dendritic arborization • I like that phrase

disordered thought processes

hidden in the seeming chaos is beautiful, elegant order—at least, I hope that's true.

pain cycle start

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is it sharp?
is it burning?
is it constant?
is it intermittent?

is it throbbing?
is it crampy?
is it gnawing?
does it spread?

was it always here?
laughing in the shadows,
knowing in the end
that I am in its thrall

the night lengthens
the dawn grows distant
and dreams grow more perilous
hope wanes

but I will trust to luck as always
only fickle fate can guide my way


karma is not a linear function

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My interpretation of a mathematical theory of karma:

Plenty of people get good things that they don’t deserve.

Behind every great fortune is a great crime.
Honore de Balzac

No one can earn a million dollars honestly.
William Jennings Bryant

I am wary of attributing “hard work” and “dedication” to people who are successful. In fact, I think the louder someone touts their virtues, the less likely they actually deserved what they got.

While the universe clearly doesn’t operate this way, I feel like people who have been arbitrarily disadvantaged for whatever reason deserve at least some kind of compensatory advantage.

I just have a thing for the underdog, I guess.

september fades

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This song is by Pedro Gil, whom I ended up watching a few months ago.

As far as past Septembers have gone, this one has definitely gone better than most. Two weddings, a beer festival, visitors from afar. I managed to stave off depression as well as I could, despite being haunted by specters from the distant as well as the not-so-distant past.

If I could guarantee that life remained fixed within these parameters, if I could guarantee not having to suffer terribly again, maybe it would be enough. But there’s now way to do that.

I’ve given up hoping for anything more, though, so I’m not sure how to make sure I can continue to navigate the inevitable bumps and potholes.

julia roberts already made that movie

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I feel like a lot of loose ends are being tied up in my life lately. I don’t know whether to be relieved, or to be sad. Or whether to be wary of the future. Every time life comes to one of these pauses, one of these lacunae, it seems that everything goes to shit.

But I’m trying to be positive. Not psychotically optimistic, but realistic. The surest thing about luck is that it will change, and just because bad things have happened to me doesn’t mean that bad things will always happen to me.

We stride towards the future ever careful. But walk forward we must.

My roommate from med school got married today. (I seem to be going to a lot of weddings lately.) And I saw M again after a long time. I think the last time I saw her was two years ago, and we sort of lost touch after a rather strange and arduous several-day conversation back in February 2006 that I failed to document, and that I sometimes start pondering but then quickly stop because I already know without asking that there aren’t any answers, and what’s the point a year and a half out when the (putative) opportunity is long past?

But of course other moments creep into my mind, which I have to shake off, like that time I ended up drunk out of my mind at her sister’s apartment, and she made sure that I actually woke up in time to take call. Or when I talked her through an excruciating episode with her ex. Or when she talked me through a ridiculous journey from Chicago to L.A. that I did in four days.

We actually hung out quite a lot. Compatriots in the struggle of life. Of course, she has always seen me as a brother. Or at least an adopted cousin. That usually puts the nail in the coffin on these thoughts, but then she says things that make me do double-takes, and if I blink, the moment passes, and I’m left with this unsatisfying feeling of imagining the whole episode. It’s like jamais vu.

In any case, I’m here, she’s there with her boyfriend, and that’s that.

Life is too short as it is for regret, and I’ve been preparing myself for a lifetime of involuntary celibacy anyway. Besides, desire leads to suffering, and Buddha only knows that I’m ready to stop suffering.

What was classic is that as I pulled out of the parking garage, Lionel Richie popped up on my iPod, and ”The Only One” started playing. I really dig this song. It’s rooted deep in my psyche because my dad used to play his album over and over again until the cassette tape finally snapped, and it sort of rekindles a nostalgic feeling of “home.” Or something. If someone happens to turn on the Infinite Improbability Drive in my vicinity and somehow I end up getting married, this song is definitely going to be played somewhere. Or I’ll sing it to my bride in front of everyone. Or something sufficiently cheesy like that.

We’ve all been changed
From what we were
Our broken parts
Smashed off the floor

Someone turn me around
Can I start this again?
—The Editors “Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors”

my mind is on overdrive

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The problem I have with overly optimistic philosophies is that it seems to discount the seriousness of human suffering. I mean, seriously, try getting someone who, after 10 grueling years of intensive chemo, followed by an equally grueling course of bone marrow transplant complicated by graft-vs-host disease, just had a relapse of leukemia—try getting them to watch “The Secret” and see how perverse and even insulting that is.

