Saturday, May 26, 2007

Yet Another Mt. Ascutney Hike

My buddy Dimitri and I went on another awesome hike up Mt. Ascutney on Thursday. As usual, I volunteered to be the 'pack mule'; we rested and ate at the platform where they launch hang-gliders from, baked in the sun for a while and we both got a bit sunburned (fortunately mine has faded to a tan already). It was a crazy-beautiful six hour jaunt with perfect weather. Here are some pics.

'Cascade Falls' - roughly a 70-80 foot sheer drop

Dimitri and I at 'Gus's Lookout', looking sufficiently worn out

The view from Gus's Lookout

The Wild Columbines are in bloom again!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Photographic Chronicles of Delightful Workplace Nonsense

My workplace is quite unique, the other people employed within it being no exception. It is not your standard retail store and we all have unusual personalities. I enjoy having my own brand of absurdism and some of us share a really abstract, dark sense of humor, which makes for some very strange pranks on each other. View the pictures below for a full dose of the sweet madness.

"I am here to protect you from the terrible secret of space": One of my coworkers likes to draw random faces on the daily to-do lists in my department, then one of us usually adds on a body, accessories, and a caption/word-bubble or two. This one is both a reference and a tribute to this obscure internet phenomenon.

One of my dearly-missed coworkers created this mixed-media face just for me, I especially like how she created the jawline from random mathematical problem sets.

A spoon that one of my coworkers purposely rusted as a prop and tribute to Salad Fingers, specifically in reference to this episode where our noble hero expounds upon his affinity for rusty objects, specifically spoons.

Spongebob has obviously been VERY VERY naughty!

Squidward, wearing a lovely feather & bow headpiece, accompanied by a random girlfriend supplied by my buddy Dan.

"Telekrinkulum": Once in a while it is nice to confuse people by writing an emphatic made-up word on a specific date on the department calendar....

...and then offer a confusing clarification by giving the word it's own separate holiday.

A sign that has been hanging in my department for a long time.

I really can't offer a valid explanation for this one, it's totally random except for the fact that 'Feathers' happens to be a fan of Stanley Kubrick, his garb and commentary reference the movie A Clockwork Orange

Even aquatically-necrotic, tire-sitting murder victims can enjoy the fresh, bold taste of Mentos™.

More references to Salad Fingers

Various employees' representations of other employees

To the casual observer, all of this probably looks like the work of a bunch of criminally insane freak-shows, but really folks, where would we be without a bit of nonsense in our lives!!??? :)

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Springtime means that many of my houseplants decide to burst into bloom all at once.

'Beefsteak' begonia blooms



'Goldfish Plant' bloom

Blooming Christmas cactus that never wants to bloom around Christmastime.

Euphorbia (aka 'Crown of Thorns')

....and now for some other random pictures from my home and workplace:

Beautiful Ukrainian Easter Eggs created by my sister

Mouth of a Plecostomus

Porcelain Crab, top view

Porcelain Crab, bottom view

A gecko who looks happy, but in truth is likely pretty pissed off (in a holding container while his cage is cleaned). One needs to be very careful around them because of their penchant for selling car insurance policies to unwitting victims who are taken by their cuteness.

Funky gecko foot

Grumpy-looking 'talking catfish' who is probably happier than a pig in mud, hiding under some greenery at the front of his tank

My roommate and 'Addie', my coworker's dog

Neritina snail slurping at the side of a tank

Firebelly toad

Firebelly toad, underside

Monday, May 14, 2007

Leaving For A Few

From Quaker Faith & Practice:

I ask for daily bread, but not for wealth, lest I forget the poor.
I ask for strength, but not for power, lest I despise the meek.
I ask for wisdom, but not for learning, lest I scorn the simple.
I ask for a clean name, but not for fame, lest I contemn the lowly.
I ask for peace of mind, but not for idle hours, lest I fail to hearken to the call of duty.

Inazo Nitobe, 1909

The last week's time has been a bit crazy and I am packing up to head up to northwest Vermont to care for my grandmother and do some work/repairs around her house while my sister is out of town on a work-related trip.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Charming Sight

I grew up right on the cusp between the video game generation and the generation before it where kids actually participated in highly social pastimes and cooperative activities; games which involved lots of imagination and improvisation. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I am often a bit disheartened by what seems to be a new generation of kids who are conditioned to stay indoors, playing their Playstations/Nintendo wiis and surfing the internet, busying themselves with things which I believe are causing an unnatural level of sociopathy as well A.D.D. and other emotional/mental disorders, robbing them of the chance to form good social bonds.

On my way to the mountain for what was to be a lovely hike, I saw a group of kids out on the street, drawing designs, pictures, and artificial trails with sidewalk chalk. They had also constructed an ingenious little partitioned play area on the nearby lawn, using sticks, flat rocks, and various bits of found junk to simulate an indoor living room complete with a pretend TV, some chairs, and a few fanciful modifications thrown in.

Sometimes I focus too much on some of the negative aspects of modern life. I have to say that it was a beautiful breath of fresh air... seeing that there are still kids who do... well... normal kid stuff. Whoever the parents of these kids are, I applaud them.

