March 2010 - Spruce

Moving Past the Tavern

Last night's RPG session was a one-shot adventure with completely fresh characters. Instead of having us start the game in a tavern, Bob had us wake up in jail.

Apparently, three days ago the dwarf took us to a dwarven bar, vouched for us, and we ended up on a bender whose details were lost in an alcoholic haze. The dialog with our jailer was memorable:


Jailer (played by Bob): You set fire to an outhouse.
Mika the Cleric (played by me): I... I think I remember that.
Jailer: It was a very nice outhouse. It had running water.
Mika: Yeah, it's coming back to me now. That water can't be safe. Not in an outhouse.
Jailer: The owner is very upset.
Mika: We were doing him a favor.
Jailer: You burned his outhouse to the ground.
Mika: The outhouse had it coming.
Jailer: "had it coming?"
Mika: Look, if "Lance of Faith" sets a building on fire, the building is obviously an unholy abomination.

All of this was just a prelude to us getting recruited to clear out the kobolds in exchange for some charges being dropped. Which meant, of course, that most of the rest of the dialog in the game was nowhere near as interesting. Well, maybe except for the part where I related the legend of the Gnomish village of Riverton that had dwarven ale delivered for their big celebration. Three days later the village was in the next county over and all the buildings were upside down.
March 2010 - Spruce

Relapse of Mono

The Physician's Assistant, Whitney, called me to talk about the blood work we took a week ago. Short version: Epstein-Barr, which is pretty common but usually latent. Mine acted up, and I had what amounts to a relapse of mononucleosis, or "mono."

As I said on the Twitter feed, the diagnosis may have been mono, but it felt more like Dolby Surround Sound 5.1.


Anyway, I'm fine now. As an added bonus, I'm not crazy. I really WAS sick. Also, I have yet another reason to eat nutritiously. A strong immune system is the best defense against another relapse. Okay, okay, fine. I'll have another salad.
March 2010 - Spruce

Done Being Sick, Oh Yes

Today I:

- got up at 6:30 and helped make breakfast
- wrote three tricky scripts that had been stuck for more than a week
- outlined a week of comics (in my head, but that still counts)
- went shopping
- spent 90 minutes at the gym doing both resistance and cardio
- ate a salad
- took a power-nap (not a "can't stand up anymore" nap)
- penciled two strips
- inked six rows of comics (four days' worth)
- did assorted business tasks
- wrote this

And during all that time I didn't once feel like I was going to fall down because I wasn't getting enough air.

I will concede the following:
- maybe my determination to get better coincided with actually getting better
- maybe my illness was just laziness and depression
- maybe the improved air quality had something to do with it

You know what? I don't care. That thing I've got on right now? It's my game face. I have my boots on and a pen in my hand, so if things need kicked and names need taken, I'm up to the task.

It's nice to be back.
March 2010 - Spruce

"Just Man Up," Round Two

Last Friday I decided to not be sick anymore. It didn't work. Today I went to the doctor, and based on everything they were able to measure right away there's no explanation for me being so continuously SOB (Short Of Breath. My mother was a lovely woman, thankyouverymuch.)

In a three-hour ordeal that was mostly waiting we poked, prodded, listened, discussed symptoms and medical history at great length, measured my blood oxygen several times, took some X-rays, and drew blood for further tests. Now I get to wait for results from that. There were no immediate red-flags on the X-rays, which, coupled with the healthy sounding lungs almost certainly means I'm not walking around with pneumonia. Sure, the radiologist still needs to look at the pictures, but at this point if there's a smoking gun somewhere it's going to be in the blood work.

I have to confess to being SERIOUSLY pissed. I'm angry enough at all the waiting around and not knowing that I'm ready to put on the "can-do, eff you" hat again and just man up to my regular schedule tomorrow. If I feel like I'm not getting enough air, well, I know that's a lie so I'll just keep going. And if I fall down and need to be hospitalized, well, at least there'll be some proper symptoms for people to argue about.

