Kingdom of Loathing slime tube sea chanty

I'm backdating this post to the chanty's date of composition, because I realized that I didn't write a single "real" song in the entire month of June. In my defense, June was a month in which many events took place, and indeed, Ravel at the war was a very tough act to follow, songwise. But still, a song a month is about where I'd settled to, production-wise, and it offends my songwriting sensibilities to have less.

This is a pirate chanty with a rollicking little tune. I wrote it from sheer happiness, because the clan of which I am a member, The Rollicking Band of Pirates, has opened its third Slime Tube. This is a special adventuring zone which exists only in clan basements, and I had been saddened by my small amounts of participation in the first two Tubes.

The chanty is intensely spoileriffic and makes absolutely no sense out of context. Nonetheless, it may amuse.

I'm going in to the tube of slime
it's hard to find many words that rhyme
with tube of slime, or the slimy tube
I got beaten up there like a n00b

I'm going to get me some slimy cysts
find all the marbles that I have missed
they rolled right out of my pirate brain
into the depths of a slimy drain

I'm going into the tube of slime
surely I'll have me a lovely time
tickling a uvula hung down low
so that our slime-covered loot will grow

I'm going to get me a slimy hat
so that slime cannot knock me flat
with it perched on my head like a Jughead proud
I'll guzzle bile till I'm good and plowed

I'll venture into the slime tube now
wipe the gunk from my face with a chamois--wow!
basementy deeds, when they're done dirt cheap
with your best mates--arr! tell me, who needs sleep?

some little talk awhile of me and thee

Happy Father's Day, everybody.

Maybe later I'll make a post about Idol registration. It was an interesting and highly surreal experience.

I was awake for about thirty-six hours, and just woke up around midnight. I'll be up all day; Mom and sisters are coming down to visit. We're going to the grocery store, maybe get lunch somewhere. I want to play them the full "dead man" trilogy--but the ghost, dead man's blues, and don't forget. Then I want us all to watch that Dead Man's Gun episode Dad liked, "The Impostor." So good. If you ever see that show on reruns, watch it. It's like a Twilight Zone set in the old west.

To kick off the festivities, Dave and I opened up a bottle of wine from my birth year. It was one of the few mementos I have from Elmer's. It's a Riesling, and all the better for its age. When we drank the first toast, Dave said he finally understood why people are so crazy about wine.

As I always do when I drink wine, I read poetry. Today is my perennial favorite, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Here's a sample to whet your whistle:

What, without asking, hither hurried Whence?
And, without asking, Whither hurried hence!
Oh, many a Cup of this forbidden Wine
Must drown the memory of that insolence!

Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate
rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate;
And many a Knot unravel'd by the Road;
But not the Master-knot of Human Fate.

There was the Door to which I found no Key;
There was the Veil through which I might not see:
Some little talk awhile of Me and Thee
There was--and then no more of Thee and Me.

mister fox, what time is it?

What do those women expect? When you sign a contract with Fox, you know you're gonna be betrayed and humiliated.
~Bart Simpson

Ah, so many of the blogs I follow seem to be taking time to look at complex social and political issues. Things larger than themselves. I salute them for it. But as for me and my blog, I will keep it up with the diary entries. Because that's what I need it for right now.

Today's topics: job search, money stuff, psych stuff, and American Idol.

Still applying for jobs over the internet. Not with the same manic intensity as in the first few days, but I've kept it up and hopefully will stay in the habit this time. There's a snag with my state of Illinois applications, though, which may delay my ability to be hired by the state. Apparently when I was filling out my online form, I checked "Yes" for "did you graduate" but "No" for "do you have a degree." This was because of my apparently not-uncommon situation: I've earned enough credit hours to be awarded a degree, but it can't be released to me because of an unpaid institutional loan. The state worker who emailed me said I need to go back and check "No" on both questions. Unfortunately I'm pretty sure this means I'll have to wait thirty days to re-apply with the corrected version of my application. Arrrgh. Such are the Catch-22s of modern poverty. Have to get the job to be able to afford to wait long enough to get the job. Have to get the job to pay for the loan to get the degree which will get me the job. Et cetera.

Next week, Dave and I will be heading over the the DHS for our appointment where they determine if, and how much, we can get in terms of welfare and food stamps. Props to Dave for taking the initiative and filling out the online application for us. We should have done this months ago. Apparently none of the aid they give you can be used to pay rent, which is a bummer. Looks like we'll still be going through the apartment to find things to sell. But if I'm not spending my precious, precious unemployment bucks on, say, utility bills and groceries, that leaves more to pay rent. Not enough to catch up, but enough to remain at the same level of behind-ness.

