randy_byers: (cesare)
I'm just back from my second trip to Rockaway Beach on the Oregon Coast with my friend Kristal. Kristal is a breast cancer survivor whom I met at the beginning of the year through my co-worker Abi. Kristal has been a huge support to me while I've undergone treatment, accompanying me on long walks to help me keep my strength up, and sharing her own harrowing treatment stories. The chemo she went through not only took all her hair and eyelashes, but eventually her fingernails too. In the beginning Abi was usually part of the outings, but eventually she found a boyfriend, and Kristal and I started walking and talking on our own. Then one day she invited me to join her on a day trip to Lummi Island, and I felt that something was beginning to happen between us.

Not long after that she invited me to join her on a two-day trip to Rockaway Beach to celebrate her birthday. I wasn't sure what her intent was, but I took it as an opportunity to get to know her better. So I asked her a bunch of nosy questions including why she had invited me. She told me that she just liked me and thought I'd be fun to hang out with in one of her favorite get-away spots. Fair enough. However, my own affection for her was starting to change in response to getting to know her better: her camera-shyness; the way she obsessively listens to the same music over and over (currently Bon Iver); her dysfunctional family background; her love of poetry; her desire to enjoy life to the fullest while she still can; and her mad skills as a photographer.

So I was the one who pushed for another outing to Rockaway this month. Last time we hit the coast on November 8th and then watched with horror as America elected Trump as president. That really ruined everything, including our attempt to escape the world for a little while. This time would be better, we hoped. Unfortunately, despite all the signs that she wasn't interested in me romantically -- the lack of physical affection, the way she immediately deflected any flirtation or expressions of affection on my part -- failed to penetrate my silly heart, and I started feeling frustrated by her unresponsiveness and emotional distance. Eventually I started feeling pretty grumpy and alienated about it. I woke up on Friday in a foul mood, thinking I didn't understand her or what the hell was going on. I walked out into the front room before sunrise in order to stew upon it in the dark and spotted the three-quarters moon hanging over the trail from the cottage to the beach.

2016-12-16 Moon Path.jpg

It was like the beginning of a pirate movie, or a gothic thriller, or an A. Merritt super scientific adventure. I felt that I had suddenly been transported into a much larger, more glorious universe, where my romantic confusion was a piddling bunch of bullshit that had been blown completely out of proportion. I threw on some warm clothes, raced down to the frigid beach, and felt myself in the presence of an archaic power much more ancient than life or love and before which I was completely helpless. Which I think is Kristal's goal in these trips to the ocean: to connect to a deeper sense of mystery and awe than we generally experience in our day-to-day lives, and that is a particularly healing solace to someone with death by cancer looming over their future.

Today she confirmed that she just wants a traveling buddy, not a boyfriend. I've been on the other side of that divide, so who am I to pout? Well, a human being, that's who, but I hope the pouting doesn't last long. It turns out I very much do understand her and what the hell is going on; I was just in denial. Why waste time on minor riddles of the heart, when there are much vaster mysteries at work? Mysteries that can open me like a can opener and swallow my innards whole in an eyeblink. It happened to me last December, in fact. My world and life have been transformed for the worse, but it's still full of beauty that takes my breath away. I yearn for love, but I've always made do with a sense of wonder. Meanwhile, I hope that Kristal and I can continue to console each other for the shitty bad luck we both ran into when we ran head first (or breast first, in her case) into cancer.

2016-12-16 Moon Ocean.jpg

POSTSCRIPT: I know that at least one of you saw a post I put up briefly after the November trip. If you saw that one, I ask you to pretend you didn't and restrict your comments to this one.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
As I think I mentioned in my post about the eight days in Oregon in August, I returned to more emotional turmoil than usual, and it just got worse for the next week or so. I characterized it to those who asked as feeling sorry for myself, and certainly part of it was feeling roiled about my cancer and the treatment for it and where this is all likely to end up. But there were other components to what I was feeling that had nothing to do with cancer or treatment or mortality. It's difficult to write about, because it's pretty abject emotional territory and because I don't want to name names. Basically I got very angry at a female friend of mine, and at myself, because I have a thing for her and thought she reciprocated but has lately seemed to pull away from me. I've already gone through one cycle of feeling this way about her, right after radiation treatment, and I've now realized that part of what was going on this time is that when I got back from the trip with Hortensia in July, I felt at a very deep, insecure level, that I had lost a life partner of some kind. This made me feel desperately lonely and inadequate, so I almost immediately shifted all the intense feelings I had for Hortensia onto this other friend of mine. Mind you, this was all internal to me. Nothing was expressed or communicated, thankfully so. It was all taking place in my imagination, for one thing. All of it. The idea that Hortensia was still a potential life partner should have died back in 2009, but I was incapable of facing facts. The idea that my friend is pulling away from me is almost certainly completely a by-product of my imagination too, because the idea that she reciprocated in the first place was also a projection on my part.

The fact is she's a popular girl with a busy social life and lots of guys chasing after her, and I've always been on the margins of that. The fact that I can still get twisted up in my own internal romantic projections is deeply embarrassing to me, but as soon as I realized that I was doing it to compensate for the perceived loss of Hortensia, my levels of anxiety, self-pity, and anger dropped through the floor. As I wrote to another friend recently, "As stupid and immature and flailing as I think these emotional shenanigans are, I can forgive myself for my loneliness and my desire for love." I've never been very smart when it comes to love, but I hope I've gained at least a little self-knowledge over the years. It doesn't ever seem to help me gain the love I yearn for, but it has helped me recognize the love that I actually get nonetheless, including from "lost" Hortensia, who may no longer be a prospective life partner but still sends a hell of a lot of affection my way, bless her copious heart.

