Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

Saw the hand surgeon today. At first they thought there might be a chance that I didn't need surgery but after redoing my X-rays and seeing that my fractured bone had slid even further out of place on the joint than it was in the first X-ray, the doc decided that surgery was really my only viable option. So, tomorrow afternoon I go in for my pre-op check-up, and then a week from tomorrow I go in for an outpatient procedure; basically, they're going to try to insert a screw to connect the two pieces of bone which were fractured and put the whole thing back into its proper place. Squiggly has kindly volunteered to be my chauffeur the day of surgery, since I doubt I'll feel up to driving after having them slice my hand open and do all sorts of medical hoodoo to it while I'm still conscious -- just thinking about it gives me flashbacks to when I got my wisdom teeth cut out *shudder*. I'll probably be in a cast for the first nine days or so with only my thumb and index finger free, which should make typing lots of fun, huh? And for those who thought my handwriting couldn't get any worse, well, prepare to be proven wrong.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Fractured Finger Friday

Just got back from my orthopedist who diagnosed me with "operative mallet finger." The operative word there is "operative," i.e. my next stop is a hand surgeon. My appointment is Tuesday morning in Lewisville; until then I just have to keep the finger in a splint to keep it from getting any worse. If I'm lucky, then they'll just have put a pin in; if I'm unlucky, they'll have to try to remove or repair the bone and tendons with surgery. Either way, it looks like I won't be engaging in any fisticuffs or sparring for quite a while.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Personally, I'm Curious About What Else Is on His "Life List" . . .

  • Finally heard back from the doctor about my finger X-ray last night: it is indeed fractured, and the fracture involves the joint, somehow. I now get to go see an orthopedist sometime soon and see what they can do for me. Kicking myself for waiting so long to go to the doctor, since it's going to mean just that much longer before I'm fully healed and able to do stuff again.

  • I got to visit with Cap'n Shack-Fu on the phone for a few minutes last night; unfortunately, poor Shack was so exhausted from his non-stop schedule that he was barely coherent. Not that I'm doing much better in the coherency department these days; my brain is mush, my blog monkeys. At least Shack-Fu has a good excuse.

  • Favorite comment so far on the TMI interview comes courtesy of fellow Wyandottian, Earnie:
    Wow, I know someone almost famous with gastrointestinal issues. I can mark that one off of my life list :D
    Current runner up is Papa Lightbulb:
    Greatness, I am so proud of you that I am sweating.
  • It looks pretty likely that in a couple of weeks PigPen will be starting a M-F 3PM-11PM shift, which means I will pretty much only see him on the weekends; kind soul that he is, he's offered to tape record himself making disparaging comments about me so that I don't go into insult withdrawal. What a pal, eh?

  • Spent most of Saturday reading the final Harry Potter book. I enjoyed it, and was surprised that the character death which touched me the most was of one of my least favorite characters.

  • Today's installment of the webcomic Real Life is funny because it's so true -- and it's made me want to try that show Greek. . . which, of course will be the kiss of death for it.


Monday, July 23, 2007

15 Minutes of Internet Fame

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was going to be interviewed for an article about oversharing for MSNBC.com. Well, you can read it here. While I wish I could have come up with a better oversharing anecdote than the one she used, and I'm saddened that there was no organic way for her to link to CoIM, the fact that my favorite part of the interview not only made the cut, but closes out the article to boot, made my day.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Fragmented Friday - "I feel like a dolphin who's never tasted melted snow"

Went to the doctor yesterday afternoon; not for my cold or allergies, but for the finger I jammed a few weeks back which doesn't want to heal. Had to go get an X-ray, but haven't found out the results yet. The doc said it could be a break, or a fracture, or a dislocation, or possibly just a bad case of a swollen joint. Taking some prettyy strong anti-inflammatory stuff, and am feeling a bit light-headed because of it. Joy!

Just got a blog hit for the following google search: "Complete the following song: Albania! Albania! You border on the Adriatic. Your land is mostly mountainous, And your chief export is ---." Now, that's one specific Google, ain't it?