I hate being sick, but what I REALLY hate is lying around and doing nothing for two weeks.
  • Current Mood
    cranky cranky
March 2010 - Spruce

This had better be pneumonia...

I've been mostly flat on my back for the better part of the last two weeks. I've complained about the air quality (it's bad) and my asthma (it's still around), I've pointed at a chest cold as a trigger event, but for the life of me this does NOT make sense. I'm in fine physical condition, I no longer feel sick, but the air around me is just too thin to support life.

I tried muscling through it with albuterol and a positive mental attitude on Friday. That didn't go well. I walked to Church this morning. That was fine... up until 30 minutes later when I was quietly gasping for breath while doing nothing more demanding than sitting in the pew. So no, I guess that didn't go well either. I've spent six waking hours today flat on my back.

Counting backwards, I think I've spent at least 100 waking hours laid out flat in the last two weeks. My workaholism is raging at this impotence.

Part of me knows that I need to be forced to take a vacation sometimes. Part of me thinks that this is all psychosomatic, and that if I can just find the right combination of "can-do" and "eff-you" I'll be able to get some work done. That part of me was given a shot at things on Friday, and again this morning. He got the "eff-you" part down pat, but I ended up very "can't-don't" in the process.

So... I'm off to the doctor tomorrow. Let me tell you, if there isn't a solid, measurable, medical reason for me to feel this way I'm going to be seriously pissed off. I don't want to be told that I've developed a psychosis that enforces laziness. I want to be told I can't get any work done because there's a massive colony of intelligent bacteria slum-lording my lungs out to their unevolved brethren.

Real sick is better than fake sick because sane is better than crazy. (Though I've always had to settle for "high-functioning" instead of "sane.")
March 2010 - Spruce

Thoughts on Aughts

There's an old man who comes to the gym in the mornings. He has a walker with an oxygen bottle, and bears visible scars from open heart surgery and a pacemaker implant. Monday morning I loosened up in the hot tub, and the two of us talked.

I learned that he had his first surgery in early December of 1999. I was reminded of my bout with myocarditis that same month, and how, as I lay in the Intensive Care Unit at UVRMC, the rooms around me were full of what I have come to call "gray people." Their skin was literally deathly pale, and I assumed that the majority of them were going to die there.

I asked where this man had gone for treatment back in '99, and he told me he was at UVRMC, and spent most of December in the Intensive Care Unit.

One of those gray people not only survived, but did so for a full decade at current count.

The last decade has been huge for me. I started a new job, rose to prominence, and then quit to do the same thing again. I created Schlock Mercenary, and Sandra and I had two more kids.

All of this in a decade.

I don't know what my elderly friend at the gym has done with the ten years the doctors, God, and/or the Fates gave back to him, but I'm sure they are precious.

Whine about the "aughts" if you must, but as we begin the second decade of the twenty-first century, know that at least two of us are really thankful for the last ten years.

  • Current Mood
March 2010 - Spruce

I was sure I'd related this before, but Google couldn't find it...

Short version, cutting to the punchline as quickly as possible:

My mother-in-law sent us a plush nativity, complete with wise men and a camel. Its job was to sit under the tree and get played with.

About five years ago my son was playing with them, and from the other room I heard "Wap! Him dead! Now my take camel!"

That poor wise man was apparently unwise enough to get ambushed by some other toy (a Hamtaro, if memory serves.)
March 2010 - Spruce

Tip your waitress!

Or waiter. Or sushi-chef.

I've only got anecdotal evidence supporting this, but the impression I get is that with tighter economic times people are eating out a little less, and tipping a LOT less. The restaurant managers I've spoken to (I know a few, yes) have said that average tips have dropped from around 18% to around 10%.

Sure, sure... a lot of us look at tipping as a way to reward excellent service, and will withhold a good tip from a lousy waiter or waitress. But that's not what's happening here. What's happening is that a lot of us don't want to give up eating out, so we're cutting back on our tips.

