really think the people in Denver were much more relaxed about their situation, and seemed to handle piles and piles and snow much more efficiently. I often connect with other east coasters, or even people from the midwest or northern states like Minnesota or Michigan at times like these; they have seen snow, I've been commuting to work when it's only been 1 degree out, stomped through snow up to my knees, or even worse, forgot to wear boots and got snow in my sneakers, soaking my sock and freezing my foot. There isn't snow here; it's a sparse dusting, that usually dissapates by the time it hits the ground.

It really is a joke how much they are playing up the snow (lack of, actually)., I can't beleive that the weather is dominating the majority of the news, that the newscasters annouce school closures and show footage of kids scraping snowballs together off the street with a straight face. I can't believe there isn't any other news going on in the world. I guess everyone seems to have forgot there's still some kind of war going on and men, women and children dying daily.

Don't get me wrong; there are definatley places nearby where there is so much snow, and the winter weather threat causes many deaths and serious injuries to people who venture out into the unknown. Many of the people who have gotten lost on Mt. Hood have not been recovered and probably won't be recovered, until probably many many years in the future, when future explorers and archiologists discover a fully dressed preserved corpse, to give the future insight on how man from the late 1900's/early 2000's looked and lived.

on a completely different note:

the cough syrup that I'm taking contains a liquid hydrocondone (Vicadin to y'all) and another drug that supresses the cough refelx in the brain. How creepy is that? I had very very strong mixed feelings about ingesting the cough syrup after I read that, but somewhere around 2:47 AM I couldn't take it anymore. The cough I have is such an unsatisfying, unfufilling, dry cough, sometimes with no reachable end in sight. I guess the cough syrup isn't too bad, habit forming potential aside and all. I try not to think about the brain reflex thing, which is easy to do after I've taken a dose.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

high fructose corn syrup

I can't believe the amount of high fructose corn syrup that is present in the products we ingest.

I'm saying "products that we ingest" instead of "food we eat" because I had to pick up a bottle of cough syrup, and listed on the ingredient label between "glycern" and "menthol" is high fructose corn syrup.

It's a real struggle shopping, trying to make smart informed choices, but not getting lost in the sea of listed ingredients. Virtually everything we eat contains high fructose corn syrup. The only things tht don't are organic or natural items that were created as a result of consumers wanting something different, something without man-modified food chemicals. I think everyone understands that soda and candy contain high fructose corn syrup, but how about the other things that nobody thinks of...look at the products in your kitchen, your refrigerator, your pantry: ketchup, baked beans, breads, cereals, salad dressings, fruit juices...the list goes on and on.

Monday, January 08, 2007

so I haven't really writen alot lately

and gotten off easy by occasionally posting pictures--which I take all the time. I have a low end 4.1 megapixel fujifilm camera, but somehow I've gotten to know it well, and feel comfortable taking pictures all the time. My only complaint is that the batteries seem to wear down quickly, and as a result, it shuts off on me instead to taking the picture, or takes forever to start up. My camera also has the capacity to shoot low quality movies, which definatly saves nice panoramas and captures family and friend drunken blackmail moments.

so I've been sick for a while; I first noticed something was amiss around New Year's. That since has blossomed into coughing, congestion, fever, body aches, ear aches, headaches, every symptom except nausea, which I haven't completely ruled out. The coughing and lack of sleep is completely exhasuting me, and I can't even believe that my nose is completley clogged up. I hope I don't choke drinking water or anything.

I hear that there's going to be snow on Wednesday. Personally, I think the people around here over-react, so if there is snow I"ll be out with my camera at some point, provided I'm not any sicker.

I'm trying to be positive, and thinking that maybe I hit the bottom of whatever I have, and the only way from here is up, and better, and back to normal (whatever normal is, anyway).

I went to the doctor's earlier, I suscribe to corporate nazi healthcare, but hey it's better then no insurance. I'd rather get legal drugs for a co-pay then from a shady transaction in a fast-food parking lot (disclaimer: I've never done that). I was diagnosed with some kind of generic "upper respitory bronchial infection" which means that I've been miserable for over a week now, and it's not too miserable to warrant hospital care, but bad enough to lose concentration throughout the day. Bad enough to have co-workers stop into your cubicle and say things like:

"you look sweaty, are you okay?"

"boy, you look pale"

"aren't you the chair of the Wellness Committee? How come you're at work sick?"

"you think it's a good idea coming in getting other people sick?"

"if you get me sick you're paying for my sick day"

and lots of other things. I go to work sick because I'm responsible and accountable to an anxiety attack inducing level, and haven't scheduled any time in to be sick. As it is I'm making changes in my personal life, not doing my out of work activities to come home, put on comfy clothes and relax while alternately blowing my nose, drinking tea and eating Ricola cough drops. Fortunately for me I've had consistent free wireless service, and the hot spot is on my coffee table in front of my couch. That beats the previous hot spot in my apartment, which was in my bathroom, on the sink, between the shower, toilet and cat box.

When I was a kid I really like those Luden's Cherry Cough Drops that came in the little cardboard box with the wax inside wrapper. I don't think they did shit for my cough, but I loved the way those tasted so much I would fake cough and fabricate stories of a sore throat to get some. Funny now that I'm grown up (well, older anyway) I haven't really had them. I wonder if they contain high fructose corn syrup. Ricola Cough Drops don't.

Ric tells me that the bathroom, not including the tub, is an area that is 8 feet by 13 feet. That sounds big, but shares the space with two doorways, a toilet, a sink cabinet and a cat box. I wish I could teach Marcus to go to the bathroom in the toilet.

Suprisingly the doctor I saw was really nice, and kind of funny. I generally don't have good experiences at the doctors, so it was nice to see someone who wasn't impersonal, rushed or disinterested. I didn't remember her name when I got to the appointment but I remembered that she had one of those two first name names, like Dr. Vanessa Donald or something like that. Sharing that knowledge with the receptionist seemed to speed up the process; I was only waiting about 5 minutes before I was called back.

The doctor made many funny observations about Oprah and the corporate nazi healthcare system in general. She told me that doctors share a funny thing they do to patients, when we're sick, they ask us what color our phlegm is. She told me that it doesn't matter, the only thing that matters is if you are producing evidence of an infection. But she said that it makes people feel better to tell doctors what color it is. She also said that hand sanitizer doesn't work, it just provides mental releif for the people using it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

more eastern Oregon pictures

miles and miles of lonely road like this...


it was pretty cold!





Driving north, down into the canyon. Washington state in the distance, across the unseen river.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy 2007!

I had some time off this New Year's weekend, and we traveled out to eastern Oregon again. This time we went the furthest east we have ever been; east of The Dalles, and arond a place called Fulton Canyon.





I'll upload more pictures later this week; I've also uploaded sets of eastern Oregon pictures, as well as winter Multnomah Falls and Columbia Gorge pictures on my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fwickafwee.

*****************************************************

Like you, I can't believe that it's 2007. I clearly remember when it was 1987, and 1997 for that matter. I don't usually believe in making resolutions, because I feel if you are going to change you should inititate that change immediately, not on January 1st. This year, however, I made a small resolution: to tile my coffee table.

About 10 years ago, I had a coffee table I really liked. It was solid, on wheels, and had a mosiac tiled top, bordered in maj jong tiles. I spent about 6 months clipping and setting each tile, and was really happy about the outcome. Over the years, between moving and storing furniture across the country, I lost the table. I always imagine some person somewhere else is looking at it, in their living room in front of their couch, wondering about the origins.

Anyway, I have another coffee table in my possession, aching to be tiled. I'd like to get that done in 2007.