Saturday, October 31, 2009

In Which It's Halloween

Happy Halloween, folks.

I wish I had a good story to share with you about today, but I used the only story I had to tell last year. If you don't feel like clicking through to read last year's Halloween post, just know that instead of spending the evening of October 31st decked out in a costume and collecting candy from strangers, my parents took my sisters and I roller skating.

Yeah. It was as much fun as it sounds, especially for someone who already has enough problems with basic coordination and balance when his feet aren't strapped to a set of small plastic wheels. My friends would come to school the next day with their bags of candy, and I would come to school with bruises on my knees and rug burns on my hands (because, for some reason, someone had the bright idea to put fucking carpet on the walls. For wall-huggers like myself, this meant rug burns every time I'd slam into the wall with my hands out to shield myself).

But I digress.

I came across an interesting Halloween-themed advertisement the other day and I thought I'd share it with you. Have a look:





Oh, goody. With just a few clicks, I can turn a photo of myself into something Halloween-ish. Lest I be disappointed by the results, their helpful disclaimer states that, unless I just so happen to have the perfect facial bone structure to make a killer likeness of Frankenstein, or a beard that'd make me a dead-ringer for Wolfman, my creepy caricature probably won't be as good as the one pictured. How kind of them to warn me beforehand. No one likes to be disappointed on Halloween.

I also find it strange that they decided that they could use the word Halloween as a verb, like those "Cartoon Yourself" ads I wrote about a few months back. It sort of makes me wonder what other words one could use as a verb instead of a noun.
"Man, my legs are tired. I think I'll go chair myself."
"I'm really thirsty. I'm going to go beverage myself."
I don't know about you, but I don't think it has quite the same effect. I also think I'm still a little stoned from yesterday. Maybe it's all just wishful thinking.

Regardless of your plans, I hope you all have an enjoyable and safe Halloween.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In Which I Line 'Em Up

Tonight at midnight (EST) marks the deadline to my Fall Season give-away contest. I've had a lot of entries e-mailed to me already, and I have to tell you, folks... The competition is fierce! The Boss is going to have her work cut out for her in selecting a winner and a runner-up. Just remember, if you plan on participating, make sure you e-mail me your entries (badassgeek{at}gmail{dot}com) before the clock strikes twelve tonight.

In more than a couple of cases, I received more than one picture per entrant (meaning other than those who entered the Pumpkin Carving category). Instead of choosing just one picture out of all that were submitted by the entrant to judge, I'm going to have The Boss view all pictures submitted as a whole. To be clear, people who submitted more than one photo for the Photography Category won't get more entries into the contest. This just keeps them from having anything they sent in from being excluded.

With all that said, here are the submissions I've received thus far, in no particular order:

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Brendan



















































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I'll keep adding more submissions as I get them. Best of luck to all!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Which I Give It A Try

Late last week, when The Boss and I were making our plans for the weekend, I mentioned that I wanted to set aside some time to carve a pumpkin. In all of the years that we've been together, we have never carved pumpkins for Halloween. It had been a number of years since I had carved a pumpkin, and I wanted to give it a try. So, when I first mentioned it to The Boss, she looked at me with a mixed expression of surprise and concern.

Having never expressed to her any interest in carving a pumpkin before would explain the surprise, but the concern most likely came from the fact that someone as clumsy as myself should probably avoid situations involving slippery substances and sharp knives.

Nevertheless, she agreed. We made a trip out to the store to pick up a couple of decent-looking pumpkins and some carving tools, and set up our workstation outside our apartment on a picnic table. Being the geek that you all know me to be, I did a little bit of research on pumpkin carving technique before I started. The idea I had in mind was more than your basic jack-o-lantern, and I didn't want to screw it up.

After assessing the size of her pumpkin, The Boss opted to paint her pumpkin instead of carving it. Not having any concrete plans, she was going to free-hand a design and just run with it. Me, on the other hand, I had my hand-drawn sketch and an array of tools, and I dug right in.

Before long I had the top cut off and the innards all scraped out. I sketched out my design carefully, and slowly began carving. It was tedious and time consuming, taking almost four hours from start to finish. The Boss finished her painting long before I was done, and sat there on the bench watching me work. I had to do some major improvising when I realized that part of my design just wasn't going to work, but in the end I was pretty satisfied.