I am suddenly reminded of Pangloss from Candide, and his tripe about “the best of all possible worlds.”

This is not to say that suffering ought to not exist. It’s just part and parcel of the human condition. The inability to feel pain is in itself a disadvantage. Think about diabetic neuropathy or leprosy, where your nerves are all burnt out and you might not even notice that you injured yourself until the wound gets infected and now they’re talking about cutting your limbs off. Think about autistic kids, some of whom literally cannot experience suffering, and ask yourself if you’d want to be in their place.

But to try to find a positive meaning even in the worst, most arbitrary forms of suffering, I think, trivializes the suffering, and I’m not sure that’s an honest way to go. I mean, seriously, are you going to tell the parents of a two year old who has incurable cancer that there’s a positive reason why their two year old is going through this, that there’s a positive reason why their two year old has to die?

My take is that a lot of times (but not always), the universe can be a hostile place, and lots of bad things happen for no good reason whatsoever. I mean, think about it. From what we know of the universe, most of it is completely inimical to life. We’re stuck on this rock orbiting an unremarkable yellow-green star in the middle of nowhere. Anywhere else in the vicinity of a million miles, and you’re sucking on vacuum and exploding, for the most part.

The Western (and often peculiarly American) philosophies that advocate the end of suffering all have this delusion that we deserve to be happy. But the universe owes us nothing. In contrast, while Buddhism, on the surface, also advocates the end of suffering, it does so in a more honest way. Suffering continues to occur, but you train yourself to deal with it, until it is no longer suffering. But enlightenment is an upward battle, a striving against the forces of entropy. You do not get enlightenment for free. And no one can give you enlightenment.

So be careful whom you’re around when you say that everything happens for a reason. This may be true in a basic causality-based framework (every action has a preceding action responsible for it), but to ascribe benign intentionality to the most awful of human suffering is simply sick and wrong.

last thoughts of the day

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My mind has been everywhere today. I suppose one of the good things about getting older is that there is a wider field for my brain to wander. I could probably keep myself usefully amused for several days just letting my thoughts meander.

Or maybe it’s just a reflection of the fact that for the past four years, I have effectively lived in a bubble. (I’m thinking of those SCID patients. Or Jake Gyllenhaal.)

I’m so happy, ‘cause today I found my friends. They’re in my head.
— Nirvana “Lithium”

Here’s a run-down of my more arresting thoughts:

  1. I thought about what it would be like to have some kind of serious, possibly fatal, disease, and about living your life as a patient in the hospital. I mean, here I am, on the other side of the glass wall, never having experienced being on the wrong end of daily needle sticks, lab draws, and an entire surgical hierarchy from medical student to attending demanding to digitally penetrate my anal orifice, and I’m supposed to empathize with you. How much empathy can you muster for someone going through something you’ve never experienced?

  2. Somehow, this degenerates into the following question: why is it that people really pay attention to you when you’re dying from cancer? I’m talking about how the general public reacts, here. People always seem to band together when someone they know has some kind of cancer. Entire extended families end up being reunited through their dying relative. Even ex-wives and ex-husbands frequently let bygones be bygones (although, in the balance, no one ever really kisses and makes up, either), most especially when it’s they’re child that’s dying. The thing is, people seem to get far less attention when they’re dying of sepsis. Or liver failure. Or tertiary syphillis. Definitely tertiary syphillis. Those guys always die alone.

  3. Whenever I go to a wedding reception, I am always transfixed by the slideshow. On one hand, I frequently fantasize of what it must be like to have someone in your life whom you love so much that to not be part of them would be unthinkable. I mean, this whole love thing. I just don’t get it, I guess. I sort of wonder if I’ll ever get to present a similar sort of retrospective in front of my friends and relatives. Morbidly, my mind turns to the day that I’ll die. Would it be disgustingly narcissistic to start crafting the playlist and sequence of images I’d like to be played the day I bite the big one?

  4. I fear that love will only come to me when I really am* dying. Which, I *suppose is better than nothing. I guess it would be extremely fitting and natural to spend my last days in a hospital. At least there, someone would be obligated to see me at least every 8-12 hours.

