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A Very Geeky Thing

This post assumes whatever devices you're using to view it uses UTC–8 as a standard.  If not, the kanji will just look like gobbledy-gook.


So a few days ago I'm waiting with my daughter for her school bus to arrive when I notice this Honda sub-compact.  In particular, I notice the kanji next to the "H" logo:  無限 MUGEN.  If you read Japanese, you already know what that means, but despite having taken two years in college, I am nowhere near fluent in speaking Japanese, let alone reading it.  And I wanted to know.

Fortunately, as a by-product of said class, I had two books that proved useful:  The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary (1997 "Completely Revised" edition) and a Japanese-English, English-Japanese dictionary from Random House (also 1997 edition).  Armed with those two books and my own insatiable curiosity, I went to work.

Using the character dictionary and cross-checking with the J-E, E-J dictionary, I was able to determine the following:

mu means "nothing" or "negation"

gen means "limit"

Together 無限 mugen roughly translates to "no limit(s)".  Pretty cool.

And that got me thinking…what would my nomme du web Gaerfindel look like in kanji form?

Okay, start with the meaning: "copper(-coloured) tresses/locks".  It's built on the same idea of Glorfindel, whose name means "golden(-coloured) tresses"—in other words "Goldilocks"—but with a more personal touch.  (Besides, "fire hair" is used so often it's trope-y.)  Hittin' the books, I get the following:

dou for copper

hatsu for (head) hair

Thus 銅 髪 douhatsu = Gaerfindel.  Who knows, maybe I'll get it tattooed on my arm, someday?

So I Had An "Adventure"...

My lower back, ass, and particularly my thighs are "saddle sore" as fuck.  My clothing from yesterday is covered in muddy splatter and torn in a few few places.  I probably stank to high heaven when I walked in the door, last night.  And yet, my brain is swimming in endorphins.  Why?  Allow me to set the scene…

Recently I've been doing a great deal of cycling.  Partly because it's good for my over-all health, but mostly because I just plain enjoy it.  Trouble is, I've been biking the same trails now for over two or three months, and I'm starting to get…not bored, per se, but I could definitely use a change in scenery.  So I did what any sporting devoteé would do:  looked on a map and sought out new trails.

I had a Plan.  The Plan was to make use of the Ulster-Poughkeepsie Link to get over to Rosendale, whereupon I'd ride the Walkill Valley Rail Trail to New Paltz.  From New Paltz I know my way home quite well.  The Plan was to leave early enough in the day so that, if necessary, I could catch a return bus home.  (The Walkway Over the Hudson—usually just called "The Walkway"—a former rail bridge converted into a pedestrian & cycling pathway, is my chief means of crossing the river, but it closes at dusk.)  The Plan got delayed by things like Life and mizuki_hana2 and such, to the point where I ended up taking the last bus across.  Still, it was early enough in the afternoon and I'm a skilled enough cyclist that I figured I had enough time to make it home well in time for dinner.

What's that famous saying by Sun Tzu?  "No plan survives contact with the enemy."  Or in this case, the County of Ulster's less-than-tourist-friendly planning.

The rail trail on my side of the River Hudson—connecting the Walkway with towns as far south as Hopewell—is paved, has visible mile markers, and obvious trailheads that clearly identify where the fuck you are.  The Walkill Valley Rail Trail, on the other hand, does not.  It is composed of mostly dirt (mud if it has rained recently) or if you're lucky, gravel.  There are no mile markers.  Very few "You Are Here" signs, which really aren't terribly helpful if you've no idea where "here" is.  Worse yet, it seems the majority of the local population doesn't even know the damned thing exists, or if they do, have only the vaguest notion of where it's located.

This is not to take away from the natural beauty inherent in the trail.  In fact, I'd be tempted to say that on that score, Ulster has Dutchess beat.  But that is an accident of Nature.  (They got the cooler mountains.)  However, our trail is better connected, better maintained, and more tourist-friendly.

All of this is to set the following scene:  I ride the bus to Rosendale as planned.  I disembark with my bike at the park-and-ride, and then proceed to spend the next 5–10 minutes finding someone who can direct me to the trailhead.  Eventually I do, and I begin my journey.  Then I come across something you really only find on that side of the River.  A group of people tent camping next to a ramshackle food stand, apparently set up for the very purpose of serving travelers along this path.  They even advertised "evening music".  Groovy.  I chilled for a bit, took in the vibe, and proceeded on my way.

And when leaving the camping/picnic ground, where I ought've turned right, I turned left.  And to quote Robert Frost: "That has made all the difference."

