Tuesday, November 28, 2006

'Tis the Season (Already?)

Well, we're not even into December, yet, and the Christmas season seems to be in full-swing already. We are attending our first Christmas party of the year this coming Saturday, a dojang event that is combining the dojang Christmas party with both a "post-dan test party" and a "5 year-anniversary of the opening of our dojang" party all in one. I've agreed to handle the music and the video game setups for my friend Michelle, so I've just finshed up mixing about 4 hours of Christmas music. All sorts of stuff -- traditional, modern, cajun, rock, country, pops, comedy, you name it. And, of course, I've got a healthy sprinkling of movie and cartoon audio clips thrown in, just to break things up a bit.

Listening to hours of Xmas tunes, and it's not even December, yet. Sigh.

The party should be interesting. Kwan Jhang Nim Ferraro, the head of our Tang Soo Do organization, will be in town giving a red belt and dan clinic Saturday morning, prior to the dan test, and will also (I believe) be attending the party that evening. Given his presence, I imagine that the party will have a ... well, a vibe. Perhaps a bit more formal than most folks would expect, or even prefer. It's not that I think he necessarily walks around demanding strict adherence to traditional protocol or anything like that. I've met him ,briefly, a couple of times, and he seems like a friendly and relaxed sort fo fellow. But I imagine that the folks in our dojang realize that some attempts to maintain decorum, even in a non-dojang atmosphere, can only reflect well on Sa Bom Nim's Nunan and Reilly in Kwan Jhang Nim's eyes, so I hope that folks will try to do so. I know I will, at least to an extent. I figure I'll just act as thought I'm in the dojang training during the party.

Well, training, but with beers.

This protocol stuff can be tricky business. I've managed to figure out a protocol balance between how I behave with my superiors, peers, and juniors in the dojang vs. outside of it that I am comfortable with and which I feel shows proper respect. This was tricky, since I want to demonstrate the proper respect in the proper circumstances, but I also don't want to screw up my opportunities to become closer friends with folks at the dojang by overdoing it, either.

All the protocol is great for discipline and really does help get my mind more focused and receptive to training, but it also has a way of enforcing a certain amount of emotional distance between people that can have a sort of chilling effect on friendships, I think. And honestly, as much as I've grown to love my Tang Soo Do training, I'd have a real problem sticking with it if I felt that gaining martial arts skill had to come at the expense of personal relationships. So finding a middle ground where the yessir/nossir's could be dropped was important to me.

But of course, with Kwan Jhang Nim at the party the rules are a bit different. It's probably in everyone's best interest that we just stick to protocol as best as possible, if for no other reason than to generate a complimentary comment or two toward the guys in our martial arts lineage.

Oh well, that's it for now. Time to head for training in a bit.

Mood: A bit scatterbrained
Now Playing: Nada

Friday, November 24, 2006

Wii Lust: SUCCESS!

Fifth in line. They had a total of six Wiis at the store. Both my friend Richie and I managed to snag one, though my brother and my friend Dan both showed up just a little too late (they were 8th and 9th in line, respectively) and unfortunately got shafted. Mike will probably stop by later to play around with the Wii, while Dan will just have to hold out until Sunday (when bunches of them are supposed to go on sale at all of the area Best Buy stores).

So, got the Wii, an extra Wii-mote and Nunchuk controller (both of which are almost impossible to find -- I got the last one of each of them at the store...), and a copy of Zelda: Twilight Princess (which I haven't even tried out yet). We've all created little Wii "Mii" characters for ourselves and have been playing Wii Sports for a couple of hours. It's a riot -- Miranda, it turns out, seems to be quite the golfer! Boxing is hysterical -- you hold the Wii-mote in one hand and the Nunchuk in the other and punch with them, or you can tilt them in and out/up and down to guard different parts of your body. Baseball is cool, as is bowling (Christine is a way better bowler on the Wii than in person, whereas I seem to suck in either circumstance), and tennis is pretty damn tricky. All in all, a great set of basic, fun games.

So, I get to revel in my success for the rest of the weekend. I hope to invite a few friends over to check it out and play some games together -- this thing is a riot. But in the meantime, I really need to catch a nap -- I'm exhausted!

Mood: Elated, exhausted
Now Playing: Nada

Wii Lust: Darkness...

3:45, Friday morning. Word is that EB Games will have Wiis at open this morning. Here I am with 4 hours of sleep and about 18 pounds of Thanksgiving dinner and dessert still working its way through my system, showered and waiting for my coffee to brew so I can head out and try to get one of these damn things. Will be meeting up with my brother and several friends, so hopefully this will be a fun exercise in obsession, if nothing else.

OK, coffee's ready. Updates later.

