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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Thrashbear's LiveJournal:

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    Saturday, July 20th, 2013
    5:44 am
    An exercise in recognizing and refuting logical fallacies

    In the last few months, as I stretch my logic and reasoning skills, I've been learning about logical fallacies and critical thinking.  Having found the following case against gay marriage from a Catholic webpage, I figured to deploy some of these newfound skills on a topic that is very near and dear to my dark little heart.

    10 Reasons why Gay Marriage is Dangerous:
    (My rebuttal after each point)

    1) Marriage will not be considered a unique natural family building institution.

    This argument, taken at face value, suggests that GLBT people are not capable of building a “family institution”. This also needs clarification as to the definition of a “unique natural family building institution”, and why GLBT are incapable of building one.

    2) Churches will be harassed and labeled as bigots for remaining faithful to their beliefs and reason.

    Doubtful.  The closest they might come to harassed is a drunk homeless guy pissing in the holy water.  Otherwise, they'll be generally ignored and die off; preferably along with these, um... "values".  What this argument calls “harassed”, most people call “getting with the program”; and by getting with the program, I mean entering the 21st century.  Marriage is a secular, civil matter, a contractual matter, separate from religion; churches just provide the ceremony space and spiritual affirmation of the union.  If a church doesn't want a gay wedding, that IS their right.   The happy couple are free to head for your competitor across the street.

    You didn't need more tithing parishoners, anyway.

    3) Businesses that deal with weddings will be sued if they do not conform with this redefinition.

    As they should be. While sexual orientation is not currently a federally protected status on par with ethnicity or gender, the day will come when it is. And when that day does come, business will have to make some hard choices about honoring the civil rights and dignity of their customers. Just like businesses in the past had to make some tough choices about whether to cater to minorities or face the wrath of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Until then, the free market will be more than happy to decide.  Your competitor has already put up a Pride flag in their window.

    How's business, natch?

    4) Children will grow up confused.

    Who's children? The children of the gay parents, or the children of their neighbors, friends, and family? And confused about...what, exactly? Do you mean your children, who can't rectify what they witness in real life with what you indoctrinate into them? This argument is so general as to border on non sequitur.

    5) Science will be teaching falsehoods in regards to biology.

    I call a big, fat stanky red herring on this. Science doesn't give a lab rat's ass about marriage (unless a graduate student can get a grant to study it). And science, as a discipline, doesn't teach jack; people teach it. You know, people with pee-aych-dees and master degrees and some real book learnin'. What “falsehoods” will these be? Until specific examples can be made, this point isn't only in left field, it's left the park and sunk in the bleachers.

    6) Psychology will have to be altered in order to avoid contradictions in studies.

    Again, red herring.  It's not like psychology is a constantly changing practice as new evidence and discoveries are revealed, anyway. Also, I thought the avoidance of contradictions in scientific studies is supposed to be a GOOD thing (unlike contradictions in the bible, which are numerous)?   Altered in what way? As above, has no bearing on this argument unless specific examples can be made.

    7) Evolution will be questioned because same sex relations serves no biological purpose in the advancement of a species.

    This is where I call not just bullshit, but total, complete, and utter bullshit (that's some serious bullshit). Traditional married couples do not own a monopoly on the mechanics of procreation! This argument suggests that gay couples are incapable of the natural, biological desire to spawn, which defies the same “science” trotted out in #5. That they are incapable of nurturing, raising young, instilling values, teaching them not to set fire to the cat, showing them how to thrive, of loving offspring sprung from their own gay loins or of others as their own. Gay marriage is a cultural and human rights issue, not an evolutionary argument, so has zero bearing on the study of evolution as a scientific discipline.

    8.)The family will go and then society will follow.

    Uh, what? “The family will go”...where, exactly? This argument infers...implies...  Dammit, I can never get that straight.  Get it? Straight?  Ha!  I kill me!  Um, anyway... that gay marriage will be responsible for the breakdown of the family unit; unlike abuse, infidelity, divorce, marriages of convenience, shotgun weddings, and celebrities re-marrying for the umpteenth time in tune with the Neilson ratings. This argument suggests (oh who the hell am I kidding, it blatantly asserts) that where the "family" goes, so goes the enveloping society. The suggestion here is that gay marriage will lead to political collapse, the disintegration of infrastructure, chaos, famine, war, dogs and cats living together. Society will follow them...where? To a place where GLBT families are respected and honored on equal footing as traditional families?

    The horror!

    9) Societies that have done this are now extinct.

    Not only is this a post-hoc appeal to consequences, but the consequences never even happened, making this more straw man than the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz.  This argument suggests that societies that have done this are extinct BECAUSE of gay marriage; not due to war, political strife, invasion, natural disaster, time, revolutions, population attrition, or alien abduction. Not to mention, there are now over a dozen societies in the modern era that are going quite strong despite recognizing gay marriage, with no sign of a meteor bearing down on them. That was a metaphor, you know, as in dinosaurs.

    Dinosaurs are extinct.

    Like your reasoning skills.

    10) All other subcultures will demand marriage under the same pretense.

    Ah yes, the old “slippery slope” argument. Actually, this is one where I will offer the benefit of the doubt. Other “subcultures” will begin demanding equal respect, though I suspect you are referring to polygamy (which is recognized in the *gasp* bible). The day may come where they will have their day on court, and our descendants will cross that bridge when they get there.