I meant to take pictures of the entire process, but I got too involved in what I was doing and forgot. So, I've got the standard Before and After pictures. First, though, here is The Boss' pumpkin painting:




This thing scared the crap out of me in the early hours of the morning, when I stumbled into the kitchen for a drink of water. It's those eyes, man. They followed me around the room.

Here is the Before picture of the pumpkin I carved:




Here is the finished (un-lit) product:




When it got dark enough, I took this picture:




It was a lot of work, but I'm pretty satisfied with the end result. It's not perfect, but I had a blast doing it. I think I bit off more than I could chew initially, having never done a carving using the negative space technique. It was much harder than I thought, but it worked out well enough once I got the hang of it. Lucky for me, I have a lot of patience.

And, to the surprise of both The Boss and myself, I didn't cut myself once.

---

Only three days left to enter the Fall Season contest!

Monday, October 26, 2009

In Which I Get Busted

"Mike?"

I froze.

Right away, I knew I was busted.

She doesn't often address me by my first name when we're at home. Normally, it's "Hey, Babe" or something to that effect. There also was something in the tone of her voice, the way it carried on the air, sharply, on a knife's edge almost, from the living room to where I was, in the bedroom on the other side of the apartment.

I paused, holding out to reply until just before the point where I knew she'd call out for me again.

"Yeah?" I crafted the inflection of my voice with the perfect amount of innocence. Convenient, for a guilty man.

"Did you eat some of my Oreos?" she asked. I don't know why she asked, it was clear from the tone in her voice that she already knew the answer.

I paused again, though not for as long this time. "What do you mean?" I was giving an Oscar-worthy performance, feigning this ignorance. Even a polygraph or a wooden nose wouldn't be able to tell I was lying.

"I mean, did you eat some of my Oreos?" The edge to her voice got noticeably sharper. She was quickly approaching the Point Of No Return, and if past experiences have taught me nothing, I knew I better fess up.

"Yeah, I'm sorry," I admitted. I poured on as much schmaltz as I could, wanting to neutralize the situation. From the other side of the apartment, The Boss wasn't having any of it. She continued with her interrogation.

"And just how many did you have?"

"Just one," I assured her, my voice wavering. I was beginning to falter under the pressure. Keep it together, man!

Not believing me, The Boss asked, "How many times did you have just one?"

"Once!" I insisted. "I promise!" I left the bedroom and walked into the kitchen, where The Boss stood holding a package of Oreos in her hand. With the expression on her face, she resembled the World's Most Renown Skeptic.

"I only had one, I swear." I looked deep in her eyes, proving myself to her.

She set the package down on the counter and looked at me, a mixture of annoyance and disappointment. "Why, though? You have plenty of your own type of cookie. Why eat some of mine?"

"One," I corrected. "And I'm not sure why. I just wanted one. I'm sorry."

She blinked and shifted her feet, indignant.

"What?" I said. "The heart wants what the heart wants."

After living with me for four years, she should know by now that if there is good food in the house, regardless of who claims stakes a claim to it, I will invariably eat it. It's just my nature. Hell, it's masculine nature.

Happy Monday, folks.

---

You have only until the end of this week to enter the Fall Contest!

Friday, October 23, 2009

In Which I Am Green... Sort Of

Despite all the talk these days about "going green", there are just some things that I refuse to cut back on or change. I realize that this impacts my carbon footprint in a negative way, but the way I see it, my quality of life sometimes takes precedence. I'll continue to recycle as much as I can and make sure I'm not being flat-out wasteful, and if that isn't enough, well, excuse me for a moment while I go plant a few trees.

One of the things I refuse to budge on is my use of paper products, like tissues. I'm sorry, but when I've got a cold and a metric ton of snot ready to be dispensed out of my nose, I'm going to want more than just one tissue to make sure the resulting deluge of sticky sinus juice doesn't blast right through those two plies and wind up on my hands. There's not much I hate more than that.

Same goes with toilet paper. I know that it's my shit I'm wiping, but that doesn't mean I want any of it on my hands. When I'm tasked with the chore of cleaning up after laying some cable, I'm going to wrap my hand with enough TP to put any Halloween Egyptian mummy to shame.

Really the only other thing I'm picky about is regular light bulbs versus compact fluorescents. When I turn a light on in my apartment, I want the light to come on at full strength. As anyone who uses compact fluorescents knows, they are dim for a little while and gradually become brighter....

... and that drives me crazy.

