Monday, January 26, 2009

25 Random Things About Mark

From my Facebook. Some of these are repeats, but I haven't done this in a while so here goes:

You know, I actually did this once upon a time on my regular blog, but I think its time to update. Here we go:

1: I have scoliosis. Just a little one, only a few degrees of deviation, but I have bitchy mid-back pain, though, especially if I don't work out for a while. I get adjusted by my buddy Dr. VanWesten and that helps tremendously.

2: I've begun six novels, finished four, published two, and I'm currently in the process of editing my third. Total elapsed writing time since beginning the first one: twelve years. My second novel Red Ivy Afternoon won the bronze medal Independent Publishing Award for science fiction/fantasy in 2007.

3: My least favorite smell on earth is curdled milk. I rode a garbage truck in high school for work and I used to work with a wound care specialist and rotting food and gangrene are less offensive to my sense of smell than rancid milk.

4: My favorite liquor is tequila. Jose Cuervo, generally, but Patron when I can get it.

5: I used to do a bar trick in college where I could lift and carry three people at once. Generally they'd have to be relatively small people, but I'd have one on my back and one in each arm.

6: I have one single line in the center of my palms instead of two diverging lines like most people have. I've only met a handful of other people in my life that have them, and I've never met anyone else that has it on both hands. My son John has it on one hand. It's apprently a Down's Syndrome trait, and I can only imagine how the pediatrician scared the shit out of my parents with that one.

7: Most people that know me know that I have unusually short and stubby thumbs. This is a rare congenital abnormality called raquet thumb, that's approximately the same level of common-ness as the palm line thing. The bones of my thumbs are slightly shorter than average, and thicker and the growth plates of my thumbnails are short and wide rather than almond shaped like a fingernail. It doesn't mean much other than I can hit extra buttons when I play video games, I'm less likely to blow out my thumbs doing trigger point massage because the physics of leverage are on my side, and I'm absolutely killer at thumbwrestling.

8: I was the first person at SLU to ever recieve permission from their academic review board to do online interviewing for qualitative methods of sociology. Not a big deal, really. Oddly, what was sort of a small deal was the fact that the interviews I was doing were for backyard wrestlers, a phenomenon that was just then emerging and no one had studied at all at that point. The research I did has since been republished several times and used in a documentary film. I'm cited in loads of current research about violence, tv, and amateur wrestling. I wish all these people would just read my novels instead of googling videos of teenagers beating the shit out of each other and setting sawhorses on fire with lighter fluid.

9: I have an accreditation in Illinois as a limited Radiographer, which means I can and do take X-rays of people as part of my job. Funniest thing I ever saw on an x-ray that I took: a woman wearing a t-shirt that had the word "BOTOX" in metallic sequins on it.

10: I almost never get a chance to do this since I don't own any, but I'm actually a very good shot with pistols. Favorite pistol: Ruger MK II.

11: I once saw a black bear, in the wild, from less than fifteen feet away.

12: My guilty pleasure is watching awful movies from the 70's and 80's. Sci-fi and campy drama are my favorites.

13: I won a silver medal rowing in the New Hampshire collegiate championships at SLU in the novice class. To this day, rowing is still the only "sport" I have ever been good at.

14: My best friend and I were both born on November 14th, 1978.

15: I was terrified of needles and shots until I was 25, when I started working in a clinic that did pretty much nothing BUT shots in people's spines, knees, hips, etc. I had to load hundreds of shots a week, and I've stabbed myself half a dozen times with pretty much every type of needle doctor's use. When you run a 4 inch spinal needle through your hand first thing on a random monday morning, you pretty much aren't afraid of needles anymore.

16: I've broken both wrists, my right hand, and six of my fingers. I've had second and third degree burns on both hands, accidentally sanded chunks of my skin off while using drum sanders,and sliced myself several times with various sharp things. Most unexpected and painful hand injuries: deep slice on my left ring finger from a steel guitar string that left a prominent scar, new steel spatula blade directly in the palm of my left hand. My profession: massage therapist.

17: I started playing the guitar at age 15 when I discovered that my mother had, boxed in our basement, an old classical nylon-stringed guitar. She also had a book full of basic chords and instructions on how to tune it and from there I've played guitar for 15+ years.

