Monday, May 29, 2006

You Can't Beat Mother Nature

While I realize the proper adage is "You can't fool mother nature," I'm putting a bit of a twist on it to help describe my experience this past weekend.

One of my good mates makes his living as a professional landscaper. Recently, he sent an e-mail to a group of friends asking if any of us were willing to lend him a hand in a side-job he is doing. In a decision partly made in good will towards helping him out and partly for some self-fulfillment of my own, I agreed to sign on as a hired laborer. With full knowledge that it would undoubtedly put my physical capabilities to the test.

Needless to say, that assessment was spot on. However, the sense of satisfaction I had after finishing for the day made all the expected aches and pains well worth the effort.

My day began with the task of clearing out some pruning behind the row of trees marking the back end of the property. The space was cramped and the seemingly endless trips from behind the trees to the tarp I was to use to transport the refuse were punctuated by branches scraping my face and arms. After the first few trips I became accustomed to the feel and towards the end of my task I felt that I was becoming immune to it. At the same time, I was increasingly aware of the fresh smell of decomposing natural materials. Not at all like rotting garbage but quite the opposite. It was a fresh, earthy smell that held a secret. A secret of the cycle of life, of rejuvenation. A beautiful secret with a beautiful scent.

Next up on the list was what a couple of us hired hands began to jokingly refer to as 'rock farming'. One of the professionals on site had a Bobcat - one of those stout and powerful machines used to move small quantities of earth, boulders, and trees. As he expertly trolled the small plot in an effort to loosen up the soil, rocks of all shapes, sizes, and weights began surfacing. It was our job to clear the larger of them by picking them up by hand, tossing them into wheelbarrows, and trekking them to the edge of the site to be dumped as fill. It wasn't a glamorous job and it held much less introspective qualities than did my previous chore. One unmistakable lesson, however, was that rocks are heavy. Deceivingly heavy. And in seemingly endless supply. Soon, pickings became slim and only the smallest of rocks remained. Mission accomplished. The ground was ready for the next phase in its transformation.

While I was somewhat relieved to be finished with my rock farming duties, I found myself nostalgically remeniscing about 'the good 'ol minutes' after I began "grubbing." Looking back, this was the most difficult task of the day, by far. Grubbing is the term used for removing grass by hand with a large (and heavy) pick-axe type tool. One side comes to a point while the other comes to a flattened blade. By repetitiously lifting and dropping the axe, with the blade side down, small squares of grass are cut and separated from the earth below the roots. It's backbreaking work - and for someone going into it with a foul back to begin with, not a very pleasant task. With three of us on the job we managed to finish in a reasonable amount of time. None of us, I'm sure, was happier about that than I. If i never have to grub again, I'll die a happy man.

The final stage of the day's work consisted of planting three new trees from the nursery. I had been given the task of digging the hole for one of them. Luckily for me, it was to go into a circular stone feature in the center of the driveway which had probably been filled with loose dirt and compost, initially. This made the digging easy. No rocks to farm; no grass to grub. Job done. I was quite proud of my hole. One of the trees, I know, was a birch tree. The other two, I'm not so sure... and by that time of the afternoon, I was too exhausted to really care one way or the other. They were cool looking, though. That I do know. And they were fun to plant.

With just some cleaning up to do - picking up tools that had scattered themselves across the yard, sweeping dirt from the driveway, and collecting any trash that had accumulated - the day was coming to an end. While sweeping the driveway, I also surveyed the area and felt a sense of pride in the work we had accomplished. The ground we had cleared and graded to a natural smoothness. The trees in their new homes. The debris removed. It all looked fantastic. There was alot more to go in finalizing the project, for sure. That would be left for another day. But I was content to take in what we had done on that day.

All in all, a successful day. I've gained a new appreciation for those of us who work in a more physical profession - but, most importantly, I've also gained a new appreciation for those things that surround us each day. The beautiful, living, breathing, and silent things that only Mother Nature can provide.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Do Clothes Make the Man?

Had a conversation with some mates the other night regarding clothing. It began harmlessly enough as reported here. However, it later morphed into a more theoretical exchange on the importance of appearance and clothing's effect on its wearer.

I'm of the belief that a three-piece suit doesn't make one perform any better or worse in their profession. Especially if said profession doesn't involve any direct interaction with the general public, as is the case in my profession of computer programming. What does a fancy suit add to my ability to program?

However, I do believe that having some pride in personal appearance can positively affect a person's attitude, without it having to cross the line into outright vanity. I'll admit that I enjoy watching the program What Not to Wear. Both the American version and the original, British version. I began watching the original on BBC America mostly because I enjoyed the two women hosts - and the fact that they frequently used the word 'tits' during episodes and weren't afraid to discuss them openly and touch them occasionally. The American version isn't so bad, either, albeit a bit more reserved in the 'tit' department. But I digress.

The point two of us were trying to make is that the people who are enlisted as guests - or 'victims', since they are secretly signed up by friends and family - are typically put off by the idea at first. Admittedly, I understand the initial indignation. No one likes to be told that they look awful and anyone would be slightly offended by such an insinuation. Eventually, however, each guest on the show is converted by the end of the ordeal. Their spirits are enlightened, thier outlook brightened, and over-all self esteem heightened. And what's wrong with that?