Due to various reasons, the two of us are now on the same meds. I'm finishing up week two; he's working up to a full dose while transitioning off the first one. With pretty much the full dosage in my bloodstream, I'm feeling more like my normal self. And the early side effects have pretty much cleared up, which is good.

On a possibly related note, we've both been having vivid, complex dreams, and I want to write down a couple of mine. I would log them in detail, but they're kind of...obvious. So I'll summarize. There was one where, at the beginning, a sort of evil shadow dog/seal type thing (like a Kingdom of Loathing seal, only in 3D) was standing in front of me, and every time I moved it would sidle forward and bite me. It really hurt. Later, I was wandering around through various buildings. In each one, at some point I'd turn a corner and there'd be a closed metal gate with a shadowy monster behind it. It would scare me, but it'd be behind the gate, so I could keep going. Basically this one is all about how deep down, I'm convinced Bad Things is definitely about to happen, and that fear is repeatedly hurting me and stopping me from moving forward. But on a conscious level I'm able to stop myself from being constantly aware of it.
Then I had one, last sleeptime, where I tried to buy some iced coffee and a chocolate-covered strawberry, but the strawberry (from which the chocolate had somehow fallen off) was super expensive and more than I had in my account. When my debit card was declined, the card reader shredded it. I had to leave the coffee and the strawberry behind, but I kept casting longing looks at the coffee over my shoulder on my way out. Needless to say I made myself coffee as soon as I got up. Yay coffee.

Today and tomorrow are registration for American Idol, and auditions are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Registration and auditions are all being held at the United Center. Which I can see from my apartment. It is literally walking distance. Which is the only distance that I am currently able to afford to go, at least for any non-job-search-related reason.

But my feelings are profoundly mixed. I don't really like or enjoy the show; I just follow along with it while Dave watches it. Which has given me a lot of time to think out all the Boolean algebra in my mind. But I've never really written it down, so here goes.

If I don't get selected for the first round, I have to live with the letdown of having my voice and persona judged unmarketable by four highly famous professionals, and the frustration of having wasted two days of my life standing in lines. That's actually not so bad; I could even work out the self-esteem thing in therapy.

But if I do get selected for the first round, I'd have to go to Hollywood. Since the initial Hollywood rounds, before America gets to vote, are not done live, I have no idea if this would be an immediate trip or something that happens this fall. Either way is really bad. If I leave now, I'm not here looking for a job, applying for welfare, and selling off my stuff to try and catch up on rent. Meaning we'll lose the apartment, and Dave and our families and friends will have to move our stuff and our cat and put it somewhere while I'm off in California singing covers with a bunch of crazy teens. If I leave in the fall, in order to do it I'll have to likely quit a job that I've had for at most a couple of months and that I desperately need to keep. Because, c'mon, what's Fox going to do, pay my rent for me? Give those of my peeps who can leave Chicago an apartment in Hollywood so they can be in my audiences? Not for the friggin' first round.

So, okay. Best case scenario. I get selected for the first round, we somehow in an orderly fashion move everything and everybody out of this apartment and that all works. I make it through group week somehow, and get to the part where America gets to vote. You know what that means? That means being part of the Idol "family." For starters, that means being contractually obligated to show up to any Idol-related event at which they want X-place contestants to show up. Having all the fame and none of the money, if I'm one of the early eliminations. Finishing anywhere in the top ten means having to be in the Idol tour next summer, at minimum. In any case it means losing my anonymity everywhere except on the internet. And I like anonymity! A lot!

The good part, the only real good part about it, would be getting a recording contract and getting to record my own stuff on somebody else's nickel, with the help of a professional band. Sure, I'd be paying for it by giving away a lot of my privacy, by giving control over the use of my face and voice and big chunks of my time to Fox. But it's not like I'd be taking all that time away from a lucrative career and a house with a mortgage on it and a bunch of babies. Just people I would really, really miss and who would miss me. And I'd be putting my geeky self out on television where, if I make a fool of myself, it'd be a matter of public record. And anyone who knows me knows I have a knack for making a fool of myself.

Those are all my doubts and misgivings. They are rational and valid and all of that stuff.
But as people close to me have pointed out repeatedly, I might as well go and try. If I don't, I'll regret it, and wonder what might have been. So I'm pulling yet another all-nighter--my second of the week!--so I can go stand in line for when registration opens. Probably I'll head over there in a couple of hours. It's been rainy and chilly tonight, so only the die-hards will be out in front of me. Hopefully I'll be awake enough to read all the fine print before I sign anything.

I don't know whether or not I want anybody to wish me luck, even. I just hope that whatever happens, I'll be able to appreciate the irony.