18: I was once in a gigantic snowball fight in college that involved over 400 people.

19: I have a strange eidetic memory for people's voices. Even if I haven't heard your voice in years, I could easily pick it out of a random sampling of people, especially if I've ever heard you sing. I can identify background singers in songs on the radio and voice talent for cartoons without ever knowing who they are ahead of time.

20: I love all food. Really. I even love weird stuff like Sushi and massively spicy ethnic foods. Lebanese is some of my favorite. There are two foods, however, that I love in an unholy way that I find difficult to control myself about. These foods: Bacon, and candy canes.

21: I love medicine but I think I would hate being a doctor. Except maybe a chiropractor. I maybe could do that. They're the only well-adjusted ones, really. I've met many, many physicians who grudgingly hate their jobs.

22: I've dealt with and treated a number of politicians and celebrities as patients since I've begun my career. With only a few exceptions they are polite, friendly, intelligent people that would fit in unobtrusively in any group or crowd. Some of them are even more polite than the average patient, which I didn't expect. The average patient will get a cell phone call and have an awkward moment of like 50/50% making a decision as to whether or not to answer it. I had a major celebrity once that I was treating just reach into his pocket without even looking at his cell and silence it. I was impressed. Tabloids love to tear celebrities a new one, but I think most of them are worthy of respect in real life.

23: I got a little teary-eyed when I listened to Barack's inaugural speech. I'm not too proud to admit it. He's going to do great things for our country, and he's the first politician in living memory that I could say I genuinely trust.

24: I tend to try and help people who are socially awkward, and do my best to make them feel welcome and included. I don't beat a dead horse, though. If someone doesn't WANT to be helped, that's another thing entirely. I feel like one of the best things you can do for people is to make them feel included and welcome. You never know who might be keeping their interesting personality to themselves just because they're intimidated or afraid to jump into a social situation. Concurrently, some of my favorite people on earth are the ones who do this to others (and occasionally to me).

25: Favorite video game of all time: World of Warcraft. You sneer, but think of it as Facebook with dragons and cartoon knights. The social aspect of the game, the economy, the trading, the cooperation, the comeraderie. The first thing I thought of when I started on Facebook was that it reminded me of Warcraft. It's addictive for a reason. People are addictive.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chicago Cyclist Mayhem

Only in Chicago would the following entry make any sort of sense at all.

It's January 22nd, and for the past two days, I've been dodging overly aggressive bicyclists in an attempt to get a parking spot in the morning on Wells ave. Yesterday, I had pulled up alongside a parking spot, necessarily blocking the bike lane that's right up against the parked cars, and I was getting ready to parallel park, when I see the light about 100 feet behind me go green and several cars come around the corner. I don't have enough room to back into the spot without putting my nose out in the traffic coming in the lane behind me, so I just put my blinker on and sit tight to wait for them to pass me. With the cars comes a cyclist.

Let's just pause for a moment and consider that last sentence. Remember the old SAT days when you had to read a paragraph and answer some questions about it that would reveal your comprehension of the piece? Reread what I just wrote, I'll wait...

No, not the cyclist part, the JANUARY 22ND part. The streets are covered in an inch-deep slime of salt and mud from thousands of filthy city cars. It's approximately 17 degrees outside. Cars are sliding around corners and fishtailing where the traction is bad. People can't just stop on a dime because their anti-lock brakes kick in at every stop sign. IT'S JANUARY 22ND AND THE TRAFFIC CONDITIONS ARE HORRID SO WHAT ON EARTH ARE THESE DOUCHES DOING RIDING BICYCLES IN CHICAGO TRAFFIC?

Nevertheless, they're out. Many of them, in fact. So yesterday this guy comes around the bend behind me and instead of stopping to wait for the three cars to pass him on the right, he veers into the lane of traffic (car traffic) behind him, and tries to skim alongside me on the left. The cabbie behind him doesn't really even slow down, so the dude is slaloming the two or three feet of space between the side of my car and the side of the cab that didn't stop to let him go. The son of a bitch starts HITTING the side of my car with his fists and yelling at me. Wham, wham wham. I have just enough time to roll down my window and tell him what my favorite swear words are, and he has the balls to turn around and shout something incomprehensible (he was wearing a full Northface jacket with a face mask) at me.