The third party in the conversation wouldn't have any of it. "Clothes shouldn't matter. It's what's on the inside that is important," was his general defense. That's partly true. But what's wrong with being who you are and taking some pride in appearance at the same time? It doesn't stand that simply because you're putting on a decent outward appearance that you're selling yourself short... or bowing to the pressures of a material society.

It seems to me that there is some idealism at play, here. His ideal being that clothing shouldn't make any difference, under any circumstances. What we tried to point out was the fact, if one feels better about themselves with certain clothing options, where is the harm? Believe me, I'm no fashion expert. I believe in simple, comfortable clothing. I try to avoid wearing suits at all cost. But a little style here and there isn't a sin, is it?

So, I propose to my idealistic friend, hold yourself up to your own ideal. If clothing is as utilitarian as you profess, why not show up to work in some ill-fitting, out-of-date slacks and an horrendous silk print shirt? Same outfit. Every day. For a week. I'll pick them out for you - and even pay for them. After all, why should it matter? It's just clothing.

Monday, May 15, 2006



the waves of days
carry life sublime
crashing port to unchecked port
of call

the lighthouse rays
now absorbed by time
harbor the wreckage of each
of all

Ever Have 'One of Those Days' ?

It's been raining here in beautiful, Eastern Massachusetts nigh on a fortnight and I'm lovin' it. I'm not revelling in all the flooding going on in communities north of Boston, upward into New Hampshire, and those found increasingly southward as it continues to rain. I wish those communities and people struggling with the current conditions safe and speedy recoveries.

My point is that I don't mind the foul weather. People often gripe and moan about the wet springs we endure in New England. And the snowy winters. And the wet and increasingly chilly autumns, come to think of it. Although, the unrelenting heat and humidity that blankets the area perennially for some two-week period or other between June and September tends to burn my britches the most - thank Science for air-conditioning - but in the end, I don't mind that so much, either.

Why do I bring it up? Because it's not the weather that's doin' me head in today. It's just 'one of those days'.

I think it began while making my way to work this morning. The myriad of morons on the roadways was (or should I say is - as I'm sure they're still out there now) unbearable. However, I'll leave that tangent untouched for fear of my fingers falling off.

It's one of those days where no one is welcome. Complete strangers walking down the hall ignite a flame of fury inside me, making me want to erupt with a magma of detestation. I can't stand the sound of the human voice. It's as if a blanket soaked in inanity has been draped over my body and tied with ropes of annoyance. Screw Everyone, I say.

And the people sharing my work area are doing naught to help improve the situation.

One guy had a 10 minute argument with someone regarding selling a house that no one was currently living in. There were problems finding someone to sell it, blah, blah, fucking blah... I don't give a fuck, buddy. And now, to my luck, he's morphed into The Incredible Sighing Machine. Clockwork. Every two-minutes or so, whilst doing whatever the fuck he's doing, he lets out a nice, juicy, woe-is-me, sigh. Fuck off, douche.

And that's not the worst of it. There's this prick of a guy that's been in my area for a while now. Condescending, arrogant, prick of a guy. Seems he's having a bit of a day, himself. Periodically sighing and pounding his fist to the desk in frustration over something... maybe the rain's disrupted the fucking little league schedule for the league he's constantly on the phone about. Mind you, we work at a medical software company.

The topper though, is his headphone set. We've got an open working environment where "cubicles" have walls that only extend about eight inches above the desk - so, everyone's visible and audible. Sometimes a few of us will get into some conversations that don't involve everyone and things can get a bit loud. Recently, to combat this, he's brought himself in some headphones. Not your typical earbud or even slick ear-covering design. These are full-fledged, airport runway tarmac, fucking headphones. They're red. He's resorted to wearing these as if to not-so-subtley tell everyone, "Hey, shut the fuck up loudmouths, I've got important work to do and I don't need your distractions." They look like he could have used him with his reel-to-reel tape machine in college, listening to Grand Funk Railroad or Jefferson Fucking Airplane.

Get the fuck out of here, you annoying prick. And take your Smithsonian 'living legend' earphones with you.

So, it's after lunch and the day's half over. I'm going to put on my headphones (much sleeker and cooler, I'll have you know), bury myself in some Sigur Rós or Ricky Gervais Show podcasts, and try and avoid humanity for the next four hours and hope tomorrow isn't like today. Wish me luck, ass hole.

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Job Sucks

Well, not really, it doesn't. I quite like my job, actually. I've been with the same medical software company for just over 12 years now and it's still - for me - a great place to work. It's probably not the highest paying job in the field of computers... and I'm perfectly fine with that. No, not probably, I know it's not. I consider a big portion of my salary to be paid out in "chill" bucks. Intangeable influences that one may not find working for other companies. It gives me peace of mind which, in turn, allows me to enjoy my time away from work all the more thoroughly.

However, I must admit that compared to Anthony Bourdain's current job - my job sucks. Doesn't even come close. I may as well be quarrying stone to build a pyramid.