Quick pellet reviews:

  • Shooter: good action flick
  • Transformers: pretty good brainless action flick, about three or four goofy/slapstick/over-the-top scenes they could have cut out and I'd have been happier
  • The Last Mimzy: enjoyable enough family-friendly SF film
  • Gravedancers: so-so horror film that only survives due to its cast
  • Roman: not-so-scary horror flick that was worth it just for Kristen Bell's informational speech on how pork and beans are made. No, seriously.
  • Black Snake Moan: strange but well done movie which is really all about a couple of damaged people helping each other heal from their past hurts
  • Hudson Hawk: not nearly as bad as everyone thinks, although it's definitely not what I'd call high art; most of my enjoyment came from the scenes with the Candy Bar Crew, especially the (thankfully) silent David Caruso as KitKat. Film is also noteable as one of the few films I actually liked Andie McDowell in, and that's mainly for her willingness to do her dolphin call.
I forgot to mention that Diva has posted the challenge for the next round of Write in the Thick of It which is all about alliteration. If you feel like playing along, the deadline is Monday, July 23, at 10pm Central.

There's a possibility that, in the next couple of weeks, both of my roomies may move to working night shifts. On the upside, this will mean that most evenings I'll have sole control over the downstairs TV and DVD player, a definite boon since my own DVD player bit the dust a while back. On the downside, if it happens I'll be bereft of any roomie-inspired entertainment most of the time.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot Pie

While I try to recover my mental faculties enough to actively blog, please enjoy this montage of clips from one of the greatest episodes of Just Shoot Me, which spawned at least a couple of oft-quoted phrases for Zinger and myself.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Move Along, Nothing to See Here

My commitment to blog consistently has hit a snag -- a snag in the form of allergies (which might actually be a cold), massive sleep-deprivation, and Dayquil/Nyquil hangovers. I'm so fuzzy headed right now I'm surprised I can string a sentence together; in fact, it wouldn't surprise me if I came back to look at this post tomorrow and discovered that it more closely resembled something from Finnegan's Wake or a Grant Morrison comic than a plain, excuse-laden post.


Friday, July 13, 2007


I promised a while back that I'd go into details about a certain HyperForce 3000 trait, and now seems as good a time as any.

Several months back, PigPen and I watched an obscure, but hilarious, film entitled Unconditional Love; a few days later we forced it upon Cap'n Shack-Fu, Li'l Random, and Maverick. Now, this was during a week which was very HyperForce intensive, and we had already co-opted several phrases and gestures from other movies we had viewed as part of our group vernacular. While watching UL, there was one sequence which really clicked with us. In it, the snooty sisters of the recently deceased singer Victor Fox are trying to maintain the pretense that, despite great evidence to the contrary, Victor was a full-blooded, heterosexual male. As the sisters explains that Victor was perfectly normal, Victor's brother-in-law immediately chirps out in a nervous voice"Normal!" This happens a couple more times, with the eldest sister talking about a "perfectly normal family" and the brother-in-law shouting out "Normal!" A very small section of the film, and it only happened three times, but we latched onto it with gusto, deciding that, the next day at church, we would all chime out "normal" every time the word was used during class, even if one of us had to instigate the "normal" cascade each time. At first we were cagey about why we were doing it, much to Squiggly's consternation, but we eventually let on that it was from a movie. And so, having had our fun, it was only a matter of time before we tired of the gag and moved on to other things. Or so you might expect; however, here we are over 5 months later, and still the Pavlovian "normal" response is running strong and true in the group. How to explain its longevity? I think there are a couple of different factors at play here.

First of all, within a few weeks of our starting the "normal" gag, while it was still relatively fresh, Cap'n Shack-Fu got sent off to New Orleans. During the 5 weeks he was stuck out of state, anytime I'd talk to him -- often putting him on speaker if other HyperForcers were around -- at at least one point during our conversation one of us intentionally would spark the "normal" trigger, as a sort of touchstone to help stave off his homesickness. In fact, one night Fluffy organized a group of us to get together and pose for pictures to send to him in a care package; one of the first pictures we took was of all the guys holding signs that said "normal," while Trouble held up one that said "abnormal." So, by the time the Shack man was able to come home, the power of "normal" was firmly entrenched thanks to our efforts to keep our pal feeling connected, and would become even more-so when he was almost immediately sent off to New Mexico and had to endure long distance "normal" calls once again.

