Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"Every dark cloud has its silver lining, but lightning kills hundreds of people each year who are trying to find it."

Today was a day of silver linings for me.  However, it's all a matter of perspective, and whether or not the proverbial silver lining is worth getting struck by the proverbial lightning.  Here's a quick rundown.

Silver Lining: Today, I learned that I'm not allergic to bee or wasp stings.  Usually, in order to determine one's allergies, one has to go through an unpleasant process in which a series of needles introduce alergen into a person's system in order to induce a skin reaction.  However, I managed to get around that and I'm feeling much more well informed.

Lightning Strike: I found this out the hard way.  Today, I was painting at a job site where the exterior of the house was infested with insects and spiders of all types.  Having been responsible for cleaning and painting, I had to manually pick out spider webs and cocooned insects from crevices.  And that was the more pleasant things I had to deal with.  I have about a dozen or so mosquito bites covering my arms, legs, and face from the first day when I didn't remember to bring insect repellant.  And about those wasp stings?  I had no idea that they could actually sting a person through their clothing.  I have one on my left ass-cheek and on the inside of my left thigh.

Silver Lining: Today, those kind helpful painters gave a sincere apology and voluntarily removed the paint splatters from my car which they got on by mistake.

Lightning Strike: What is this, rocket science?  Having been surrounded by construction, the car is understandably dirty, not including the paint overspray.  If you wash your car, you have to rinse it off first so you don't grind the dirt into the paint.  Guess what.  Allegedly, "The guy doesn't speak good English."  Call me culturally insensitive if you will, but since when is that a legitimate excuse?

Silver Lining: I managed to get registered for all my courses at Douglas College.

Lightning Strike: And that's the only thing I achieved today because I slept in and played video games for most of the day when I wasn't working.  I got next to nothing achieved.  I still haven't done a second draft of my article, my laundry isn't put away, and I still haven't eaten even though it's 10:30. 

The Monty Python troup put it best:

"Life's a piece of shit / When you look at it / Life's a laugh and death's a joke it's true / You'll see it's all a show / Keep 'em laughing as you go / Just rememer that the last laugh is on you."
 -"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

On Professionalism
As an aspiring professional writer, it's pretty much what I'm best at.  I partially attribute it to a bizarre spontaneous thought process (I'm a really good guy to have on teams when playing Charades), a large vocabulary, and a degree in English lit (would you like fries with that?). 
In about five minutes, I was able to bang out a complaint letter on behalf of my mom.  Since we moved into the new place, the level of quality seen in the aspects of the house, whether it be the overall construction to the paint has been pretty dicey.  And then they decided to paint the exterior last week.
I wouldn't consider myself a good painter by any means.  Even though I've been working for a painting company for about three weeks and they do seem pleased with my work, I know I'm not a professional painter.  However, if I was to produce work like that done on my mom's place, I wouldn't last very long.
Admittedly, accidents happen.  I should know.  But the things that have been happening are simply stupid and preventable.  Among them:
-Back deck has several drips of yellow paint on it.  This could have been prevented by putting a drop sheet on it.

-My car is speckled with yellow paint.  This will take a while to restore back to normal.  This could have been prevented by asking me to move the car and would have taken all of fifteen seconds.  I was home all day when that happened.  Guess what.  Somehow I'm reminded of the time UPS came by the same place to deliver a package, but assumed the place was still under construction.  I was home the entire day and a ten second phone call would have saved me a 45 minute drive in rush hour traffic to pick up my package.

-There is a large dried puddle of paint under the patio, plus there are large spots of yellow paint splattered on nearby plant life and sprayed over the nearest storm drain.  Did they think no one would notice?
I mentioned this off-hand to my supervisor in the painting company I work for.  He defined for me the word professional as someone paid to do a job.  I then said, "That may be so, but that's not the type of work we'd want to be handing in."  Since the word "professional" isn't too liberally tossed around to the point that it loses meaning, it should still mean someone who is actually skilled and engaging in said standards.  I hestitate to refer to myself as a professional painter, as I still lack experience.  I really hesitate to refer to the hired painters on my mom's house as professional as they lack skill, or at least skill and standards.

I really hope someone is going to be paying to have my car detailed.  While the paint could be removed with some effort, it's effort that I really should not have to be expending.