Mood: Huh? What?
Now Playing: Huh? What?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wii Lust: PS3s and Instant Karma, I Hope

OK, so I entered day three of my seemingly bottomless Wii lust with the usual mixture of hope and expectation of disappointment. 9:30, my buddy Richie and I head out to Circuit City to catch the opening, just to see if they got any in. Nope. None at CompUSA either. Just for yuks we decide to run up to Toys 'R Us and give them a swing.

So, we get there and wander around the videogame area, quickly ascertaining that there were no Wiis to be had. Then , as we were leaving, we spot the FedEx guy making a delivery. So we wander over and take a peek at his car to' stuff, and he casually says "So, what're you guys looking for?"

"Wii. Got any?" I reply.

"Nope, not here," he says, "but I just delivered 20 boxes of them to the Best Buy across the way 10 minutes ago."

WHAT! WHOA!!!! So, big thanks to the FedEx and we hightail it over to the Best Buy. Now, word is out that Best Buy is sitting on their Wiis until Sunday (not putting them out for Black Friday, even), but we figured that if they had plenty, then we might have a shot at grabbing one.

So, we get to the videogame section and I spot a friendly looking younger saleswoman who I figure I can sweet talk a bit. So we get talking and I ask about whether they've got any Wiis. she says nope, we will have them Sunday, though. And I say, "whow, hold on -- the FedEx guy just told me he delivered 20 boxes of them here not even 10 minutes ago."

So she looks at me kind of casually, smiles, and says, "Well, he doesn't know his systems. He delivered 20 boxes of ... well, something else."

I say,"What, PS3s?" She nods, and I say "And are you guys actually selling them?" And she says they're not putting them out on the floor, but if customers ask they are selling them, so ... would I like one?

Now, I have no interest in a PS3. I think they're an interesting hardware platform, but at $600 for the good one I think they're insanely overpriced, especially when that same $600 could buy a pretty damn nice HTPC instead. But my mercenary gears were turning, and I started considering just how much cash I could get by buying one and then reselling it on Craig's List or Ebay. I could easily get a grand profit on this damn thing.

And then I saw this woman with her kid, who was picking up one of the PS3s, and she was saying how she couldn't believe they actually got one and how they totally made her son's Xmas. And the kid's eyes were like little fires, he was so excited. And I realized that, well, that whole reselling thing is a pretty damn crappy way to go about this thing. Yeah, no one's forcing anyone to pay these insane markups on these stupid things, but it's like selling seriously marked up or cut down dope to junkies. You know they'll pay whatever you want to get their fix. And honestly I just think that's just a shitty way to treat people, even if no one's putting a gun to their heads.

It's the same reason I've never resold a concert ticket for anything more than what I paid for it, aside from saying "Hey, buy me a beer when we get inside and we're even." I love music, they love music, so isn't it messed up to rip off someone who likes the same stuff you do, just because you can? And while I don't really care about the PS3 on any level other than technical interest I enjoy games and presumably the people who are buying these (insanely overpriced) things enjoy them as well. So I think it's would just be shitty to gouge someone, even if they're falling over themselves to be gouged.

So, I passed. I figure maybe there's some PS3 fanatic going from store to store, day after day, hoping that maybe they're going to get lucky, and they'll wander into Best Buy and ask, with no real expectation of getting one, whether they got any PS3s today and and then their entire day will be made because the system they figured there was no chance whatsoever of being there is, in fact, about to be placed in their hands. And at the retail price, no less.

Now, if there's any such thing as instant karma then I fully expect a Wii to fall into my hands within a day or two. But even so, if one does not I know I did the right thing. But it stings, dammit!!!

Mood: Frustrated!!!
Now Playing: The Beatles, "Love"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wii Lust

OK, so, on a more upbeat note, I seem to have rediscovered my inner fanboy.

I need a Wii.

I briefly entertained sleeping out side Saturday night in order to obtain one on launch day. But, well, I'm 39, and the idea of sleeping on concrete in a sleeping bag in 40-something degree temperatures was sufficiently negative enough to overcome my geekier tendencies. But, needless to say, come Sunday morning I was regretting my (sane, reasonable, and mature) decision. So I stopped by every single retailer I figured might have one (two Targets, Best Buy, Toys 'R Us) over the course of launch day. Failure greeted my every attempt.

So then, Monday, I get to work and find out that no less that three of my co-workers are in similar straits. Suffering from Wii hunger. I mean, we all agree that it's for the kids, of course. Gotta make sure they get one, right? But anyhow, once we realized we weren't the only ones who were getting a bit desperate about laying our hands on his thing it seem ed to ... well, intensify the need to get one a bit more.