The second big factor is the"normal" enabler Squiggly, who holds a love/hate relationship with the word. You see, there's one part of Squiggly which delights in the power she holds over HyperForce 3000, prompting her to purposefully place the trigger word into her sentences and then giggle with diabolical glee as she watches her puppets dance; but, there's also the part of Squiggly which will use the word unwittingly and then stomp her feet in frustration as a chorus of "normal" interrupts the flow of whatever conversation she was having. And yet, she still continues to pull our strings, sometimes repeating the word a few times when we're distracted and don't pick up on it -- which is a rarity.

You see, after 5 months, it's practically automatic. Even those who steadfastly refuse to say the word, such as Squiggly, find themselves thinking it to themselves every time they hear it; poor Squiggly works in a field where the word "normal" is a common term, and so she is haunted by it day and night. Her younger sister, who has been staying with Squiggly for the last month or so, has already grown to megaloathe the word. And those of us who have been responding verbally since day one will often find ourselves saying it to ourselves while watching TV, or going to the store, or talking to our co-workers . . .

Loathe as I am to admit it, I must: such behavior is not normal.*

*I opted not to echo the word constantly through the post, weighing the comedic potential against the horribly long and ultimately needless footnotes it would require, and in the end, my lazy side won out, just like normal.**


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Star-Spangled Singles

Since Cap'n Shack-Fu was busy flying over Miamuh in a Blackhawk on the 4th of July, Squiggly was actually able to host a Singles get-together at her place. You see, usually, if Shack-Fu is around, Squiggly's place is off-limits; not that Shack-Fu has anything against Squiggly, mind you -- no, it's more that he has something against his throat closing up and preventing him from breathing, which is what happens if he spends more than a minute or so around Squiggly's cats. So, without having to worry about accidentally killing everyone's favorite Rescue Hero, Squiggly was able to play hostess.

In addition to the few class members who were actually in town and able to make it over, I was very happy to find out that the guest list included Magic Pants and The Cardinal, both of whom I hadn't seen in many moons. We hung out at the pool for a while, and then Squiggly grilled some chicken for dinner. Before we headed out to the fireworks Fluffy got a call from Shack-Fu, who had decided that he would head back down to Denton to enjoy the 4th with us and just head back up to OK early the next morning. When he got to Squiggly's we all headed out to the poolside so Shack could enjoy eating the chicken without worrying about the whole keeling-over-and-dying thing. After Shack-Fu vacuumed down the food like any good military man would, we headed over to UNT for the fireworks display.

Some of my favorite moments of the day:

  • Squiggly's cat Andy almost giving himself a heart-attack knocking a bucket of potato chips off of the counter top

  • Fluffy being driven to frustration mere minutes after being around The Cardinal. "Don't you miss me?" he asked, grinning from ear to ear. "I did until I was actually around you," she retorted. Good times, good times.

  • Finding out that, while most everyone in my group has banned the play of Encore, Magic Pants and The Cardinal have actually created their own upgrades to it for their own personal amusement: Encore 2.0 requires you to find songs with phrases instead of single words, such as "hit me" or "look out," while Encore 2.0 requires you to mix and match categories, so that you have to conjure up lyrics to a song that mentions, for example, a boy's name and a color. Most everyone who heard this looked at them like they were crazy; I, of course, was merely envious.

  • Shack-Fu had dropped off a couple of rolls of film of flooding pictures at Wal-Mart before heading over to UNT for the fireworks, and then had to go pick them up, which meant that Squiggly, Fluffy, and I had to occupy his empty parking spot to save it from the mass of drivers looking for such an opportunity. Surprisingly enough we didn't get any verbal abuse from any of the drivers, and if we got many dirty looks we didn't notice because we were all studiously facing the other direction as much as possible.

