A very happy birthday

I took a vacation day to celebrate Mom’s 62nd birthday today. 62 isn’t much of a milestone in the books of most, but to me it sort of was: it was the 5th one to come round since I lost her.

It was a good day, and was the first really warm, beautiful one we’ve had in a long time. I made a new arrangement for her stone with some of her favorite spring flowers, and in the back I added three peace lilies. It probably didn’t turn out as well as something a professional might have put together, but I thought it was appropriate. Besides, she always preferred homemade birthday cards and gifts and whatnot. I forgot my camera, of course, but my creative failures and/or bouts of anti-masculine-traditionalism probably shouldn’t be documented anyway. Since I hadn’t really felt like visiting her for a few years my grandfather, Tuck, had been maintaining her flowers for me. He passed away last December, though, and handed that particular responsibility back down to me. I think the arrangement already there might have been from him, and since it was still in pretty good shape I didn’t have the heart to pitch it; I gave it to my great uncle Teddy (and Mom’s favorite uncle ever), who is also buried in the same cemetery.

Afterward I took myself for lunch at Kublai Kebab, which is sort of a raw bar/hibachi kind of thing, and to a showing of Taken. It was between that and a Wes Craven remake, but since a) Mom wouldn’t have ever wanted to see a horror flick on her birthday and b) I was afraid Jonathan Craven might be as talentless as his father, the Liam Neeson movie won. And honestly, except for the anti-climactic and unsatisfying ending, it was a pretty good movie.

And of course after that I helped myself to the birthday doughnut I always got for Mom.

In all, it was really a great day of celebration. It’s the first time I’ve been able to enjoy the memories of her without being overtaken by the sense of loss. That element is still present, of course, but time and distance do wonders for those wounds that never heal. And I’m finally in the place I need to be.

So happy birthday, Ma! 🙂

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Mom has been gone exactly four years, and I’ve really missed her today. She used to drive me nuts singing Christmas hymns and carols, but it was her favorite time of year and I forgave her her jubilation. She was a sucker for the lights and ornaments and the carolers and the sugar cookies, but at her core was a love for Christ that she couldn’t have hidden had she wanted to.

This one’s for you, Mom.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

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I’ve a quick scenario for you. And, no, I’m not describing something I’ve done.

While exiting a co-worker’s vehicle, you manage to smack the next car in the lot with your door. It’s not a huge dent, but there’s definitely a dimple. You’ve left paint, too, and unfortunately it constrasts with the flat gray/silver of the other guy’s finish. The car in question is dirty but it’s not a junker by any stretch of the imagination, and there are no other visible dents or dings. As you eat your lunch you discover the car’s owner is an employee of the establishment you’re presently patronizing, so it would be easy to confess your minor sin and even make amends if that’s what you’re about.

So, what would you do? Is something so minor even worth considering? And if not, how much damage would have been required to make it a non-event?

I know you can’t be arsed to leave your reply here, but it’s something to think about. I did watch all this unfold today at lunch, and it was really fascinating to watch my protagonist (or was he really the antagonist, since he ultimately left his “crime” [your call] unconfessed?) as he slowly rationalized away any responsibility he may or may not have been liable for. Fun times, and nobody died completely dead.

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Somebody Told Me Again (AKA Going Legit, Part 3)

Preface: it’s not necessary to review my earlier posts to understand tonight’s spew, but parts 1 and 2 are here and here if you’re so inclined to trudge through them.

A while back I decided to give up a life of petty theft and electronic burglary and behave like a respectable young(ish) man. I had amassed thousands of dollars’ worth of illegal software, operating systems, games, music and movies, and had downloaded enough patches and cracks to start my own plumbing company. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. I was a web developer, so I had the entire suite of Adobe products installed, plus the (then separate) Macromedia line, plus the commercial modelers and raytracers and development studios, plus all the operating systems my junk was running on, plus whatever else my greedy little heart desired.

But now I have a friend in Obama (he walks with me and he talks with me and he tells me how little I own), and I’ve Changed.

