Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How do I surrender?

My furnace has stopped working again.  I think the problem is electrical.  It's acting like it has no power, absolutely nothing I do has any effect.  It's as useless as punching keys on an unplugged computer.  The only other time it acted this way it was electrical.

I found out something was wrong soon after returning from food shopping.  My mother, font of negativity that she is, was here.  Eventually I gave up on attempted pleasantries and told her I was going to take a shower.  I was, after all, dripping with sweat.

I had wanted to get in the shower immediately upon getting home, but she was there and seemed intent on pulling me into every little thing.  Much yay there.

She left soon after I went into the bathroom.  I never got to take my shower.  The water never warmed up.  I spent hours upon hours trying, with no results whatsoever, to get the furnace working.  When it seemed like it was an electrical thing I tried changing the fuse (my house has only one fuse, everything else is done by a circuit breaker) resetting the circuit breaker both via the main switch and every individual switch, following wires around to see if there was any obvious problem, and so forth.

I also made sure that the water in the furnace was at the optimal level for good measure.  The water wasn't far enough from optimal to actually have had any detrimental effects, but why not?

Nothing worked.

Then I finally called my mother to tell her that the furnace wasn't working, it seems to be an electrical problem, could we maybe call a damn electrician (the last time it was acting like this the furnace guy pointed out that for an electrical problem an electrician would be a better fit than a furnace guy) and such.

The thing that has to be remembered in any interaction between myself and my mother is this: She has little trouble making phone calls; for me making phone calls is usually more of a discomfort than root canal work.  I know.  I've had root canal work done.  Honestly, once the antibiotics kick in root canal problems are basically nothing when compared to most phone calls.  Before the antibiotics kick in, phone calls to strangers, and "furnace guy" and "electrician" definitely fall into the category of strangers, are still worse but at least they don't make you look like you've been punched in the face.

So of course the first thing my mother says is that I should call furnace guy and talk over the question of whether it's best to go with him or an electrician first, because just calling to set up an appointment would bad enough for me, so why not up the torture with the need to prolong the agony into a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of making appliance related decisions with limited information?

Then she suggested calling up my sister, who may or may not know an electrician, because wouldn't it be nice to go with the only thing worse than a stranger?

I got a stay of execution when, after a nice long excruciating talk (it's not just strangers and worse who are bad for me over the phone, I can count on one hand the people it isn't painful to have phone calls with and still have enough fingers left to play guitar*) she decided that she would call my sister.  I'm waiting to hear back now.

Which brings me to the topic of this post.  How the fuck do I surrender?  What do I have to do to say, "Ok, life, you win.  I lose.  Now can you stop kicking me while I'm down and enjoy your victory in a way that doesn't hurt me?"


* It's just the talent and the skill that's lacking in the guitar playing department, there would definitely be enough fingers.  Modified styles, of course, but people with injuries and the like have successfully found ways to play guitar with less than a full complement of fingers before so the groundwork has already been done.

I'm staying home today

Normally I'd have two classes today, but I only have one, and I fully intended to go to it, but I seem to be having a bit of a breakdown so I'm not going to school.  Since I started attending University, which was about ten years ago due to my roundabout path toward my degrees, I've only missed six days.

One because it was probably my only opportunity to meet someone in the real world and it was physically impossible to get from the city of the meeting to the city of my school in the time between the meeting and school.

One because I accidentally turned my heating system into a sprinkler system and had to clean up.

Four, at least I assume it was four, because I missed a week due to a nervous breakdown.  See here and here.*

This makes seven.

It's not as bad as the breakdown linked to above, but it's a lost worse than normal.  Metaphors of mental states are always a bit strained, but when I found myself cursing the heavens above (well, more the universe in general in all directions) because I forgot to put something in the dryer I came to realize that there was a lot more going on than whether or not clothes would be dry in time and that I was, in fact, at the edge of a cliff and my footing wasn't good.  I was at the edge of total collapse into a chasm off ... bad ... mental ... stuff.

I told you metaphors are strained in this particular arena.

I actually won't be staying home today as I need to get food.  Food, you must realize, is a vitally important resource.  Check out this link from the archives.  Pretty sure I'm starving myself at the moment, but I do definitely need to get more food if I want to keep on not starving myself because I am completely fucking out.  So I will be going out of the house today, just not to school.

Also, I finally got my family to reveal plans for Thanksgiving.  Short version: none of them involve me.  Yay.