Reviewing my GPS recorder later I found out that I ended up head north nearly a third of the way to Kingston before a nice friendly family, traveling the other way, clued me in.  Mortified & slightly panicked I might not make it back to the Walkway before it closed, I hightailed it through mud, grit, scree, and whatever else I needed to in order to get to New Paltz.  Nearly there…and the bridge that crosses the Walkill River was (and still is) "under repair".  Because of course.  So I took the main road.  I attended SUNY New Paltz, back in the day, so I'm more than a little familiar with the area.  And then: "Road Closed for Construction.  Local Traffic Only.  Use Detour."

Y'know what?  Fuck you!  I am not riding four miles out of my way just 'cause you say so.  I'm riding a mountain bike; I can take it.  So I do.  And I make it across the Walkill (hey, cars gotta cross too, y'know) to New Paltz where I take a much deserved break, refill my water bottle with tasty, tasty fresh-squeezed lemonade, and walk my ass & bike up Main Street.  (Anyone who's ever been to New Paltz knows it's a fool's errand to try to ride up Main Street.  It's a pedestrian town anyway; may as well go with the flow.  'Sides, I was fucking exhausted!)

The rest of the journey home was predictable.  I've ridden the route before so I knew all the stops & turns & landmarks.  Amazingly, I managed to make it to the Walkway at 7:56pm.  There were still plenty of folk on the bridge (thank you summertime!) so I was able to cross without issue.  Amazingly, even at my bike's top speed & with me pumping hell-bent for leather, it still takes a full eight minutes to cross that damned bridge.  I knew it was the tallest rail crossing at the time of its construction, but I hadn't realized it was also the longest.

Next time I do this, I'll have it better planned out, to be sure!  Do it during a weekday when the buses run more frequently, and bring more cash for resupply.  (And a better map!)  But now I think I've got an excellent day-trip idea for the Gnome & I.  (I very much doubt the Katydid would tolerate the mud.)  Maybe even an early birthday present(?)

Tags:

Been suffering some increasingly nasty myoclonic seizures, these past three mornings.  Today's was the worst.  Pain meds didn't work.  Applying heat to the affected area—my neck, in this case—didn't work.  Swiping my magnet across the VNS trigger didn't work.  Finally, in great pain & desperation, I called my neurologist, asking what in the name of all the gods of healing I could do.

"Sounds like you may need to call the EMTs, Gaer."

"Doc, they can't do anything!  The best they can do is bring me to the emergency room, where I'm given a drug that'll knock me out for anywhere between 4—12 hours, at which point some physician I've never met before will ask me the same stupid series of questions before pronouncing me "fit to leave" and telling me to "follow up with your neurologist."  That won't help me.  I need your expertise, and I need it now!"

Okay, before I go on, perhaps some context and definitions are in order:

Myoclonic seizure—From the Epilepsy Foundation's site on the subject, they are "brief, shock-like jerks of a muscle or a group of muscles.  Myo means muscle and clonus (KLOH-nus) means rapidly alternating contraction and relaxation—jerking or twitching—of a muscle.  Usually they don't last more than a second or two.  There can be just one, but sometimes many will occur within a short time."

VNS—Stands for Vagal Nerve Stimulator.  The vagus nerve is one of twelve major cranial nerves that exit the brain and basically relay information between brain & body.  Here's a link to a Wikipedia page that gives a decent overview of each, and has a cool picture showing where each nerve exist the brain.  (You'll need to scroll down a bit.)  A vagal nerve stimulator is…well, think of it like a pace-maker for the brain.  At regular intervals it sends smallish shocks of electricity up wires that are wrapped 'round the vagus nerve to basically 'reset' any potential parts of my brain that might be thinking of causing a seizure.  Why the vagus nerve?  Because that's the one connected to all the body's muscles, and it penetrates deep into the cortext.  Just the thing you want if you need to "hit the reset button" on the brain.

Handy little note: VNS implants come with a neodinium magnet that can, depending, either trigger the implant to temporarily up the amperage of the electricity being sent brainward, or turn in implant off for a time—effectively resetting the whole thing.

And oddly, when I called my neurologist complaining of repeated myoclonic episodes and that swiping the magnet to up the amperage wasn't working, she basically gave me the tech department answer:  "Have you tried using the magnet to turn off your VNS for a while, say 30 minutes, and then remove the magnet to see what happens?"

Ummm…no.  No, I had not.

So on her her recommendation, I taped my magnet to my chest over where the implant sits.  I also took my mid-day clonazepam dosage early.  Turns out that, among the drugs other properties, it's a muscle relaxant.  I supplimented all that with some Motrin™ and a hot bath, immersing myself from base-of-spine to top-of-temples in gloriously hot water for all of 16 minutes.  And I'm not drinking any more caffeinated drinks for the rest of the day.  (No basis in fact or medicine, just a superstition.)  So far, things haven't fallen apart.

Side Note:  While in the bath, I found myself breathing rapidly.  Not from the heat (which was glorious!), but rather nerves. (Heh.)  Then I remembered a line from James Gurney's Dinotopia: "Breathe deep.  Seek peace."  In the book it's a greeting, but for me it ended up being a mantra that got me through this ordeal.