    That is, if the society hasn't gone extinct.

    Like your case.

      Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
      4:06 am
      New mountain conquered
      The following paper illustrates a key component of my struggle, and why I have a tendency toward self-sabotage.

      It's a 10-15-minute read, but damn well worth it because I'll bet cash money that if you do, you'll see a lot of this in some people you know, both personally and within the various fandoms we're a part of.

      I had been researching victim mentality in connection with religious extremism, and a nuclear explosion "AHA!" moment went off in my head. This paper is the most comprehensive explanation I have found that puts it into perfect perspective.  As it turns out, the 7 Habits and emotional intelligence I've been working on already gave me the elements to overcome this deep psychological conditioning.  In taking responsibility for my life, examining the myriad possibilities of every encounter, and recognizing my own emotional responses, I can control how I respond to external stimuli.

      Along with that pride of recognition comes a bit of shame, though.  I always knew that the common element in all of my negative relationships was me, but couldn't figure out why.  Now I know why.  This conditioning was so deep, so insidious, that it took two years of hardcore personal growth to finally recognize it for what it was.  Once I did, all the puzzle pieces fell into place, and I had an understanding like never before.

      I feel like Smeagol after he tells Gollum to take a hike:  I am free.

      This is the part where I accept responsibility for my trespasses, admitting how I fucked up, and offer atonement through financial and emotional recompense to those I have wronged.  Since I went through 39.75 years worth of these thought processes, it will take a bit time to make up for it.

      My only hope right now is that this is a permanent thing, and I don't slip back into the anti-religious paranoid crazy at some point later on.  Like any habit, I'll have to make a proactive effort to work on it all the time until it becomes a part of my natural thought processes.  
      Monday, April 8th, 2013
      1:28 am
      Workout progress report
      body pic 4-7-13

      Two months into the new workout regimen, I sport the following improvements.

      Went from 26.4% body fat to 21.4% while maintaining the same 184-187 weight.  That represents a 7-pound lateral transition of fat to muscle. My standard middle-aged pear-shaped midsection is shrinking as my upper body grows more definition.

      Went from getting winded at half a mile to running 3 miles (at 5.5-7mph) like it was nothing.  Can also run the 1 mile to work which has a 7 degree hill for 1/4 mile.  Learned proper breathing and running technique.

      I currently max out at 20 push-ups and 35 sit-ups, still can't do a full pull-up yet.  Pullup max weight is 150 at 5 reps so far.

      I am far more flexible than I was even as a teenager, thanks to pre-workout stretching exercises.

      Post-workout soreness is drastically minimized now that my body has acclimated to the new demands.

      Diet is vastly improved with more meat, veggies, protein/creatine smoothies, and cutting out the garbage.  I still cheat but it's written in to the program.  It's a good thing I love salad. Discovered the 8th-day miracle that is Greek yogurt.

      I feel much lighter, more bouncy.  I take stairs like they were nothing.  I can perform tasks that used to hurt just by being vertical.  I have more stamina, more energy.  Everything I handle is becoming lighter.  The fatigue and lethargy...gone.

      My goal is an overall good healthy body, a balance of speed, endurance, strength, flexibility, and stamina.  The excellence I perform in the gym translates to excellence in other parts of my life, eventually "spilling over" into each other to create a lifestyle of complete effectiveness.  The physique will simply be a natural consequence of executing these priorities.

      I'm on my way.
      Thursday, March 21st, 2013
      9:45 pm
      Just marking the date
      Today marks my 10th "annifursery", a decade to the day I discovered furry.
      Friday, March 8th, 2013
      4:09 pm
      6-month Adderall report
      TL;DR version: The medication itself was only the beginning, a correct step towards helping me implement other life choices that all work together to get me where I am today...and where I will be in the future.

      1. In the six months since I've started this new medication, I've been able to overcome or compensate for roughly 90% of the deep-rooted symptoms, behaviors, destructive thought processes and bad habits brought on by the ADHD. This includes the crushing lethargy, fatigue, depression and lack of motivation that has plagued me since 2007.  Adderall isn't the be-all, end-all; it treats the symptoms, not the underlying cause (which remains a mystery), but I can finally move without feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders...or on my soul.

      2. I sent in an application to the ADHD specialist program at Western Psych, who can help me manage the remaining 10%. This program offers better med management than my GP can provide, behavior modification, and life coaching to give me the direction I need to maximize my potential.  I'll know in a couple of weeks whether I've been accepted; if not, they can still point me to other resources.  I also signed a research and study consent form, so that I may become part of the solution.

      3. This one is probably one of the most important.  I've posted many times in this here journal about my experiences on other medications and therapies.  At most I'd be okay for a month, then slide back into the crazy.  Unlike the Strattera I was taking, the Adderall has yielded predictable, consistent results, every day; except, of course, for the few days I wasn't taking it for one reason or another.  This has allowed me to build upon the positive behaviors that lead to good habits, instead of spiking a few days at a time and leading me back to square one.

      4. My organizational skills, never really that good in the first place, have improved. I'm consistently keeping track of my finances in ways I've never been able to do before. That might not sound like much to people for whom such things naturally come easy or developed these habits early in life, but those who know me will know how much of a triumph that in itself can be.  It's little more than a simple financial log in a notebook, but it has been effective enough to maintain awareness of my resources and expenses with no surprises.  The reason this is so personally important is that after years of previous attempts at financial organization, which wouldn't even last a few days before I'd forget or let it go, where my finances would reach crisis mode again.

      5. I am taking better care of my physical health.  I joined a gym last month and have been using it, increasing my stamina and daily energy levels.  My improvement has gone even better than I hoped: motions and movements that used to wipe me out now come much easier.  Running a full mile would kill me just six weeks ago; now I barely even get winded, with energy to spare.  It's not just with the workouts, but in my diet as well.  I'm getting educated on food science, allowing me a better understanding of what I'm putting in my body.  The one cheat I allow myself is an energy drink at the start of my day. Rockstar Punched = the PRECIOUSSS.... Other than that one cheat, it's a good thing I like salads and protein smoothies.

      6. Much like steps 8 and 9 in addiction recovery, I have long since accepted responsibility for my trespasses against those for whom I've harmed as a result of my previous behavior. I've ruined not only my own credit and credibility, but those who believed in me and my half-assed "business ideas", over-promising and under-delivering, leading to a cycle of chronic mutual disappointment.  I broke that cycle by reining in the ambition to a more manageable level, making more realistic choices about where to put my time, energy, stamina, and skills.  I have begun the process of atonement through refunding and reimbursing those who have suffered financial losses as a result of my mistakes.  I expect this process to take until May, where I can finally close that dark chapter of my life with a modicum of integrity restored.

      7. I have switched back to a diurnal sleep schedule, consistently waking during the day and sleeping at night. I've had to decline extra work at my job because of this, but sleep is one thing I have learned not to compromise on.  Sometimes I need assistance in falling asleep on time using melatonin or a couple shots of 100-proof philosophy, but for the most part I sleep better than ever; especially if I've been driving my physical body hard the day before.

      8. Speaking of shots, I've moderated my alcohol intake.  One thing I never shared here until now was that I had been sliding down that slippery slope, the one I managed to avoid until the last couple of years.  I used to average 2-3 bottles of vodka a month, which certainly didn't help.  Since I started the Adderall, I've totaled 3 bottles in the last six months, mostly in 2-shot increments just before bed, 2-3 times a week.  The mornings after I take those shots, I wake up even more refreshed and ready to take on the day.

      9: I owe a good portion of this recovery to my stable living situation and job I enjoy. I owe a debt of gratitude to my roomies and local friends for putting up with my crap while I got my shit together. I owe so much more to those who put up with me before I was able to get this far in my journey.

      10. It is because of these choices that I am experiencing a deep and abiding satisfaction in life I haven't had in years, not even while on the previous medication.  My emotional state can be considered stable and balanced, despite a couple of mood episodes over the last six months.  I am feeling a sense of dynamism that has me looking forward to and planning for the future in a way I have never done before.  I have a sense of determined optimism backed by honest reality, not pipe dreams and hairbrained schemes.

      I can see the top of the mountain from here. With a little more help, I can make it the rest of the way.

      So far, the view is FANTASTIC!
      Sunday, February 24th, 2013
      8:03 pm
      State of the Teddybear 2-24-13
      Shit's going great.
      Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
      12:31 pm
      Saturday, January 26th, 2013
      1:12 pm
      Job update
      Redux:  two years ago, as I was working for a hotel, I noticed an opportunity to create a shuttle service serving suburban Pittsburgh hotels going to and from downtown.  I've had this idea knocking around my noggin since then, even when I wasn't actively working on it.  Back in November, when I had to choose between two competing transportation services who wanted to hire me, I chose the one that I felt would offer the best chance to make this idea into a reality.

      Last month, I casually mentioned this idea to our sales manager, whose eyes lit up at my mention of it, so she asked for more info.  I'd typed up 8 pages of abstract and gave it to her two weeks ago, who then forwarded it to the company owner.  Yesterday, me and the head honcho had our first official meeting to discuss it.

      He likes it, hey Mikey!

      The good news is that he confirmed that it's a legitimate opportunity worthy of investing company resources, if nothing else just to see how much of an opportunity.  We both acknowledged that there are a lot of known (and unknown) unknowns, but he has the experience and resources to address them quickly.  As expected, he already has many of the professional relationships I sought in this idea, putting us way ahead of the game, rather than me starting from scratch.

      The bad news is that the vision we each have for our ventures may not be congruent.  He's dedicated ten years into what he has now, and my idea is an animal of a different stripe.  It may require a radical shift in his operations or large financial investment to fulfill this idea, which might be too much for either of us.  With our busy season approaching, the vehicles and drivers he has will already be booked solid throughout the spring and summer, so he'd have to add additional of both in order to make it happen.

      He also warned me about the level of dedication required to keep this going (duh).  He candidly told me that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't have opened the limo company he has today (I never told him why I quit carpentry, so I know the feeling).  It's taken so much of his life and sanity that he has nothing left for his family.  With that said, I have to make a choice about pursuing this, which is fraught with risk and stress, or simply backing away and becoming the best chauffeur I can be.  The second option is incredibly tempting, since it's the most stable, safest, and guaranteed best-paying option.

      I did notice a distinct shift in how he talks to me since I brought this to the table.  Up until recently, I had been regarded with suspicion by both he and some of the office staff.  As is my nature, I'd been asking too many questions.  This was an effort to execute my duties to the fullest, solve problems, and make sure my solutions don't run counter to solutions they may already be working on.  Communication and information, while critical in our business, is hit-or-miss in our operations, so I have to be proactive in getting the intel I need to do my job.  I've been told straight-up, "You don't need to know this, just do your job" (Natch, I need to know this so I CAN do my job!). People have noticed and were wondering why I was so curious about the "big picture".  Why was I asking about our booking and dispatch procedures?  Why did I write down the license numbers of our fleet in my notebook?   Now that I've had an opportunity to explain my reasoning, The Boss recognizes me as a not just a driver, but as a fellow entrepreneur, and explicitly offered himself up to the very mentorship I requested during our initial interview.  

      Ideally at this point, he'll offer me the guidance and direction I need to fill out this idea further, giving me homework and lend a bit of company credibility in gathering this information.  Hopefully, he'll let me work alongside the sales manager, confer with her on ideas that she's been working on, and we can work together as a team to see what we can do with this.  

      After two years of having this idea, just getting it to someone who might be able to do something about it is a HUGE relief.
      Sunday, January 20th, 2013
      8:19 am
      Well, so much for emotional mastery. Had my first mood episode since September. It only lasted a few hours but that was a few hours longer than it should have been. Ended up posting some harsh words on Twitter and alienating some of the people who helped me most. In the words of Alan Parsons Project: "There's always one more mountain left to climb". I've been going circles around this particular mountain for 20 years, one of these days I'll start climbing it.
      Thursday, January 17th, 2013
      1:23 am
      Job stuffs
      I feel like Alladin in that moment when he says "For once, things are starting to go my way", completely oblivious of the hands that were descending upon him as he uttered those fateful words.

      I'm settling in to the new gig pretty nicely.  It was a rocky start at first as I kept stumbling and feeling like I'd get fired at any second, but I caught on and settled into something of a routine, of sorts.  I really like the job and finally feel as if I've found my "place".  No resentment or feeling as if I've been bait-and-switched, the job is pretty much what I'd expected.

      Pay's gotten MUCH better with the holidays.  The only commodities I could offer the company were my time and enthusiasm, and so far it's paying off.  I'm matching what I earned during my better days at Super Shuttle almost half a decade ago, and this is still our "slow" season.  I still haven't even gotten into the stretches or buses yet, where the real money is.  A good portion of my upcoming earnings will be in refunding deposits for furniture I took last year that I won't be able to complete.  I expect to clear out that debt by the end of March.

      I tend to forget how many of the "little" things that make life more pleasant or easy get lost or forgotten during a lifestyle of austerity.  Take headphones, for example. It took me until tonight to buy a decent pair of headphones for my laptop.  Clothes, too.  I have nice clothes for the first time in my life, and feel positively fantastic when I wear them.  I'm taking care of myself in ways I never have before in personal grooming habits, hygiene, and dress.  That's all because I have a damn good reason to, now, I have a financial incentive to do so.  Mom always told me "When you look good, you feel good".  She was right.  I later turned that into "Confidence begets competence": not being worried about my hygiene or appearance allows me to focus on the job that much more.  I'm also keeping a written accounting of my cash flow in a way I never did before, what was a struggle before has almost become an imperative now.  I never HAD to give a shit to this level of detail before. 

      A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with our sales and marketing director about my suburban hotel shuttle idea from two years ago.  She was intrigued and asked me for more info.  I responded on Monday with a 6-page abstract including all the intel I'd originally gathered and updated with what I've learned since.

      Earlier today, the owner of the company calls me into his office and lets me know he likes my idea and wants to talk about it some more in the next couple of days.  What that conversation will entail remains to be seen, but it marks a critical step in getting this thing going.

      Normally, I wait until AFTER the conversation before posting, but things have been going so well lately, I thought it appropriate to spread a little non-angst, for once.  I've been experiencing a steady diet of overall satisfaction lately that's been a long time in coming. 

      I mentioned a while back that someone stole my smartphone.  I replaced it two weeks ago with the HTC Evo V through Virgin Mobile.  I knew there was a risk involved with a reputation of dropped signal and calls not going through, but I figured it worth taking the chance.  Well, I took the gamble andI lost.  My first day with the new phone, and my dispatcher couldn't even get through, my phone never rang.  After a couple of weeks of bitching and threatening to jump ship to Verizon, I managed to compensate for the phone/service shortcomings and it's become an indispensible tool in helping me do my job.  I'll still go to Verizon when I can afford it, but that's still weeks away.

      On a slightly negative note, my shop landlord and I agreed it was best that we part company without me finishing his storefront.  We simply don't see eye-to-eye on how to accomplish a common vision, and the relationship has turned toxic to the point of a mutually hostile working environment.  Despite my bitching, he DID do good things for me in the last couple of years, and I owe him a debt of gratitude as well as money for putting up with my bullshit as I crawled out of my psychological hole.  As a result, I'll be signing all of my tools over to him as partial compensation for what I owe him. The silver lining is that I am ethically and morally released of this obligation which makes one less loose end to tie up before moving on.

      Here's to hoping the good mojo keeps on trucking.
      Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
      4:42 am
      Pieces of the puzzle
      My mom used to really be into puzzles.  I helped her with a few of them and remember the spike of satisfaction I'd get when I found an important piece and connected other portions of the puzzle together.  The more pieces that came together, the more cohesive the picture.