On another emotional front, earlier this week I found a Message Request in Facebook that was sent back in August 2015. It was from a woman who was a childhood friend of mine in Salem. We stayed in contact for a few years after high school graduation, but then we lost contact in the late '80s. Last time I saw her was at our ten year high school reunion in 1988. I've wondered about her over the years but wasn't bright enough to try to look her up on Facebook. There aren't that many people from that era of my life that I still think about. Why her? As we've been chatting in the past few days I'm realizing that she was one of my earliest friends, dating back to pre-school days, before my family moved to Yap. She and her mom lived just a few blocks from our house, her aunt and uncle were our next door neighbors, and we went to school together from fifth through twelfth grade. I suspect we went to kindergarten together too, but she doesn't remember that. She did confirm that she went to the Little Red School House, which is the one I went to.

It has been a strange trip to get her perspective of those long ago days. She told me it took her days to build up the nerve to even say Hi to me after we got back from Yap. It sounds like she may have had a crush on me in high school too. I had no idea, partly because she was too shy to tell me, but no doubt partly because I was fixated on girls who were basically unobtainium to me. Story of my life, eh? Or so I tell myself. She claims there were girls in high school who were warning her off from me. Was that in her own head? Or were there girls who actually were right next to me, yearning for me to ask them out? Probably so, which makes me feel absolutely autistic. Or maybe they were girls I wasn't interested in. Well, shit, no wonder I hated high school so much! I had no fucking clue about anything emotional or social, and if someone had feelings for me that I didn't reciprocate, my impulse would have been to run and hide. I've been looking back at some of my old correspondence from right after high school and rolling my eyes at what a self-serious, pretentious, overly-intellectual twit I was. It took me decades to learn how to tell my friends that I loved them and was grateful for their friendship. Yet I always had a group of good friends, so I must not have been *completely* awful. I was probably more generous with my feelings and my support than I remember being, but I lacked self-confidence.

Anyway, I'm guessing there will be more noodling about the past in the future. I'll be very interested to see where reminiscing with this old friend will lead down the twisty path of Memory Lane.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
The year is drawing to a close, and I am succumbing to the urge to look back. The calendar year is an arbitrary unit for contemplation, but it's also a handy way to parse things into intelligible chunks. As such, 2014 doesn't seems very remarkable in any way, but maybe I'm just in a jaded mood.

In many ways the highlight of the year was the trip I took to Europe in August. It's hard to overstate what an acre lot of fun that was. The first part of the trip, in which my sister and I treated Mom to a visit to Amsterdam and ancestral lands in eastern France was definitely one none of us will ever forget. My sister's French friend, Kelly, opened up doors to our past that we probably wouldn't even have noticed if we'd been on our own. Then for me it was onward to London for beer tourism and the mighty Worldcon, which was almost fannish overload. Well, no, it was definitely fannish overload. There's a part of me that doesn't enjoy overseas travel as much as I once did, but it's hard to remember why while I'm in the middle of it having so much damned fun.

Other than that I traveled to San Jose for Potlatch in February and had a splendid time there with exotic foreign visitors (the Fishlifters) and various other well-memorized faces. This was followed by another of my retreats to Astoria and the Olympic Peninsula, which have rapidly become one of my very favorite things in the whole wide world ever. The other relatively long trip was the drive to Southern California with my parents in November, and I once again really enjoyed the scenic drive along the Sierra Nevadas on Highway 395. Other than that there were several trips to Oregon to visit the family, including the big pig roast family birthday party at my brother's place in July and another family birthday party at Waldport on the coast. Now that my parents' Oregon abode is back in Portland, I've really been enjoying taking the train from Seattle. It's a lot more relaxing than driving or flying.

A lot less satisfying in some ways was my year in writing and publishing. We only got out one issue of Chunga, and that was way back in January. We had been getting out two issues a year recently, so this felt like a step backward. I also felt like I didn't do much writing for other fanzines. I had pieces published in John Purcell's Askance and Pete Young's Big Sky (thanks, guys!), but the more major piece I wrote about 30 years living in Seattle was rejected by the fanzine that solicited it. Even worse, I had to agree that it wasn't a very good piece and thus not worth submitting elsewhere, and this failure has had me contemplating my navel a bit. Have I gotten stagnant? Do I have anything left to say? Why do I want to write? Sometimes I think I just write from reflex now, but then again, maybe that's the best reason to write. I just don't want to get rote, right?

The bulk of my writing was on the internet. I still feel very ambivalent about my (mostly) film blog, Dreamland Cafe, but it does give me a reason to write, even if I'm not sure of the reason why I write. Do I really have anything to say about film? Wouldn't I be better off to just write about science fiction, where I have twice as many decades of experience and knowledge to back up my analysis? Perhaps the most striking thing to me about the blog is that the two most popular articles in the past year have been one I wrote in 2013 about slavery stories, which keeps getting found by people using search terms like "plantation sex stories," and the piece I wrote in February about the French film The Ring Finger. Considering the fetishistic sexual interest that seems to be driving the readers of the slavery post, it's hard not to assume that people are searching for the piece about The Ring Finger looking for nude screencaps of Olga Kurylenko or to contemplate the sadomasochistic bent of the film. Nonetheless, that's probably the best thing I wrote for the Dreamland Cafe last year.

Meanwhile, my LiveJournal plugs along as a repository for trip reports, convention reports, book reports, and memorials to dead friends. I think I'm still writing some good things here, although since I outed my true identity it feels as though I'm writing less personal stuff. Not sure if that's actually true. Is this post personal?