In just about every light fixture in my home, I use low-wattage incandescent bulbs, just like good ol' Thomas Edison intended. I am aware of the fact that even low-watt bulbs use more energy than CFLs do, but I'm okay with that. I'll gladly pay a little more to the power company each month if it means I'm not stumbling around my apartment in a weird semi-darkness until the bulbs finally warms up. (Before anyone gets on my back about energy conservation, I'm known as the Light Nazi in my house. I'm always shutting off extra lights or lights that were left on in other rooms.)

Maybe it's guilt, maybe it's laziness-turned-green thinking, but I do make up for these aforementioned shortcomings. Like not flushing the toilet every single time I take a leak. This drives The Boss crazy, but still I do it. No sense in wasting 1.6 gallons of perfectly good water each time I empty my bladder. Also, I wait to empty the trash until it is overflowing onto the floor and we are forced to start putting our trash on the edge of the counter. No sense in putting extra plastic trash bags in our landfills, right?

Conservation, people.

What things do you not like to cut back on?

---

P.S. Don't forget about the Fall contest!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Which I Have To Wonder, Again

"Alright, people. If you don't mind, I'd like to get this meeting underway."

Despite it's pinched, nasal quality, the voice belonging to the man in the badly tailored suit standing at the front of the conference room managed to get the attention of the room. The murmur of voices from the four other people in the room died down, and save for the rustling whisper of shifting papers, the room fell quiet. The man cleared his throat and self consciously adjusted the lapel of his suit.

"Okay. You all should know by now that we've got this new product launching in a few weeks. It's not technically a new product more than it is a revamped version of an older one, but either way we've been tasked with the responsibility of coming up with the package branding."

Stepping off to the side, Mr Bad Suit pulls a small remote out of his pocket and aims it at a projector on the long oval conference table. It jumps to life with a click, casting an image of the product on the far wall of the room.

"We've been instructed to come up with a short slogan, something that advises the consumer of the benefits of this newer product over the older one. It has to convince the consumer to purchase our product over our competitors, and it has to fit within our corporate branding style."

Mr Bad Suit paused for a moment, turning to scan the faces of the people in the room. "Any thoughts?"

The breathy whir of the projector's cooling fan is the only sound heard in the room.

"No one?" Mr Bad Suit asks. "Okay, then. I know it's early, and yeah, it's Monday, but we've only got until this afternoon to come up with something. It's got to be approved by the marketing execs by tomorrow. The final package design goes out Wednesday morning to the company that makes the packaging."

He points the remote at the projector again, and it clicks off.

"Get some coffee, and get to work."

---

The final result:




I have to wonder how many slogans were scrapped before they decided on this one. I don't have a lot of experience in advertising or product branding, but I think that, if given enough time, I could come up with something better than "Won't Pull Out".

Why they'd want to have branding on their product that sounds like a phrase used by an irresponsible frat boy is beyond me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Which I Dream

I don't often remember my dreams. I would say that I don't dream at all, but I've heard that regardless if we remember them or not, we dream every night. I'm pretty sure that my neurological condition is to blame for this, preventing me from reaching a state of sleep deep enough for me to retain what my subconsciousness thinks up. Very infrequently do I wake up, either in the middle of the night or in the morning, with the memory of what I had been dreaming fresh in my mind.

The dreams I do remember are often bizarre or extremely disturbing. When I was going through the thickest and worst part of my anxiety problems last summer, I had the worst dreams of my life. They were truly horrible, made up from my darkest thoughts, swirled into these beastly vignettes that played on repeat in my mind's eye. Those dreams stayed with me for days, some of them for weeks, but I won't share them here.

When I wake up and actually remember what my dreams had been about that night, I make a point to write them down so that I can remember them later, or I tell The Boss about them. On a couple of occasions, I've written about some odd dreams here (the post about the fleas, and the other one about my stint as an arsonist are two that immediately come to mind). I sometimes look up certain elements of my dreams in dream dictionaries to see what they mean, but even after pouring through page after page, I haven't been able to decipher the strangest dream I've ever had.

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I'm driving down a narrow dirt road, the tall grass whispering against the sides of my truck. The sky is grey and overcast, the sun burning bright behind the clouds. It smells like it had just finished raining, but the ground is dry. I'm driving fast, hitting hard the bumps and ruts on the poorly kept one-lane road. I'm obviously in a hurry, and despite my speed I don't seem to be getting anywhere. Tall grass lines the road all the way to the horizon.