Two things:

1) Be the guy (or gal) who tips well. Start at 20% and round up. Factor that into your budgeting.

2) Crummy service? A low tip just says "I'm cheap." Unless the service is absolutely execrable, it's not really your job to discipline your server. Tip your server well, and then call the manager over and complain. If it was really that bad you'll probably come out further ahead than if you'd skimped on the tip. If not, well... you don't want to eat there again.

My friend Bob has a great policy when he eats out with a large group. He hands the unsuspecting server a $20 at the beginning of the ordering process and says "I want to make sure this is a great experience for everybody... including you." At the end of the meal he strongarms the rest of us into tipping a solid 20%. Funny thing... when Bob's around we ALWAYS have a great time at the restaurant.

But you don't have to go the extra mile. Just make sure you don't skimp. Waitresses and waiters are feeling the crunch at least as badly as the rest of us are.
March 2010 - Spruce

$250,000 per Job? Only a little bit too expensive.

If you've been following the news, there are lots of people screaming about how incredibly expensive the stimulus package was, and how it didn't create enough jobs for the money spent.

I'm not a fan of stimulus, nor big government, but I do know how to do math like a capitalist. An employee costs a lot more than just salary, and I haven't seen much reporting in this vein.

Let's say you've been given stimulus money to hire somebody. GREAT! Do you start writing them paychecks immediately? No. You find work for them to do. Let's go on to say that the employee is (as many of them are reported to have been) a construction worker. How much is it going to cost to put that person to work? Well... you have to have land on which they can put a building, materials to put up the building with, and tools for them to use. Some of this you might already have, but with stimulus money you're going to go buy MORE of it so you can grow your business and (here's another form of the word) STIMULATE the economy as a result.

Pulling numbers out of my butt: if twenty guys can build a subdivision of 40 homes in a year, and the homes cost $120,000 each to build, you've spent just short of five million dollars creating 20 jobs, at a cost of $240,000 per job.

You also created forty homes (in a depressed real-estate market that is saturated with defaults, foreclosures, and short sales, but I digress...)

Also, somebody out there sold you a whole mess of lumber, nails, concrete, PVC, etc.

Sure, if all we wanted to do was feed people tax money we could do it much more efficiently by just dumping the entire stimulus package into the existing welfare system. But that doesn't stimulate the economy, and it provides incentives for the wrong sort of behavior.

Again, let me say that I'm not a fan of the stimulus package, not as implemented, and not in principle. But the math I use as a good capitalist who wants to be able to create jobs tells me that the critics of the stimulus package are being very loudly dishonest in their criticism.

(Note: If you gave me $240,000 and told me to create as many jobs as I could, I would hire a writer, two line-artists, and a colorist and create graphic novels out the wazoo. If the books sold well, I'd be able to keep my employees. If not, well... they worked for a year, and we all had a good time with taxpayer money. DO NOT SEND ME TAX DOLLARS IT WILL ONLY END IN TEARS.)
March 2010 - Spruce

Mob Madness, 1996

I ran sound for a comedy troupe called "The Garrens" back in the mid-90's, and one of their largest performances was to be held at a Brigham Young University freshman orientation event. There were about 2,000 kids (even then they looked like kids to me) in attendance.

There was a dance before the show, and the huge floor area was packed. The DJ's stage was in the middle of it all, and I was up there with him setting up the gear for The Garrens while he dropped jams, or mixes, or beats, or whatever you kids call that stuff. The heads and shoulders of 2,000 freshmen were a tumultous, rhythmic sea that came up to my knees.

Then the DJ dropped in "Macarena," and there was order in the chaos. Like iron filings in Hell's own magnetic field, 2,000 freshmen aligned themselves and oscillated in unison.

It was amazing, and just a little frightening. This was the sort of power supervillians crave, and it was being used as a party game.