  • While guarding the spot, I got a phone call from Cap'n Disaster who, apparently enjoying playing the stalker rather than the stalkee for once, merely said "I can see you."

  • Shack-Fu's unbridled giddiness during the pyrotechnics which made me wish I had my notebook with me so I could record all of his oh-so-technical names for the different types of fireworks like "I really like the crackly ones," or "ooooo, the sparkley ones are cool!"

But, really, my favorite memory of the day came as Magic Pants and The Cardinal were leaving Squiggly's apartment. I was in the living room area, and a phrase The Cardinal used caught my ear: "it borders on the Adriatic." When I turned towards him, he was responding to the blank stares his use of the phrase had occasioned by saying "Didn't any of you watch--" Before he could finish that thought, I burst into song:
You border on the Adriatic.
Your land is mostly mountainous
And your chief export is chrome.
This time I was the one greeted with blank stares from all but The Cardinal, who rushed over and gave me a high five. Yes, being the first person outside of my family to ever reference this clip

just once again confirms what I learned on the night of much mohoohoo: The Cardinal is, indeed, One of My People.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mid-Week Ramblings

Some random tidbits today; I was tempted to split this up into a "karate-themed" post and a "non-karate-themed" post to pad my posting numbers, but finally decided to just alternate between them in the post. I bet you're all really glad I shared that useless information with you, huh?

  • A couple of weekends ago Squiggly and I attended a "takedown and submission" workshop taught by the head of Red Tiger Karate. It was pretty cool, although I wish it had lasted a bit longer since we wound up rushing through everything so quickly that we barely had time to practice any particular move more than a couple of times. Still, it did confirm what I had suspected, which is that I would much rather be taking a grappling style martial art such as judo or jujitsu than karate; not that I don't enjoy karate, it's just that I think I'd enjoy the other styles more. Of course, until I can find a judo/jujitsu class that's as affordable as Red Tiger is, it's a moot point.

  • For the first time since its inception oh so many weeks ago, I was unable to come up with a story to submit to Write in the Thick of It. I blame my assigned genre; whereas last time my assigned genre of "western" inspired me, this time around the assigned genre of "mystery" killed all creative juices. I wouldn't feel quite so bad about not entering something if it weren't for the fact that there was apparently a plague of writers block, resulting in there only being two entries: Redneck Diva and Hillbilly Mom. Today's your last day to vote for a winner; with luck, I'll be up to submitting something the next time around.

  • In addition to PigPen, I have a new constant sparring partner: Cap'n Shack-Fu. You see, following our swimming pool grappling a few weeks ago, Shack-Attack has taken it upon himself to continually test my battle readiness. The evening after the "takedown and submission" seminar he had me show him some of the things we'd learned, as well as a couple of the self-defense moves from our regular karate class, before he decided it was time to run me through the Cap'n Shack-Fu Self-Defense Crash Course, much to the amusement of Squiggly who got to watch Coach Shack-Fu put me through my paces. Unfortunately, the fact that I jammed one of my fingers pretty badly last week* meant that Shack-Fu was unable to engage me in battle before heading off to OK as he obviously wanted to, which is a shame, really, since I was enjoying the fact that, for once, it wasn't me being the instigator.

  • Later on today I'm going to have a phone interview with a reporter for MSNBC.com -- please note the ".com," which means that this will be an Internet article, and not something televised on MSNBC, as a few of the people I've told have assumed. As for why she's interviewing me, well, it's because of CoIM; in particular, my "Cap'n TMI" blog post, which ties into an article she's writing on people's tendency to overshare. I think there's probably a betting pool going on just how much I'm going to overshare during the interview.

  • You know what the most difficult thing about karate is for me right now? It's not learning the kata or feeling comfortable with the techniques; it's not getting up to speed with the conditioning or enduring the constructive criticism of the instructors; it's not even the thought of having to perform my kata in front of an audience at the tournament or having to start sparring,**; no, the hardest part for me is not comparing myself and my progress to fellow white belt PigPen. I actually have done a pretty good job of just focusing on how much improvement I'm showing compared to when I started without trying to use anyone else as a measuring stick, but every once in a while that foolishly competitive side of myself rears its moronic head.