As I make my way around a bend in the road, suddenly the tall grass ends and I'm in the parking lot of a small hospital. The parking lot is littered with a few cars, most of them clustered together near the entrance to the building. I park my truck at the far end of the lot, and step out. I feel the cool air against my skin, and make an interesting discovery.

I'm naked.

With nothing to cover up my indecency in my truck, I cover my groin with my hands and run towards the hospital.  I feel a deep-seated urgency, that there is something important I am missing or that I need to do, and despite my nakedness, I must get inside the hospital. I burst through the glass doors, and as I run lightly on my bare feet through the lobby, I catch the eye of the people in the lobby. Their eyes are wide and mouths open in shock, but no one approaches me as I run through the lobby and down a hallway to the side.

I keep running. When I reach the end of the hallway, I see a door that is slightly ajar. I push it open and find that it's a uniform storage closet. I step into the closet and pull the door closed behind me. Finding my size, I dress myself in a set of scratchy blue scrubs. I complete the ensemble with a white lab coat and shove my feet into a pair of sneakers I found tucked away in the corner.

Once dressed, I look around the small interior of the closet. There is a seam of light coming from the corner. I notice then that the far wall of the closet is actually a door; I find the handle, and turn it.

The door opens up into a patient's room. The only light in the room is a florescent bulb hanging over a sink mounted to the wall on the left side of the room. Something is in the sink. I walk over to it, not wanting to see what is in the sink but finding myself forced to by some perverse morbid curiosity. In the sink is a stainless steel bowl, filled with severed thumbs.

I take a few steps back in horror and look away. It is only then that I notice that I'm not alone in the room. Sitting cross-legged on the end of the bed made in crisp, fresh linen, is a black man. His bald head gleams in the florescent light. He's wearing the paisley-printed garb of an inpatient. He's meditating, his fingers pinched together in an "o" shape on his knees. I try to speak to him, but my throat is dry.

Suddenly, he turns his head to look at me. He smiles, his teeth a brilliant white. His eyes are closed. He unfolds his legs and swings them over the edge of the bed. Just as he opens his eyes-

- I wake up.

---

The dream has stayed with me in vivid detail. I've tried to figure out what the various parts of it could mean, but it just doesn't make sense. It's like my own personal horror story. I suppose I should be thankful that I've only had this dream once, and that it hasn't come back to me in my sleep.

Any thoughts?

What is the worst dream you can remember having?

Friday, October 16, 2009

In Which I Do It Again

I'm a little late getting this off the ground, but I figured it's better to be late than never. Since I don't think I'm going to be able to make the blogger meet-up thing happen this fall, I felt that I should do something else  for my incredible readers instead, so I don't come off as a total and complete flake.

Does anyone remember the contest I held last fall? Well, I'm doing it again:

THE BADASS GEEK 2nd ANNUAL FALL SEASON GIVE AWAY

Fall is my favorite season, and while I'm trying to make an effort to enjoy this time of year, I want you to be able to take some time from your busy lives and enjoy it, too. To encourage that, I thought a contest with an incentive would help.

Choose one of the following categories:

  • Take a picture that you feel best describes the fall season.
  • Prove your worth by carving the best Jack O'Lantern.

Participants in Category One will need to submit, in addition to their photo, a short paragraph detailing why they chose the subject of the photo, and how they feel it best describes the Fall season. Participants in Category Two will need to submit, in addition to a picture of the final product, photos of the "work in progress" (you don't need to show the faces of those involved, just prove that you actually did the work). One winner be selected from each category, with the entries being judged on originality, and in the case of pumpkin carving, skill. To help keep things fair and unbiased, I'll have The Boss pick the winners.

Submissions should be e-mailed to me (badassgeek[at]gmail[dot]com) no later than Friday, October 30th.  I will review the submissions, and The Boss will make her selection for first place winners and one runner-up for each category. The winners will be announced on Wednesday, November 4th.

The first place winner in each category will receive an 8x10 matted print of their choice from my portfolio, valued at $20.00. The runner-up in each category will receive a 5x7 matted print of their choice from my portfolio, valued at $15.00. Both first place winners and runners-up will also have the choice of swapping their gift for some design work on their blog.