A Heavy Dose of Reality and Mortality

Transcribed from an earlier Facebook post

It's finally happened. I've actually become disabled.

Not “a person with disabilities.”  Disabled.  As in a cripple.  Someone who quite literally cannot make it through the day without the help of others.

Allow me to paint a picture: As I write this, I'm lying on a bed, propped up by numerous pillows so I can feel the effects of the small desk fan across the room.  I'm wearing my CPAP mask—a device I normally wear at night to prevent sleep apnea—because I'm having trouble breathing just getting up & crossing from one room to another.

I can no longer bend over.  My cane has become a near constant companion, to the point that I worry when it's not within arm's reach and panic if I can't see it or recall where I put it.  I find myself desiring hooks along the walls of every room of my home placed every 12" at eye-level.  I congratulate myself on my ingenuity when using my cane to pull something toward me instead of getting up and going over to get it…right before musing on the repeated necessity of doing so.

Every action I take must be excruciatingly planned.  Do I really need to go into that room?  Up/down those stairs?  What do I need from there?  How much can I carry with me?  Do I have a bag, or is there one nearby I can use?  Since I'm going that direction anyway, what's in the immediate vicinity that I can bring along to put away?  How long will this take?  Will I overheat or get out-of-breath?  Do I have a place to sit & rest along the way?

Mind you all this worry is taking place just within the confines of my own home!  It's worse if I need to travel.  I'm an independently minded person; it shames me to ask for rides.  I'd much rather bike or take the bus (or both, as needed).  Ironically, for someone who needs a cane as a hedge against losing my balance, I have no trouble on my bike.

I feel more shame when asking my kids to help me bring me this or to pick up that thing I dropped.  They say they understand.  “It's your seizures, Daddy.”  True, but until today I've never really felt so truly helpless.

Which is bitterly ironic, seeing as everything I set out to do today I accomplished.  Yes, I was careful.  Yes, I took my time & planned stuff out.  Yes, I scheduled time to sit & relax and plan out my next tasks.  Yes, I didn't do any heavy lifting without my son to pick up the slack.  That doesn't diminish the fact that by day's end I was collapsed in a chair with my wife feeding me ‘cause I was too exhausted to feed myself.

I'm only 39 years old and already decrepit.  When does the dementia set in?  Will I know my children by the time they graduate?  Will I even be able to attend?  How many times will my belovèd wife Nene have to hear, “Oh, you poor soul; I don't know how you manage with an invalid husband.”

People, I am sooo scared, right now‼‼

On Tables and Mugs

Wow.  It's been over a year since my last post here.  Much has happened, and much of my musing have been over on FB or more recently Twitter.  But I think that, due to its length and nature of its content, the following is better suited to Livejournal.

It all started Wednesday night (12 April).

I'd been feeling particularly lonesome.  I hadn't seen my closest real world friends in quite some time, and the interwebs had been frusrating my attempts to connect with my online friends.  I was in a fairly deep canyon of isolation.

I needed to vent.  So I called an old friend I'd neither seen nor spoken to in ages.  True to his giving nature, he provided a much needed sympathetic ear, and we chatted for the better part of an hour.

It was more than a little breezy, and so to avoid having my hat blow away in the wind I placed it on my half-filled mug of coffee.  Physics had other plans, however.  Turns out, with sufficient surface area (a hat brim, for example) the force of even a light breeze is enough to knock over not only the hat, but the coffee-containing mug as well.  Further, upon impact with the sidewalk, ceramic mugs tend to break, as this one did.

I really like that mug.  It's my second favourite mug.  It's the mug I got for supporting the Indegogo campaign to bring back Reading Rainbow and propel it into a newer, digital age.  It has an 8-bit picture of LeVar leaping up like Mario and pointing at a book.  It's adorable.  And now it was broken!

There's a Japanese art called kintsugi/kinsukoroi.  As described, it involved reassembling broken pottery, but done so in such an artistic way that the reassembled piece seems to gain something from the process.  It becomes more than the sum of it's original parts, both literally and figuratively.

Now I have neither the skills nor resources to accomplish such artistry, nor even access to those who do.  But I was resolved that I would put my second favourite mug back together.

So the next morning I got on my bike and rode down to the local hardware store.  At first I thought about just getting some basic Gorilla Glue, but settled on a two-part epoxy instead.  I'd learned about such wonders through Mythbusters and thus knew it would hold better.  Plus, I wanted to try it out!  (Scratch one thing off the bucket list.)

While there I also picked up some bolts & butterfly screws.  We have an outdoor table & umbrella (parasol?) set, but I'd lost the bolts that held it together last summer.  The wife wouldn't let me hear the end of it!  Ergo, I resolved not to let that happen again.