I told him to come back and hit my car again, and he took off. I said a small prayer to the Karmic traffic accident revenge Gods, and went to work. Something like this first thing on a Wednesday morning just doesn't bode well for the rest of the day.

So this morning, I'm hyper aware of the bike lanes and I'm casing out my parking spots way ahead of time. I pull up alongside a car about to leave a parking space, and like a fucking mirage suddenly there's a biker behind me, trying to pass me on the RIGHT, which gives him about two feet of space. I didn't waste time, I just gunned it back into traffic and picked another spot. The dude passes me as I'm trying to turn around and shoots me a dirty look.

Come ON. Really?

You're riding a bicycle in the middle of some of the busiest traffic in the country, one one of the city's most congested, cutthroat-parking streets, and you're surprised when someone goes for a parking spot? Never mind that you're an utter retard for riding a bicycle in the dead of winter through snow, but you HAD to have expected that to happen.

So yeah, if you're in Chicago this week, watch out. A weird legion of douchebag bicyclists is out, and they're looking for an accident to get themselves into.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The inauguration

John woke up with a marginal case of pink eye this morning, so instead of my shortened workday, I got to stay home entirely and take him to the doctor. The doctor visit was okay, but he didn't like the eye drops at all and we also had a minor ant-related emergency in the kitchen this morning, so it was seeming like all hell wanted to break loose. John said he wanted "pizza" for lunch, and when I got out the little frozen one I decided instead that we'd take another daddy/Johnny trip to Target and get a little pizza there from the Pizza Hut express and maybe pick up a new car or little box of LEGOs.

So somehow it slipped Dad's mind for about a half an hour that Barack Obama was being sworn in today at noon. As it happens, I found myself helplessly driving up to the Target parking lot at 11:55 as I realized what was happening. I called Beth, who said she hadn't TiVo'd it, and neither had I. Somehow, by virtue of the chaos of this morning I was about to miss the inauguration that I had waited and waited to see for weeks. I took a deep breath and resolved to just go ahead and do what I was going to do at Target anyway. Presidents come and go, but you're only a big strong daddy once, right?

So we go and pick up some food and go look at the LEGO's, and the toy aisle happened to be right next to the electronics department. As we approached the end cap, I heard Obama's now-familar voice played on a wall of stereos. We walked over to one and turned it up a bit so we could hear it, and I listened to his inaugural speech right there in Target on the giant wall of stereos. There was some mix-in with songs in the background from the radio DJ, and it became one of those moments that, cliche as it might sound, you'll never forget. John said "who's that?" I said "That's Obama." He looked at me and his eyebrows raised a little. "O-bama." he repeated.

I'm sure I'll catch the whole thing on YouTube eventually, but it was a nice moment anyway and it was special in its own way for me and John. He's napping now, and hopefully sleeping off the pink eye with the help of some eyedrop antibiotics. I have nowhere to go, so I opened up a bottle of champagne I got from one of my patients and I'm going to sit here in the sunbeam on my couch for an hour or so and have some champagne and work on my book.

Go Obama!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why Star Wars might change my life (again!)

At the risk of bringing down collossal bad karma on my own head, I'm going to go ahead and say I’m finally starting to get the hang of parenting, I think. Beth was at class tonight so instead of going straight home after daycare, John suggested we go “to the store”. I thought about it for a moment, then said “okay!” Somehow, two year olds can occasionally hit upon just exactly the right thing to do in a given situation. So I decided we’d go to Target, which features not only a mini Pizza Hut with little pizzas (which John helpfully told me he would like for dinner "and milk!"), but also happens to have a pretty OK toy department as well. So we went and had dinner first, and he ate like a champ, polishing off half a personal pizza with pepperoni (which he shunned until I said "it's like bacon", after which he gobbled it down instantly as well), and a whole bottle of his favorite dairy beverage. We then went to the toy aisle and checked out the Star Wars.