Futility Friday vol. 5: This post is not about sports

Job search update.
I've now taken 3 civil service exams, and gotten As on them. Next week I shall go back to the Thompson Center and take more. I've also started applying for things online again, partially filled out (but did not hand in) applications for local Starbucks' and greasy spoon, and today completely overhauled my resume. It is now much more detailed and hopefully enticing to recruiters. Intellectually I think I should be fuming, as Local H put it:

"you wa
nna jerk me around
with my resume arou
nd my neck?"

However, I k
now it's largely my own hole that I dug, by spending all those months in what was, but did not always feel like, a depressive funk. Hedonism in the microcosm can mask big-picture problems. I think the decision to get therapy, on the one hand, and the decision to get medicated on the other, were a my way of giving myself a wake-up call.

n the shrink gave me my meds she said the standard warning: short-term studies have found that all antidepressants may increase the risk of suicide. And I said, ah yes, I've read about these studies. (Looked around on Curator's blog for a bit, but couldn't find the link I was thinking of. If I come across it later I'll update the post!) Essentially, sometimes a person has been so depressed for so long that they are committed to the idea of killing themselves, but are so paralyzed by their depression that they can't summon up the will to act on their intent. So such a person gets meds, feels the temporary relief of their lethargy, and finds themselves finally able to do it. It's a sad thought, wondering how many people in that situation might have experienced even greater relief, changed their minds, and decided to go on living, if they'd waited awhile longer.

I was really glad I'd had occasion to remember the idea, however. Maybe it's placebo effect, maybe my system's just really sensitive to new chemicals--I'm not sure. Maybe it was the phone conversation I had with my landlord on Tuesday. In any event, three things have been happening over the past couple of days:

1. My stomach is all acid-refluxy like it hasn't been since high school. (A side effect of which I was advised.)
2. Falling asleep is noticeably less easy. (Another expected side effect.)
3. I feel completely terrified about my job and money situation. Filled with panic. Like I haven't been since high school.

Then, instead of going into the old panic feedback loop--panicking about panicking about panicking--I remembered the above sad factoid. And I thought, "Aha! This is the feeling the depression was preventing me from feeling!" Knowing what it was did not automatically make it fixed, of course.

But it did give me a starting point from which to figure out what I could do about it. Panic does two things: it revs up and it paralyzes. The useful and the destructive aspects of fear, both at the same time. Way I see it, the important thing is to find some way to deal with the emotional paralysis so that all that spicy fear energy can be put to use.

To the extent I'm able to accomplish this, every time I start to worry, I do something. Something constructive. If I do enough of those things, not only will it get easier to make the response into a habit, it might eventually resolve some of the problems that are making me scared in the first place.

Now here are a couple of fun quotes!

' Roose still tries to pray every day. He says the act of prayer changes him, referring to the writings of Christian author Oswald Chambers."He said that it's not so much that prayer changes things as that prayer changes me — and then I change things[.]" '
--Undercover at an Evangelical University, an interview with author Kevin Roose (thanks to kisekileia for the link!)

' Even a slight ability to change oneself is more valuable than any power over the external universe. '
--Liber MMM, Peter Carroll

(And a postscript. Thanks to a very cool friend of Paula's who's a whiz at tinkering with computers, I has the laptop back. Though he recommended some steps to get the keyboard back to 100%, I haven't yet taken them. All this to say, this entire post was written without functioning "n" or "b" keys. Instead, I copied "nb", and whenever I need one of those two letters, I hit ctrl-v and erase the one I'm not using. I'm not sure why I felt the need to explain this to you; it was kind of a dumb thing to do. Especially since Dave's computer, right over there, has a fully functioning keyboard. And "n" is the second most common letter in the English language. I have my suspicions. Stupid bad habits.)

heads up on a job search tool

Just want to give all my fellow Illinoisians a link Mom sent to me a few weeks back. The lady I talked to on Friday says it's kind of a slow process to actually get a job using this. But it at least lets you apply for a million and one jobs pretty quickly:

Illinois Central Management Services Jobs by Title Index

I was gonna go downtown to the place and take a bunch of tests today, but I'm going to go tomorrow instead. Woke up naturally at eight this morning, which means I got about five hours but am suddenly diurnal. Hooray for being diurnal! By tomorrow I should have settled into the new waketime and won't be as fuzzy-brained.

Tuesdays With Abhorrent Fiends vol. 50: adventures in medicine, with dream log

"I hide behind curtains 'cause I have a fear of being stabbed."
~ Chief Wiggum as Polonius, when the Simpsons did Hamlet

So today is a big day in my personal timeline: I have lost my med virginity. Meaning that today, for the first time ever, I took psychoactive meds prescribed to me by a psychiatrist.