  5. I started thinking about writing a fake blog detailing the life of a patient in the hospital who has got some awful, uncurable disease that they are definitely going to die of. Which would be an extremely cruel, perverted hoax. And, because of thought #2, I started wondering what sort of disease it would have to be. Cancer is a good one, I guess, but, realistically, you’re not always in the hospital. You spend a good amount of your time actively dying in the outside world. It’s only your agonal moments that tend to get spent in the hospital. Hell, for most solid tumors, chemo is administered on an outpatient basis. You get your port, they give you poisons, you go home to puke your guts out, then come back and say, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” But liver failure? I’m not sure it would make as good of a story. For one thing, most of the time you’re out of your mind and encephalopathic. For another, dying from liver failure is probably one of the most horrifying ways to die, ever. If I ever find out my liver is nothing but scar tissue, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to get a new one, I’ll make sure to bite on my cyanide pills. But then the field of protracted, fatal diseases narrows considerably. AIDS is somewhat similar to cancer in the sense that you spend most of your time dying outside of the hospital. Hmmm.

  6. On a completely different track, I started wondering how I could ever simulate the sensation of escaping the gravity well. Breaking free from Earth’s grasp. How awesome would that be? But I’m too out-of-shape to ever fit into a NASA shuttle, so the real thing is completely out of reach.

  7. I kind of wonder if I ever managed to capture that sensation of cutting myself loose from something as big and massive as the Earth, just how easy it would be to untether myself from thet pathetic accumulation of excess baggage I’ve managed to attain in these 30+ years of my life.

  8. Imagine if I had to power to let go of anything I wanted to. If I could literally just pack a few changes of clothes and strike off into the wilderness, living off of the land. Fantasy, I know.

  9. But if I seriously manage to defeat my packrat tendencies, I wonder if I would be happier.

  10. Certain songs remind me of certain women. For example “untitled” by the Cure makes me think of ε.

  11. If I could seriously just learn to stop wanting, I would be an incredibly happy person.


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For no good reason I woke up at 4:30 am today without any prompting from my alarm clock.

I’m not sure if this fluttering in my belly is just gastroesophageal reflux disease, anxiety, or excitement.

For what, I’m not sure.

Which only compounds the feeling.

Frankly, here’s hoping for no surprises. For once in my life, I don’t want to be blind-sided.

But if I don’t hope for anything grand to happen, will I manage to avoid something awful?

I guess not.

But I’m still wishing anyway.


back to our regularly scheduled program

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While I’m technically not on a ward month now, I’m spending about 11 hours a day in the hospital. Which is not as bad as it sounds, I guess. I dig working on the wards a lot better than working in the ED, frankly.

But my allergies are acting up like crazy. By the end of the day, I feel like the inside of my face has been scratched and abraded by cat claws or something, and my nasal passages are full of thick green snot. (I know. TMI. At least I’m not talking about feces. Or seminal fluids.) I’ve been too lazy to actually buy more Claritin™ (or, more accurately, loratidine, since thankfully the stuff is now available generically over the counter.) I was trying clemastine for a while, but the stuff really does work for 12 hours. Since I’d take it right before going to sleep, and since my alarm is currently set for 5:15 am, I would totally drag until about lunch time. So I’ve switched to chlorpheniramine, which only lasts for 4 hours. Which lets me go to sleep without drowning in my own mucus, but which unfortunately does nothing for my sinuses for the rest of the day.

But enough pharmacology.

The problem is, my long hours combined with my autumnal allergic rhinitis is leaving me seriously drained by the end of the day. By 6pm, all I want to do is sleep. And lately I’ve been giving in to the impulse. If I don’t set my alarm, I’ll sleep all the way until 5:15 am. But if I just take a nap, I’ll wake up and won’t be able to go back to sleep until 1 am.

Thank God I have weekends off.

I’ve been trying to confound my exhaustion with some late-night caffeine intake, but this is liable to keep me up all night.

This chemical lifestyle is kind of scary if I think about it too much.

Ah well.

So after my requisite nap this evening, I decided to head out to Krakatoa because I hadn’t been there for a while. Much to my chagrin, they close at 8pm.

But the drive was pretty cool. On my right, the sun was setting behind Pt Loma, turning the western sky a blazing orange. On my left, the full moon was rising, looking enormous so close to the horizon. Thanks to the ludicrous location of Lindbergh Field, planes seem to come ridiculously close to the ground long before they land or right after taking off, and I caught the sight of a plane looking like it was rising up from the ground in front of me, about to smack the full moon.

The song that was playing on my iPod was ”No Cars Go”, except that it was the techno cover version by Vitamins For U. It was actually pretty sweet.

I wish I could just hold on to this weird feeling of optimism. What would it take for me to escape the shadow entirely? To not live under this impossible cloud of despair that, despite everything, has somehow still not managed to suffocate me.