  • Last night I updated the CoIM Cast List to include Cap'n Bubbles, as well as updating several people's nicknames, character descriptions, catch-phrases, and the like. I probably would have tinkered with it more but I got distracted by the siren call of new episodes of The Closer, Eureka, and Pirate Master, as well as the DVD of an excellent Indie horror flick Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon*** which is the first DVD I've been compelled to listen to the full commentary of in many many moons. So please, check out the updated list, but don't be too surprised if it gets updated again soon -- then again, don't be too surprised if it takes another three or four months to get updated. Because that's the way I roll.

  • It's a little less than 4 weeks until our tournament, where I have to perform my kata in front of a whole bunch of people; it's kinda-sorta a competition, since they'll be awarding first and second place, but I'm going to do my best to just think of it as "something I've got to do in order to take my belt test."

  • I'm experimenting with exposing different blog monkey groups to each other; on my recent Frilly's Friday I invited Li'l Random along so that he and Zinger could meet. Now, I've provided Cap'n Shack-Fu with Bubblegum Tate's phone number since Tate lives not too far from where Shack-Fu is stationed. The next step: having representatives from three different groups converge. Zinger has expressed concern that such crossing of blog monkey groups could cause some sort of rift in space and time, but I think we've concluded that as long as he and Bizarro-Zinger never meet, we should be okay.

*PigPen and Squiggly's Sis can testify to the load cracking sound it made when it happened, as well as to the not-nice-words which escaped from my mouth at the same time

**Both of which are just far enough away for me to be in denial about them
***I know there aren't many horror fans among you blog monkeys, but for those who are, I highly, highly recommend
Behind the Mask. Funny and creepy, self-referential without being over-indulgent; think I might have just enough to say about it to resurrect Movie Monday next week . . . maybe.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Shack-Fu is On the Road Again

Last week my good pal Cap'n Shack-Fu was lucky enough to visit the vast metropolis of Miami, OK; of course, due to there being some, um, "issues" with the roads

ol' Shack-man had to find some alternate transportation.

And for those who were wondering, my parents' neighborhood was outside of the flooding area, as was my grandmother's. My great-aunt and uncle's neighborhood on the other hand . . . not so much.

Luckily their house is set up high enough that they escaped any major damage and are already back home.

Shack-Fu's trip to OK last week was just a quick damage assessment duty, but as of yesterday he has been officially stationed there for at least the next couple of months. While the Singles in general -- and HyperForce 3000 in particular -- are saddened that he's once again been shipped away, at least this time he hasn't gone too far; the Joint Field Office for coordinating disaster relief is in Midwest City, which is only about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Denton. So, while the Shacktastic One may not be able to get away from his many duties and responsibilities long enough to head back down here, it shouldn't be too hard to organize a Singles road trip to visit everyone's favorite Rescue Hero.

Plus, it'll be a good excuse to go eat at Ted's Cafe Escondido.

I've made a commitment to Count Shackula to try to update the blog more consistently so that he can keep informed as to what's going on with the Singles, as well as sending him a Daily Dose of Todd email, or DDT.* I figure the DDTs will help keep him from feeling too homesick either by (a) subjecting him to just enough of my insanity to keep the HyperForce 3000 connection going or (b) subjecting him to just enough of my insanity to make him thankful that he's not back here being subjected to the whole thing. We'll just see how long my compulsion to live up to my commitment can overpower my basic procrastinating lazy bum nature.

*My first DDT informed him that fittingly enough the acronym also stands for a pro wrestling move and a toxic chemical, since all three are probably equally painful and nausea inducing


Monday, July 02, 2007

A Question of Chemistry Continued: Groupings Dynamical

Hey, remember when I did a post about interpersonal chemistry and I actually got lots of feedback on it and I said I'd do a follow-up post? No? Well, guess that's not too surprising, since that was about, oh, four months ago. Back then I talked briefly about the chemistry between two people; today my thoughts are turned more towards chemistry of slightly larger groupings.