The biggest surprise development this year came on the job front. After years of stasis partly caused by reduced budgets in the aftermath of the Great Recession, we were finally given the funds to hire two new reporting positions. Since I'm a "super SME" for student data, it will be my responsibility to train these two new people in the mysteries of student data, which means a lot more work is being put on my plate. What is perhaps most surprising is that one of the key figures behind the allocation of funds for these positions also pushed heavily to give me a significant raise commensurate with my new responsibilities (and my old ones too). That's all still being negotiated, but the tea leaf readings are positive. What I take away from this is that after 25 years of working here, I have developed some powerful allies. I still worry about what's going to happen when one of my biggest long-term allies and mentors retires next year, but it's encouraging to know that I'll still have people who might be able to help me if I need it.

Finally, there's my health. Three years after getting a wake up call about growing insulin resistance, which caused me to make fairly significant dietary and life style changes, I developed a nagging pain in my right shoulder that was diagnosed as rotator cuff tendinitis. This put me on a course of stretches and exercises that have increased my upper body strength. Between the recent weight loss, eating better, getting more cardio, and now putting on some muscle in my shoulders, I'm feeling unexpectedly fit. At the same time, at age 54 my body is definitely showing its age, and while I may have built up my shoulder muscles, I'm losing muscle mass elsewhere. Part of me wonders whether the tendinitis, which is caused by impingement, was the result of losing muscle mass that had previously been keeping the impinging bones at bay. In any event, I'm feeling pretty damned good physically right now, but the slow slide is in progress.

Well, no doubt I could natter on some more about various projects and plans and desires, but I won't. I've been feeling slightly blue today, but I think it's just a random existential mood. I remember when I broke up with Sharee back in 2005 I felt that I'd probably reached the pinnacle of what I was going to accomplish in life and it would be all downhill from there. Two years later I'd somehow finagled my way onto some Hugo-winning coattails. The thing I ask myself more and more these days is how can I help younger people face their challenges in the way that I was helped as a young man. My goal for a long time has been not to be a burden on anyone else, even if I'm not strong enough to carry anyone else's burden. But can I do more? Can I help to lift other people up? I really don't know, but it's been on my mind.

And on that note I wish you bottoms up for the new year.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
There are always so many things I could write about, but I haven't been writing much lately. 'Tis the season? It's dark and dreary out there, but mostly I seem to be busy with other things. Or maybe just distracted.

Anyway, I had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend in Portland. Thanksgiving dinner was at my cousin's house for the third year in a row, and it was fun. The usual chatter and old family jokes and memories. On Friday I went on a pubcrawl with my brother and two nephews, and we were joined at the last place (the fabulous Breakside) by my niece and her boyfriend. Saturday was the Civil War football game (University of Oregon vs. Oregon State University), which wasn't much of a game this year. Afterward I took a street car and the the light rail out to the Hollywood District to meet Dan and Lynn Steffan for another pubcrawl and much fannish and political discussion. Dan showed me the nearly completed proof for The Mota Reader, and it looks marvelous. Sunday I took the train back to Seattle with my neighbors, Elonna and Sophia. Sophia (who is either 12 or 13) tried to teach us a card-based game called Boss Monster, but it was a lot to absorb. She won the one game we played.

Work has been very busy. On top of the usual data requests, we're in the process of hiring a couple of new report developers. I will be training them, and one nice thing about the added responsibility will be a significant raise. Because we will need more space for the new people, we also did an office space reshuffle, so I'm in a new office after seven years in my last one. This is still a work in progress, but one of my new officemates, Abi, has already created a nice little jungle of plants and has some other great ideas for how to make the place feel more homey. Funny thing is that she mostly works from home herself, so the rest of us will benefit more from it than she will.

Denys and I hosted Vanguard on Saturday. It was a great party, with a new person (Bev, who had come to at least one pub meeting already), two out-of-towners (Rachel Holmen and a guy whose name I didn't catch), and Marissa, who I used to see more often a decade ago and who only came because she had friended me on Facebook the day before and thus saw the party invitation I posted on Saturday. I put up a bunch of the artwork and writing that Stu Shiffman did for Chunga, and people seemed to appreciate the memorial. There was much talk of illness and mortality, but I think I'll write a little bit more about that tomorrow. There was much fine beer, and people also brought a lot of great food. I had picked up a bottle of grappa made in Oregon, because Jerry Kaufman had a bottle of Washingtonian grappa at the last Vanguard I attended. It was all very convivial, and the last stragglers didn't leave until two in the morning.

I've been reading Asimov & Greenberg's collections of best of the Golden Age stories, year by year. These were originally published as a series called The Great SF Stories, with each volume presenting stories from an individual year starting with 1939 and running up into the '60s sometime. The earlier volumes were also published in a series called The Golden Years of Science Fiction, with each enormous volume collecting two years worth of the previous books, starting with 1939-1940 and maybe only running through 1949-1950. I had initially picked up the third in the latter series, with stories from years 1943-1944, because it had Kuttner and Moore's "Clash by Night," which I wanted to read after re-reading their novel Fury. I ended up reading all the stories in that volume and then picking up the first in that series (1939-1940). Lots of prime SF, some of which I've read in either the Hall of Fame collections, Healy & McComas, or in individual author Best Of collections, but many of which I hadn't read before. In these early volumes it's mostly stories from Campbell's Astounding, with a smattering of stuff from other magazines. I'm not sure whether that's Asimov's bias, or whether Astounding really was that dominant in that era. Nice to see Leigh Brackett's "The Halfling" in the 1943-1944 volume. I picked up a couple more books from both of these series at Powell's City of Books while I was in Portland.