So, next thing we know, we're all trekking from store to store at opening time (10:00AM) to see whether they got any systems in. Electronics Boutique, Best Buy, Target, GameStop, Circuit City, CompUSA, and CostCo all got a visits. All to no avail.

Thwarted, we all skulked back to our jobs. But we did get a lead on a pallet of Wiis coming to CostCo Tuesday. So this morning we head on over there at 9:30, figuring we'd get on line a half hour before their doors opened (supposedly at 10:00).

Heh. Seems they actually open their doors at 9:00 for the holidays. 24 units were available. We were 28th, and up on the line. Screwed again!

I briefly entertained the idea of tackling one of the folks who got one in the parking lot, taking their Wii, and handing them $400. Happily, my inherent good nature won out and I resisted the urge. But the guy was a skinny little bastard. I could've taken him. And really, is it stealing if you pay them for it? It's really just a form of ... I don't know. Retail by force?

Regardless, now he's playing the Wii. And I'm ... waiting. We swung through Best Buy and Target, just in case, adn called multiple WalMarts, Targets, and Toys 'R Us' just in case. No luck.
And then, we luckless, hapless, sad and pathetic four skulked back tot he office. Wii-less. And now I'm sitting here with a few hundred bucks in my wallet, contemplating becoming one of those insane people who roll out of bed at 4:00AM on the day after Thanksgiving to go sit in the cold and wait for the store to pen, just for the chance to get one of these things.

I mean, I have the day off -- what else am I going to do? Right? RIGHT???

I mean, it's all perfectly reasonable. I'm not acting even slightly irrational, am I?


Mood: Most decidedly put out
Now Playing: Tan Dun, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"

Saturday, November 18, 2006



So, Christine and I headed out for a nice dinner last night. Thai food at Satay. Just the two of us, the kids happily ensconced in the confines of our dojang participating in a kid's night out. And we're talking about stuff that's been going on lately with our kids and I finally just had to own up to the simple fact that I'm depressed. Not clinically, out of control depressed -- I think I'm safe without pharmaceutical or psychiatric intervention -- but I've spent the past couple of weeks in a sort of low-level buzzy fog sort of depression. I'm not terribly communicative. I feel muted. It's hard for me to get myself started on anything, or to feel terribly excited about anything right now. I'm in a sort of ... gray, damp cloud.

The reasons are simple, I think. After two years of trying to find a way around it, we've realized that we will almost certainly need to put one or both of our kids on ADD/ADHD medications. The real stuff. Ritalin, or Adderal, or Stratera, or something similar. Uppers, or anti-depressants.

I don't really want to get into the specifics of the past months or so. They're actually fairly pedestrian -- no big events, no huge breakdowns or catastrophes. Just the slowly dawning realization that things aren't getting better. They're getting worse. And for all the effort and time we've put in on avoiding artificial flavors and colors, administering omega-3 fatty acid pills, attempting to maintain a structured environment in our home and work with our kid's teachers to do the same in their school, attending Tang Soo Do classes regularly, and attending child psychologist sessions weekly to try to encourage good non-medicinal behavioral modification techniques to keep the kids on an even keel, it's just not working. Grades are falling, suddenly and rapidly. Social development is at a standstill. And, in Trevor's case, the kid just ain't happy. Days consist of a constant vacillation between generalized contentment and anger, frustration, and tantrum behavior. Dozens of tantrums and outbursts a day.

And, for my part, I find my relationship with my son, in particular, being defined by frustration and anger. This, obviously, is not good. Something needs to give.

But I feel like I've given up. I don't want to put my kids on medication. I feel like I must have missed something. But I've plugged away at this for two solid years, now, trying to avoid the easy fix, trying not to let pharmaceuticals do my job as a parent. And what I sense, now, is that ...

... well, this isn't a job I can do. I've failed.

And I wish I could say that this was all just my usual lack of self-esteem, or that I was reading too much into it. But I can tell in the silence and platitudes of friends when I mention this stuff that they think I've blown it too. That I'm taking the easy way out, here. Not everyone, mind you -- most of the folks that have been involved with us over the past couple of years know that we've exhausted ourselves trying to avoid getting to this particular space on the game board. But people that are not quite so close to the nexus of our lives -- but yet still people whose opinions I value -- have met my disclosure that we are seriously considering medication as a last resort, now, with a resounding ... silence.

Could it be worse? Hardly. If you knew these people, you'd know that silence is the worst of all possible responses.

And on one hand I want to tell them how hard we've tried to avoid this, and how it's killing me to do this, and how I wish someone, somewhere would suddenly pop out of the sky and whap my kids on the head with a magic wand that would suddenly make this all better. But it just ain't happening.