I don’t want to die this way.

Here’s to hope. And more than a little luck.

recent mistakes and bad ideas

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  1. It was probably poor planning to drink coffee at 9pm and expect to be able to sleep.

  2. If my goal was to avoid being depressed, it was probably not the best decision to load up my iPod with Morrissey and Elliott Smith.

  3. I’m feeling pretty goddamn lonely right now.

hulogdahon (a brief and fitful storm)

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I’ve never been sore from crying before. I mean, literally sore. My recti abdominalis hurt the next morning.

Like I said, my brief, strange, and confusing history with S was not the main driving force for my drunken bawling. If anything, my complete failure with A still weighs heavily on me, and if I let my guard down, all sorts of sad and twisted thoughts rise up like bile.

Of course, it didn’t help that I had downed three shots of Grey Goose in a row. “Ataxic” would be a generous descriptive term for my depraved method of ambulation as I extricated myself from the alcoholic depradations of the celebrants. I quickly passed out onto the rather luxurious bed in my hotel room.

And I found myself crying. Hard.

I don’t think I’ve sobbed that hard in my entire life.

Frankly, because I was quite nicely drunk, I don’t really remember what I was crying about. Only that it hurt very badly. No matter how hard I’ve tried over the years, I have done little to exorcise this deeply rooted sadness in my soul.

Was it the betrayal of my heart back in high school?

I don’t know. The shadow seems to extend farther than that. If I look at my childhood in a certain way, I almost feel like there were very very few happy moments. I know that can’t really be true, but no matter how many times I reason it out, all that ever comes back is this unfathomable sorrow.

I felt like I had been cut deep. So deep that it will never heal. So deep that I’m not sure it’s not eventually going to kill me. I just remember lying in that bed wracked and tormented by my aching sobs, trying to vomit up all this darkness that is surely suffocating my soul. The only thing I remember crying out was ”Hindi ko na makaya” I can’t bear it any longer.

Now, in all seriousness, I don’t want to kill myself. I don’t want to give in to this darkness that has been gnawing at my soul for as long as I can remember. I want to live free of this parasitic disease.

I don’t want turn bitter and angry. I don’t want my defense mechanisms to become so impregnable that I can’t get myself out of them, that they won’t ever let me get close to another person ever again. I mean, in all seriousness, I’m heading in that direction. I guess if I’m lucky, one of these days, I just won’t feel a goddamn thing. I’ll be invulnerable. From pain, from sadness. But also from love. From joy. It’s a bleak future, not really all that better than suicide. But I guess I’d be alive. I guess. Sort of.

If I were naive, I would say that I want to be happy, but we all know how intractable happiness really is. What I want is peace. Not resignation, not grudging acceptance of my circumstances. But acceptance. Not necessarily being always joyful, but always being receptive to joy.

One of the sad thoughts that flitted through my addled brain today was when I gazed at the brilliant sunset over Point Loma, coruscating over the San Diego Bay. I wondered to myself, why doesn’t this make me feel happy? Because I think it should. That is, if I were more sane.

I don’t know. It’s going to be a process. It’s going to be a pitched battle. It’s going to be an interesting war with myself. I hope I win.

hulogdahon (the heart of the matter)

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So S (of whom I’ve written a few things here and there) got married on Saturday. Strangely, it didn’t seem like it had been all that long since she first hooked up with her now husband, but four years is a pretty long time.

I find what transpired in those few months before she left for the Bay Area somewhat strange, and still a little confusing, but it is what it is, and the likelihood of traversing that pathway has long ago dropped to zero.

There are other what-ifs in my life that are more likely to keep me awake at night anyway.

In a half-comatose daze, I drove myself over to Lindbergh Field before the sun was even up, and somehow got myself to the proper terminal. I contended with TSA, and plopped myself in front of my gate. I watched an Indian (South Asian) family deal with their 2 year old daughter running around all over the place. Eventually, they called my boarding group. I found myself a seat and soon passed out, waking up some 20 minutes south of San Jose.

I don’t particularly remember my rationale for showing up in the Bay Area nine hours before the wedding, and seven hours before I could check into my room. Be that as it may, I had to kill some time and found myself wandering the streets of Milpitas.