Meanwhile, my right shoulder is much better. I was diagnosed with rotator cuff tendinitis back in July, and I'd been experiencing pain since at least the beginning of May. The physical therapy immediately began to help, and now I feel very little pain, although I still occasionally feel a dull ache. Mobility is still not 100% back to normal, but I've gotten to the point where I'm going to stop visiting the physical therapist. I'll continue to do stretches and exercises at home. What I've been doing for the past few months has already caused significant changes in the amount of muscle I have in my shoulders and upper body. Not that I'm ripped or anything, but the change is noticeable.

What else? Chunga 23 is nearly done (honest!), the Sasquan fanzine lounge is heaving into a view, there are tons of good movies about to flood the theaters, and that means it's almost Christmas. I'm never ready for Christmas. But I'm really looking forward to the seasonal finale of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tonight. It's my favorite TV show these days.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
For two days in a row I've left directly from work for a social engagement and not gotten home until late-ish. Both were related to the wedding of Andi Schechter and Stu Shiffman, which was held yesterday.

Amongst the group of people who came to town for the wedding were Rich Coad and Stacy Scott. On Tuesday I met them at John Berry's house (which I walked to from work because it's "just up the hill" from there), and we all went out for a beer and then to a Greek restaurant for dinner. It was a lovely, relaxed evening of stories and wisecracks and good cheer. Rich and I drank ouzo, and I reminisced about the time my brother and I were on Corfu in 1980 and met a bunch of guys from Lubbock, Texas, who bought a bottle of ouzo one night and invited us to join the party. We declined, but the next day we found the almost untouched bottle of ouzo at our hotel door. We drank it happily ourselves. Good times. Rich complained about the political correctness of modern fandom, and Stacy verbally rolled her eyes. John and I reminisced about the days when his street had only one restaurant, called the Surrogate Hostess and now long gone. Now the street is chockablock with restaurants and cafes and new condos. I got a ride back home from Rich and Stacy, and they came in to say howdy to Denys as well. They had never been to our house before, and of course talk turned to comic books once they saw Denys' massive collection. Fan talk.

Wednesday was the wedding itself, and it was at Burke Museum on the UW campus, so I just walked up there after work. Lots of folks were there, of course, including the winners of the Far Traveller Award, Mark and Priscilla Olson, who came all the way from Massachusetts. [livejournal.com profile] spikeiowa had brought badge ribbons in case there were badges, but we didn't need no stinking badges. Everybody was given a blue yarmulke, and most of us wore it during the ceremony. ([livejournal.com profile] akirlu was impressed that mine stayed on despite not being pinned to my non-existent hair.) It was the first Jewish wedding ceremony that I recall ever being to, so it was refreshingly different from past wedding experiences. A female rabbi presided over the lovely ceremony. I heard someone to my right entoning the Hebrew prayers along with her, and discovered later that it had been [livejournal.com profile] kalimac, remembering them from his own wedding twenty years ago. Carrie Root was in tears, and [livejournal.com profile] kate_schaefer eventually gave her a tissue. Afterward, Carrie thanked [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw for the tissue, much to his confusion. She hadn't seen who gave it to her, but thought it was him.

The meal afterwards was fantastic. I sat at a table with Denys and various old friends, but on my right was a woman I'd never met. It turned out that she has been Andi's massage therapist for twenty-odd years. I joked that most of the people at the wedding were either science fiction fans or therapists of some kind or another, since a number of Stu's therapists were there as well. In that aging crowd there were a number of other people who suffered from serious physical ailments of various sorts, and yet here we were celebrating a ceremony of connection and commitment against the tide of entropy, surrounded by the Burke's collection of fossils from ancient days indeed. There was music, and many smiling faces.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
1980 in the Leaning Tower of Pisa

June 18, 1980: Night Train Fever. A name spoken into the void. The tilting tower of Pisa. VILION LASTELF -- The Story that Became A Name; The Name That Became A Story.

My mind is a grab bag, a sad slag, a golliwag.

The climb to the top of the Bell Tower (Campanile) of PIsa is interesting. On the stairs moving up the tilting side, it feels almost as if one is climbing down against gravity. Very odd. The view at the top is quite beautiful. Most of the buildings in (clean, quiet) Pisa have red roofs (rooves?) The wall of the old city is very much intact and winds through the new buildings like the shed skin of an ancient reptile. Nearby is a stadium, similar to the ruined amphitheaters of Pompeii. All is well. The sky is spotted with clouds of the cotton ball variety.

Last night's train ride was probably the strangest that we've encountered. We knew beforehand that it would be fairly crowded, so I was prepared to be depressed. When the train arrived, we rushed into the first second class car in sight -- it was full. So we got off, and I was thinking the whole time that the train would pull out as we walked to the next car and we would be chasing it with our heavy luggage because we wanted to get out of Naples. We got on another car; it was a sleeper. We moved down the aisle to the next car; it was a sleeper too. The conductor in that car shooed us back to the other. Lonnie decided to go exercise his first class capabilities. I was angry. The conductor in the other sleeper shooed us on. I was really angry, not because of the conductor, but because things were rather a mess. Here we were dragging our luggage through narrow passages, crushing people who didn't move, not finding any rooms, being shooed on by conductors, sleepy and knowing there were six hours to go. We found a car to stand in. Lonnie came back because he couldn't find a first class seat. Of course, the conductor found seats for Mom, LaVelle and me in this car, and I got the most comfortable situation (as it turned out). I still only got about four hours of sleep.

