Neo-Hippie Ramblings - I'm a Non-Conformist Just Like All My Friends: December 2005

Thursday, December 29, 2005

My poor little blog, Paganmas, et al

My poor little blog is being neglected. Been very busy overall, and what online time I do have has been devoted to Bring It On lately. More smart content, more discussion, more traffic, more stupid people to abuse, what else can I say? Looks like this site will end up being my Phun with Paintshop Pro blog, for the most part -- that's what's driving a lot of the traffic now.

Well, that obviously-pagan winter solstice holiday we slapped a Baby Jesus sticker on and called 'Christmas' has come and gone once again. Can't say that I enjoyed it an awful lot this year. Seemed like it was "the holiday season" forever. By mid-December I just wanted for it to be finished. Now all that's left is New Years Eve, which isn't much of a holiday unless you're into serious drinking, elbow-to-elbow crowds at the bars, or both of the above. Which I'm not. If there were a holiday with a ganja theme, now that I could get into.

Going to visit the family, though, which should be nice.

Black Spy and White Spy, despite having received a fair number of cool toys each -- including many intended to encourage cooperative play -- still seem to prefer picking one toy and fighting over it. Grrr. I'm thinking coal next year. Except they'd probably just fight over whose piece was bigger...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Dark Descent

I've been losing more sleep than usual these days, simply because I recently bought an incredible horror anthology called The Dark Descent and instead of brushing my teeth and going to bed, I've been brushing my teeth and then standing around for another half hour finishing up whatever story I've been sucked into.

I've been a fan of horror fiction since I was in my early teens -- sometimes sneaking in books that I wasn't allowed to be reading because they were too 'adult' in nature - Stephen King, John Saul and the like. By high school, I'd read just about all of Stephen King and Dean Koontz's published work as of that time. I can't stomach Koontz anymore -- he's far too formulaic and the characters are so flat that they cause papercuts.

King I still like, when it's clear that it's really him writing. Unfortunately, I think there are a fair number of ghost-written novels out there bearing the Stephen King name (Insomnia stands out in my memory as obviously not King, but there were some other ringers as well). I've always liked his short stories better than his long fiction, anyway.

Short aside: saying that you enjoy Stephen King is taboo for an English major, especially a creative writing major (which I was). A lot of his work is pure escapism, admittedly, but some of it has a 'there there'. Case in point: You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, which has a fascinating subtext when read allegorically.

Clive Barker is a more recent favorite -- although Orson Scott Card also put together a kick-ass collection of stories in the horror mode back in the early 90s, called The Changed Man and the King of Words.

Let me reiterate, though, The Dark Descent is incredible. A lot of old favorites, as well as many excellent stories that I've never encountered before. (Theodore Sturgeon's "Bright Segment" has been playing in my head like a snuff film for two days now -- that and Clive Barker's "Dread", which is easily one of his best.) I'm only about a quarter of the way into the book and I'm already itching to get back into writing fiction -- something I haven't done seriously in about ten years.

I didn't put this blog up to hawk books, but if you like horror stories, this is one that you'll definitely want to get your hands on. Buy it, borrow it, check it out of the library or stick it in your pants the next time you're browsing through Borders. But definitely get a copy in hand.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Finally Got the Christmas Tree Up

Maybe it's just because the kids are so young, but I seem to remember decorating the tree being something of a bigger deal when my siblings and I were growing up. Our five-year-old was somewhat interested in helping, but mostly just fought another skirmish in the ongoing Spy-vs-Spy drama that dominates her relationship with her younger sister.

And on the subject of pointless skirmishes, the whole 'Merry Christmas' vs 'Happy Holidays' thing is extraordinarily stupid. There's been a lot of discussion on Bring It On, so I'm not going to regurgitate that here. The guest post today from Matthew61 is really good, check it out.

Unless you feel that the 'Christmas Spirit' is about the need to dominate a 'my god is bigger than your god' argument, it would all seem to be rather silly. "I came here to buy a [cheap plastic toy] assembled by a Chinese prison laborer or eight-year-old child in Malaysia (pick one) for my spoiled, over-privileged kid, and you'd better acknowledge that this holiday is about Jesus Christ, or else!" I'm not sure if that's funny or sad. It's definitely ironic, though.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ever smelled your own eyeballs burning?

I did, this morning.

P & I realized a few months back that we'd seriously overestimated the amount of money in our pre-tax medical account for this year. Rather than lose the money at end-of-year (stupid law, but that's a rant for another day), we decided to use it toward LASIK surgery for me.

I think that there are about three categories of people wearing glasses. My wife is in one category, which is 'glasses make things crisp but I can function fine without them'. My grandfather is at the other end of the spectrum, which is 'I'm legally blind even with glasses, but they help me a little so I wear them'. Up until this morning, I was in the last category, which is 'I see fine with glasses, but I'm totally useless without them.' Remember Velma crawling around on the floor looking for her birth control goggles? That was me.

So anyway, I was at the LASIK center for about 2.5 hours this morning, about 2 hours of which was spent sitting in a hallway, in between sets of pre-op photos and a whole bunch of eyedrops.

Don't blink!The surgery itself involves having your eyes propped open using something akin to the setup from A Clockwork Orange, having the transparent protective layer over the lens of your eyeball sliced open and popped up like the lid on a shampoo bottle, and then having a computer-guided laser smooth out the imperfections that caused your nearsightedness in the first place. It's quick, and pretty much painless, but having your eyeball sliced open and having your vision suddenly go to shit is a scary thing nonetheless. So is the smell of your eyeball cooking under a laser. The Valium they gave me beforehand helped a little. Something stronger would've been ideal.

(The computer-guided part of the process probably makes some people feel better about the procedure. Being in the software quality assurance field, though, that part totally freaked me out.)

But here I sit, twelve hours later, without glasses. My eyes are still recovering from the surgery, but I can already tell that I'm going to see at least as well without glasses as I did with them. After having worn them all day, every day, since elementary school, it's unnerving not to have them on. (Never wore contacts because they seemed like a pain in the butt and I don't like the idea of touching my eyes.) I keep 'startling' because of the sensation of not having them, and try to reach out to find them.

Weird, but cool.