      My quest for knowledge is kind of like that.  In all the books I read, the websites I watch, the TED talks I take in, the documentaries I download, the people I prattle with, I often find a nugget of information that is like a piece of my knowledge puzzle that connects other, larger ideas together.  I'll read a book that expands upon a concept I recognize from a newspaper article, or a random chat with a friend will connect with something I saw in a documentary years ago.  Sometimes I'll read objective confirmation of my independent, unvoiced observations; validation for life experiences that connects with me on a deep emotional level.  

      Each time this happens, I get a nice little reward in the form of a dopamine rush as the intellectual pieces snap together perfectly, offering a hint into the big picture of life.  Those pieces are what I call the "Aha!" moments.  And I've become addicted to them.  The process of learning has become so stimulating, so satisfying, that I seek out resources which will offer me more pieces to create and connect more ideas.  

      The problem with this self-appointed education is that it's so random.  I started this journey handicapped with so much that I didn't understand, it took this long just to build a decent foundation...a foundation I've had to rebuild twice.  There is virtually no linear learning process going on here; I'm more stumbling blindly into critical concepts that help me along in my journey.  Some of this content contradicts each other, so I have to think very carefully about what to accept and what to abort.  As I absorb information, more connections are being made through the various sources I subscribe to, making for more "Aha!" moments (and dopamine hits), more frequently.

      One of the greatest "Aha!" moments happened to me in October.  It is fundamentally important to me that I understand the elemental mechanics of human behavior.  Humans simultaneously fascinate and frustrate the hell out of me, so I'm deeply interested in not only what makes us tick, but the how the ticking parts go together.  

      My journey into emotional intelligence taught me that some of my chronic anger issues stem not from other people, but from my own failure to understand them.  I could not comprehend why people behave the way they do, an idea that extended to myself as much as it does to others.  I wasn't so much frustrated at others' views, opinions, paradigms and attitudes, but because I could not connect these things with any other of my knowledge puzzle pieces.  I kept putting the pieces they handed me into all the wrong places, constantly making snap judgments without allowing my mind the opportunity to digest and process the information.  I knew on a subconscious level that eventually it'll make sense to me, but fat lot of good it does u now while I'm blowing my top!  That's usually when people stop giving me any more puzzle pieces.

      As a result, my own ego and pride kept getting in the way, making it virtually impossible to truly objectively observe, and thereby change when needed, my own preconceived notions and attitudes.  While I excelled in meta-analysis of my own ticking, making the necessary changes to tick more efficiently was incredibly difficult.  I had put so much stock in what I thought I already knew, in my values and judgments, that it became a mountain of such wrongheadedness that I couldn't even see the peak.

      Realizing this problem in and of itself is what allowed me to conquer this very important mountain on my journey towards not just emotional intelligence, but emotional mastery.  I've finally locked down the habit of accepting things as they are, without judgment.  The innate need to draw instantaneous conclusions has dissipated, once and for all.  This is a concept that DBT therapy tried to teach me in late 2009, and I just couldn't "get it" because I was in a perpetual state of casting judgments upon everything I would experience.  That problem compromised my ability to adsorb and process the information I was always receiving, often putting puzzle pieces in wrong places.  This new paradigm makes the process of consuming and digesting information much faster and cleaner, without getting bogged down in premature conclusions clouded by a sensitive ego.

      I have observed how I, along with other people, have placed pieces in our personal puzzles, and the "interesting" images (conclusions) we come up with.  In many cases, we'll pick up the same piece, but place it in vastly different areas of our puzzles based on where we put all the other previous pieces we've collected throughout our lives.  It's one thing to pick up the puzzle pieces, but it's another to know where they go so one has a complete, clear, and objectively correct picture.  Sometimes, there are other people advising (or pressuring) us where to put it, or look at other people's puzzles to see where they put their pieces.  Our interdependent society means that we're often tasked with completing other people's puzzles; imagine if you not only put the piece in the wrong place, but have the wrong piece in the first place.  Sure, the pieces might fit, but what kind of jumbled and distorted picture will arise from incorrect placement of those pieces?  How will we even know that we have the right piece, much less put them in the right place, considering how the developing picture is different for each of us?  It's much, MUCH harder to remove a wrong piece (and the several around it) only to hunt around for its proper spot after a conclusion has been reached.  

      I remain vigilant that my own pieces don't end up in the wrong places; if they do, this new attitude makes it easier to remove and replace them with a minimum of mea culpa on my part.  For all I know, this whole tortured analogy should go back in the box and donated to the allegorical thrift store where ill-fitting metaphors are re-sold to the descriptively destitute.

      As "Aha!" moments have a tendency to lead to each other, a related important moment came not long after:  the realization and identification of my very first core principle: The exercise and spread of logic, reason, and rational thought.  Pretty ironic for an emotional powderkeg such as myself, no?  It's taken me almost two years to come to this point, but with it, I finally have a rea core can truly call my own. This will be one of the principles I default to for the remainder of my life, an unassailable rock in the oceans of uncertainty, helping me make wise and effective choices from everyday decisions to human interaction.  