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So, given my previous to-do-list, here's what I got...
-First draft of long article for Fangoria magazine: COMPLETE.  This wasn't as hard to complete as I initially thought.  It's amazing how easy one can fill space.
-Map out schedule for fall semester: UNABLE TO COMPLETE.  My sister has been on me to get me to map out my schedule for weeks.  I guess it's been a while since she's been to any post-secondary institution, because I went on the website and they won't even let me look at it until my actual registration date.
-Unpack everything/clean room: INCOMPLETE.  I actually have a legitimate excuse for this, believe it or not.  Being that I was unexpectedly called in to work on Friday, Saturday, and Monday, plus I had a social obligation I had to meet on Sunday (Mia, the daughter of one of my friends, was baptised on Sunday.  I ended up being in charge of taking photographs.  Don't ask why.).
-Memorize martial arts sequence for upcoming belt testing: COMPLETE.  Heck, I'll even bang out the movements by memory.
1: Ginga (basic swinging movement of Capoeira)
2: Galopante (open hand slap)
3: Ponteiro (toe kick)
4: Quixada (circular kick, from inside to out with front leg)
5: Meia Lua de Frente -> Armada De Costa (forward crescent kick -> spinning heel kick)
6: Au (evasive cartwheel)
7: Bencao (thrusting push-kick)
8: Saide au (evasive cartwheel, moving around opponent)
9: Role (rolling crouch)
1: Ginga (basic swinging movement of Capoeira)
2: Cetula Alta (probably mispelled...hand block)
3: Grava de mao (again, probably mispelled...low block)
4: Esquiva -> cabecada (dodging evasive movement -> headbutt to solar plexus)
5: Resistencia -> Negativa (defensive crouch -> defensive crouch with outstretched foot)
6: Cabecada (headbutt towards escaping opponent)
7: Negativa (defensive crouch with outstretched foot)
8: Tesoura de Costa -> Cabecada (preparation for scissor-hold takedown -> headbutt to chest/face)
9: Au (again, cartwheel).
-Read Sun Tzu's The Art of War: INCOMPLETE.  I got this as a birthday present from my older sister.  This is technically leisure activity, so it can really wait, though.
-Spend no more than 30 minutes/day on video games: ACHIEVED.  Well, sorta.  Outside of a few hours spent at the Playdium video arcade with some of my best friends to celebrate my birthday (about a week and a half late!), Grand Theft Auto Vice City has remained in its jewel case as has Need for Speed Underground.  But then, my copy of Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix finally arrived in the mail.  But you could argue that it's also exercise...
-Donate all useless crap (old books, clothes, etc.) to charity: INCOMPLETE.  Partly because the truck from the Developmentally Disabled Association hasn't figured out where we live yet, but mostly because I still haven't had time (or haven't gotten around) to sorting everything.
So, with that done...
To Do List, (3rd Week July)
 -Sort out boxes and stuff, clean up room.  This is important as I sort of told my friends that I'd be organizing a housewarming in August.  I can see this being a problem if I end up working lots this week.  After a long day of painting houses and spending half an hour picking bits of latex paint out of my hair, the last thing I feel like doing is more work.
 -Deal with student loan crap.  Being that I'm going to school full time and I dunno if I can find part-time employment, something's gonna have to give.  I just have to figure out how to read all of those forms!
 -Second draft of Fangoria article.  I may have to come up with a new introduction.  I also have to fax my editor a copy of the phone bill.  I interviewed two screenwriters from LA for aboug 69 minutes (about 12-pages of interview transcriptions!) and my mom just about had a shit when she saw the phone bill.  Okay, she really didn't.  Possibly because she knew (assumed) I'd be paying for it.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

It's been said: if at first you don't succeed, lower your expectations.

Regular readers of my blog will be aware of the month-long experiment to see how productive I could become if I was cut off from many of the distractions that keep me from getting stuff done. Nothing was really proved by the whole experiment, because if your attention span is as short as mine, you'll find some other way to become distracted.

So, I started writing up to-do-lists. The list for this week is as follows:

-First draft of long article for Fangoria magazine
-Map out schedule for fall semester
-Unpack everything/clean room
-Memorize martial arts sequence for upcoming belt testing
-Read Sun Tzu's The Art of War
-Spend no more than 30 minutes/day on video games
-Donate all useless crap (old books, clothes, etc.) to charity.

My first draft is done and has been sent to New York, awaiting approval from my editors. I haven't been playing video games, even though I just bought an X-Box. The boxes are slowly being unravelled bit by bit, but you can actually navigate through the room without stepping on stuff. I got the sequence nailed down, and I've been reading through my copy of Sun Tzu.