The way I figured it, I'd set up the outdoor furniture, and then have a comfortable & well-lit place to repair my mug.  As is oft the case, little things™ intervened.

The closet in which the table had been stored is dark, so I grabbed for the flashlight&ellip;which didn't work.  Batteries?  No, I put fresh ones in.  Apparently not all LEDs are made to last.  So I ended up stumbling about in a dark closet full of boxes & air conditioners & spare folding chairs just ready to fall on my head, all in order to locate all the pieces of the table.  But Gods be Praised!  I prevailed despite the darkness.

Next task: Assemble the table.  Simple?  Yes, in the abstract.  Unfortunately the only bolts available in the amount needed were slightly too large.  In the long run this is actually a Good Thing™, since it means the extra friction will hold the legs & braces together more firmly.  Less wobbling.  (PHYSICS!!!)  In the short term?  More work for me.

Mass-produced patio furniture is not precisely machined, and so there was no small amount of profanity uttered—nay, shouted—as I hammered, screwed, and just generally man-handled the various pieces into alignment.  After hours of using a variable socket wrench (my new favourite tool, BTW) to muscle bolts into holes they were not designed to fit—and many apologies to my children for taking some of my frustrations out on them—I finally had a comfortable place outside.

Now to the mug.  (Forgotten that, had you?)  Mixing the epoxy was fun, as was solving the puzzle of which pieces to assemble in which order.  But to wind back a bit&ellip:

When I'd recovered the pieces of my belovèd second favourite mug, I picked up four pieces and put them on the kitcheon counter.  During my wife's morning routine on her way to work, she probably was the one who tossed the pieces into the trash, not knowing my plans.  Fortunately, they were easily recoverable & just as easily washable.

What I did not anticipate—what I did not know—was that there was a fifth piece; one I'd not recovered.  It's small, located along the lip, and doesn't truly impede the mug's use.  But it does mar the symmetry,and it is a reminder of something lost.

And strangely, that's okay.  Kintsugi is a celebration of imperfections; of putting our lives back together and the growth that results.  A reminder that life is not perfect, but that is does go on, and sometimes we can find small beauty in the cracks that form along they way.


(For those roleplayers out there, I am convinced the table is Lawful Evil.  It will ultimately do as intended once assembled, but to get there requires a certain strength of will and charisma:  You must "persuade" it to do as you want.)

She Continues to Amaze Me

Yesterday my wife began to instruct our daughter on the mechanics of character creation in 3.5 D&D.  As anyone who's ever played knows, it's a long and someone complex process.  My daughter's maybe about a third to half-way through making her character.

And yet...my little girl, only nine years old, has chosen to play an elf who's gender neutral or gender undecided, and named the character "Unknown."  (Which only makes sense.)

There are times when she's a typical nine-year-old American girl, with all the drama that implies.  And then there are times like this one, where she shocks me with her maturity and creativity.


i aM GaER, aSTONiSHED

I want to blast my emotions all over social media, but I haven't a clue where to start.

Because I dared express my feelings of frustration & bitterness in a public forum, my dear wife, upon finally reading said post at 2am, blasted me with all kinds of vitriol.  If heard it said, "Do nothing in anger."  Well, I wish she would dollow that adage. I ended up spending the rest of the night in the spare bedroom.  Not the worst of "punishments", as the bed is comfortable and I didn't have to deal with my wife's incecent music.  (She claims she needs it to sleep, or else her mind will find ways to torture her anxiety in the silence.)

All this on top of the fact that earlier in the day, I finally repaired my long-suffering bicycle.  I could ride again!  But no, I get half-way 'round the block on a test run--gotta make sure the new tubes are up to the task--when *BAM!!  The rear wheel, the very tire I'd just fixed, blows a flat.  Seems I'm cursed...

Normally, I'd be writing this in my own private journal or posting on Facebook, but the latter is too public and really I want--I need some comfort from those of you out there.

Is there anyone still out there???
Reading Dragonriders of Pern and I come to discover that the first novel in the series was written several years before I was even born!  Mind blown!!i aM GaR'S

Back After All These Years

It's been awhile.

At the moment, I'm posting here mostly to complain.  ordinarily I'd not be up at this hour, but eariler I posted something on Facebook that offended my wife to the point that I was told to, in effect, "go sleep on the coach."  I've since deleted the post, but that's no consolation to her, I'm affraid.

I know I'm being obtuse, right now, but if any of my old friend from this community are still around, I'd appreciate a pick-me-up.

Thanks in advance.
It's been too long since I've posted here, and probably by now everyone uses Facebook as their primary means of blogging.  Still, I've gotten back to journaling in the Real World, so I thought I'd return to LJ for doing so electronically.  Y'know, for those posts that require you to go on at some length, and you just don't want a million "friends" reading.

Hope to see/read y'all 'round the net!

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