      For many people, what I've described above comes naturally to them, developing an early ability to process and effectively interact with their environment.  Most of these people grow up to lead very successful and well-adjusted lives; ironically, one of the very behaviors that frustrated me for its mystery.  Others use these gifts for more...nefarious purposes, a type of ticking that better minds than mine have been tinkering with since the dawn of man.  I've known for years that I am very much behind the intellectual and psychological curve of my peers, only recently coming into ideas they've known since childhood.  On the other side of that transcendental token, I've also made observations that take longer to "mature" through experience and struggle.  Through this slow intellectual aging process comes a certain kind of strength behind the idea, a cerebral cruise liner as opposed to a scholastic speedboat.  In other words, being "slow" simply means I'm either searching for the right place to put my puzzle pieces, or re-configuring the whole damn puzzle, being much more deliberate in what I place where.  It might take me a while, but I stand a better chance of putting them in the correct place the first my mom would say: "I'm slow, but I'm good".  Even if I don't immediately understand something, I take genuine solace in the recognition that I'll one day stumble upon the puzzle piece that connects what I'm currently learning, offering that nice little "Aha!" moment I live for.  Some puzzles take a few minutes to put together.  Others, like the one I'm working on, take a lifetime, and will never be complete.

      All this leads into my New Year's Resolution for 2013:  I'm going back to school!  I've applied for admission to CCAC for some courses I'm interested in: namely psychology, logic, philosophy and language arts.  Some of it will be stuff I should have paid attention to in high school when I had the chance, but my issues prevented me from doing so.  I have a LOT of puzzle pieces that I've picked up over the years, so the time has come to guide and accelerate the process of putting them in the right places for effective living.

      In conclusion (finally) it was about this time a year ago that I designated 2012 as "The Year Of Recovery".  I can say that it's been an unequivocal success.  Since that's handled, I can now tag 2013 as The Year of Walking Tall.

      Tuesday, January 1st, 2013
      4:38 am
      Thursday, December 27th, 2012
      7:07 pm
      All I want for Christmas...







      Being in the service sector dealing with high-end clients, my dental health (or lack thereof) seriously compromised my confidence and ability to do my job (and my tips).  It was the single greatest thing holding me back in dealing with people, making me self-conscious about how I presented myself to the public.

      A few weeks ago, I placed an order with Temptooth to fill in the gap between my teeth.  The initial results were great, except the new "teeth" were too perfect compared to the rest of them.  While experimenting with the stated purpose of the product, I figured out a way to use the same process to make my own set of caps utilizing my carving skills.

      This is my first attempt, and while the results are obviously fake, I never intended to fool anyone with them, either.  They are only intended to be used a few minutes at a time during the critical face-time with a client, and only until I can afford genuine professional full oral replacement the tune of $6000.  Besides, anything is better than what I naturally have at this point.  I'll continue to fine-tune them as time goes on, but for now, it's a damn sight better than what I had before.

      I must confess that I while was expecting a boost in confidence, the truth is that it's such a quantum leap improvement that it literally throws me (and the roomates) off.  I'm curious to see how this will play out in real life.

      Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
      8:04 pm
      A question for the faithful
      A few weeks ago, cloudchaser_s asked why some Atheists tend to mock Christians.  It took me two weeks to come up with an answer in the form of three dozen GIFs harvested from Atheist Overdose, plus my own long-winded observations, spanning five or six LJ comments from the sheer amount of content.  The intent was to illustrate in pictoral form where the nonbeliever is coming from, and why we take issue with the faithful on principle.  Credit where credit is due, he replied respectfully and with grace, which is more than I can say for myself most of the time.*

      In the interest of fairness, I now turn it around and ask a question for the "other side" who may be reading this.  In reference to my own 7 Habits journey, recognizing how some books have a tendency to "connect" with a reader, I'd like to know what specific biblical passages have connected with any believers reading this.  I'm looking for entries that offered you perspective, changed your paradigm, "spoke" to you on a deep personal level, as well as the context surrounding that passage on why it connected with you. It can be one passage, it can be a hundred, or an entire chapter, whatever you feel like sharing.

      The purpose of this exercise is to toss the proverbial rope over that gaping philosophical chasm that has separated myself, the non-believer, from the faithful I consider friends and family.  If I can find one connection, something, anything that we can use as common ground, perhaps it will further our understanding of each other, and offer us (read: me) a measure of peace.

      *Only recently have I made the discovery of the difference between anger and hate; all my life I had the two confused!  Now that I've conquered that mountain, I can look back at previous encounters in a different light. I now recognize how most of my anger wasn't necessarily at the person or their argument, but frustration at my own inability to understand where they were coming from.  My mind works incredibly slow compared to the average person, taking days or weeks of intense concentration to connect what takes other people a few minutes of casual thought.  So in my impatience I end up making incorrect connections or assumptions before I give myself a chance to process the information.  This has led to even more misunderstandings and hurt feelings on both sides.  It's still a monumental effort on my end to just STFU and wait for my mind to catch up before responding, but I'm making progress.
      Thursday, December 6th, 2012
      6:34 am
      Not all self-help books are created equal
      In my quest for a self-guided education (until I can afford a real one), I come across books that I've heard about in the media that I think might help me in my journey.  With my personal success in the 7 Habits, I have a tendency to seek these kinds of books to better understand the things which I currently do not.