Between the two categories, there are four prizes available to be won, and only 15 days to send in your submissions. Need some inspiration? Take a look at last years submissions.

Good luck, and enjoy being outside!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In Which I Am Observant, Part Eight

Have you ever noticed that the one time you give your friend (who is always sending you raunchy and obscene text messages) the benefit of the doubt and open a newly-received message from her, in front of your mother, only to find out that the message has an embedded sound effect that screams out a nickname for the vagina that is also an old-fashioned term for felines?

Have you ever noticed that you will find the weirdest sites bookmarked on other people's computers? And that you'll wish you hadn't snooped around when you offered to fix your sister's laptop and found the Adult Sex Toy site bookmark?

Have you ever noticed that if you get a song stuck in your head that you actually like, and after singing it to yourself 387 times in one afternoon, you'll eventually come to hate the song?

Have you ever noticed that when you salvage batteries from the one remote control you never use for something more important, you'll find that you need that remote for something within the next week? But only after you've settled down on the couch and are extremely comfortable?

Have you ever noticed that the one time you sneeze into your arm instead of into your hands is the time that a globule of snot the size of a Geo Metro will come out and fuse itself deep into the fabric on your sleeve?

No?

Well, I have. What have you noticed this week?

(Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four , Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven)

Monday, October 12, 2009

In Which I Meet The Neighbors

It occurred to me recently that I haven't talked about the people that live in my apartment building. Considering all the horror stories I've heard from other people about the crazy people they've got living around them, I've got a pretty tame bunch of neighbors. They are generally pretty quiet and respectful, and after living here for five months, I've got no real complaints. When The Boss and I first moved in, the more social people in the building were really nice and welcoming. As time passed, I've gotten to know the rest of the people in the building, and while I'm sure they are nice people, too, they are the bruised apples in the bunch.

On the first floor, there's this hermit lady with a crazy eye (you know, the kind of eye where you can't tell if she's looking at you or off to the side) and hair like a troll doll. She hides out in her apartment most of the time, but when she decides to make an appearance, she'll do really odd things. Like spending a few hours picking shreds of peeling paint off of the fence, occasionally smelling deeply a freshly peeled paint scrap before dropping it to the ground. Or approaching me when I was cooking a few burgers on the grill that one time and asking me, "Do you know how to turn the water off? The hose water? Should I cut the blue wire or the red wire?" and without waiting for my response, rushed hurriedly away, whispering to herself.

Yeah. We've gotten used to ignoring her when she talks to us. Just like algebra, she'll never make any sense.

On our floor at the end of the hall, we've got an older married couple who I've gotten used to calling The Kinks. They are an extremely quiet couple, enough so that for the first couple of weeks of living in this building, we didn't even know someone occupied their unit. We had lived here for about a month when I heard this strange noise coming from down the hall when I was taking out the trash. As I walked down the hall, I noticed the sound was coming from their unit. After a few moments I noticed a distinct rhythm to the noise, and deduced that I was hearing two people getting it on. LOUDLY. It wasn't hot or kinky sounding sex. In fact, it didn't sound like either of them were enjoying it at all. She was screaming like she was being slowly tortured with a melon baller, and the way he was grunting and moaning, it sounded like he was trying to pass an unusually large bowel movement. And, man, the dirty talk! I'm pretty tolerant of dirty language, but the crap that came out of their mouths made me blush as I passed by.

When I finally saw them for the first time, I wouldn't have guessed they were the same couple I had heard bumping uglies just a few days prior. What, with their neatly pressed and expensive church-going clothes, looking like the 2009 Prudes Of The Year.

On the basement level of the building is this old, balding French guy who lives by himself. He's retired, and spends a majority of his time drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. It doesn't matter what time it is, every time I've seen this guy, he's had a beer in one hand (the earliest time on record is 7:30 AM) and a cigarette in the other. He wears dentures but often forgets to use adhesives to keep them in place. I know this because I've seen him yawn or cough or sneeze and wind up with a handful of teeth. Despite all the things this guy has going for him, once a week he'll get dressed up all snappy, slap some Sea-Bond on his chompers, and get picked up in this gleaming Lincoln Towncar driven by an elegant looking old woman with a giant poodle sitting on the front seat.

I try not imagine what they do on their weekly dates.

The rest of the people around us don't really stand out. We got the couple across the hall that fight all the time, and the unemployed guy my age who plays loud video games all day that lives below us. To one side of us, we've got the woman that refuses to say "hello" to The Boss and I whenever we see her, and the woman to the other side of us who runs her garbage disposal for minutes at a time and odd hours of the night. Not a bad bunch of people, all things considered.

Beats a pair of farting landlords any day.

Friday, October 9, 2009

In Which I've Got No Other Choice

I returned to work today. Having been out of it for the past month, jumping right back into it is really giving the ol' brain a workout. You'd think that after three years I wouldn't have any trouble remembering how to do my job, but you'd be wrong. I feel like a rookie all over again.

My brain has been working so hard today that it's set off the smoke alarms a few times. Not wanting to leave my blog empty for a few days, I've got no other choice but to recycle an old post. It's one that is sure to throw your stomach for a bit of a loop, so if you're queasy or sensitive like that, read this post instead.

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I was browsing the Best-Of section of Craigslist the other day when I came across something that made me throw up a little in my mouth. I should have been prepared for the worst when I read the title of the entry, especially considering the site that hosted this little gem. It was horribly disgusting and it took away my appetite, but I just have to share it with you all. Those with weak stomachs should click away now.

The entry (click here for the link) was titled "I Need Someone To Dry My Placenta".

Enjoy.


Okay, yeah. Even after reading through this a couple of times, it still kind of turns my stomach. As gross as the idea of that is, if some formerly-pregnant chick wants to eat her own afterbirth, who am I to say no? I won't stand in the way of one's ambitions, even if it sounds absolutely nauseating. To each his or her own.

She is correct when she said that a lot of animals tend to eat the placenta after giving birth. The Boss grew up on a goat farm, and she's told me stories about how the mother goats would chow down on their placenta like it was a free buffet. Sure, its natural for animals, but for humans? If you're looking to take something that benefits your health, take a fucking multivitamin.

I just can't imagine someone actually doing that. I mean, seriously. Giving birth isn't like going to a restaurant. It'd be awfully weird I'd think for the OB doctors, wiping sweat from their brow after working hard to safely deliver this woman's baby, to see this woman point to the bowl containing the gory carnage that is afterbirth and be all like, "Can I get that to go?"

I can't help but wonder if she actually got a response.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In Which I Am Proud

If you all will bear with me for a moment, I want to share some pictures of my new nephew. I am a very proud uncle, and I suppose it's my right to brag a bit about him. Take a look:


The Boss and I went down to the hospital to see Clayton last night. He is in perfect health, despite being a few weeks early. My sister was induced early due to a slightly enlarged liver and high blood pressure. Having those problems, combined with her epilepsy, her doctors didn't want to risk anything by letting her go full term. They did an amniocentesis to make sure that Clayton's lungs were functioning properly before going ahead with the induction.

So long as everything goes well today, Clayton and family will be going home tomorrow.

Because I am an equal opportunity uncle, I've got to share a picture of my niece, Clara. Don't want her to feel left out, after all.


There's nothing wrong with being a proud uncle, right?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In Which I'm An Uncle Again

My nephew was born early this morning, after 32 hours of labor. I haven't gotten a chance to see him yet, but from what I've heard from my (very excited and happily crying) mother, both my sister and the baby are doing just fine.

My younger sister was induced late in the evening on Monday, but things progressed very slowly leading up to the actual birth. The Boss and I were at the hospital until late last night, hoping he'd come while we were there. We left around midnight, and got the call that he had finally arrived just before 7am.

His name is Clayton, and I'll post a picture of him as soon as I get one to share.

---

The Boss and I went to the Fryeburg Fair on Monday. Anyone who lives in the New England area has probably heard of this fair. It's a pretty big event for this region, with people coming from states away to be a part of it. It's your typical fair, with tons of vendors and food booths and rides and games.

We happened to go on the second day of the fair, so it was jam packed. I didn't get to take as many pictures as I wanted, but I did manage to snap a few.




On the drive home, we happened on this large field with a rainbow hanging perfectly above it.


All in all, it was a pretty good day.

Have a good day, folks.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In Which I've Got Balls

May I have your attention please?

*ahem*

Plum Balls.


That is all.

P.S. I couldn't resist posting a picture of this pair of plums that The Boss has been keeping on the kitchen counter, waiting for them to ripen. It was just too perfect of an opportunity. Just like that "Gopher Dick" book I found a while back.