In the half light of the compartment I thought: I speak a name into the empty darkness and it grows. But where did I get the name and why does it grow?
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
I'm beavering away at a number of different projects right now, most of them related to fanzines in one way or another. One thing is a collection of Curt Phillips' writing to promote his TAFF campaign. It will be going into the mail later this week. (I believe British copies will be going out next week.) I've also had three invitations to write for other fanzines, and I've completed one thing: a short piece about Ubik for Pete Young's Big Sky. The other two pieces are in progress. The Corflu 31 crew is gearing up to put out another progress report, and I'm helping with that, mostly nagging other people to write. (Have you bought your membership yet?) Meanwhile the Chunga crew is working on the next issue, which will be a special issue unlike anything we've done before, at least if all goes as planned. I'm herding cats on that as well. Looming on the near horizon is a trip to Spokane with [livejournal.com profile] akirlu for a walkthrough of the Worldcon facilities, which we're participating in so we can scope out the possibilities for the fanzine lounge. Also looming on that same horizon are voting for the FAAn Awards, nominating for the Hugos, and voting for TAFF and DUFF. At least I finally sent some nominations to Murray Moore for things he should include in the Fanthology he's putting together for Corflu.

Meanwhile I intended to do some gardening on Sunday but used the rain as an excuse not to. Mostly I was just too busy with other things! Although not too busy to watch movies in the evening, including a third viewing of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, which remains a hilarious, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and refreshingly honest movie about troubled nerds in love. What a beautiful thing it is! A work of true genius.

Well, it was a productive weekend, but I felt a bit like a hamster running on a wheel. Will I ever catch up with myself?
randy_byers: (beer)
Yesterday after work I stopped at the Big Time for a couple of beers and a couple of chapters of Iain Banks' Use of Weapons (second time I've read it). I ended up drinking two Yulefests, even though there are at least four other great beers on tap right now. (The Lollipop Weizenbock has been doing right by me for some time now, and there's also the Old Wooly, the Lift Ticket, and the Old Rip Oatmeal Stout.)

As I sat by myself reading the Banks, suddenly this gorgeous young redhead who was standing in line to get a beer exclaimed, "That's a great book!" I told her it was the second time I've read it, and she asked me if I'd read the other Culture novels. Yes, I just read the last one. She said she'd read everything by Banks, including his last novel, which she didn't think was one of his best but was very poignant because it was about somebody dying of cancer. "He's my favorite writer," she said. "Well, one of my favorites." Then her boyfriend came and fetched her, and I went back to reading the chapter where the half-frozen Zakalwe is fetched for the first time by Diziet Sma.

Not long after that I ordered my second pint, and a young guy who ordered ahead of me asked if he could sit at my table. (The place was very crowded by then.) We got to chatting, and I found out that he's a student at the UW studying mathematics, with minors in Statistics and Global Health. He grew up in West Seattle, but he said his dad was originally from Somalia. Interesting kid, although a little bit repetitive in his conversation. I got the feeling he was a bit of a nerd who wasn't real sure of himself. He stopped talking to me at one point and was playing with his phone. I thought he was texting somebody, but then it looked like he was taking random photos of people sitting around us. He had run out of things to say, and that was fine by me.

When he went off to the loo, Wolfgang stopped by to chat. Wolfgang is basically somebody I only ever see at the Big Time, and I've known him for years now. He moved away from Seattle a few years ago, but I'd still see him occasionally and now he's moved back. He always has fascinating stories to tell, and this time was no different. We covered a lot of topics, but the doozy was that he's teaching martial arts in the International District in a basement space that used to belong to a friend of his who just died. The place is apparently packed with junk that this friend hoarded over the decades, and Wolfgang is sorting through it. He has discovered several boxes of stuff that used to belong to Bruce Lee, apparently deposited there after he was kicked out of the family restaurant for not working hard enough. I'm not sure what year that would've been. Wolfgang didn't say what the stuff was, but really the whole point of the story was that it was Bruce Lee's stuff. Wolfgang seems to live a magical life like that.

And so I headed home after a very fun and unusually social couple of hours at the Big Time.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Monday was the worst day I've had at work since the period right after my old boss was laid off two (or was it three?) years ago, and pretty much for the same reasons: I had some new reporting dumped on me that I didn't know how to do (and which had to be done by the end of the day), and one of our standard reporting databases (written by the old boss) was producing an error that I couldn't find the cause of. I got the new reporting done by the end of the day, after many consultations with others about how to do this or that, but I was absolutely baffled by the error. I went home feeling completely exhausted, fell asleep early, then woke up in the middle of the night grinding on it. Then on the walk to work, sorting through the various things I had tried and had looked at, a possible cause suggested itself to me, and indeed that turned out to be the problem. Once I figured out what was causing the problem, I was able (after consultations with others) to figure out the solution.

Other stressful things happened yesterday (including a return visit to the periodontist where I discovered there's still a small infection near the implant that was put in in July), although nothing quite as epic as Monday. Still, by early Tuesday evening I was still feeling completely wiped out and was grumbling to myself because I had a number of things I still wanted to get done before I called it a day.

On the other hand, I did get to watch the third episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is a show I'm really, really enjoying. It's the first new TV show to engage my attention in years. I love the quirky sense of humor and the unexpected political dimensions. There's something about the pace of the show that feels very energetic and slightly off-kilter. So far it is creatively embracing a number of contradictions.

And then I started reading Delany's "The Mummer's Tale" and was so caught up in it that I almost stayed up to read the whole thing before I sternly reminded myself that I needed some goddamn sleep, the more the better. But I was feeling stressed out enough that it still took me a while to drift off.