      In comes "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki.  This was something I'd heard about many times over the years, and picked it up at Half Price Books a few days ago.  Keenly aware that my financial aptitude leaves much to be desired (the first step to solving a problem...), I expected this book to offer some hardcore truths on what I habits and attitudes I can adopt that can help me become more financially sound.

      What I got was an education in bullshit. 

      The first two chapters didn't seem too bad, though I got the sense that the "Rich Dad" character was highly embellished at best, a complete fabrication at worst.  I was uncomfortable with the author's hyperfocus on making money just for the sake of making it, without even creating anything "useful" to humanity in the form of a product or service.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt and figured that his passion was in "the art of the deal".  I did not understand some of the jargon because I am not versed in real estate, stocks, and mutual funds, which the author loves; then come to find out some of that jargon itself was a complete fabrication as well.  

      Thankfully, I only invested a total of about five hours of my life reading this book, and one hour of internet research debunking it.  It wasn't a total loss, though, as I was still able to take away a few pointers here and there, nothing I didn't already know, though.  I wish I had read the Amazon reviews before I bought it, but I figure the debunking was an education in and of itself.  Good to know that my skeptical analysis is still alive and kicking.

      I have "The Millionaire Next Door" next on my list, which came highly recommended.  
      Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
      7:51 pm
      State of the teddybear 12-6-12
      The new job is going pretty good so far.  I wouldn't say I'm working a lot as opposed to waiting a lot.  Waiting is the name of the game in this business: waiting for flights, waiting for clients, waiting for traffic to clear up...

      For the time being, the company has me mostly on airport transfers, taking people and groups to and from the airport to and from homes and hotels, much like I did with Super Shuttle back in Boulder.  The pay for those particular runs isn't all that great, but it does afford me the opportunity to drive some pretty swank towncars and SUVs.  I never knew what it was like to drive a luxury towncar until now, and I must confess that I have been missing out (I'm starting to dread the end of shift where I go back to my beater of a truck). We have stretches and 21-passenger minibuses that they'll get me on pretty soon, put my CDL to some use.

      This is the slow season, things don't pick up until March.  This is a good thing, since it offers me a chance to get to know the place at a steady pace without being thrown to the sharks to sink or swim like at my last job.  The bad news is that we used to handle a lot of the local hockey talent, but with the lockout going on, we haven't had that business lately.  I came to find that we're in the midst of a company transition, hiring on new management and dispatch, so I come in at the start of a "refurbishing" of the company culture.

      I don't mind waiting either, because it gives me the chance to read a book, read a book, read a motherfucking book.  Not a sports page, or a magazine...  "Everyday Greatness" was truly inspiring, offering me real-life examples of how some of history's greatest people (and those history never noticed) overcame poverty, dysfunction, and disabilities to become excellent human beings.  It showed samples of honor, honesty, integrity, and keeping an open mind, heart, and soul.  I've already been able to utilize some of these lessons in recent days, continuing to look deep within myself for answers.  If they can do it, I can do it, too.

      One of my biggest challenges is my big mouth.  I'm very talkative, I love chatting with people.  Company policy is that we are not to speak unless spoken to, which helps.  Problem being, I have a tendency to talk too much or say the wrong thing in an effort to be witty or humorous.  This habit has caused me a lot of trouble in the past, and I am determined to change it into a habit of quiet contemplation.  As Proverbs 17:28 said:  "Even a fool, when holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding"  (AKA "Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt").

      On the downside, while I was picking up these titles at Half-Priced Books on McKnight, someone stole my smartphone.  I set it down on a pile of books so the screen could lock before I put it in my pocket.  By the time I turned around to pick it up, someone had swiped it.  landis_mclovin let me borrow his old phone so I could still keep in touch, but all my contacts never uploaded to Google like I expected, so I'm starting from scratch.  

      Speaking of which, time for me to get ready for tonight's shift.  
      Monday, November 26th, 2012
      2:55 am
      R.I.P. Stephen Covey
      I just scored a major victory in my search for inner peace and principle-centered living.

      Without going into details (please don't ask), something happened tonight.  For about 20 minutes, that something seriously bothered me, threatening to send me back into the pit of emotional dysfunction I worked so hard to break free of.  Then, after realizing what my center is, I calmed down and understood on a deep level that no matter what, I am responsible for my own destiny.  The resulting sense of peace and calm was absolutely beautiful.

      This is ironic in that I discovered just a few hours earlier that Stephen Covey, the man whose work has had such a profound impact upon my life, passed away earlier this July.  He was one of my "personal heroes", the man whose work rescued me from a life of dysfunctional thinking and living.  I was updating my Facebook when I found out he'd passed away, in the middle of my third reading of his "7 Habits" book.

      I find it interesting that his second habit: "Begin with the end in mind", illustrates the vision of how one wants their eulogy presented at their funeral.  If I had to present at his funeral, I would thank him for presenting to me a way of thinking and living that I already knew on a deep subconscious level, but decades of self-defeating thoughts and emotional baggage prevented me from realizing my true potential.  I am finally on my way towards becoming the human being, the man, that I knew I could be, thanks to his teachings.  

      I genuinely regret that I'll never get to shake his hand and thank him personally, or even take part in one of his presentations.  I know that my story is not unique, as numerous people through the years have benefited from his guidance.  I will be forever grateful to his legacy for pointing the way towards effective living.