He recognized them instantly, and went through them as if unsure if he should ask for them or not. He looked at several and I suggested a Yoda action figure and a LEGO Star Wars set with Anakin Skywalker and R2D2. He immediately agreed and took them like a trophy as we went to get mommy a new coffee maker and daddy a new mouse for his laptop. He chirped out, "what about this?" pointing to a $0.97 matchbox car that was a bright green Lotus something. "Welll..." I said, trying to work his emotions a little, "okay." And didn't his little face light up just as big at the $0.97 matchbox car as it did at the $20 LEGO set. Anyway, so he's as happy as could be as we go and get some other stuff (the Mr. Coffee we got was of major interest to John as well, given its space-age look), and when we got home he sat happily at the table with me for forty minutes or so playing with the new figures while I put the LEGO spaceship together for him. Then we sat on the couch and watched the last 20 minutes of Return of the Jedi (the lightsaber battle at the end between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader mesmerizes him), and without a bit of protest he went straight to bed right on time.

I've been a Star Wars fan since I was probably three or four myself, so the fact that John loves it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone, but I really feel like I'm starting to be able to use this mutual love to interact with him in a deep and meaningful way. We have the same sort of thing when it comes to castles, which he also loves, but until he's old enough to enjoy something like Willow, he probably won't really "get" castles till later. Until then we have Star Wars, and with it, something special for daddy and Johnny to both love and enjoy together.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Remember

I thought I had posted this before, but since I apparently didn't, here's Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan being awesome on Letterman. Wait for it.

At Last


A dystopian post-apocalyptic movie that doesn't feature Will Smith, lame-o CGI created catastrophes, or cuddly feral children with boomerangs. Cormack McCarthy's "The Road" is a not-funny, uber-serious "real" post-apocalypse story. It's grim, gruesome, harsh, and depressing, and I can't WAIT to see it.

Best line from the promotional material I read: "...it was filmed mostly in Pennsylvania for its abundance of places that look post-apocalyptic: coal fields, dunes, and parts of Pittsburgh." (Hah!)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Crashing back to life

Well, I'm back to work today and on the spur of the moment I decided to go along with Beth's post-holiday fitness/diet program. Which means I'll be back at the gym today and which means my lunch bag was significantly lighter today. I brought some extra food for the ride home so I don't screw my metabolism by waiting till 8:30 to eat dinner. Not sure if this will work, but I have been doing a lot of my own cooking lately, so I feel less intimidated about making healthy food versus just eating out or eating crappy bagged/boxed foods. I discovered that Target sells almonds in huge containers for like $10, which sounds like a lot until you realize that the stupid Blue Diamond kind at Dominicks is like $5.99 for 4 oz. 4 oz of almonds lasts about one sitting around me, so that's a plus. We also tried Peapod for the first time this week, which turned out to be a pretty OK experience. It was slightly more expensive than our regular load of groceries, but the chief advantage was that the produce was good. Unless you love the idea of paying $1.99 for a single apple (this is not an exaggeration), the produce in the city pretty much sucks. It was almost worth the extra $10.00 delivery (incl tip) to do it. Plus next time I think you just modify your list of what you need and it gets delivered. I sense with the dieting I'll be doing for the next few months it's going to be a good idea for me to not be at the grocery store unsupervised.

Make sure you lead with your forehead

John likes to play "jump on daddy" frequently, and lately I've had to watch myself because when he leaps forward he'll lead with the hard part of his forehead. A few times I've been too slow for him and failed to get out of the way, resulting in that coconut sound and seeing stars. He got me squarely in the jaw on Friday afternoon and gave me a nice fat lip. God, I haven't had a fat lip in forever. Yesterday he took a headlong dive into the edge of our headboard and gave himself a great big bruise over one eye. It's a little poetic, actually, the courage that lets someone just dive straight at something like that. I don't know if I have that kind of fearlessness anymore.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The main reason I'm going to need a second job:

John discovered Star Wars today. I mean REALLY discovered it. As in, he would not leave Waldenbooks until we had purchased for him a very detailed pop-up book with about two-dozen awesome dioramas of Star Wars scenes in it. And all the way home, he sat in the back seat with it saying "cool... cool." to himself. I swear I had nothing to do with this. In fact, while he was finding this book, I was in the Gap trying on jeans.

So, the only question that remains now is whether or not to get him some intermediate toys or go straight for the Lego Star Wars collection. Of course we're also going to need some DVD's and maybe a little Jedi costume with a lightsaber...

Dear God, this is going to get expensive.

Here's him with the book and proving that his Star Wars fandom just might literally be an instinctual part of his genetics: