Thursday, March 19, 2015

Winds With Hands

I've been incredibly busy with work and exhausted afterwards for weeks now. Same shit, really. Wake up, go to work, argue, get stressed, come back to the motel. It's basically been Groundhog Day for awhile. No Andy McDowell to keep me company at nights though. Which is a shame. I always thought she was pretty.

I took two vacation days a couple of weeks ago to finally go and see Sarah McLachlan and it was well worth the wait. The last concert I'd been to was Iron Maiden and MegadetH and the line to get in was fucking massive 3 hours before the doors opened and there was nowhere to park within 6 blocks. So I thought I'd nip that shit in the bud this time and take a full day to grab a parking spot close and just wander 'round the city (Tulsa) which I'd never got to explore any when I was working there for a few weeks last summer. The architecture is astounding, but the people are rude and not so patient with tourists. At this point I'm confident in saying the whole state is like that.

There was a jazz museum about two blocks away from the venue which was awesome. It's not my favorite genre and I don't know who any jazz musicians are but I am a musician so it was still entertaining for me. I tried to get in on a live book reading (no idea who the author was. I just wanted to check one out) that was going on but tickets were almost as much as my Sarah ticket set me back. I don't give a shit who you are or what book you wrote, you reading it aloud is not worth more than $10 to see. Tops.

After that it was just walking around for about two hours, wandering in to various themed bars and checking them out. There was one called "The Max" which is an homage to the 80's, and pretty fun. Didn't have any beer, but there was good food and music.

Wandered down to the venue about 3 hours before the doors opened expecting the same mind numbing line I'd experienced at Maiden and MegadetH and it was vacant. For two hours I was the only person there waiting and twice I was asked to leave because venue security thought I was a scalper. And when people did show up it was quite a change. Suits everywhere, lovely smelling pretty ladies, and the most respectful crowd I've ever been in. Everyone was polite. And mostly everyone I talked to ended up also being a musician. So for the first time in my life I was able to talk about the musicianship side of Sarah's music with people that got it. It was wonderful.

The show itself was stellar. When the lights went down there was no intro tape. She just walked out, said: "Hi, I'm Sarah and we're gonna play some music for you tonight." and immediately went into the first song. The setlist was very heavy on 'Shine On', 'Surfacing', and 'Fumbling Towards Ecstasy'. There was no material from 'Laws Of Illusion' which I found surprising. It's a great record. But I'm not going to lie, I didn't like 'Shine On' until I heard well over half of those songs live. It's one of my favorites from her now. She didn't play "Ice" or "Black & White" though, which was pretty disappointing. But it was still a great show and she and her backing band sounded spectacular. Everyone should see her live at least once. It was one of the best nights of my life, and I could go on and on about it. I really hope she does a live record from this tour. She's due for another one of those.

And then the next day was spent recovering from being up until after midnight which I'd not done in a long time.
I'm going home next weekend, which as always I'm looking forward to immensely. I miss my dog and I could use a break. I get 4 days this time which isn't helping me with trying to keep my mind down here and on my job this week.

A couple of Sarah photos. I only took 3 of the actual show as it just didn't feel right interrupting that show with a flash...

The couch on the far left is where she let's 4 fans sit for a little bit during each show. She picks them out of the audience and brings them onstage and spends about 10-15 minutes answering questions and taking photos with them. Very cool of her to do. And she'll answer any question. And when she talks to them, she talks "normal" to them, not down to them or "I'm just talking to you because I have to". No attitude at all. A very personal person. Again, very cool. And she said "Fuck" 7 times which was also cool. She's only said that once that I'd heard before and that was in the lyrics to "Building A Mystery". It seemed so unusual to some people (myself included) to hear her say it a woman sitting two seats down from me actually gasped each time she said it. I found it comforting to know she's normal and doesn't think of or present herself as otherwise.

And three more since I'm in a photo mood. Here's my dog with his best friend at the dogsitter's house. Don't tell the other dogs...


Some wall art in the streets of Tulsa...

And a new personal best which I achieved a couple of months ago. (I'm getting to another "Ashes & Ghosts" type entry soon, I promise)...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I Don't Mind The Pain

Been listening to a lot of Type O Negative these last few days and really missing the Hell out of Peter Steele. You can say whatever you want to about his appearance, and occasional run ins with the law, but he was a true talent that had an otherworldly charisma. Very few vocalist catch my attention by just singing one word, and Peter was able to do that. One of a kind voice, brilliant composer, and phenomenal musician. I'd have loved to have heard a Type O record that was written when he was 100% clean and sober. And yes, I'm aware he was clean and sober when he died, and I'm very proud of him for that, but we never got to hear his mind at work with the "clarity". It's a shame he's gone but I'm glad it was due to natural causes and not another Layne Staley case. Or worse.

I've also been listening to loads of Danzig as well and there's another sad story. But for very different reasons. The lineup on those first 4 records was so solid it just kills me to think of what they could have accomplished together if Glenn hadn't got caught up in the "evil disco" of '5: Blackacidevil'. It's a decent record, but it's not very Danzig at all. I can think of 3 tracks off of it that come close to sounding like Danzig, and one of them is a cover song ("Hand Of Doom"), one is a remix of a track the 1-4 lineup recorded ("Deeper"), and one just isn't Danzig-ish at all musically but lyrically is the closest ("Power Of Darkness"). Ugh. When our favorite artists drift too far from their origins it can just be... awkward sometimes. I'm all for creativity and experimentation and evolving as an artist, don't get me wrong, but sometimes as a fan you just go: "What... the Hell?". I'm glad Glenn was able to strike a perfect balance on "666: Satan's Child". That's a killer record. Probably the best after the firing of John Christ, Chuck Biscuits, & Eerie Von.

'Death Red Sabaoth' is great as well, but '666' just stands out for some reason. I suppose 'Death Red' is the closest to the Danzig mk.1 lineup material out of all post material. It sounds vintage, the drumming (done by Glenn himself) is swingy yet pounding, and lyrically it really does feel like and old 70's rock and blues album sprinkled with a touch of Satan by the Left Hand Black. Great stuff. And Glenn's voice is in great shape again on it, which is, well, great. It must have been shitty to have one of the best and most distinctive voices in Heavy Metal and have to distort it so much with sound effects just to sound decent for so long.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crawl Across Your Killing Floor

Made it home around 3 in the afternoon on Friday and instantly went on the hunt for a few hardware chains that are not in the area in which I'm working. These places are always stocked up with batteries for my drills and whatnot except for when I'm actually looking to buy some. I had planned on getting 4, I walked out with 1. "Fortune favors the brave" or something like that I suppose. Should've got 'em when I'd had the chance months ago. Ah well. Another shopping trip to look forward to on my next trek back home in April.

I spent a lot of time evaluating the wreckage of my past and the people I (sometimes) currently associate with. It was depressing as Hell. I find myself very bitter about where I am with my relationships with various people. It takes a certain kind of person to accommodate and accept and deal with someone that has a lifestyle like I currently have and I don't know many. The old saying "Out of sight, out of mind" really does apply to people sometimes. I find myself being that with most everyone back home. To say things are strained with certain people may be the perfect description or may not be close enough. I can't say for sure anymore.

I have been fortunate enough to have met some of the most amazing people the world has produced. I've been friends with hem, I've slept with them, and I've been in romantic relationships with them. And now 80% of them are gone from my life. Some by choice, others by circumstance, and others for reasons I still don't (and probably never will) know. I'm trying to build a better financially stable life for myself doing what I do. Nothing more, nothing less. I seek no rewards other than the means to survive. And it seems that has come with a price that I never anticipated and that bothers me a lot.

Were they all fair-weather? Maybe. Could I have prevented some of the alienation? I'm sure, if I'd thought or known it was going to happen. It's all uncomfortable thoughts when I examine it all.

I was lucky enough to spend Valentine's Day night with an old friend. It wasn't planned it just kind of happened. We talked, laughed, and just hung out for a couple of hours. There was nothing "romantic" or even sexual about it (I say that because it was Valentine's Day and I know how it could be interpreted.), just "normal". It was wonderful. For three hours I felt like I was actually living a life again and not just going through motions trying to "earn" one. I had it. And much like a heavy fog it was gone when the sun came out. But the memory will last, and I'm happy it happened.

One of these days my traveling journey will end. And I am going to live a normal life. And tomorrow I will wake up in a better mood and in good spirits with my sense of humor back on track. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Baby Wants...

Getting ready to pack my bags up and go home tomorrow morning for the weekend. I'd have gone ahead and left tonight but I'm exhausted and my night vision isn't the best. I wake up every morning at 4:00a.m., and if I'd left for home right after clocking out today I might have made it by midnight. It would've been nice to wake up in my own bed tomorrow, but it's just not worth the risk. While it's been sunny and no lower than 60 degrees the last few weeks here it's been freezing cold back home with snow and ice. I just don't feel like hitting a patch of black ice in the middle of nowhere and getting stranded. Or worse.

And I'm ready for the trek. I've been fighting almost every day with co-workers and bosses for almost two weeks now. From something as stupid as someone borrowing my tools and not telling me they had them (leaving me to think $500 worth of tools had been stolen for two days and being pissed off about it before they told me: "Oh, we've got those over here. You need 'em back?") to defending co-workers against higher ups and every-fucking-thing in between, it's been a shit sandwich. So I just need to get the Hell away and relax for a couple of days. I get myself worked up just thinking back on it all...

I've no idea what I'll be doing. I wasn't supposed to go home again until March, but yesterday I decided I just have to for a tiny bit of peace of mind. So it's not like the weekend is planned, other than picking up the dog and spending a day with him.  I suppose I'll just wander around town for the first afternoon I'm home and get re-acclimated with the place and try to remember what it's like to be and how to behave around "normal" people.

And Valentine's Day is this weekend, so that means I'll have to once again not give a shit about a holiday since it's just another day for me. Fantastic day if you're in a relationship, but I'm not so I find it annoying seeing little rose bouquets and heart candies everywhere. I'm not bitter or lonely, it just gets on my nerves for some reason I haven't figured out yet. Just like when I see Christmas decorations going up for sale in October.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Do You Wear The Mark?

I spent the last few days lying in bed fighting some nasty illness that absolutely knocked me on my ass and made me miss work for the first time in 3 years due to illness. I'm not sure what it was, but my body ached constantly and I was sweating all the time, and I swear one night I saw the Grim Reaper at the foot of the bed pointing at me right before I fell asleep. Well, he could've been asking me where I got my neck pillow I suppose. Maybe I just didn't hear him ask.