OK, scratch that last. I gave up improv long ago, so there’s no longer any reason for me to pretend to be gay and/or socialist in public (or semi-public, as this blog seems to be). But forgive me, my three faithful readers and half dozen stumblers-upon, for I tend to wander. I did eventually amend my habits, though, and I’m happy to report that I’m in my 20th month of keeping them amended!

Anyway, so I’ve always been interested in the concepts of piracy, DRM, copyright law, etc., and because I’ve participated actively on both sides of the central issue, it’s something I’ve often given thought to. I came across something yesterday that piqued the interest of my inner technowonk, and I want to share it here: perspective and counter-perspective on the theft of music.

Essentially, what happened was that some dude blawged about music piracy a while back, and then someone else chimed in with some actual sense, and then the original dude posted a new entry about that, and then things started really getting out of hand. OK, actually he argued in his original post that there was a big difference between piracy and unauthorized duplication, and that, while one was big and bad and evil, the other other wasn’t so much a deal. To that I say, “Fart sandwiches.” Degrees of theft can’t be quantified, and no amount of rationalization can justify taking something from someone else without their permission. He argues that it’s going to be taken anyway, so nobody should fret over it too much. He argues that it spreads the artist’s notoriety, but doesn’t explain how popularizing a particular theft and encouraging more and more folks to steal from someone will help them pay the rent. Then (my favorite part!) he speculates that maybe, just maybe, people shouldn’t be forced to actually pay for things they can’t afford.

I was waiting for his logic to start expanding like J-Lo’s butt and encompass all things in life that aren’t free but might should be, but he disappointed me by not going there. Just think: if music is necessary to life, how much more so must the Big Mac be? What right does McDonald’s have to charge actual money for their stuff anyway, when there are people who can’t afford it? I think I should steal about 20,000 fish sandwiches and share them with friends and perfect strangers alike. Wouldn’t that expand their fan base? It would be fantastic for everybody, wouldn’t it? To be fair, though, that’s not a perfect analog since it takes actual effort to create each sandwich while music can just be copied. A better example might be sex, but I won’t really explore that option in depth. The saner of you get my meaning, though, so I can probably just wrap up this paragraph with my trademark lack of conclusion.

I’ve been following Worldwide Groove Corporation for a while, and it’s actually Ellen Tift, the mom of that particular mom-and-pop, that stoked the fires with her passionate rebuttal to the dude’s original post. I’m a huge fan of chillout (and have really always been an electronica kiddy at heart), and I’m currently head over heels in love with Chillodesiac Lounge (vol. 1). I hadn’t actually been on their site much before the butt hit the scuttle, but one of the comments on the dude’s entry mentioned a Killers remix that I had to go check out there. And… wow. What can I say? Other than that I’m now the proud owner of a kickin’ version of Somebody Told Me? You really, really should go check these folks out.

I have lots of music bidness friends and contacts, and most of them are quite outspoken with their anti-music-piracy messages. They know first-hand how damaging minor theft on a grand scale can be, and they wholeheartedly support the artists and authors in question. What’s interesting, though, is that several of them do trade unauthorized copies of other things – movies, video games, etc., and I always wonder how their rationalization process works when they do things like that. Oh well, at least they’re not stealing fish sandwiches…

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Crazy bleedin' edger

Yes, I do – I live a CRAZY life. Clubbing til 3am most mornings would be enough for most folks, but not for me. There’s a quick 90 minute power nap after that, and at 5:00 I’m showered and refreshed and out on the racquetball court with my sophisticated Puerto Rican friend Eduardo. I think he’s gay, but that doesn’t bother me because the gay bars are the best for my mid-morning appletini breaks. By noon I’ve wrapped up at work and am hanging out with my girlfriend who always takes some “us” lunch time between the studio sessions for her new album and all the photo shoots. After that there are always two or three early-starting (or late-ending) parties to hit, and in the evening it’s backstage passes for any of a number of sold out performances given by my girlfriend’s showbiz buddies or a few contemplative hours in my private box at the symphony. There’s dinner somewhere in there, prepared as usual by my Vietnamese chef/chauffeur and finished up with a Gurkha and some Louis XIII Cognac, and before you know it it’s time to hit the clubs again. Oh, and I make it to church every Sunday to make up for the 11 hours of debauchery I manage every Saturday.

True story, every word.

But maybe with just a few slight embellishments.

OK, not a bit of it’s true. My idea of a big night on the town these days is seeing Max Payne with Big Carter and then sitting in a Megalomart parking lot for a half hour while my bladder repeatedly expires, revives and clenches up again from the 96 ounce Dr. Pee I drank at the theater. I couldn’t have planned a more boring life for myself given any amount of time, but I love it, every minute. Most of my friends are on different paths now, but the few that remain are good ones. I have my family, and Little Carter is more important to me than I ever thought possible. Rico Suave I may not be, but I wouldn’t trade a minute I’ve had with my son for all the partyboy sophistication in the world.

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Going into rehab

After experiencing hideous caffeine withdrawal symptoms yet again yesterday, and after finally realizing that splitting headaches have been a Monday morning tradition for months and months, I’ve decided it’s time to get my addiction under control.

So, for the remainder of this week and probably next week, too, I’m limiting myself to 4 cups of coffee a day.

That sounds like a lot, and it really is, but after being accustomed to 5 to 10 cups a day during the week and 2 or 3 colas on Saturdays, cold turkey isn’t even on the menu. I’ve been through withdrawal many, many times before, and to borrow the punchline from a classic American feminine product spot, I haven’t got time for the pain. No, I had never heard of Carly Simon when that commercial started slowly but indelibly imprinting itself onto my brain.

Anyway, so I’ve had my first cup today: Folger’s in a tea bag. It really wasn’t bad, especially considering it’s 3 years out of date. I don’t really remember buying it; it was just a nugget I scavenged during Operation Basement Storm, which began whole-heartedly yesterday. The other nuggets down there shan’t be discussed, especially in as semi-pubic a place as this.

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My drug addiction

Hello. My name is Eugene Beauchamp-Simmons, and I’m a caffeineaholic.

I’m up to a pot or two of coffee a day during the week, and I always have two or three glasses of cola during my grownup time with the missus on Saturdays. But then I don’t have any caffeine on Sundays as I never go out or remember to take my generic No-Doz, and I routinely wake up with a splitting headache on Monday morning.

That’s what’s going on right now. I woke up at 4:00 with just an incredible pounder. I took a couple of of my magic green pills and tried to go back to sleep, but an hour later when they hadn’t even begun to work I realized (yet again) that it was caffeine-related. Then I took my caffeine pill and one of my new magic green pill replacements, which also contain caffeine. My original magic pills are off the market now, presumably because they were causing strokes and heart issues… which is too bad, because that’s just some straight up family fun. Anyway, it’s an hour later now, and that combo has started to take the edge off.

Folks think I’m nuts when I tell them I have these kinds of withdrawal symptoms (yes, there are others I shan’t discuss here), but the facts bear themselves out time and again and I just keep my crazy ideas to myself. Except for today, I guess, since I wrote about it… but though my readership has swelled by 50% since last year, that’s still only 3 people. And there’s room for them to all kiss my butt simultaneously.

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100,000 little Indians

There have been some huge happenings at work since June, but since my stinkin’ boss sometimes reads my blog (hi, stinkin’ boss!!), there’s not really much I want to say about it out in the open like this.

End of post.

Except I’m drinking a double jigger of black label Southern Comfort and lime right now, so I’ll tell you a little more.

Starting over, there have been huge happenings at work since June. I guess it’s enough to say that I’ve cycled through paranoia and worry and relief so many times that I’m just numb at this point and don’t really care what happens. Except that’s not really true, because there’s still a fair amount of lingering discontent I’m not really sure what to do about: of the five things that really decided me on taking this job back in June of 2006 (the feel of a small company, a super gnarly building, a nine minute drive from the house,  my own office and an ultra-casual dress code), the first thing has been gone for quite a while, three more will vanish by next month and the last won’t make it to January 1st. I also haven’t had a raise in 16 months, but in my mind that’s a fair trade for having a job at all. For those who don’t love me enough to know, I presently sorta-kinda work in the mortgage industry. I don’t know jack diddly about loan origination even now, but my butter is earned from folks who do, and I’m rounded-up-to-a-hundred-percent sure that I would have been standing in a bread line for my butter by now had things not taken an interesting twist around my second anniversary with the company.

Sometime in the June-July timeframe a huge foreign organization bought us up, and we suddenly went from being a hundred-and-something-man shop to a hundred-thousand-and-something-man superentity. Having worked for another huge multi-national for six years, though, and having already suffered through years of trickle-down bureaucracy, this doesn’t pose any real difficulty for me. I already know how to swim in the corporate waters and speak the corporate language, but I guess I will have to get used to hearing that language with a different accent now. But, like I said, even though I don’t really dig the megacorporate scene, I’m fairly confident that the new business has the get-through-it-ness to make it past the current slump… and that that wouldn’t have been the case had we not been gobbled up.

So… unhappy? Yes, about the creature comforts I’ll be giving up. But worried? Not so much now. Until told otherwise, I’m just going to expect to see those checks come in regularly. Until then I’ll do my best work and continue to annoy my boss with half-baked recommendations of automating even more of our processes. I can’t worry about things that are outside my control, so for now Steve Winwood and I will just roll with it, baby.

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Confessions of a Facebooking fool

I just realized I haven’t posted a single whimpering syllable here since the end of July, and that makes me feel like a frog’s heel. Especially after all the crap I’ve given my friends who let their own blogs linger.

But then I realized I’ve been all up on the Facebook multiple times every day since my last entry, and I was all like, “Whoah. What a frog’s heel I am.” I really do tend to wear out expressions like that; I said “nutty scampers” 11,096 times last year, and “that’s no good” a grand total of 154,271 times over a period of about 3 years.

This is the point at which historically I would have said in my best Dudley Doright voice, “I shall give up 75% of my Facebook time and devote myself instead to writing low-to-medium-quality material for my audience of 3.” But I can’t do that because I’m working on a Facebook game right now, and can therefore easily rationalize any time I might waste there. It’ll be a good game, too: I bet I’ll make at least a dollar a week off it.

Anyway, so here’s my first non-post in months and months, but I don’t have much to report. Nice chatting with you. 🙂

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I wrote a short story almost 15 years ago that I’ve never submitted anywhere, and that I haven’t even really thought that much about since committing my braindead scribblings to paper so long ago.

Today I found a short introduction I wrote for it a while ago, apparently thinking a particular magazine would pick it up, and it makes me want to pull out the original and rework it into something I can sell for $20. At least I could say I’d been published then.

God is God. As such, He requires nothing of the usual middle-management or bureaucratic nonsense, and prefers the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-knuckle-on-up variety of interaction over the human delegation style currently favored by the trendiest of the false gods, earth spirits and pet rocks. Because this is true—as it must be since I, your omniscient narrator, have never been asked to advise the Almighty—the story that follows must then be patently false. The more clever of this magazine’s readership will recognize the lack of value afforded such a work, and will discontinue consumption immediately. For those intrepid few low-brows who remain, however, what follows is a none-too-good example of what might have happened had God, tiring of the whimperings and supplicant fartings of the angelic host, turned ownership of a few minor details of the universe over to the wisdom of various panels, focus groups and bureaucratic committees. In this poor illustration, we consider life.

Raisin is a very special girl who figured out how to cheat the system and endow herself with various superhuman abilities before her birth. She gets these abilities, but a series of horrible miscalculations on her part whilst pursuing perfection makes life… well… not what she expected. I won’t give away the biggest plot twist, even though it’s revealed in the first paragraph, but I assure you it’s a doozie. And sort of stupid.

Maybe I’ll work on this soon. I think it’d be a quick and easy one to knock out, and it’d give me a much-needed sense of accomplishment after my mounting feelings of inadequacy over the past several months. I’ll let you know how that goes. 🙂