And I'm so, so tired of trying to defend myself on this. I feel like whenever I try to defend myself I just come off as self-justifying, as if this all just got to be too tough and I said screw it. And I swear on the lives of my kids nothing could be farther from the truth. I've never shied away from a challenge. I've never believed that the shortest and easiest path is necessarily the best one.

But we've run out of dead ends in this particular maze, after willfully ignoring the one direct path through all along. And I just don't know what to do anymore.

So yeah, I'm depressed. And the holidays are coming. And we have our appointment with a child psychiatrist in a few weeks to get our first round of meds. And I just want to hit myself. Make this my fault. Somehow extract a pound of flesh from myself and spare my kids this crap.

Mood: Ummm... hello?
Now Playing: Nothing

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Post-Event Fatigue, The Walls Come Down

You know, I keep meaning to find time to kickstart my blog writing again, but so far it just hasn't happened. With all of the activity running up to the party I think I just sort of ... fried the communicative side of my brain or something. I've mentioned before that I'm more or less an introvert by nature, if not by behavior, and this ongoing difficulty I seem to be having with getting myself writing again is as good an example of why this is so as any I can think of.

In spite of my sort of built-in tendency to avoid large groups of people where possible, to maintain a certain intimacy in my exchanges with other, I also have a fairly constant desire to mount the occasional party or other large-scale gathering. Maybe it's my desire to show off a bit -- I don't know. I know I throw a great party, and I know I am a good host to my guests. Whenever I throw a party -- specially a large-scale one like the Halloween Hootenanny -- I am pretty much guaranteed a few weeks of compliments and stories from guests about how much fun they had, how it was one of the best parties they'd attended, how they met such great people, etc. Like I said, I'm good at this stuff, and I know how to work the room to ensure that everyone is having a good time. So I'm certain that part of the desire to entertain, for me, comes from a need for recognition and praise.

But once the work and preparation and execution of the party is completed, I am always left feeling drained for days, if not weeks. It's not even really just the work and effort of putting on the whole thing -- it's more the post-party navel-gazing I always put myself through. My inherent insecurity, and my concern that, you know, while every seemed to be having fun, maybe they weren't really enjoying themselves. Counting names, trying to recollect specific details of the dozens of brief host/guest style conversations I engaged in over the course of the (fairly intoxicated) evening, fighting down the vague irrational certainty that my read on the room, my perception that everyone had a blast, was somehow completely wrong. Anticipating the eventual declaration and realization that all that work was for nothing.

You know, it's no picnic being me sometimes. The simple truth is that everyone had a blast. I've had several folks tell me that aside from being easily and by far the best Halloween party they'd attended it was also among the best parties of any sort they'd attended, period. It was a bona fide, 100% success. But I still need to muddle over it for a week or two, convinced that somehow it wasn't all that.



So, let's see. Christine and I spent an evening out with Master Nunan and his wife Pennie Saturday night. Went to see "Borat" (which left us all literally sore from laughter), after which we gobbled up a bunch of sushi then hung out at a Starbucks drinking coffee and discussing all
the stuff we all avoid talking to people about out of fear of rejection or social discomfort -- religion, philosophy, politics, family histories, you name it -- until well past midnight. It was a fantastic evening. I honestly can't remember the last time I spent an evening out with another couple where we clicked so well, and just felt so comfortable. I'd briefly touched on this in a previous blog entry -- how long it had been since I'd made, or had the desire to make, a close connection with anyone else. This seems to be changing. Seems to be? Is.

I'm not talking about getting to know people in general -- I've got lots and lots of social friends, lots of work friends, lots of people I can spend time with just for laughs. You don't wind up with nearly 100 people at your Halloween party by being a recluse. I've never been one to want for company -- I know how to be entertaining, am friendly, and bathe regularly. But when I was younger I really had a desire to have truly close friendships with some people, a closeness that forged something stronger than the more fragile connections of social friendships.

As can be expected, that desire led to mixed results. On the plus side, I have some very close friendships that have persisted over the years -- Gregory, Rich, Pat, Linda, Susan chief among these. On the other hand though, I've gotten pretty well screwed over by plenty of others, and finally I just sort of ... stopped trying. It really was too hard to put myself through the effort of opening up to people, and the resulting period of worry and insecurity over whether I was just setting myself up to get screwed over yet again.

But here I go again. The guard's down. Life's too short to spend it behind a self-imposed wall. And in making new friends I get to add another item to the ever-growing list of things that Tang Soo Do has brought into my life. In about 4 weeks, around the second week of December, I will have been training in Tang Soo Do for 1 full year. What a year it's been.

Mood: Really good
Now Playing: Tan Dun, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"