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Tales From an Irish Gypsy

With miles to go before I sleep

Corporate D&D, 5th Edition
Kitty issues
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If software company positions were traditional D&D classes:

Tier I Support (Fighters, Barbarians): Front line units who spend their days engaged in combat with hostile forces, they will soak most of the company's damage. Requires both a high endurance and pain threshold. Masochism a plus. Their battle cries can be heard echoing through the halls...once the customer is off the phone of course. 

Tier II Support/Escalation Managers (Rangers, Rogues): Spend their days sniping issues from a safe distance behind the Tier I Support reps. Prefer finesse to brute strength. Avoid direct melee confrontation if at all possible, but will seek to end it quickly if it does occur, by any means necessary.

Customer Relations (Clerics, Druids): Sometimes things on the front lines get messier than anticipated, and some healing (or divine intervention) becomes necessary. And sometimes you just need a wall of thorns to disrupt things long enough to figure out what to do. When a client relationship is bleeding out, Customer Relations steps in to try and stabilize things.

Project Management (Paladins): Sworn to protect and uphold the needs of the client and their project at all costs. While technically part of the company party, they will strike down whomever they have to, internal or external, to ensure that the needs of their client-deity are met. Their cause is just and righteous, if not a bit tunnel-visioned. 

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Pearls
Kitty issues
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I write like an oyster forms a pearl.

I write to surround a grain of sand, an irritating thought, a memory that will not let me rest, with a smooth, shiny surface, which I occasionally cast out in to the world, or get cracked open to reveal.

People ask me why I hate my own writing. They assign descriptors to me that make me deeply uncomfortable. Tell me about the emotions they feel when they read what I've written. And I'm glad that it has an impact on people. But it always seems to loop back around to that first question. 

"How can you hate your own writing?"

Because I know where it came from. I know what sits at the middle of the pearl, and I formed everything that I did around it to make it go away. Except it doesn't; not really. Nothing ever does. 

It's less of an irritant, but it's still sitting there, in my brain, shinier and prettier but no less present. Encapsulated and harmless, its sharp edges buried deep, it sits on the pile with the rest, countless hundreds of thousands of words, spun to keep me sane. Spun to let me heal. Spun to let life move on. The facets no longer cut me, but I remember how each one felt. 

Sometimes people mistakenly think I write about certain subjects or certain people because they mean more to me, were more important to me, had more of an impact on me than others. Only the last statement approaches the truth, for all the reasons laid out above. 

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(no subject)
Kitty issues
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I miss this place.

Why do I miss this place?


You're still here
Kitty issues
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"Why wouldn't I be?"

Well...our date stamp is in Russian now, for one thing.

"It happens."

What does this place even mean, anymore?

"Nothing. Everything. The same as it always did."

Where do we go from here, though?

"The same places we always have. Wherever our minds take us."

This place is a graveyard for memories, odd reminiscent epitaphs jutting out of a ground too long unattended.

"...so you're still super melodramatic, huh?"

It's gotten worse.

"Dear god. You should probably log out now."


This Place
Kitty issues
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My god, this place was an angsty train wreck, wasn't it?

But it was my train wreck.

And I'm trying to learn that there is value in that.

So. This is still here.
Kitty issues
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Huh.

The Cruisining, Part 1: The Road Goes Eventually On
Kitty issues
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I am death warmed over, encapsulated in a high-velocity projectile disguised as an airport shuttle.

Running on two hours of sleep and one fewer cups of coffee, I am in no mood for the Whitman's Sampler of humanity jammed around me. Our initial departure was delayed by an elderly cowbow's refusal to stop smoking, a stern-eyed middle-aged woman's 20-foot-radius personal bubble, and a man with no less than four cans of product in his hair refusing to give an inch of ground on his seat in the full cabin. The cowboy had ended up next to him, and now their adjacent buttcheeks are engaged in territorial disputes.

My money is on the cowboy. I'm betting he's had chili in the recent past.

We barrel through the early morning rush on I-75 with no regard for human life. We blend right in, traveling with the flow of traffic. It reminds me of the old arcade game Crazy Taxi, only with a much worse soundtrack, and higher body count.

Today, Lizzie and I begin an adventure that will take me out of the country for the first time, and the two of us on to our first cruise ship. Along the way, if all goes according to plan, we will snorkel, kayak, swim with nice, non-rapey dolphins, and, Poseidon willing, return with sunburns shy of parboiling.

The Caribbean sun may seem an odd selection for two people just this side of albino, with reddish hair, blue eyes, and freckles. Placing us in direct sunlight is akin to placing a fork in a microwave; there are sparks, and a lot of pain. Our April excursion to England, with its rain and fog and...rain and fog, seems much more suited to our melanin challenged bodies.

But we are both drawn to the coasts, her by the beach and the serenity she brings, and me by the ocean and the endless escapist potential she holds. As in most of our endeavors, even when the destination differs, the journeys are parallel, and that's the worthier part anyway. We shall do this, as all things, together.

But before either of us can begin to absorb more ultraviolet radiation in one week than we have the cumulative previous year, we must SURVIVE that journey.

Our driver weaves sharply in to a gap in the lane to our left only millimeters wider than the van itself, only to swerve back out to the same space we had only seconds ago occupied. I begin to wonder if he is making bets with the voices in his head.

Another driver very nearly clips our front right quarter panel as he attempts the exact same maneuver. The voices, it seems, have a cb channel.

These matters are complicated by the fact that the gravity locking mechanism on my seatbelt is over zealous in ways that cannot be accurately described in words, only by guttural choking noises, made by a passenger whose carotid artery has lost contact with his brain. With each bump and swerve, my shoulder strap becomes a hyper-protective mother, pinning me to the seat until the mortal danger of the speed bump has passed.

The lower half of my body follows the whims of inertia. My head, neck and shoulders remain stationery, locked somewhere between an involuntary river dance routine and a seizure. This continues the full two hours to the airport, where Lizzie collects our baggage as my lips slowly lose their bluish tinge. Taking an inventory of my mental faculties to verify I still remember my name, address, and that 2+2=5, we move onward to security. I am certain, all things considered this day, that probulation abounds.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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Eulogy
Kitty issues
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I used to wonder how long mine and Emily's story would last, in all its different iterations and incarnations. From friends, to best friends, to lovers, to being engaged, to being estranged, to being strangers. 

From survivors, to people looking for a fresh start, to people who alternatingly wondered why things even stopped in the first place, to people who re-learned that lesson the hard way. 

From introductions in a high school auditorium, to staring out the window of a Greyhound bus 7 years later, wondering why I bothered. 

It never seemed to end, just change, and I wondered aloud on many an occasion, sometimes to others, sometimes to a bartender, sometimes to the ceiling, how long this tale would be when the final chapter closed. 

The answer, as it turns out, is about 13 years. 

Emily died July 19, 2012. 

And all the people who loved her most, through all the sundry chapters we all wove together, found out on December 13th. Very nearly five months later. 

By the time we all realized what had happened, all that was left was a black and white thumbnail photo and a vague obituary on a Mobile, Alabama newspaper's archive. A vibrant girl, now just a list of accomplishments and survivors on a screen, with not a soul in the guest book but a generic church condolence. 

She deserved better. In a lot of ways, in life and death. The former can no longer be helped, although god knows some of us tried. The latter I am writing to rectify, in the only way I know how, right now. 

Because she deserved a eulogy from people who knew her when. One that I know she didn't get, because whatever happened that night, and in the days that followed, we weren't there. We didn't even know. So I'm doing it now. Because this one time, I want to try and give her what she deserved. 

I owe her that much. 

Because her life was not the sum of its parts. Because her journey, ANYONE's journey, should not be defined by the mistakes that she made. Because if you knew her like I knew her, you knew that past all the scar tissue that accumulated, and all the genuine evil laid upon her by many of those she chose to let in closest to her, past the pain and everything that came with it, there was a poet. There was an artist. There was a genuinely talented writer and a biting satirist. There was a mind like a steel trap and sense of humor sharp as any sword that she was not afraid to use in the slightest. 

In her was a fire so bright that it blinded me from the moment I saw it, it warmed myself and so many of us on dark coastal nights at Hiller Park, it killed me to see it dim, and it drove me to the brink of emotional collapse and madness trying to rekindle it, after the darkest of influences all around her had taken their toll. 

It was a fire that myself and others, especially Tasha (god bless ya, dear), believed in enough to try and build again until each of us simply could go on no longer. It is a bitter day when the demands of your own life and the cost of trying to help a dear friend desperately in need can no longer co-exist. But such was the faith and loyalty those of us who knew her best felt she had earned. The poet, the dancer, the writer. We...I...always had to believe that they were still in there somewhere. 

And that if I had the energy to give, and she had the need, there should be no debate. Once the anger of chapters that have no place here now had died down, there are, at the core of it, few people I have fought harder for. 

I had my final conversation with Emily in June. It was difficult, hard to tell if even the embers of her past self were there. But through the haze of her chatter and pained ramblings and sobbing, there were always glimpses. A glimmer of hope in a maelstrom of paranoia and fear and panic. I made a note to check on her again, and she sent me a Facebook message afterwards, an upbeat one at that. 

A month later, she was gone. And time got away from me, and the usual time-lapse pattern of our communication led me to think nothing of it. Until today. 

Today, when I am eulogizing one of my oldest friends, my ex-fiancee, five months after she died, isolated from anyone who could have brought that news home to any of us. 

Mental illness took a girl who could write Tolkien elvish and scream along to Tool, who could write poetry and talk to fairies if ever anyone could, who was sensitive and caring to the point that she often took in too much of the world's pain, and it deprived that same world of her light, and her continued growth and evolution in to someone who could have been truly amazing. If you take nothing else from my ramblings here tonight, take this:

Mental disorders, severe depression, schizophrenia, these are not things that just "happen" to "crazy people." They are serious afflictions, impacting people who are surrounded by those who love them, and who don't know how, or don't have the resources to be able, to help them. It is a horrible thing to watch. It is a horrible thing to hold someone's hand through. It is a horrible thing to not be able to protect them from voices and demons inside their own minds. It is a horrible thing to have to sit beside someone's bed to sing to them as they sob themselves to sleep. It is a horrible way to drift away from everyone and everything you once loved. And it is a horrible way to die. 

I know money is tight right now for everyone, but if you feel so moved, in Emily's memory, there are charities out there that try to help, that try to develop those resources or at least further the understanding of the enemy. I have linked a couple below, but I am always open to suggestions. 

If you can give, bless you, maybe you help spare someone else this struggle. And even if you can't, thank you for indulging me, as I try to capture the good that was Emily, one last time. 

May she finally enjoy the peace she deserves. 

http://www.afsp.org/
http://www.nami.org/


Posted via m.livejournal.com.


The Three Things Chopped Contestants are Contractually Obligated to Do
Kitty issues
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I don't watch a lot of reality television, but when I do, it apparently needs to involve someone pureeing sheep's bladder. Iron Chef America, The Next Iron Chef, The Next Food Network Star, and, most beloved of all, Chopped. Staples in my televised diet. But having consumed nearly, what, five seasons of Chopped now, I have to say that certain...patterns...begin to emerge.

1) Someone must attempt to use the blast chiller, unsuccessfully - No, seriously, we're not even sure the damn thing is plugged in. At least two out of every three episodes has someone who is actively racing a 30 minute clock develop the brilliant idea to attempt to cook something that takes 25 minutes to bring to a molten state, and then 10 minutes to set. Oh noes! But wait! The blast chiller!

In theory, the thing is like an anti-microwave. Inside a nitrogen-fueled portal to the ninth level of Dante's hell, all molecular activity will cease within minutes! You have become death, destroyer of worlds, and Brownian motion! Except not really.

Without fail, with 60 seconds left on the clock, a frantic chef will throw open the door, only to find that instead of a beautifully set chocolate sheet (insert fancy French phrase here), he has a slightly congealed mass of lukewarm chocolaty goo. This is how easily 20% of the sauces on the show are made. Remember, the secret ingredient is panic!

I'm sure that it's a fine machine which, given proper time, would do wonders on the dessert or dashing, debonair pilot of the Millennium Falcon of your choice. But the contestants' consistent failure to grasp the laws of thermodynamics continues to make this appliance look only slightly less useless than Geoffrey Zakarian's tan.

2) Zee machines, zey do nothink! - Industrial meat grinder. Ice cream maker. 4000 rpm Foodbliterator. There are a LOT of very nifty gadgets in the Chopped kitchen that I would, at first blush, absolutely love to have in my own home. Except for the fact that, given their success rate on the show, I feel like the chances of them working as intended are only slightly higher than their chances of rising up and joining their robot overlords in revolution, turning my family in to the series premiere of "How To Serve Man."

Much like the blast chiller, I assume that most of this is the result of hurried contestants attempting to do things like juice an entire side of cow, and grind a turnip in to sausage. It's just so predictable that you could build a drinking game around it. "Oh crap, he's got the blender! Get me a shot! GET ME A SHOT!" It's enough to make me wonder if the producers haven't hired gnomes to tinker with each appliance juuuuust a little bit.

3) SCIENCE! - It's not, perhaps, as common as some of these other entries, but every fifth episode or so you'll get someone who mastered in gastronomy at MIT instead of Le Cordon Bleu, and this person will generally hold true to two principles: first, they will genuinely believe that they are smarter than everyone else in the room, including the judges, and anyone who doesn't enjoy their cuisine simply doesn't "get it," and second, they will grab every amino acid and chemically prefixed powder on the gorram shelf, and they will blend them all together and call it "pesto."

Look, I don't know what this stuff tastes like. I stopped getting near active science labs after my stint interning with Bunsen Honeydew. Sure, that third arm is handy for typing, but spooning? Très difficile. All I'm saying is, have you ever not mixed a Carnation Instant Breakfast up well enough? Texturally, it's a nightmare, but at least it still tastes like chocolate. Now you've got someone throwing four cups of maltodextrin powder in to their sauce, and as far as I know, that just tastes like science. And science tastes about like NyQuil, in my world.

"Good afternoon, judges. Today, I have made you a slurry of grit and slime that, when you are finished, can also be used in your child's rock tumbler."

(no subject)
Kitty issues
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I am trying to start writing again. Not necessarily here, although that would be nice. I need to start writing ANYwhere again.

I am back in the tech industry. I am a Swiss army employee at a national finance software firm. From 8:30 to 6 pretty much every day, with an occasional lunch sprinkled in for variety, I am either at a computer, or at a coffee pot, and if remote desktop could connect to the coffee pot, I'd probably just stay there. The carpet between my desk and the kitchen is developing a pronounced groove.

I spend my days, all of my days, helping develop new things for people to destroy or fixing things that people have found new and interesting ways of destroying already. And this might sound very similar to my job at AT&T, or parts of my job at Scholastic, except at AT&T, if I decided not to do my job properly because you were a wanker and demanding restitution because a free feature isn't working that you never had in the first place, I blew up your SIM card and you had to drive to the store and get a free replacement. Whereas now, if I decide not to do my job correctly, millions of dollars are no longer in balance. And then a man in a suit's head explodes, and if you blow up a head, you've got to spend the rest of the evening mopping it up yourself.

So...you know, a low stress environment.

Point being, by the end of the day, I don't want to touch a computer anymore, unless it contains aliens or orcs that I am killing in the face until they die from it. I have a set ration of thoughts I can have per day, and by lunch I'm exceeding quota. People who get me after 3 PM are lucky I don't tell them to cover their general ledger in mayonnaise and plant it out back until it grows money.

This hasn't done much for my writing. Although it could. There is so much I could vent about at this job. At Scholastic, that was practically how I filled these pages. Partially because, at a monthly magazine, there was a week and a half out of every month where my job was to try not to consume oxygen that was being reserved for executives. And, partially, because I was in so close with the IT department that monitored web usage that I could probably have hosted a torrent site from my cubicle and no one would have "noticed."

Neither of these things are the case now. If I get a chance to pee during the day, I really feel like there must be something I'm forgetting to do. But I am learning a lot, and knowing is half the battle. Things like:

- People are bad at the maths: If the people working in some of these offices are indicative of the product of the last generation of public education, then 50 years from now, addition will be a college level course, and elementary students will cover a full semester of "not eating lead paint chips," followed by a supplementary course called "Dammit, I told you not to eat those!"

Please don't think I'm being judgmental, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and I have known plenty of absolutely brilliant people that would rather perform their own major dental surgery than try to attack an algebra problem. What I'm saying is, is that if math is your weakest subject or you have a natural and totally understandable difficulty with it, then maybe finance is not the place for you. I deal with everything from banks to loan offices, and much like Mulder, I want to believe that as an adjunct to your career choice, you have an understanding of division. However, also like Mulder, I end up being forced to admit that there is very little evidence to back up my claims. And then an angry, smoking, white man in a business suit tries to kill me. The parallels are eerie.

There are a thousand things I am supposed to be doing. I am a server admin, I manage a SQL database, I fix problems at our clients' home offices that involve major data manipulation, we serve something like 1200 offices and I am one of three people on active calls that is authorized to remotely connect and make the good stuff happen.

"This loan is for $1000 and they're supposed to pay it off over 10 months. How much is that a month?" See that? That right there? That's not a technical question.

Ugh, too frustrated to go on. We'll continue this discussion later. Class dismissed.