It was pretty rough though, and right when I cracked and was going to see a doctor and get some sort of prescription, it vanished. 4 days of torment gone within an instant. It reminded me of the end of a "relationship" I was in once. What a relief. I refuse to visit a doctor and pay loads of money for a prescription that has an over-the-counter equivalent. I can't even stand the idea of it. And usually I soldier on through sicknesses and go to work and make all of my co-workers happy by sharing my suffering with them and then passing it on to them. I don't know how many times I've gone to work with strep throat (and if you've had it, you know how comfortable that sickness is and how it makes you so happy to be around other people) and the flu, but this bug just got me.

So it was bed for me for 4 days. Getting up only to use the bathroom, make some soup, and soak in a hot bath. And this brought me the chance to catch up on and learn about the current state of television. Fucking. Dreadful. There's cable here and even with that I couldn't find one show on before 4p.m. that didn't make me feel like an idiot for watching it. So I bounced back and forth between tv and 'Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker' which was loads of fun but a bit confusing for me in my (legally) medically inebriated state of mind. That's another thing I learned: If medicine says it's "Daytime safe", bet your ass I'll be un-suitable to operate heavy machinery or even walk within two hours of taking it. I tried two different kinds and both of them had me singing the theme to "Bonanza" and feeling like Afro-Man in his heyday.   

Monday, January 26, 2015

All Outta Nothin'

Today was my trip to the company recommended Doctor's Office, and I've never been so pissed off and felt so disrespected before. To start off with, the Company seemed shocked when I told them I was going and was needing the address, despite me telling them on Friday I would be going. So after an hour and a half of our Safety representative scrambling on the phone to get the address, we were off. We drove by the place 4 times looking for it due to it not being a hospital, but a very small, teeny tiny little corner lot building that specializes in urine testing for drugs. This didn't really sit well with me at all. After all, I was going in for x-rays, not a piss test.

So we go in, and there's a line of about 25 people crammed into a waiting room that's maybe big enough to hold 7 people, tops. Everyone is there to pee in a cup, except for me. I get in line, stand for 30 minutes, then get some forms to fill out which took maybe 5 minutes to do. Then we sat and waited. And waited. And waited. Now before we'd left work, I'd not used a bathroom in expectation of having to pee in a cup myself due to me being there for a work related injury. When the time between standing in line and waiting for a doctor or nurse to pop out and call my name added up to an hour, I couldn't wait anymore. So I went up to the receptionist and asked: "I know I'm probably going to have to give a urine sample, but I really need to use the bathroom. Where is it?". She then asked who I was again and what I was there for, then after being told said: "Ah, no need for a sample. Here you go.". She then handed me a key on a very long, fairly round stick like a gas station attendant would give you when the bathroom is on the outside of the building. "Don't give it to anyone else when you're done, I need it right back." she said. I looked around the waiting room and didn't see a bathroom sign on or above any door. "Ok, where is it?" I asked.

She then pointed to a very small, very narrow door on a wall that looked like a broom closet door. "Right there." she said. Fucks sake, what kind of medical facility does that? Why do they need a key on a heavy bulky lanyard type object? Why not just make it a wheel rim and fully embrace the silliness of it? So I went. And thankfully it was clean. Another 20 minutes and a nurse called my name. We got up, went into an office, and the first thing I saw was the exact same type of computer I had back in '98. Nurse checks blood pressure, gets height and weight, says "Doctor will be in shortly", then leaves. At this point I'm just in shock. This is a very low-tech, seemingly behind the times technologically medical facility, and this is the place my company sends all of their hurt/injured employees to get checked out.

Then the doctor comes in. Now let me preface this with a disclaimer: I have no objections to people from foreign lands coming over to North America to work. At all. I've worked with several and have not had any reason to dislike any of them. But with that being said, I do believe that if you're in a line of work where communication is crucial and key, you need to be able to speak the native language or find one you've in common with whoever it is you're trying to speak with. This Doctor did not understand a word I said, and vice versa. I've no idea what country is his homeland, I'd never heard the accent.

The only way I could get him to understand why I was there was through a combination of acting it all out, and speaking very slowly. After a few minutes of this game of charades and him poking and prodding my shoulder he said: "You want an x-ray?". Yes, I do as a matter of fact. So I was handed off to a nurse where I was taken to a room where they did x-rays. In it was a machine that looked like it was from the set of "St. Elsewhere", no lead bib or apron of any kind, and no wall for the nurse to stand behind. She positioned me in front of the machine, where a crosshair of light showed me what area the x-ray was going to be of. It was off by about 5 inches. I told her that. Her response? "Oh, it'll show up, hun. It's a wide picture." "But it's not even close to the area I need looked at," I said, pointing out where I needed it and saying: "Right here."

"Sweetie, it'll get it. Trust me." Then she backed up against the far wall, and the machine did it's thing. Then I was repositioned at an angle, with my arm outstretched so the joint could be X-Rayed. It was in the right area this time, and I told her so. "That first one will show up. Promise.". She took another, again just backing up against the far wall and not actually getting behind a wall of any kind, and it was done. So after a minute of waiting, the pictures were ready to look at. We get taken in to the "Doctor"s office, where he then puts the x-rays on the lighted board. Then he proceeded to talk to me about what was up there with the door wide open and people walking by in the hallway. I was the one that closed it. And wouldn't you know it? The first x-ray the nurse took didn't even show the area I was there to have looked at. It showed half of my rib cage and 1/4 of my shoulder. What. The. FUCK? Then he went on to talk about how he didn't see anything of any concern in it, and everything looked alright. Well, no shit. I told him: "That's not the right area." He then pointed at a 100% black area of the picture and said: "That area is here. I can see it. It's fine.".