On the one hand, Thanksgiving always ends badly in my family, so there may be slim cause for that not to be a flat sarcastic, "Yay,"* on the other hand it tends to begin and middle pretty well, plus being alone is seldom helpful.

So, yeah.

Anyway, I have to go food shopping now (I otherwise would have done it on the way home from school) so I'll just close by giving a list of possible implications for the blog:

  1. The lack of stimulation coupled with free time this week will jump-start writing from me as my brain screams out, "I AM SO FUCKING BOARD!"  Stealing Commas will actually benefit.
  2. I'll unremarkably recover and end up more or less where I was before.  Nothing will noticeably change.
  3. I'll go into a downward spiral and produce no new writing whatsoever.
So, in short: more or less anything could happen.


* It seems so odd these days to think that there was a time when getting a ride to school was a regular thing.  And yet, at the time it wasn't uncommon.  If I had morning classes I could get a ride in, if classes for a given day ended at just the right time I could get a ride home.

It wasn't uncommon back then for me to get a ride one way more often than not.  Sometimes I'd even get rides both ways.  I was also faster then.  Travel time on foot took an hour to an hour and a half one way rather than the hour and a half to two hours (usually tending toward two hours, sometimes going over) that it does now.

** When I rule the world, one of the many things I will micromanage will be keyboard design.  Actually I won't micromanage it, I'll simply manage it.  I'll tell people, "This is what I want done," and have them work out the best way to do it (while other people double check that their methodology is good.)  But, anyway, we're going to have some additional punctuation marks on the keyboard.  One will be the snark mark.

Yes, the snark mark is an open source punctuation mark that anyone can use already since it was designed to be able to use with a standard keyboard, but ".~" doesn't feel right.  Now "" is something I think we can all get behind.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The urge to give up

So remember the problem with medication?  Well I kept on thinking I'd gotten better and then realizing that I'd instead gotten to the point where I was functional in certain settings but not, critically, in the one that often matters most: on my own left to my own devices.

That's when work gets done, after all.  Schoolwork especially, but other things as well.  That's when stories get written.  Notice how stories have been lacking of late?  I count three fragments in the last month.

I should have seen this coming, logically.  Even though getting off my medication has almost immediate down sides, getting back on it tends to take about a month to work out.  So I should be at 100% in early December.  If I'd stopped to look at things reasonably I'd have realized this and not had a sequence of getting false hope in a setting that was able to stabilize me getting the hope crushed when I was on my own again, and then repeating several times.

It took me way too long to realize what was going on.

But the title is about giving up, because that's been a strong feeling.  The urge to just quit at life.  I need to pause here just because the words can be taken the wrong way.  Wanting to quit at life is impossible.  As much as I might sometimes want to just give up on everything, you can't really do that.  Life is not a job you can decide not to show up at.  It's not a program you can drop out of.  As much as you might want to give up on everything and let all responsibilities drop, you just can't.

Suicide is something else entirely.  It's an action, not a withdrawal.  It's also something that I have never seriously considered and very much doubt I ever will.

So it's important to distinguish between those two things.

Wanting to quit at life is not the same as ideation of self harm.  Far from it.  It's a desire for inaction.

And it comes up a lot.  I'm walking to school and I wonder what the point is, wouldn't it be easier if I just stopped moving and curled up in a ball on the ground?  Fortunately that's impractical.  One needs heat and shelter for ball curling to work well.

For the first time ever I'm giving up on a class after the standard tryout period.  I can't get my money back, I committed to it, but I can get a medical withdrawal.  And I'm going to.  The teacher actually suggested it, but I wasn't on board with it until I woke up one morning and couldn't force myself to get out of bed.  I was fully awake, but the whole moving and getting up and getting ready shit wasn't happening.  What was the point?  I'd fallen far enough behind when I was off my medication and in the aftermath that I probably couldn't pull through, why go if I can't pass?

I actually know why.  I usually don't have it in me to quit.  But right now quitting is so fucking tempting on everything.

And that's a problem.  Bills need to be paid.  Appointments need to be kept track of.  I have a cavity.  That was supposed to be fixed this morning.  I haven't been able to muster the energy to check messages on the answering machine so I missed the reminder call.  When they called up this morning because I was late and they were wondering where I was there was no way I could make it.

I already didn't know how I'd pay to have the tooth drilled.  Now I'm going to have a missed appointment fee.

At least two bills got passed due while I was not having the energy/motivation to read my mail.  Oh, joy.

You can't quit life, but when you stop participating it starts throwing penalties your way.