And so I'm feeling somewhat restored today, but still a bit burnt out. Who knows what fresh crises today will bring?
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
I've been trying to remember if last August was like this too. My LJ provides no clue. In any event, I'm feeling completely fried by work this month. It has just been one long barrage of questions, training, policy discussions, systems analysis, and requests for data, data, and more data, right now! Last night I was almost literally feeling numb as I sat eating my cold meal of spam and rats while helplessly watching a reality TV game show starring people I hate. You know what I mean? (Okay, it was a bowl of chili and reruns of NCIS, but it's practically the same thing.)

So it is with great, nearly overwhelming, emotion that I look forward to flying to Central Oregon tomorrow for a week in the high desert with my family. The agenda includes hiking, sight-seeing, drinking wine, eating great food, and reading. Oh yeah, and soaking in the desert sun like a little lizard with nothing better to do. Damn that sounds good! So of course it will be raining when I get there, no doubt.

But just getting a long break from work sounds like heaven right now. And so I watch the seconds tick away on the clock ...
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
As I've probably mentioned, I've been painting the back of the house with a new color scheme of vibrant purple ("it hums to itself," as one friend put it) and bright green trim. I finally finished the purple under the eaves on Saturday, and yesterday I started on the trim, which required buying the paint first. Still have more to do, but I'm really liking the way it looks already.

One reason I didn't get a first coat down on all the trim (and also why I didn't go to the fannish pubmeet) is that my friend and old neighbor, Jay, came over. Hadn't seen him for a few months. We walked around Green Lake getting caught up, then I cooked Thai Basil Chicken, and we watched Luc Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, which is based on Jacques Tardi's comic series. This is the third time I've watched the movie, which I think is a complete delight: "Amelie meets Indiana Jones" as the DVD jacket copy has it, with mummies, a pterodactyl, and a spunky, indefatigable heroine in Egypt and Paris in 1911. I bought the British DVD last year, but it's finally being released in the US sometime this year. Highly recommended.

On Wednesday TAFF delegate Jim Mowatt arrives, and massive socializing ensues. We're throwing a party for him on Saturday, if you hadn't heard already. Come join the fun!
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
It was a hot weekend in Seattle, and I spent quite a bit of time in the sun, particularly on Saturday, trying to generate some Vitamin D. The major yardwork was hacking back the Escallonia langleyensis (finally identified for me by Jessica Amanda Salmonson on Facebook), which filled the yard waste bin all by itself. Partly it was getting out of control, and partly I wanted to clear space for when I paint the south side of the house Real Soon Now. (I was planning to do it last summer. Oops.) In the evening I read Iain Banks and caught a showing of Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring, which was fun but seemed inconsequential.

Yesterday I hung out with carl drinking fine beer and plotting various forms of mischief, some of it short term and some of it longer term, mostly Chunga-related. I also poured some vodka on raspberries for infusional purposes. I foresee raspberry vodka martinis in my future. One of those would have been nice in the sultry hot weather.

This week is a short one for me. On Thursday I'm flying to Sacramento for Westercon. This is the only trip I have planned for this year -- other than various trips to Oregon, of course. Should be fun, I think. I'll be working on the at-con zine with [livejournal.com profile] voidampersand.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
A relatively social weekend for me, starting with lunch on Saturday with Denys and Glenn, but not Kate, alas. Still, we had good fun comparing and contrasting our portable telephonic computers and other technologies. Other than that I mowed the lawn and watched Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood, which is an interesting take on the fairy tale that reminded me a little bit of The Company of Wolves. After that I watched Mirror Mirror for the fourth or fifth time. I actually caught things I hadn't caught before, such as the fact that Nathan Lane's costume at the big ball is a cockroach. (He's turned into a cockroach later in the the film.) I also noticed that the insanely catchy end-credits Bollywood song-and-dance number, "I Believe in Love", is presaged a number of times throughout the film in wildly different forms. Love that song. Love that movie.

Sunday was a barbecue at Andy and Carrie's to celebrate the release of Chunga 21. Various and sundry were there, and we put them to work stuffing envelopes and applying stamps. Much lively conversation ensued, and a surprising amount of it was about the novels of Iain M. Banks. I'm not sure our party conversation has ever been so sercon before. There was an array of wonderful beer to sample, including a number of saisons that I'd brought, along with a growler of Cascade Apricot Ale. Oops, and I just realized that I left the growler at Andy and Carrie's house. Damn! Ah well, good food (brats boiled in beer and then barbecued) + good friends = good times.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
So a week ago today I had a molar extracted. I think I wrote about the reasons for the extraction a month or so ago. (Short version: resorption.) I had talked myself into thinking it was a fairly minor procedure, and indeed it was a fairly minor procedure. Nonetheless it was a minor procedure that involved wrenching a large tooth out of its socket, and on top of my ongoing cold it left me feeling pretty wiped out the next day. I took ibuprofen for three days, and even as late as yesterday morning I woke up feeling a little achey in that region of the jaw. Today, no discernible pain, and I brushed the lone-standing rear molar without much discomfort, although I was careful about it.

Anyway, sometime in June I'll return to the periodontist to have an implant put in, and then sometime after that I'll have a crown attached to the post. Meanwhile, my tongue keeps searching the gap anxiously.

The weekend was fairly social for a recuperating old recluse, with a Chunga meeting on Saturday and yesterday a hike around Magnolia and a visit to Mulleady's Oirish Pub with my friend Jay. Very nice pub, with a good selection of beer including Dogfish Head's India Brown Ale, which I'd never had on tap. In the evening I saw Spring Breakers, which was a total satirical hoot, as advertised. James Franco chews the scenery with his gleaming golden teeth. If only he'd been given this gangsta role in The Great and Powerful Oz!