Now I know that when you do a certain task for a long period of time you begin to see and notice things about it the untrained eye will not. But I have yet met anyone who can look at a pitch black picture and see right away what it is underneath. Then he put the 2nd one up, and it was a perfect x-ray of the affected area. And, to my complete surprise, there was nothing out of the ordinary on it. Nothing I saw, anyways. I'm not an x-ray or bone expert, but I was nose close to it and I didn't see anything. He again said: "There's nothing there.". So I nodded, accepting it and feeling a lot more comfortable after seeing a much better x-ray, and asked: "So what was the popping, and why did it hurt so bad?". And I was ok at this point. I was relieved and comfortable. And then he answered with: "The popping was probably your muscle.". Wait, WHAT?!

So I called him on it. "How the fuck does a muscle make a popping sound?!". He gave me a line about "If it's swelled up it'll put pressure on the bones". Ok, so the bones popped because of the swelled muscle? "No, it was the muscle." he said again. "Then I want an MRI." I said. He shook his head very slowly and said: "Your company gets very upset with me if I send people for an MRI, especially if it turns out there's nothing there that's problematic. MRI's are very expensive." and it all made sense with those two sentences. I knew exactly why they sent me, and send many others, there. He is, for lack of a better description, on the take. He works for them. And he does what they want him to when it comes to their employees. And I was ready to leave immediately. I can't begin to explain just how shocked I was, and still am, over it.

So what was his recommendation? "Give it a couple of weeks, and if it bothers you still, come back and we go for MRI.". And our Safety representative, who is new with the company, seemed just as shocked as I was. "No light duty or lost time?" I asked. "Light duty if you want, no lost time. I leave the duty load scale to you. I don't know what you do, so I can't advise on that. But no lost time. Ice pack, aspirin, and rest at night. Take it easy. In two weeks, we go from there.". 

It fucking blows my mind just thinking back on it. It just blows my fucking mind. So I went back to work, where I took it easy, and spent the rest of the day trying to decide what to do. And I honestly haven't come up with anything. A second opinion, for sure. Absolutely on that. But as far as my employer and I's working relationship? I don't know. To send people hurt to a place like that, with a "Doctor" like that is just... wrong. No bones about it, I feel disgusted working for them now. And I'm very heavily considering breaching my contract with them and somehow coming up with a few thousand dollars to pa them to get the fuck away from them.

It's sickening. If I'd have had any idea that that's how they treat their hurt employees, I'd have never signed on in the first place. It's no wonder why people who've been with them longer than I have work through injuries and just deal with them. Because at the end of the day, no matter what you say to them or if you seek treatment, you're either going to end up doing it anyways, or you're going to look for a new job.

I've no idea what to do. The paycheck is decent, but it's not going to keep me on to wreck my body beyond repair, and it's not going to make me compromise my beliefs in what's really important in life and what life's priorities should be.

But at this time I have no other job lined up, and I'm not about to leave without having one secured. I've done that, and it was not worth it. Jobs, for someone as "uneducated" as myself, are not easy to come by, and I have bills to pay. Food for thought, for sure.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cry For Me, Sky

I'm excited to finally be going to the doctor this upcoming week to finally get my shoulder looked at. It hasn't been unbearable but it hasn't been pleasant. Yesterday and today it popped twice right in the socket area and both times the pops hurt like Hell. Something is not right, and I seem to have finally convinced my employer of that. It's dangerous water you tread in sometimes when you're hurt. Not speaking of the actual physical damage done and working with it, but the implications it can have.

When it's an on the job injury, employers get scared. They worry about the costs to insurance, and a lost time incident can be damaging to a companies reputation. This never puts the injured person in a comfortable spot. On the one hand, you've bills to pay and should it come to missing work, unemployment only pays so much. The other hand is you have the Corporate Tinkerers breathing down your neck about how it can harm the company financially and "Could you please just give it a couple of days before we take such steps? It might get better.". You can either listen to them and work hurt, and if it's nothing serious you'll pull through in time, or you can go get checked out and possibly put a target on your back for the higher ups to look at. My employer is no different then any other: it's all about profit. And when medical bills come in, profit can shrink. And when a company has a track record of injured employees, job opportunities for the company can be lost which shrinks profit even more. Hence the potential for a bullseye on a persons back. It has happened, and it does happen.

Right now though I'm not sure what will happen. I just know I'm getting checked out, and I'm very pissed off it took a few days to get my company to go along with it. I do worry about being a target, because I am no one of importance in my company. I'm not a boss, I'm a grunt. I am, for lack of a better description, expendable in the eyes of those who sit in offices and know nothing about me other than what they read in a file. It's not a comfortable position, but I'm taking care of me. If my company takes offense to that and wants to get rid of me for it... things could get interesting.