I don't know what the late fees will be yet.  I don't know what the missed appointment fee is.  I don't think I ever mentioned, but needing to pay for things like furnace repair and other such shit (which, reliable heat is awesome, and I can now wash dishes once I muster the necessary motivation, so there are up sides) has left me $600 behind on something else because ... either the god of money hates me or I'm utterly incompetent.

Which brings us back to the urge to quit, and the impossibility of doing so.  You can't just say, "Fuck it, I'm out," and give up.  You still need things like hydration and nutrients, you still need to pay bills if you want things like water, heat, and a place to stay.  Life doesn't let you take a break, there are no vacations, there is no time off, it just keeps on coming at you no matter what.

But that doesn't change the urge to stay in bed all week, to just not show up to school, to not read the mail or check the messages, to not get off the couch, to close my eyes and hope the world disappears.

So that's where I'm at at the moment.


I still have ideas, of course.  But nothing ever comes of them.  I have an idea for a story but when I try to write it all falls apart.  I have an idea for a project and quickly realize that if I can't muster the money to get even, not ahead, just even, with my finances then I can't come up with whatever capital, however small, might be needed for the project.  Or maybe the project doesn't need money at the start, but I'm not exactly going to learn to create 3-d character models at this point in this state either (the abstractish geometric modeling used to make puzzles doesn't really apply to making something that looks like a person), or I know I'll never get around to getting the materials, or I know I'm not in the right frame of mind to learn new programming, much less understand what's described in this article and adapt it to my own nefarious purposes, or I'd like to do X but that would mean effort I have no chance of wrangling.

And so forth.

I feel utterly useless at this point.  I can't actually succeed in doing anything.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When all you've got is nothing, there's a lot to go around.

On November 19th, 1915 IWW song writer Joe Hill was executed for a murder he didn't commit.  This is a triple injustice because:
1 An innocent person was executed.
2 The actual murderers (for there were two) went unpunished.
3 The reason he was killed wasn't because of he evidence against him (in fact the police had to pressure a witness from saying that Hill definitely wasn't the murderer to saying that he was) but because he was a union figure.

Various people (the President of the United States, Hellen Keller, and, I think, the Swedish ambassador to the US being the most prominent) called bullshit and tried to get clemency.

Other than being a Wobbly (IWW member) and testimony that the police pressured witnesses into giving, the only evidence was that he was one of four people in the area treated for a bullet wound.  Mind you the nature of the wound showed that he had his hands up at the time, which is a difficult position to murder someone from.

Hill wouldn't say how he got it beyond it being a disagreement about a woman.  It's a good thing I looked this up because I thought the disagreement was that he was having sex with someone's wife and that person took exception.  In fact the woman in question came forward and said that the shooter was her former fiancee.

Hill had no motive and, as noted, the witness said he didn't do it until there was pressure to change that statement.

Hill's last contributions to the world were a letter to an IWW leader:
"Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize... Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah."
and his last will and testament:
My will is easy to decide,
For there is nothing to divide.
My kin don't need to fuss and moan,
"Moss does not cling to a rolling stone." 
My body? Oh, if I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow,
My dust to where some flowers grow. 
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my Last and final Will.
Good Luck to All of you,
Joe Hill
He was, in fact, found dead in Utah, just not for long.  After his execution by firing squad came his first funeral which was in Salt Lake City.  People were there all day.  By the time the funeral actually started there were several thousand people stuck outside because there was no more room inside.

As soon as the funeral was over he was loaded into a hearse and driven to the railway.  This was accompanied by a procession of over 200 people singing songs Joe Hill had written.

He was loaded onto a train and sent to Chicago.  Chicago had been his original destination.  Utah was only supposed to be a stopover, but he ended up staying for, I believe, two years.

None of this is to say that things were not without problems.  Hill was framed in that the police intimidated witnesses into changing their testimony.  But it probably wan't some anti-union conspiracy as it was made out to be.  The big business people didn't get involved until after the conviction, at which point they strongly pressured that it be upheld, the punishment not commuted or pardoned, and the various people asking for a delay so that the matter could be investigated further be ignored.  They wanted him dead for sure, but there's no evidence to suggest they were responsible for the framing.

A lot of the rhetoric around what happened to Joe Hill is staggeringly anti-Mormon.  That's not good and can't be condoned.