I've long been fascinated by group dynamics, and how the presence or absence of a single person can drastically affect the actions and behavior of others. Sometimes the reasoning behind these changes are obvious (e.g. a group of guys toning down their raucous behavior because of a female addition to the group) but often the reasons can be much subtler and more difficult to pin down.

When reflecting on the time I spend hanging out with various iterations of my groups of friends, I find that I tend to think of certain combinations as (for want of a better phrase) “optimal” configurations. For these groupings, all the personalities, backgrounds, senses of humor, etc. gel just right, and, in my eyes at least, the group becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Of course, for me, the gauge I use for determining these optimal groupings is generally the amount of time I spend laughing when I’m with a group. If I tend to laugh so hard that I injure myself more often when I’m with configuration A than with configuration B, then configuration A is my optimal grouping.

My prime example of this is Clan Stoneheart. I always have more fun when I’m hanging out with Zinger, Pooh-Bear, and Coronela all at once than I do when one or more is missing. It’s not that I don’t enjoy hanging out with each of them individually; it’s that, somehow, for some reason, when all four of us are together it creates just the right blend of comfort level, shared history, personality quirks, and so forth to enhance the enjoyment of any given situation. Another example can be found among the Book Monkeys, where the combo of Rebel Monkey, The Mag, Rose Hips the Enforcer, and myself tended to turn even the most mundane of tasks into a laugh riot.

Now, the neurotic side of me demands that I stress that the groupings I just mentioned are not the only ones which I find enjoyable; they’re just the ones that popped immediately into my head since they’re two of the longer-standing examples. Also, they’re both kind of “critical mass” style groupings, wherein that special exponential increase in side-splitting laughter doesn’t occur until you reach your full contingent. Those sort of groupings stand out more to me than groupings whose optimization is more situational (watching certain types of movies; going to sporting events; playing games, etc.) since these event-oriented groupings are, on the surface at least, much easier to understand the mechanics of.

Of course, when you have these optimal configurations, they can be thrown off balance not only by the lack of a crucial member, but also by the addition of an extra one. Sometimes it’s because the additional group member doesn't mesh well with everyone else, and thus throws everyone off their game; when there’s a group member who doesn’t quite get your oddball jokes, or a little too reticent to join in on your HyperForce antics, it can’t help but put the brakes on things. But at other times, it’s because they do mesh well with almost everyone. And this is where we start to move into discussing an important factor here: personal perception. After all, while I may consider a particular grouping to be premium, for all I know any other member could see my presence as the albatross around the neck of the group that drags down everyone’s fun; or, to take a slightly less self-deprecating tack, maybe that particular configuration is a blast for everyone involved, but to some people it would be even more of a blast if one other person were added to the mix. For me, a lot of the times when the addition of another person throws off my perception of perfect group chemistry, it’s generally because the new addition somehow steals focus from me, diluting my impact on the group as a whole. I know that might sound a bit selfish, and there’s a good reason for that: it kind of is. But, I doubt there are many who, given the choice of feeling like an integral part of a group and feeling like a fifth wheel will choose the fifth wheel status. With my tendency to think of myself in terms of The Outsider, I’m probably more prone to going down this road of thought than others.

One of the dangers of thinking in these terms is the possibility of it leading to cliquish behavior; if you think of Grouping A as the best of all possible worlds, then you’re not as likely to welcome the inclusion of another member with open arms. I know I've fallen into this trap before, being so worried that a new addition to a group might throw things off kilter that I've been less than welcoming which, in turn, often throws things off kilter.

Being a bit of a paranoiac, it naturally occurred to me that some blog monkeys might read about this and wonder if they themselves are part of any such optimum grouping, or if they, instead serve merely as a distraction from my preferred group configurations. All I can say is, if you are thinking like that, please stop immediately; that way lies madness.

Trust me, I know whereof I speak.

So, tell me, my blog monkeys: am I the only one who looks at groupings of friends and sees patterns like this? Or do some of you also have these optimal configurations floating in your heads?