At this point I honestly do not know what to expect. I just know that something is wrong in my left shoulder and I want it fixed so the constant ache and the painful pops will stop. Ice packs and pills only help so much.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Catch The Rainbow

Went back to work today since my shoulder was feeling much better after a day of ice, pills, chain smoking, and 'Metal Gear Solid 3'. Who needs a doctor when you've got those 4 things? You shouldn't trust those hoodoo voodoo folk anyways. "X-Rays? What is this sorcery you speak of?"...

I actually did try to go to a doctor yesterday, but I couldn't get ahold of anyone from my company for proper documentation of it being an on the job accident, thereby qualifying me for Workers' Comp, and none of them would accept my insurance. Shoulder held up alright today though, up until the end when I was packing my tools up for the night. They're not particularly heavy, but when you have to walk half a mile with them they do wear on you. I was swearing the person who stole our tool buggy.

Most of the day was spent working with and getting to know one of my co-workers, which was a joy. He's a very funny guy who happens to love a lot of the same bands I do. I can count on one hand now how many people I've met who liked Pelican before I gave them a disc to listen to. It was very cool to shoot the shit about Iron Maiden, Pelican, and Dokken. Say what you want about the lyrical content of Dokken, but Don Dokken can fucking play. "Tooth & Nail" still kicks ass and holds up. Must admit I've not heard much beyond whatever record that song was on. They're a band for me that when I hear them I know it's them, but I can't name most of their song or record titles.

I was looking forward to picking up the 'Resident Evil 1' HD "remake" after work today, but I couldn't find it. The two gentlemen at GameStop that I asked about it had no clue what I was talking about. "Maybe it's download only, we've never heard of it before you asked." one said in a snarky tone. Motherfucker, turn on your computer and look. Don't talk to and treat me like I'm making shit up because you're too lazy to actually look for it, and you're the one with the job that I would think requires you to keep up with what games are coming out and when they come out. It's really not a big deal, since I've still a bit to go on 'MGS3' (should be finishing up tonight if all goes according to plan), and it is just a game, so I didn't want to be overly dramatic about it. But it was also a shitty way to talk to a person who's in their shop once every two weeks or so actually buying their stock. Of which their is shit to select from usually. Fucks sake, I miss the stores and clerks back home. Better selection, better prices, and much better service.

So the new plan is to stop in after work tomorrow and talk to a different clerk about ordering it. It's been a few years since I've almost made a Jill Sandwich, and I could go for another attempt. And, hopefully, it'll be just as good as the older ones are and not dumbed down like 'Resi 5' and onward. But it's a remake of a remake made in 2002, so fingers crossed not too much was changed.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Workin' Them Angels

Spent all day with an ice pack, a bottle of pills, and 'Metal Gear Solid 3' as I'm trying to recover from another injury. It's nothing serious, just a very sore and very painful shoulder. No broken bones, no dislocation, no ruptured disc, just sore muscles. When I got into this line of work almost 4 years ago now, I promised myself I was going to come home in the same shape I left in. I was not going to be one of those guys who destroys his body intentionally or unintentionally just to do a job. Now almost 4 years later I've had 2 accidents within 3 months. Karma, perhaps. Or luck running out on me, as I have had several close calls before. Either way it's not setting well with me. I want to be able to function fully and without issue in my years ahead. Everything I work for is no good to me if I'm unable to enjoy it. But that's just my opinion.

Some people are fearless and can jump in to a hazardous situation without question for their own or others' safety. I can't do that. I have to take a moment and evaluate everything. And up until the last few months it's worked out alright for me. I took a lot of pride in my safety record, and no one besides myself has ever been hurt because of anything I've done, which I'm still very proud of. This is speaking of my professional life, not personal, mind you. I've just as many ghosts following me around as the next person. No one is truly innocent, and I'm not about to try and fool myself or anyone else that I am. I could have handled a couple of relationships differently and not hurt a few peoples feelings, but it's how we learn what to and what not to do in a relationship. You've got to have that trial and error.

Anyways, a boring day that has left me ready to go back to work tomorrow.

'MGS3' has been fun, as always. But much like 'MGS4', it's also been a bitch as well. Not nearly as bad, but I'll dig in to it sometime soon. Slightly frustrating, but satisfying at the same time. Fantastic game. Absolutely one of the best from the PS2.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

If You Squeeze My Lizard...

I've been in the mood for some Slayer but forgot to throw some on my MP3 player last time I was home. I haven't heard 'Seasons In The Abyss' start to finish in a fear years and have really been wanting to revisit that album. And there's no record stores around here so I can't just pop down the road and pick up a new copy. Damn my memory, it always screws me over. I've got only a handful of Slayer songs in the car because I'm just not as into them as I used to be. The older records are still great, but their new stuff just doesn't do anything for me. And on the new track "Implode", it sounds like Tom Araya is just sort of going through the motions. Which is understandable, I'm not sure of his age exactly, but I'm sure it's over 45. I'd think eventually you'd get to a point where you're just... there. Everything in life gets jaded at some point, and I'm sure screaming at the top of your lungs about demons, the devil, and the ugly side of Humanity is no exception, even if it is true (well, the ugly side of humanity, at least.).

Nice to hear Paul Bostaph again though. I always thought he was a good drummer, even if Lombardo is the one true drummer for Slayer. I've a cousin who went to high school with Bostaph. He showed me a yearbook once, and Bostaph looked awkward and out of place in photos of him in groups of people. So in that sense, he fits the Slayer vibe totally.