Joe Hill seems to have died for four reasons:
1 He didn't want to name names when it came to the person who shot him and the woman the person shot him about.
2 He was an easy target.  He wasn't just from outside of Utah, he was Swedish.  (Born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund in Gävle; he latter changed his name to Joseph Hillström before settling on Joe Hill.)  He was a union activist in a place where they were pretty well despised.  If you're looking for a scapegoat you can probably convict without fallout, he's perfect.  The people who actually had motives were all locals, some of them in good standing.  There likely would have been backlash had they been charged.
3 AFTER he was sentenced to death business owners started applying pressure to make sure the sentence was carried out.
4 Hill didn't want and refused to work toward a pardon or commutation.  He wanted a new trial.  If he had worked for his sentence to be commuted or to get a pardon it might, and I stress might, have worked.


Ever wonder where the phrase "Pie in the Sky" comes from?  Joe Hill made it up for a song called "The Preacher and the Slave" which is also known as "Long haired preachers".

This is the best version I can currently find online but I could do without the commentary between the first and second verses.  I could especially do without the joke against baptists.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quick response to the BoT meeting yesterday

At some point I want to do a proper write up, but until then here's what I posted on Facebook last night.

So, after the BoT got up and ran away (for a five minute adjournment that lasted way longer than five minutes) and we took their chairs (because ... I don't know, someone near me suggested it), we had some very good calm, reasonable discussion about the problems we see in their decision making process.

For once the person quoting the Letter from Birmingham Jail wasn't me. Always a good place to go when people feel that a direct action campaign is untimely, disruptive, and/or rude.

After a while of discussion regarding accounting, the importance of higher education, the future of the university, the value of fact based decision making processes, and so forth we yielded the floor to the BOT who listened to a presentation on accounting and then asked questions that demonstrated that they don't know what accounting is. (Flanagan was the most embarrassing.)

When the meeting was over (technically adjorned to executive session at another location), one of the trustees came up to me and said that it's good that students are showing up because now there are differing ideas on the board instead of thoughtless unanimity. He expressed hope that with more work things can turn out well. Which is more hope than I usually get from a member of the BoT.

Also, they always have Coca-Cola (classic and diet) and the best food on campus. This time they had some really nice ham sandwiches. I recommend that everyone show up at BoT meetings and get fed.

Monday, November 17, 2014

NRA: Chloe got her licks in

[Originally posted at Slacktivist.]
[The canonical conversation goes thus:
(Chloe:) “Then I got my licks in, telling her all about how you and I met, where you were when the Rapture happened, and how you and I and Daddy became believers.”
(Buck:) “Verna must have thought we were all from another planet.”
One could read getting her licks in as accidental honesty at how aggressive and unpleasant RTC witnessing is.  Or, one could read it like this:]


"Then I got my licks in," Chloe said.
"That's good," Buck said.
"Yeah," Chloe said with her voice becoming distant and a faraway look in her eyes. "She's tasty."
"I mean, I told her all about how you and I met, where you were when the Rapture happened, and how you and I and Daddy became believers.”
“Verna must have thought we were all from another planet.”
"It felt like we were floating," Chloe said, the distance returning.
"What was that?"
"Um... it felt like we were fighting. She's so hostile and combative and stuff."
"Ok, ok."


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Monthly Donation Reminder

The idea behind these, you'll recall, is that maybe by pointing my donate button monthly I'll build up a reserve and thus I won't have huge disasters where I have to pray that one or more readers suddenly has more money than they know what to do with lest I lose everything.

That has utterly failed to work out.  On the upside is the fact that so far donations have managed to pull me back from the brink when there are huge disasters.  (Thank you, all.)

The stuff ahead of me in line made it so furnace guy didn't make it here yesterday.  He did make it today.  The house is still in the process of heating up, and thus I'm still cold, but the furnace is working now so warmth should be coming any moment now.

Of course that's another $473.95 I need to somehow come up with.

Anyway, I usually talk about months in these posts.

In the beginning November was the 9th month of a ten month year.  Hence the name.  (Novem = nine.)  January and February were added (to the beginning of the year) at the same time month lengths were reassigned with a preference for odd numbers.  November was reduced to 29 days and was now the 11th month of the year.

In 46 BC the Julian Calendar was put forward by Julius Caesar.  This restored November to 30 days.

Because the difference between the Julian Calendar and the Gregorian Calendar is three leap days every 400 years, most people still think in terms of the Julian Calendar even if they don't know that's what they're doing.

November is a short month (29 days pre-Julian) and so the ides fall on the 13th.  Days after the ides are counted backward starting with the first day (the kalends) of the next month, thus today is XVII Kal. Dec.