Happy Monday, folks.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

In Which I Can't Take Anymore

From: badassgeek@gmail.com
To: karma@yourlifegenerallysucks.com
Date: Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 at 8:42 AM
Subject: Seriously? What. The. FUCK.

Hey, Karma,

Did you get the last e-mail I sent to you? I never did hear back from you, but I know you're pretty busy, so at first I brushed it off. To jog your memory a bit, it was the one where I pretty much laid out how much my life has been sucking recently? The one where I asked you to lighten up a bit, to give me a fucking break?

Yeah. I'm assuming that, due to further crap that has happened recently in my life, you either deleted the e-mail without reading it, or completely disregarded my request. Maybe it went into your Spam folder, I don't know. All I'm saying is that you better listen this time. Quite frankly, I've had enough.

You see, for some unexplainable reason, my doctors office dropped the ball in sending in paperwork for my short term disability claim. I had been waiting for a benefit check for the past two weeks, come to find out it wasn't coming because the jackholes at my PCP's office forgot to send it in. That means that I can't pay my power bill, my Internet bill, or rent! How awesome is that?! I have to wait another week to find out if the paperwork they finally sent in is approved, and another week after that to get another benefit check.

But wait! There's more.

The Boss' car was due for inspection in September. We ran out of time before it expired, so yesterday I went to my mechanic for an inspection sticker. Come to find out that, hey, the front coil springs are broken. How about another car repair, to the tune of $250 bucks? Why the fuck not? We can't afford our basic utilities or rent, but a car repair? SURE!

I've had enough, Karma. I really, really have. I still don't know what I did to deserve this kind of treatment, but I think I've had enough. I don't know that I can take anymore, to tell you the truth. I'm one more shitty problem away from taking a razor blade to a pile of Ativan tablets and snorting them, just to find a better way to cope.

Maybe I was a little rude in my last e-mail, and if I was, then I apologize. Just please, give The Boss and I a break. I think after all that has happened in the past 45 days, we deserve it.

Just think about it.

Mike

Thursday, October 1, 2009

In Which I Am Blown Away

The Allergy Saga continues...

(As always, if you are not up to speed on the events of The Allergy Saga, read these posts:
These posts chronicle everything that has happened in the past month and a half, all of which is relevant to this post. I'm not going to recap anything here, so refer to those posts if you get confused.)

I mentioned in Friday's post that I had an appointment with the Dr House of allergies early next month. To be specific, it was scheduled for October 6th. However, they called me on Tuesday and told me they had a cancellation, and thus an opening, for an appointment on Wednesday. I leaped at the chance, glad to be able to see him sooner, and made the trip down yesterday to his office.

After giving him the whole spiel about how it all started and how I got to where I am, he asked me the same routine of questions I had answered dozens of times before. No, there are no new foods, soaps, or detergents. Yes, I've checked my apartment for mold. My pillow is brand new, there is an allergen cover on my mattress, and I've got a HEPA air filter running non-stop in my apartment.

I told him that I had done the prick test not too long ago, and that I tested negative for anything. To be thorough, though, he re-did the prick test. To no surprise to me or to him, I tested negative again. That put me in the same position I was in after the previous allergist I saw:

Okay, so now what?

Testing negative again to the prick test didn't deter the doctor at all. He left the exam room and came back with a swab, and swabbed my nose. He wiped the swab on a slide and examined it under a microscope. He motioned me over to have a look at the slide, and as I peered through the scope he told me that I had these cells called Eosinophils in my sinuses. Simply put, eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that (among other things) help fight off allergic reactions.

The doctor went on to say that these cells accumulate if there isn't any treatment to get rid of the cells themselves, or if one is exposed continuously to the source that is triggering the production of the cells. Once they build up to a certain point, they will cause the body to react by producing hives and respiratory problems. After giving me a moment to absorb that information, the Dr House of allergies jumped right into his speculation as to the cause for the presence of these cells.

After asking me some other questions, about what I use for pain relievers, and some of the types of foods I eat, he told me that he thinks I have an aspirin sensitivity.

Technically speaking, it's not an allergy. Sensitivity to aspirin means that I can tolerate it in small amounts, but my body will produce these eosinophil cells in response to higher amounts of aspirin once it's introduced into my system.