I've been spending a lot of time with 'Metal Gear Solid 4' lately, having started my first playthrough of it last weekend. It's a good game, but it's been a thorn in my side for reasons I'm sure I'll explain at some point. I'll just say for now its on the backburner for a bit, with some trophy hunting in 'Metal Gear Solid 3' on the agenda starting in a few hours or so, possibly tomorrow morning. I'm looking forward to that. It's such a well made game it never gets old. But I've never re-played it right after finishing it before, so maybe it gets old. I usually end up spacing playthroughs of it out by 4 months or so. It's not a schedule or anything, it usually just ends up happening that way.

Pretty similar to my revisits of 'GTA: San Andreas'. I'll usually knock that out twice a year, sometimes three times. It's been awhile since I've played. As of this writing, close to a year. I've been looking for it on the PlayStation Store so I can give it more than one weekend once every three months on my PS2 at home but haven't seen it, which is odd given that it's the most popular of them. 'GTA 5' may have sold a million copies on day 1, but tit wouldn't have happened without people looking forward to going back to Los Santos thanks to 'San Andreas'.

I still need to finish 'GTA 5' as well. I really should work on my "Need to finish" list at some point. 'Doom 3', 'Duke Nukem Forever', 'BioShock', 'The Last Of Us', and 'Beyond: Two Souls' currently reside there. And now, Metal Gear Solid 4' does as well. It always seems to keep growing.

And I've still yet to play "Assassin's Creed 1", despite owning it for six months now. Must check that one out sometime, I hear good things about it...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

...I'll Put The Snake On You!

And we're off to another fantastic week of enduring below 20 degree days and getting into fights with other trades and even other crews from my company. Arguments with other trades is a given. It's going to happen. Everyone has a job to do, and all of our jobs are more important than anyone else's, so if I've set up shop in a particular area and got their first, hell no I'm not packing up and moving along just so you can pop in and do something that you can do another day. I've got one chance to get in this area and get shit done, now go away. And I don't give a fuck if your company has a fancy logo and spiffy green hardhats or not. You feel mean and selfish taking that route, but you have to sometimes. You just have to. You can not be a nice person 100% of the time and expect to maintain a career. It's perfectly fine to respect others and be nice to them, but if they're screwing you over, you've got to take a stand. Your boss will not accept: "But he said he'd buy my lunch if I packed up and moved along, and he's a nice guy so I agreed." as an excuse as to why your work is not done when it's supposed to be.

And the same goes for people within the same company. In my company, they will screw you over to advance their own personal and professional gain. Every crew is out for their selves, even though we're on the same team. I'm lucky to be in the Outcast group. Typically, the crew who gets all the outdoors work is thought of and treated as the Black Sheep of the company. It's a shit gig that no one wants due to working directly in the elements, and so they put "the bottom of the barrel" on it. I use quotes on that because they never know if you are or aren't. 95% of the time you work for people who've never met you and know nothing about what you're capable of. They look at the safety track record, the attendance record, and how much you make an hour. That determines where you get put. And for the record, neither myself nor anyone else on my crew would be on the job we're on if we even had one tiny blemish on the attendance record.

So we all know this. We've all been around the block enough to not blind ourselves with an illusion of appreciation. And because of this, we don't go against each other, and we damn sure don't take shit from any other crews. So when a supervisor from another crew calls us over the radio to inform us that he knows which one of us "morons" messed up on something (which was not true, by the way. The accuser was not properly informed of a situation that was none of his business as it did not pertain to his crew.) and then names the individual, not even knowing who he is, we take it personal. Everyone is on the same radio channel, so everyone can keep in touch and know what's going on should an emergency come up. So when one of our most reliable, hard working and honest guys gets called a "moron" and a "jackass" for all the site to hear, yeah, shit starts to fly. And tempers flare, and next thing you know, there's a standoff in the lunch tent straight out of "West Side Story" or some shit. Fists don't fly, but it's close.

One of their guys calls one of our guys a name, we stand up for him, and it escalates. Next thing you know, you've just pissed off half of the crews from your own company and know they'll be looking at ways to fuck with you to "get even" and "re-cement" their spot on the food chain. And when you've done time with some of these guys and know what it is they'll most likely be doing, you don't give a fuck.

I try not to start problems, and I try to stay out of them. But sometimes, when you've been freezing cold for days in a row, and you're coming down ill (which I am), you've been working an exhausting work schedule for months, and you really fucking hate the state you're stuck in because of the crazy bi-polar weather, you get to a point where you've had enough. I'm not trying to justify anything, I'm just saying.

I've always believed in standing up for myself, in the workplace and outside of it. In the workplace, in my environment at least, let them kick you around once and they'll do it for your whole career. Fuck. That. And same goes for any crew I work with. When I'm on a crew 2 things are always there: 1) I'm looking out for their safety just as I want them to look out for mine, and 2) We're all in it together. You're going to have the ones that get on your nerves, and the ones that even piss you off just by the way they drink their coffee in the morning, but at the end of the day we are all there for the same reason, and we all can't do it alone. And we're all human beings and deserve the respect due.