And yes, there is a big difference between taking meds prescribed for you by a doctor and taking recreational mind-altering substances you procured yourself, even considering the very limited extent to which I have done the latter. Leaving aside things like side affects and potentials for addiction, the difference is largely one of intent and expectation. With recreational substances, the intent is to escape from consciousness of self and everyday reality. With a prescribed substance, the intent is to more fully experience those realities. People I know have experienced both sides of that coin with one and the same substance, for example in the case of aderol. And the really cool documentary Hoffman's Potion (link to video) asserts the same is true of LSD: used correctly with a doctor's supervision, it can be beneficial. Used irresponsibly in the wrong situation, it can do a lot of damage. It's one I haven't tried, but the documentary kind of made me wish doctors were allowed to use it.

As for my new pills (these ones), it'll be at least a week before I know what effects they will have. My mind completes the chain of thought without needing to be asked:
Pill delivers chemical to bloodstream.
Bloodstream transports chemical to brain.
Brain alters balance of various hormones used in the signaling of emotional states.
Emotional states of the preferred type become chemically easier to enter into, improving the personality's overall ability to confront external reality.

It is a good thing, to do this. Lots of people I know, love, and/or respect are now or have been psychiatrically medicated at various times. Family members. Friends and friends on hiatus. I don't attach a negative stigma to seeking out psychiatric care, and I like to think I don't attach a negative stigma to taking doctor-approved pills.

The fact that it feels like such a big deal to me, though, makes me feel in turn like I'm some kind of wuss. Because most of the people I know have had far more exciting adventures in psychiatric medicine. (Although some of those adventures had unpleasant results, which is part of what makes me so suspicious.) Because I'm getting growly about trying out a very small dose of one of the least harsh SSRIs on the market at the late, late age of 27. Because I can refer back, in my mind, to the Rolodex of disordered postcards I call a memory, and wonder if there may have been other periods of time in my life when a stint on the smiley pills might have done me some good.

But I don't like it and it is galling!

When dealing with my own psychology has principally to do with cognitive stuff, that is comfortable territory for me. Or comfortable discomfort, at worst. I know there's bad scary things in my personality, parts of me that don't like the rest of me or anybody else. For the most part I know where they are, to a certain extent how they got there, and increasingly, as the work progresses, how they work and what I can do to make them function properly. Oh, I complain a lot, but my intent is for it to be the useful sort. The kind where you break off in mid-sentence to say, "...hey, wait, that could actually work." If I have a disturbing dream, like I did the sleeptime before last, it usually only takes me a few days to figure out which issues my brain was trying to tell me about.

As for the dream, this paragraph should suffice. If you know Pearl and she's ever told you about her Grape Escape dream from way back in the day, or if you watch this video and use your imagination (commercial for Grape Escape), it started out a little like that. Only with Lego people and different torture devices. *shudders* Dangit, in real life you can't feel Lego people's pain or hear them screaming when they get horribly killed. That dream eventually did have a good ending, although the landscape had to be reformatted like three times to get there. At first I just watched, helpless, while bad stuff happened. There was a brief interlude where pushy, sales-skills-having people who conformed to the ideals of corporate successfulness were faxed to heaven on a giant fax machine. Then there kept being dream-people in awful situations, and when I saw them I would want something to happen to them. As soon as I did, my perspective would switch to inside that dream-person, and I'd experience the results of my decision. After this, the landscape would change to a different situation. If I'd made different choices the dream could have been a lot worse. Instead, the Amish c-section was successful and the mother survived (barely) as well as the baby. The technicians escaped from the evil building of death and deactivated the monstergate on the way out. The boss of the spikey spheres level was defeated and the key to the door at the end was recovered before the boss respawned. Me and Dave rescued the fluffy little dog from the woods and gave its fur a spiffy new hairstyle instead of shooting it because we'd been sent to kill coyotes. And when we returned to base camp, the fashion instructor complimented my spiffy new hairstyle. Oh, foolish brain. It hasn't been enough days yet to put it all together, but soon I will figure out exactly why it is I'm so afraid to admit that I'm a freaking adult.

Changing that mutable mental landscape with chemicals, though, feels like taking the problem out of my hands. Meds are a tool I don't myself know how to properly wield. I am deeply distrustful of letting anybody else wield a tool which directly impacts my mental state and which I don't myself know how to use. I think that's the principal reason why it feels like such a big deal. That, and resorting to the use of this tool to bludgeon at the big stupid rock of my own brain means that the tools I already possess have proved insufficient to the task. So my pride is ouched, not merely my sense of excessive caution.

But I have made my decision. Hopefully, like the ones I made while fast asleep, it will prove to have been the right one.

Here's to happier days and better living through chemistry.