In retrospect, either I really half-assed some of these tasks, or I really need to raise the bar a lot higher. But, it's only Wednesday, so that leaves several days for me to finish the rest. However, I am more than on-track. I even decided to toss a little art project into the mix too. I recently obtained a computer case, which I am repainting so it's not the standard old bland beige colour that we're all so used to seeing.

While I haven't been playing video games, I have been spending a bit (okay, a lot) of time looking up what other people have done to their computers. I've seen some really crazy modifications, such as one where a guy took an old US Military ammunition case and used that to house his CPU. Others built them into really old stereo consoles from the 70s. I'm probably just going to get a couple cans of spray paint and go with a black and green colour scheme. Nothing huge.

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Monday, July 05, 2004

As the day commemorating my 27th year of existence comes up quickly (tomorrow!), I am not really dreading it per se, as nothing much really changes too drastically. However, one thing I am noticing over time is that it's harder and harder to actually celebrate my birthday on my actual birthday.

When I was a kid, it was not really a problem because in the summer time, it's easier to get people together, especially when the kids don't have to go to school and they don't have that many responsibilities.

Flash forward some 20-something years. We have dayjobs, mortgages, student loans, and part-time summer schooling. So, everyone ends up celebrating days before or after the actual said date. This isn't such a bad thing, though, as birthday festivities have been actually happening over the course of the week, depending on which circle I'm in.

In my Capoeira group, when a person is celebrating his or her birthday, they are given what I refer to as the Brazillian equivalent of birthday bumps. For the uninitiated, Capoeira evolves around what is known as the roda (or "the circle"), where the students and practitioners of Capoeira are in a circle and the head of the circle has a row of rhythm instrument players (atabaque (drums), agogo (bells), pandeiro (tambourine), and a Brazillian rhythm instrument called a berimbau). Typically, two "players" go into the circle and start their game, which can include anything from kicks to acrobatic movements to takedowns. In the group I belong to, when a Capoeira student celebrates his or her birthday, EVERYONE has to go up against that person, and typically tries (often successfully) to take down said birthday person.

Even though my birthday is on Tuesday, they did it early on Saturday. It's actually not as bad as I thought (I remember seeing some people go up against at least a dozen different students), although my left calf is still smarting from getting swept to the floor. I'm going to class again tonight and there's a good chance that they're going to make me go through the process again.

However, there is another student there who has the same birthday that I do, and she wasn't there that Saturday...

Today is actually my late father's birthday. Yesterday, my immediate family went to visit his site to give some flowers and then we all went out for dinner. It was sort of an early birthday thing for me too, so that way they can get it out of the way. Combining birthdays is usually an economic option for a lot of people, but my dad was never really into birthdays in the first place, so I got a lot more attention on my birthday when I was a kid.

This Friday, my regular friends are taking me out to Playdium, a local video arcade that has a licensed restaurant (read: they serve alcohol). They also have a Dance Dance Revolution machine there. It's that game where you use your feet to step on four panels in beat with music. My friends are allegedly going to attempt to get me completely drunk before going on the machine. Somehow, I think management might frown against finding vomit behind the machine.

As it is, birthdays might actually be better as you get older, as you get more friends and meet more people, and the busy schedules make it so different people will be celebrating your birthday on different days.

Maybe it's just me, though...but as a person gets older, why does a person's birthday involve inflicting a lot more pain and suffering than should be warranted?

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Friday, July 02, 2004

The productivity experiment has come to a close and it has proven absolutely nothing. Having all the comforts of home taken away clearly does not enhance productivity by any means, because if you have a short attention span, you'll find some way to procrastinate, especially if you're faced with a particularly tedious task. But, my editor seems pleased with my work that I've submitted, so I'm on the right track.

As those are aware, I finally moved into my new place with my mom a couple of days ago. However, I'm not really "moved in" per se, because the place was far from completed by the time we arrived. As we arrived, there was still lots of work that had to be done. As expected, certain appliances weren't installed and there are always a few kinks that have to be worked out. However, the walls were not completely painted, the trim isn't completed, and base board was falling off in certain spots.

Hence, I cannot completely unpack or put up any furniture like book cases, because they're just going to have to move it again so they can access the wall behind it. At this rate, it'll be several weeks until I'm completely settled. Normally, if the place was complete, there'd be the simple matter of getting everything unpacked and set up. That hasn't quite happened.

However, this does give me more opportunity to work on my article, because I can't exactly goof off by watching TV (cable has already been hooked up, and all my DVDs are still packed in a box somewhere). But I am nowhere close to being able to entertain guests.

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