Especially if you're some fucker sitting in an office 5 miles down the road calling someone you've never even heard of before, much less seen work, a moron and a jackass. I've done time in 100+ and 20- temperatures with the person in question, I've never done anything with the name caller. Sorry, but I'll take the side of the guy who pays the dues and who actually puts his body and well being on the line with me everyday.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Terminal Show

I'm sitting here in a warm motel room after 3 days of working outside in temperatures less than 12 degrees, except for today when it peaked at 21 in the shade. I really fucking hate the cold. It agitates my arthritis, and now thanks to my accident a few weeks ago, my knee as well. And I'm not built for this artic environment "only the polar bears can hang here" shit. I'm far too skinny. My fingers go numb too soon and eventually things just lock up to where I can't use my tools. I'm in one of those depressing "woe is me" moods trying to figure out why I keep coming back for this. I have no children, I have no wife. There will be no sea of mourning faces at my funeral. My reasons for the path I've chosen to take vanished long before I'd ever actually started this path. But, it is the path I chose, and I knew how it would be.

The paycheck is good, but the cost of the gig is varied. I'm in my 30's now and I have no real home. I have an apartment I go and visit for one week once every two months or so, and I have too many people I know that I have nothing in common with and can't really relate to waiting back there. At 31 years old I am still trying to find my place in the world and people to share it with.

Fucks sake, I need a new train of thought...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ashes & Ghosts

I've been doing nothing but working and coming back to the motel to sleep, as usual. And since the weather now hovers in the single digit area a lot nowadays, we've not been working long. Which is bad for the paycheck, but great for some downtime. I've been doing some trophy hunting in a few different games lately. I have no idea what it is about virtual trophies that appeals to me, but I'm addicted. Back before I had a PS3, I'd hear some friends talk about ho they'd work for days trying to get a trophy, and I'd just think: "What a waste of time.". I saw no appeal in them at all. Even after I got my PS3, I thought they were a silly concept.

And then I got my first trophy ever, in the first PS3 game I ever played: 'Dead Space'. Then I understood. It's a combination of a sense of accomplishment, and bragging rights. And for a 100% completion purist, such as myself, something more to obsess over and work towards. I have not 100%ed all of my games. I get distracted easily when it comes to some games, and in some instances you need to play online multi-player to get them, which I don't do. Other times they're just friggin' hard  ("Lara Croft & The Guardian Of Light"s "Tomb Raider" trophy is my Blood Mountain, at the moment) and I don't have the patience or put it on a back burner and never get back to it. But I do try.

So for a change of pace, and to showcase either A) My nerdiness, which I'm proud of by the way or B) my lack of a social life, I thought I'd talk about a few of my favorite ones that I've gotten so far. Trophy values are much like medals in the Olympics: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with Platinum being the most "valuable", for those unaware. I know not everyone is keen on these things. Apologies for the quality of the photos, they were taken off of my television with my phone. And some of the "earned" dates are not there because at the time of those earnings I'd not yet had my PS3 connected online...

"Don't Get Cocky, Kid!" - 'Dead Space'
This was a bitch to get. The first time I played 'Dead Space' was an experience I'll never forget and will always think about. It was something I very rarely get out of a game, in that I got so wrapped up in it I was near obsessed. It's a game whose atmosphere and tone just sucks you in, and within the first 5 minutes. It genuinely scared me, even with the cheap jump scare gimmicks. Everything about it is utilized so well, and it's not just a survival horror game. You also get a zero gravity basketball segment (which is way more fun then it sounds), and a classic arcade style space shooter segment. Which is what this is for.

After doing something for somebody so that you can then do something else (I do not recall the exact setup, it escapes me), you have to make your way to the top of a spire of the U.S.G. Ishimura to blast away some asteroids that are slamming into the ship with a laser cannon. This laser cannon is usually an auto tracking cannon, meaning it does all the work by itself to keep the ship safe from rouge debris and asteroids. But you're there because the tracking system is down, and you need to take out the asteroids yourself while a crewmate of yours works away at getting the tracking system back online. Lucky for you, it should just take a couple of minutes!

It starts off easy and simple enough: You've a shield rating of 100%, and it decreases by 5% (on normal mode) with every asteroid you miss that hits the ship, big ass asteroid floats slooooowly towards you, you line up your shot, fire, it's gone.  Then two come sloooooowly towards you, fire, gone. Then the music picks up the tempo slightly, and the number of asteroids is slightly increased. Your crewmate gets over your comlink and says something like: "Damn! It's taking longer than I thought it would! Don't stop!". The asteroids pick up speed as they come towards you, and grow in numbers, and the music picks up speed as well. Suddenly there are big asteroids that split into 3 small sections when you hit them, and in no time you've a shitload of asteroids coming at you, with your horn and violin soundtrack going in such a frantic pace Slayer would be impressed, and a crewmate who occasionally yells "I've almost got it! Just ONE MORE minute!!" at you. It gets intense.

My first playthrough I think it took me 5 attempts to pass that level, and if I remember right I had 15 or 20% shields left. I hated that level. It was supposed to be a friggin' horror game! Not 'Gradius' on  meth! But after beating the game, and finding out about this trophy, I had to earn it. And it took awhile, and a lot of sweat sweated from palms, but I got it. And it should've been a silver instead of bronze.

"Mission Impossible" - 'Dead Space 2'
I obsessed over 'DS2' just as much as I did the first one. It's a sequel that does everything right, from story to the new characters. And I just loved Ellie and Isaac's charisma, and I applauded the false ending, which lead to the real ending. That was, and is, one of the best endings I've ever seen in a game. Though I do sometimes think that as much balls it took for them to have the downer lead in to the "happy" ending, it would've been way cooler if they'd just kept the downer. THAT would've been balls. And a perfect ending to a very dark and bleak story. This was rewarded for completing the game on it's hardest setting, besides "Hard Core" (I think), the setting that only let's you save twice. Yeah, I've not attempted it yet. I just haven't had a fully day to give it a go. Yet.