I'm still sniffling and congested. It was two weeks ago today when I started coming down with this cold. Still, I've got most of my energy back now, and the cold really didn't slow me down much this weekend.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
I had a To Do list a mile long this weekend. It got to a point on Sunday where I was rushing from one thing to another, feeling harassed and absolutely ridiculous. It didn't help that I slept in until 10:30 on Sunday, but hey, I was exhausted! And the cold has settled in for the long haul, leaving me with a bit less energy than normal.

Not that I didn't give myself plenty of time to goof off, too. For example, I went and saw Sally Potter's latest film, Ginger & Rosa, which I really liked. Yesterday I watched the DVD of Aulis Sallinen's 1995 opera, The Palace, that [livejournal.com profile] ron_drummond gave me a couple of years ago. A satire of penny ante dictatorship and the court intrigue it inspires, with a collage of musical styles that I wasn't sure what to make of on a first go-around.

The weather was extraordinarily beautiful, so I worked in the yard both days. I mowed the lawn for the first time this year, which is something that usually happens in April, I think. Global warming! Or whatever. I even managed to get a mild sunburn.

One of the things on my To Do list that I didn't get to was writing a review of David Toop's excellent book on ambient and other unstructured music, Ocean of Sound. Fascinating book, which made an excellent companion piece to Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise.

Well, I got plenty enough done. We now have all the articles for the next issue of Chunga and have begun layout and proofing. We're still waiting for some art. The second Corflu XXX progress report is also coming together. The sekrit projekt for Corflu may or may not happen this year, but it's something that could easily wait if necessary. Haphazard gardening will continue. There's more blogging to be done. Plans are afoot for a family trip in 2014 that will also be part of my Worldcon trip. Oh yes, and I'm having a tooth pulled today in preparation for an implant. And oh crap, I haven't done my taxes yet! Und so weiter.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
No, no, I mean: In which I fall behind. I was in Oregon for three days over the weekend, then I came down with a cold and stayed home for three days. So I feel like I'm behind on everything, which is another way of saying that I got a nice long break from everything. So I could have called this: In which I visit my family and read two and a half books and watch five movies. Considering that the cold hasn't become a full-on snotty-head hacking-lungs nightmare (knock wood), it's been kind of nice. I did actually do some work from home as well, so I'm not as far behind as I could've been. Remote Desktop when you're slightly woozy from a virus is a strange place to be. A virtual man in a virtual land. Where am I? Ah yes. Back at work. I'll reply to your email momentarily.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
I don't go to Vanguard parties much anymore, but on Saturday it was at [livejournal.com profile] janeehawkins's, which of course is a nostalgia trip for those of us of a certain age. So I put on my Vanguard disguise (a.k.a. the clothes I'd been wearing all day) and headed on over. Amongst other things, it allowed me to return the DVD of Jerry Springer: The Opera that I had borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] roadnotes (thanks again, it was brilliant!), and to bring some of [livejournal.com profile] jimtrash's Tiny TAFFzines and some TAFF ballots, which Jane had promised to flog because she was so entertained by the Tiny TAFFzines I had mailed to her. It was a pretty small party, with many notable figures Missing In Action (no Jerry & Suzle, no Andy and Carrie, no Ulrika and Hal), but I guess that's not unusual these days. Although Frank (of Frank & Molly) said that the last one they hosted was quite a bit bigger, so I guess it still waxes and wanes. Jane had just taken a course in soldering at a maker space on Capitol Hill and has become fascinated with the 3D printers on offer there, so she showed some videos of the printers in action and showed off a few objects that had been printed on them. Very cool! At some point five of us retired downstairs to smoke a little smoke. There was a time when the smoking room would have been full of people madly puffing away on various smokables, but that would have been a time when I still smoked cigarettes, which I don't really miss. Actually I don't remember seeing Jane smoke any tobacco this time, so now I wonder whether she's quit too. Well, it was great to chat with [livejournal.com profile] kate_schaefer and [livejournal.com profile] jackwilliambell just like old times, and there was John D. Berry and Vonda McIntyre and a number of other familiar faces, as well as one new person who came with Janice Murray but left before I got a chance to talk to her.

So that was the old tradition, and a very pleasant tradition it was. On the new front, I have now walked to SIFF Uptown in Lower Queen Anne three times on the weekend to see a movie. It's about three miles from our house and takes me an hour. So far I've always walked there via Westlake and Mercer (always running into a crowd entering or leaving the opera house), then I return home by climbing up and over Queen Anne on Queen Anne Avenue, with a stop at the Hilltop Ale House for a pint and a shot of Crown Royal along the way. The last two times I've done this, I've gotten to the area early enough to eat something in one of the restaurants near the theater, have a coffee at Uptown Espresso, and read a book. Yesterday I was reading Diana Wynne Jones' Hexwood, which is certainly weird and intriguing and very meta so far. The movie I saw was Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, which was the one 3D movie he made and was being shown in that format. Anyway, this new tradition is a fine thing, and I hope I can continue with it, although it depends on SIFF continuing to show movies I want to see. They've been on quite a roll lately. I can't remember how long ago SIFF acquired the Uptown, but they are really turning it into something special for film freaks. One nice thing about this new tradition is I've gotten to know both Lower and Upper Queen Anne quite a bit better than before. The upper parts have always seemed like an island on top of the world, isolated from the rest of the city because you never go through it on the way to anywhere else. Never say never, because now I've found a reason to pass through and to stop at the local watering hole to read a few pages and observe the local wildlife. All in the service of getting more walking in and thus maintaining some semblance of health. Life is good.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)

I had a nice weekend that was comprised of folding and stuffing Jim Mowatt's TAFFzine into envelopes, doing a bit of work on the Corflu XXX progress report (coming Real Soon Now), and watching movies. One movie-viewing was the opportunity for a big expedition. The film was playing at SIFF Cinema Uptown in Lower Queen Anne, three miles from my house, and I decided I could hike to the theater and get some cardio along with my culture. ("He fills his head with culture/He gives himself an ulcer.")