      The best way for me to honor him is to live an effective life and share his teachings.  I was already in the process of putting together an Amazon shopping list, buying a stack of "7 Habits"  to hand out...with highlighters, no less.  Everyone I've given these out to comes away with something different, but everyone comes away with something.
      Saturday, November 24th, 2012
      12:56 pm
      Little bear that lost his way
      A few days ago, I experienced my most recent emotional meltdown as the result of a three-month long grudge held against a friend who said something hurtful.  Their one comment seemed to open some kind of cosmic floodgate of people acting in a disrespectful and dismissive manner against my deepest-held beliefs and life experiences.  

      I confess that the episode got to me, and I didn't handle it well.  I felt that people were "hating" for all the wrong reasons, getting entirely wrong ideas about who I am, my experiences, and my positions.  Nothing pissed me off more than being "dismissed".  But as most learning experiences can be painful (like putting your hand on a stove to know how it burns), a very important lesson came from it.

      I did my best to employ as many of the 7 Habits as I could, especially exercising empathy, changing my paradigm, listening, and reserving judgment in recognition that everyone fights their own battles.  That worked to a point, but there was still something missing, so the anger built up.

      As fate would have it, I stumbled upon my original copy of 7 Habits, buried in a drawer at the shop.  I've been through it twice already, and brought it home for a third reading.

      Turns out I had forgotten more than I had remembered.  Some of the passages were highlighted upon my previous reading, but the really important ones weren't.  I scanned the book looking for more lessons about inside-out, principle-centered living.

      Within a few pages, the anger broke, and I developed another, entirely new paradigm.  Suddenly, I understood where (most) of these people were coming from.  I realized how any further discussion or conversation with them would be pointless and a waste of both our time.  What I DID do was thank them for their participation, they gave me a lot to think about, and left it at that.  I no longer needed their approval of my existence.

      This is the kind of "mental judo" I've been waiting to take hold within me.  Instead of every verbal "strike" scoring a hit on my psyche, I have all new tools to parry those strikes and mentally sidestep them.  I finally understand on the deep emotional level the term "Haters gonna hate".  I have finally built myself up "inside" to the point where I no longer have to react to outside forces.  This frees me up to be more proactive (acting from the inside) instead of reactive (reacting to the outside), a habit I've made great strides with but still have a lot of work to do.

      Now to work on building my integrity and accountability through fulfilling my commitments, namely finishing off these projects that people have waited so long for.
      Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
      12:23 am
      Why I want to become a chauffeur
      As mentioned yesterday, I finally got a job at one of the limo companies I've been applying at since July.  Turns out they lost some management recently, which explains the lack of responses from my initial overtures.

      Anyway, I went for the physical today and they wasted no time getting me started.  I begin training tomorrow and they'll get me on the road on Saturday.  The backbone of their business is airport runs, which is old hat for a former airport shuttle driver. I assured them that once I complete my commitment with my current employer, I'll be available 24/7.  They assured me that they'll take me up on it and keep me rolling.

      If you had told me before the first week of May 2004 that I would actively seek to become a professional driver, I would have laughed in your face.  At the time, I was a soundman for a nightclub, but the gigs were dying down.  I got the job at Super Shuttle on the recommendation of a nightclub customer, figuring it would be a temp job until I hit the road for a winter roadtrip.

      Instead, I discover that I have quite the knack for it, and end up working for Super Shuttle for 4 years,  I enjoy the people and the money was the best I'd ever made.  I went as far as starting up my own gypsy limovan in Boulder, and getting my CDL through the company.  The whole time, I'm keeping my eyes and ears open for opportunities.

      Once the economy tanked and I was laid off, the move to Cleveland ensued, then moved the Da Burgh in 2009.  I've kept my CDL "just in case".  It was one of the smartest moves I ever made, because that was what got me the limo job.  Not a lot of people have the experience or gumption for this industry, so they responded favorably to my enthusiasm with a job offer.

      Sure, a chauffeur isn't the most glamorous of jobs, but the starting salary for a full-time driver in Pittsburgh is about $32k (my goal is $50k my first year), and sky's-the-limit potential for those with an ambitious streak like me.  A "connected" independent sedan operator can gross $100k or more without even trying.  I want to run my own party bus some day, flitting from suburban hotels to city center for games, barhopping, and casinos.  There is so much open market in the areas I've looked in to, it's killing me that they go unfulfilled.  It'll kill me even more if someone else recognizes it and strikes before I have the resources to fulfill it myself.

      On a personal level, this job allows me to associate with the types of people I need to associate with to become successful myself, adopting their habits and making connections.  I have yet to find a "mentor" to help me continue my 7 Habits journey toward becoming an effective person.  My expectation is just by being in the same vehicle as some of the most successful and effective people in Pittsburgh, I can pick a brain or three along the way.

      I have ideas in transportation that I am itching to explore, and this job offers me just the right resources to see if they have merit or if I'm barking up the wrong tree.  I have an optimism tempered with the caution of experience; I've been in this position before and I don't want to be saying "I hate this job!" a month from now.  

      I am encouraged to discover that even after all I've been through, the fire is still there, a raging inferno of white-hot ambition that just needed a little breeze of hope to get that spark going again,  I fully expect this to be the right place to guide that fire in the right direction.
      Monday, November 19th, 2012
      3:25 pm
      It's going to be a good Christmas this year
      I am now the newest driver for one of Pittsburgh's premier limo companies.  
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