Thanks to the ingenius development of DVR cable boxes, I had a few episodes of "Anthony Bourdain : No Reservations" stored on my box. I watched them over the weekend and soon found myself daydreaming about a life as a travel show host. But he's not just any travel show host. He enjoys the best of both worlds... Traveling (all paid for by the Travel Channel, I'm assuming) and drinking and Eating. And I don't mean eating, I mean Eating, with a capital E. It's not the typical travel show destinations in each country and it's not the typical food. He gets down and dirty with the locals and is able to witness amazing - and quite personal, in some cases - ceremonies, rituals, and events.

This isn't saying that he doesn't deserve his job and I should be doing it instead. Far from it. As a chef who's lived a tough life toiling in kitchens across the country, along with living like the proverbial rock star, he's earned his lot. And I'm not so sure I'd be as brave as he was... sitting on the kitchen floor of an Inuit family's kitchen with a freshly caught seal split open, ready for dinner. Family members happily grabbing fleshy bits, covered in blood, and popping them into their mouths like boneless buffalo chicken tenders. Grandparents and young children alike, blissfully gnawing the raw meat off freshly picked bones, faces smeared with seal blood. And, of course, they save the majority of the blood for stew. As the honoured guest he was offered the delicacy of the meal, the eyeball, to be split open with a blade and its insides sucked out... much like eating a chocolate covered cherry, avoiding the chocolate.

You have to see it to believe it. And, believe me, once you've seen it - it isn't nearly as nasty as it might sound. Come to think of it, it's not too far removed from Irish black pudding, which I quite enjoyed while in Ireland last spring. For those unaware, it's not a dessert dish. It's a type of sausage made with some mixture of spices, wheat, and sheep's blood. Quite tasty. Actually, who am I kidding - it's miles away from that Inuit feast.

In any case, I'm not sure if I could manage the seal eyeball, the grilled cow stomach lining he so enjoyed while in China, or alot of the other local treats he's encountered - but I'd love to be given the opportunity. And it's not all blood, guts, and nasty bits. He knows alot of chefs around the world and he's treated to some pretty fantastic meals during these trips, as well.

That's the life. Traveling far and wide, off the beaten track, to mingle with the true citizens of each country and enjoying what they enjoy. Then ducking back to the city for a gourmet meal and a night on the town, overindulging on the region's favourite drink - whatever it may be. Only to awaken the next day and do it all over again... some day, perhaps.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Calling a Spade a Spade

I noticed the other day a woman who sits around the corner from me in my office building is pregnant. Again. Now, I know she's married, so it's not some scandal or anything. However, it got me to thinking.

We see pregnant woman walking about us all the time. On the streets, in our offices, at the grocery, etc. As most people are aware of how, for the most part, a woman is impregnated it struck me. Might we have some built-in mechanism that defuses our "R-rated" thoughts on the subject? After all, with the overall puritan beliefs regarding sex in this country suffocating us (at least us openly talking about it; advertisers seem to have immunity on the subject), why are we so inclined to gloss over that how.

"ooh, congratulations!" we exclaim upon hearing the news. "Is it a boy or a girl?" typically being the next question asked, as if anyone gives a crap.

The thing with this particular woman in my office, however, is that this will be her third child... within about two and a half years time. Her THIRD ! Think about that. Over the past two and a half years, she's been pregnant for pretty much the entire stretch. Most people would call her a "working mother" but let's call a spade a spade here...

She's a WHORE ! for fuck's sake - get off your back for a minute, will you? Put your friggin' panties back on, fix your hair, and get back to work! We shouldn't be congratulating and asking which sex the baby might be... we should be asking, "Oh, at it again, were you?" and "Great job. Thrown open the gates again, i see. Thanks. Guess who'll be taking over your work while you're out on leave? Well done. Whore."

The inevitable, "When are you due?" question is really a means for us to do some quick math and think, "Okay, three months.... It's early May, so, that's October. Someone sure did get a treat, then, didn't they."

So, next time you see a pregnant woman... remember, it's not really a 'miracle'. pause for a moment and just imagine how it happened. that filthy wench was bent over the rail with her skirt up over her head, recently. And there's no hiding that fact. Congratulations!!

Settling In

the sandwich (sandwiches - if i'm being frank), was delicious.
thank you for asking.

ingredients? soon enough.
here's a hint :: horseradish mustard may have been involved.

So, here's the deal - and perhaps this is why I'm at such
a stalemate against what to record next... one of my mates
introduced me to his blog recently. He'd been keeping it for
a few months. I had no idea.

I had come across blogs before and was intrigued by the idea.
I enjoyed his quite a bit and it got me interested in publishing
my own. However, I've quickly learned that it's tough to come
up with poignant topics each day.

This is probably more for my recollection than anything you'd
give a crap about - but i'm curious to see what develops and i
need to remember why i did this in the first place. So, this
space will probably suck for a while. So be it.

But I'm hoping it's a short while. The point is to keep with it.
Get better. In the mean time, I'll continue posting bollocks
while I find my groove...

probably something along the lines of a chilled out entertainer vibe.

With some drum and bass shit mixed in.