So at 6pm Saturday I headed down Westlake, cutting over to Queen Anne along Mercer. The movie didn't start until 9pm, but I wanted to eat something first. It was a cool, drizzly night, perfect for a long walk, singing Prince songs all the way. I ran into a well-dressed crowd arriving for a show at the Seattle Opera House, and I caught fragments of cheerful gossip as I passed them on the sidewalk.

Sushi was my dinner goal, but I wasn't sure where I wanted to eat. I went all the way to the theater and started looking from there. About two buildings down was Sam's Sushi, which looked fine. I ordered a combo plate and began reading a Seabury Quinn story in Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors -- a Jules de Grandin weird detective tale full of vurry Frrrranch phrases such as Mon dieu! and Parbleu! It took me a while to discern that the sushi chef's were speaking to each other in Mandarin, not Japanese. Globalization at its finest.

The movie was a Lithuanian science fiction film called Vanishing Waves, which I liked very much indeed. (See my review.) The SIFF Cinema Uptown used to be just the plain old Uptown, but it was taken over by SIFF (the Seattle International Film Festival) about a year ago and now shows both contemporary films like Django Unchained but also weird avant garde science fiction films that play in mini-festivals such as the Women In Cinema Film Festival. It's a terrific resource to film fans, and it preserves a wonderful old theater as well.

After the movie I headed up the Counterbalance -- an infamously steep incline on the south side of Queen Anne Hill that in the days of streetcars required a counterbalance to get a tram car up the slope. It was good cardio. I stopped at the Hilltop Ale House for a pint and a shot of whiskey before continuing on to the downslope into Fremont. It was zero dark thirty by the time I got home, feeling I had been There and Back Again.


Dec. 3rd, 2012 09:07 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
It was an irresponsible weekend, I tell you, although not as irresponsible as some have been. I did rake leaves on Saturday, but did I do anything else productive? I guess it depends on how you rate these things.

We are nearly done with Chunga 20, and I did do some work on that, including reviewing the mailing list. I saw two movies that I recommend: Lincoln and Life of Pi. I watched another movie, The Chivalry, the Gunman, and the Killer (1977), that was a nutty, hard-to-follow Taiwanese wuxia film with Yueh Hua and the fiercely beautiful Hsu Feng. I'm not sure how that ended up in my Netflix queue, but I was happy enough with it. Jessica Amanda Salmonson has written an amusing review, and it's difficult to argue with her conclusion: "So anyone with a fetish for tough swordslinging gals and a desire to see women get slaughtered will really like this movie."

I cooked curried black beans and sausage. I guess that was my other productive thing. On Saturday, after Lincoln, I walked to the U District for the release of the Big Time's Old Wooly barleywine. The place was pretty busy, because the release of the Old Wooly is something to celebrate. I read a few chapters of Chandler's The Long Goodbye, with an eye on the Alabama-Georgia game. One of the bar-backs is from Alabama, and when I told him that I'm an Oregon fan, he said he was glad Bama didn't have to face Oregon in the National Championship game. I think it's too bad myself.

It's a pretty carefree life I live. Come on, let's drift.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Can't remember where I read recently that the more things we can turn into routine behavior, the more resources we have for creativity. I'm not sure I've actually increased my creativity, but I do feel that my life has become more and more routine. Maybe that's why I'm not writing much about life here anymore, although it's also partly that LJ doesn't feel much like a community any more.

Being diagnosed as pre-diabetic has changed my routines, that's for sure, and it's changed how I think about approaching traditional routines. I spend more time cooking than I used to. Often this is making things I've made before, although yesterday I tried a new recipe: curried black beans and chicken sausage. Because I'm cooking more, I'm also in the grocery store more often, picking up this or that item that wasn't in the weekly grocery shopping that Denys does. My goal is to make a big pot of something on Sundays that I can eat over the course of the week. I also make a big green salad early in the week to last me the week.

My weekends are usually filled with writing for my blog, working in the yard, watching movies, and -- these days -- watching Unversity of Oregon football. On Saturday I helped my neighbor, E, cut down the butterfly bush that had grown between our houses. The detritus from the plant had filled the gutters to the rim, so I also cleared out the gutters. Sawing the thick trunk of the bush into chunks that would fit in the recycling bin got my heart rate up, and so I observed, "Well, this is my cardio for today!" It was quite a workout.

I'm always thinking about how to fit some cardio into my schedule. Yesterday I wanted to get some walking shoes at Northgate Mall, so I took the bus up there with the intention of walking home. Last time I was up there I discovered that it was just over 4 miles from the mall to my house, so a good hike. I also discovered a little deli by Green Lake that I thought would make a good place to stop for lunch this time. (I only got coffee last time.) So I brought my current book (I'm re-reading The Left Hand of Darkness for the first time since I was a teenager) and read a chapter while eating a lovely ham sandwich on sourdough. The weather was so warm and beautiful, it was just a brilliant walk. And then I cooked and did the dishes and watered the garden and watched a movie on Netflix Instant (David Fincher's The Game).

That's life these days. So routine as to be almost invisible, even to myself.


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