Now, avoiding aspirin isn't as easy as one would think. Aspirin is, obviously, in a lot of pain relievers, like Bayer, Ibuprofen (Advil), Motrin, and naproxen (Aleve). The category of NSAID pain relievers as a whole should be avoided, as they also contain aspirin. Therefore, pretty much the only thing I can use to treat pain or fever is acetaminophen (Tylenol).

There's more, though.

Those who have aspirin sensitivity also have to avoid other things aside from NSAID pain relievers. Aspirin also occurs naturally in a lot of foods, in the form of salicylates, or salicylic acid. Due to it's chemical make-up, salicylic acid reacts much in the same way as aspirin to those who are sensitive to it. You've probably seen saliclyic acid in the ingredient lists for a lot of foods, as it is most commonly used as a preservative, but it also occurs in various foods as just a natural ingredient or chemical found in it. A list of foods and the level of salicylates found in them can be seen here. It's also often the main active ingredient in acne treatments.

People with aspirin sensitivity also are sensitive to Tartrazine, better known as yellow dye #5. Like salicylates, tartrazine is similar enough in it's chemical composition to aspirin where products that contain it should be avoided as well. To quote the Wikipedia page referenced above, here is a partial list of foods that contain tartrazines, or yellow dye #5:
  • Cotton candy,
  • Soft drinks or energy drinks,
  • Instant puddings,
  • Flavored chips (Doritos, Nachos, etc),
  • Cereals (corn flakes, muesli, etc.),
  • Cake mixes and pastries,
  • Custard powder,
  • Soups (particularly instant or "cube" soups),
  • Sauces,
  • Some rices (like paella, risotto, etc.),
  • Powdered drink mixes or sports drinks,
  • Ice cream and ice pops,
  • Candy and chewing gum,
  • Marzipan,
  • Jam, jelly, gelatins, and marmalade,
  • Mustard,
  • Horseradish,
  • Yogurt,
  • Noodles,
  • Pickles and other pickled products,
  • Many convenience foods,
  • Glycerin,
  • Lemon and honey products.
Here's where a lot of the puzzle pieces started falling into place.

Remember the joint pain I've been having? Some blood work I had done recently revealed that I have Parvovirus. It's more commonly known as Fifth's Disease and mostly occurs in pediatric patients, but adults can get it, too. It can cause arthritis. And of course, how did I treat the joint pain?

With ibuprofen and naproxen.

Way back when I first had that isolated incident, before we adopted the dog, where I had breathing trouble out of the blue? The night before, I had eaten macaroni and cheese for dinner, and I had finished the leftovers for lunch just an hour or two before I had the anaphylaxis. What is one of the ingredients in macaroni and cheese?

Yellow dye #5.

All summer long, I have been indulging a hardcore fixation of Mountain Dew. What is one of the ingredients in Mountain Dew, the ingredient that gives it it's unique color?

Yellow dye #5.

Without even knowing it, I've been essentially poisoning myself.

To put it mildly, with having to avoid salicylates and tartrazines, I'll have my work cut out for me. I'll be examining product ingredient lists like it's no body's business. It will be a huge adjustment, not only in diet but in lifestyle, but if it gets me feeling better, then I'll do what it takes.

The heartbreaking thing is that I really am not allergic to dogs. That means that the adorable and loving dog that The Boss and I adopted didn't have to go back to the shelter. The symptoms I had after exposure to her were just coincidental, and probably triggered by a seasonal allergy to ragweed or pollen. (Ragweed season begins in mid-August; my symptoms started in mid-August.) It breaks my heart to think of all the confusion she must have felt when we brought her back, but these things happen for a reason.

As far as treatment goes, the allergist put me on Singulair to treat the eosinophils in my sinuses. That, in combination with avoiding aspirin, salicylates, and tartrazine, should make my symptoms disappear. When I see him again in two weeks, he'll swab my nose again and check to see if the cells are gone.

If they are gone, well, then we've found our problem. I'll continue the Singulair for a while just to be safe, and keep avoiding aspirins, salicylates, and tartrazines. If the cells are still there, then the diagnosis of aspirin sensitivity gets thrown out, and we'll keep investigating. I do have to mention, though, that the allergist is pretty confident that I have aspirin sensitivity.

After all of this time, waiting and wondering about what is making me so sick, I'm glad to finally have an idea about what may be the source of all this. It's something to work towards, but at the same time, knowing all that I have to avoid to keep myself healthy is a bit daunting right now.

I don't think it's fully hit me yet, but I'm sure it will in time.