And the hike was indeed awesome. The wild columbines are forming buds and should be blooming within a couple weeks. I sat on top of the mountain and watched two separate thunderheads in the distance, throwing bolts of lightning around with a lot of great cloud-to-ground action. It almost looked like they were competing.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Yeeeeaaah! :-)

I just stepped onto the scale for the first time in 8 months and it made me happy. I recommitted myself to a healthier lifestyle a couple years ago and I've now surpassed the original fitness goals that I'd made. 180lbs. and a 33" waist was my original target, now I'm 170lbs. with a 32" waist. This is right around where I want to stay.

I went on a severe diet and a rigid military-style workout regime back when I was about 19 or 20... dropping weight quick and bulking up on muscle fast (I think I was about 155lbs. with a 29" waist back then) but I looked like a Nazi prison camp survivor with a bit of extra muscle and I ended up with a lot of athletic injuries from pushing myself too hard. Things are definitely better and I am less injury-prone this time around. Back then, I was obsessed with fitness to the point of it becoming my identity. I was known as "the gym guy" around town and became the local gym's poster boy for a little while. Having lived as an awkward, overweight kid throughout most of my middle-school and high school years, it felt really good to be noticed for physical achievement. I came crashing back to earth in my early 20s, realizing that a well-conditioned body means nothing if you allow it to make you conceited and it causes you to ignore your emotional & spiritual health.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Arguing With Me, Myself, and I

The property manager comes to my door the other day with some news. Apparently the house that my apartment is in will be going back on the market within the next few months. This stresses me out a little for several reasons: he currently has a high asking price and wanted to give me the right of first refusal.

One part of me is saying, "YES YES, DO IT!!! You've been wanting to own your own home for years!"

My analytical, practical side is telling me "Not so fast, the asking price is high and the building has a few issues that need to be dealt with, the taxes in this town are skyrocketing along with the property values, and do you really want to deal with such a high mortgage payment?"

Then the other part says, "but there are two units in the building, you could have most of your mortgage paid by the rent from the other unit!"

So of course my practical side chimes in,"For God's sake, you know yourself and you wouldn't deal well with the stress of being a landlord in this area, you've heard the horror stories from your friends who decided to take that route. Plus, do you really want to tie yourself down to this area for an extended period of time? I know you've been planning on breaking away at some point in the next few years."

Then the other part of me retorts,"but it's a place to call home, a permanent home. You'll have the stability and control over your environment which you've been craving for years. You can finally have dog and a nice big garden too!"

Then there's an entirely familiar, yet foreign part of me that is saying,"You may be called to drop everything that gives you stability in favor of something greater. Would it serve you well to become this firmly-rooted at this point in life?"

Piffle, piffle, piffle... there, I've been wanting to say that for no apparent reason. The prospect of possibly owning my own home for the first time, especially a two-unit apartment building is both scary and exciting. Even if I don't opt for buying it right off... let's say the house goes on the market, the real estate market in my area is starting to slide a bit, the housing bubble having burst and all. The price could drop considerably, making the purchase that much more attractive. Or it could sell right away and the person may want to either clear out all the tenants or raise the rent. I guess I just don't know what to do, I won't stress about the last two possibilities for now... if it happens, it will happen. No amount of worrying will fix it or change the outcome.

Currently reading: A Prayer For Owen Meany, by John Irving. Yet another wonderful recommendation from my sister. Really, I have no clue why I should expect less at this point, she's the smartest one in the family and she works as a librarian. Her reading suggestions are always good ;-) Love ya G!!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Woolman Hill Retreat

I am back from 'Beyond Queer 101: A Retreat for LGBTQ Quakers' down at the Woolman Hill Retreat Center in Deerfield, Massachusetts (see pics below). The retreat was a fruitful time of introspection, discussion, and an opportunity to make new friends. The facilitators had great energy and were very good at working with us as a group. The scenery was lovely as well. The retreat was good for me on many levels. I met some interesting, beautiful people and it was awesome to be able to share time and experiences with a group of LGBTQ folks who also share my spiritual values. I definitely feel like I walked away a better person than when I arrived.

During worship on Sunday, somebody spoke centered words of reassurance that we are not abandoned... it hit very hard and close to home. While there is much more significance to this, I am not going to press this topic. It is more than I care to write and it will be cleared up at a later time. There is much work for me to do on myself yet. The efforts put forth in the last year of my life have not been in vain, but every time I try to give control over to the creative, caring, passive parts of my person, they immediately get tackled and throttled into silence by my raging, aggressive ego who doesn't want to be vulnerable again, remembers every detail of the pain I've been through since my teen years and wants desperately to keep control over me, even if it means stunting my emotional and spiritual growth. The weekend has been good for me... the raging ego is still there, but it has a few degrees less control over me. I don't know what life is bringing me, I still hurt a lot and wrestle with feelings of abandonment by many of those whom I used to be closest to, but my vision isn't as foggy as it used to be and there is new insight working it's way in through the cracks. I'm still cleaning out my life, still a work in progress, always will be I suspect. I hear that the journey is the best part of getting there.

Some of the cabins at the retreat.

The meeting house at sunrise

The retreat center

The retreat center at sunrise

A funky-cool little yurt at the edge of a small woodland pond on the retreat grounds