"Unlocked" & "Hero" - 'Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes'
I like these two because they were not easy at all to get, same with another trophy from that game which I discussed in a previous entry. These are a couple of my "bragging rights" trophies. And proof of how I have no better way of spending my holidays except playing video games. Sad, perhaps, but I didn't get loaded up on booze and get into trouble.
"No Stone Left Unturned" & "Inconceivable!" - 'Tomb Raider 2013'
Ask any TR fan and they'll tell you that getting sucked in to the great level designs and environments, and becoming a "master" of those realms is part of the fun of TR.  Te details put in to them, as well as fantastic stories,make you want to know everything about the games. You want to know their the best ways to traverse them, you want to see every detail the designers and artists ut into them, and you want to know their secrets. And there were loads of secrets in 'TR 2013'. And they were very cleverly hidden. And it was a blast to find them all, even though it may have taken me awhile. I got distracted.
"Bearly Legal" - 'Red Dead Redemption'
One of the things I like about trophies is when game developers put some humor in them. This one cracked me up, and still makes me giggle. It's one that pops up, you laugh, then go, "Ah, that's clever!". And it was actually pretty difficult for me to get. I think I spent about two hours and died 7 times going for it. The bastards don't go down easy.
"Master Of Tomb Raider: Legend" - 'Tomb Raider: Legend'
This is hands down my favorite TR game, and in my top 10 of favorite games of all time. I just love everything about it: The levels, the gameplay, the music, the voice acting, the sound design. It's all perfect. And the story is fantastic. It hooks you in from the start, and ends in a way so that you can't wait to see what happens next (and that doesn't disappoint either). It's first TR game I ever played (other than the demo for the first one way back when), and if I'd started with another game I highly doubt I'd have gotten in to TR. It's 100% flawless for me. If people want to look at how to make a great game, I have few other examples for them to look at. Not that anyone ever asks, but still...
So I was more than happy to earn all the trophies for it. But this eluded me for a couple of months. There were two that I wasn't getting, and I ended up resorting to an internet guide to find out what the Hell they were. Turns out I had to kick a soccer ball against a door (I only knew of 1 spot you could kick it and get a reaction), and I needed to survive for 5 minutes against a boss whose ass I always kick in about 45 seconds. Oops. But I finally got it, and being for one of my favorite games, I'm very pleased with it, even if it is one that may be fairly common in "collections".
"Master Of Tomb Raider Underworld" - 'Tomb Raider: Underworld'
'Underworld' is the sequel to 'Legend', and is just as fantastic. The only reason I prefer 'Legend' is that 'Underworld' has a hellacious camera system that will cause your death much more often than any enemy in the game, and it's got a few bugs. I got this yesterday, after finally tracking down the last treasure I needed for the "Master Treasure Collector" trophy. There are 179 of them, and as I said, sometimes I get distracted. I liked earning this one because of all the years I only had the terrible PS2 port. After finally playing 'Underworld' the way it was meant to be experienced and earning this, well, it's comforting. In a strange way. And it's a badass looking trophy. Much better than the generic platinums for 'Legend' and 'Anniversary'. Speaking of which...
"Master Of Tomb Raider: Anniversary" and "Central Shaft Survivor" - 'Tomb Raider: Anniversary'
Another TR trophy I was happy to earn, in both cases. "Central Shaft" was a pleasant surprise. The particular segment mentioned was one of the hardest parts of 'Anniversary' for me. When I first played that game it was actually probably the most curse word inducing moment of any game I'd ever played at that point. It's since become a segment I either do great at, or really fucking terrible at. There seems to be no middle ground in that segment for me. And I earned this on my first go at that segment on the PS3 version. It was flawless, and when this popped up, I was genuinely surprised there was a trophy for it, and fairly proud of myself for having accomplished it. The "fake" reward felt earned.
"Just Out Of Reach" - 'Alien: Isolation'
'Alien: Isolation' is brilliant. I've said that about it before, and I'll say it again and again. It's flawed, yes, but much like 'Dead Space' or 'Silent Hill 2', it's an experience you'll never forget. And this trophy was a beast to get. I didn't get it on my first playthrough, I got it on the 2nd. By then I had a pretty good idea of how to sneak around undetected, but it didn't make it any easier. Trust me: No matter how good of an idea you have of how to play it, 'Isolation' will always catch you by surprise. It was a bit of patience and very cautious footsteps that got me this. There are 2 more like it, 1 before, and 1 further down the road from it. I've already botched the 1st one, and haven't reached the 3rd's area yet on my 2nd playthrough. Soon, though... 
And lastly for this entry, "Turd Burglar" - 'Duke Nukem Forever'
You get this in the very first area of the game. I was walking around, seeing what buttons did what, and I wondered over to a toilette with a piece of excrement floating in it. Then there was a button prompt, I hit the button, and next thing I know, Duke is holding a piece of poo going "What is this shit?! Why am I doing this?!". It's a trophy for an action that lets you know what kind of game you're playing. Which is why you're playing it. Now I just need to get off my ass and finish it...