It’s rather odd. My aunt used to live in the South Bay, and we would come to her house almost every summer, as far back as when I was five years old. That house on Hillview Drive was kind of a fixture of my childhood, more so than our old house in Echo Park, even. I’ve had quite a few good memories of summers there. The best was when our cousins from the East Coast had come out to visit L.A., and we ended up on a 12 hour quest to the Bay Area via U.S. 101, stopping in Santa Barbara and Solvang before finally making it to Milpitas. Somehow, my cousins thought it would be fun to throw spitwads at cars passing by in the middle of the night. They exhausted several boxes of tissue paper which ended up on the driveway, much to my aunt’s consternation.

One of the most funny episodes was when they decided to pelt a semi-truck. The impacts caused the trailer to reverberate, and it freaked the driver out enough that he actually got out of the cab to check out what the hell was going on.

There was also my last summer there, in 1998, after graduating from college, in my vain attempt at securing employment and actually starting a life out there. I ended up leaving in August, in defeat, in more ways than one. It’s pretty bittersweet. Even now, I don’t like to think about it too hard, because there’s always the possibility of finding myself in yet another downward spiral.

But I remember the endless Starcraft sessions. And riding my bike all over Santa Clara County, from Fremont to San Jose. I mean, it wasn’t an entirely bad time at all, really. Although I doubt I would want to relive those moments again.

But my point was this: I felt like I was wandering around my old neighborhood, nine years after all that shit went down, nine years after my aunt ended up leaving the Bay Area. Even here, there are ghosts. Shadow memories that spring up like boobie traps. The lazy summers of my childhood. The four years I spent at Cal. The moments I managed to steal from my exile in the Midwest, surreptitiously coming out to visit the Bay. Even that month I spent with A+E.

Odd that nearly a decade after the fact, there is still a possibility that I might give it another shot in the Bay.

Even this far out, I have no idea where my fate will lead me.

hulogdahon (failure to disentangle)

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It’s been a strange ride. Friday, against my better judgement, I went to the Beer Festival. Hilariously, I ran into a bunch of people from my residency class. I didn’t know whether to be disturbed or to be comforted that there were at least six or seven physicians at that place.

I feel rather ashamed that my first thought when they said that I had 10 free drinks with admission was “That’s it?” But since I haven’t been abusing my liver quite as much as I used to, it proved to be more than sufficient. I’ve definitely lost a lot of my metabolic prowess over the years.

Somehow, we almost got involved in two altercations. But that is neither here nor there.

The more subtlety entertaining part of that evening was going over to Club Sin. It was βερν’s birthday (I don’t really know her all that well) and it was J™’s command decision to move our contingent of the party over there. Which was all well and good. I had, however, hit my limit, and didn’t think I could safely drink anymore, considering that I still had to drive home. (Not to mention the fact that I had to catch a 6:40 am flight to San Jose the next morning.)

Of course χερ was there, what with βερν being one of her oldest friends and all. She didn’t see me at first, which was all well and good. She was practically pinned to the wall by this big hulking dude, and I’m all like, hey, let the girl get her game on. I wandered the dance floor, searching for what exactly, I’m not sure.

But I ended up passing by again, and this time she saw me, and waved, and I felt conflicted. Was that a mere acknowledgement-of-my-presence wave? Or was that a come-save-me-from-this-guy wave? Chickenshit that I am, I fled, befuddled. Luckily I ran into J™, who was in fact looking for χερ. I led him and D over to her, and when J™ tried to say hi, the dude got all up in his face. I couldn’t actually hear what he said, but his face looked like he was saying, “And you are who, exactly?” After exchange pleasantries, we walked away, shrugging.

I don’t know why, but my soul hides whenever she’s around. She’s never really said more than a few words to me. I find her attractive, but I know nothing about her, and yet already my soul twists in non-specific turmoil. There is clearly something wrong with me.

Going to bed at 1:30 am and waking up at 4:30 am was pretty painful. It was only the first of my mistakes that weekend

hulogdahon (a prelude)

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Somehow, summer has quickly slipped into autumn. Scoff all you want, all you non-Californians, but there are too seasons in Southern California. You just have to look a lot closer. It’s all about subtlety. And in any case, the sunlight still fades this far south.

When the evening falls and the daylight is fading,
from within me calls - could it be I am sleeping?
For a moment I stray, then it holds me completely.
close to home - I cannot say.
—Enya “Evening Falls”

A week and a day ago, I headed back to S.D. from L.A., and I had this portentious sensation, and I felt like all these memories were suddenly bleeding together.

L.A., the city of my birth, the place where I spent the first 17 years of my life. For a time, it was the entirety of my universe. Chicago was just a name. NYC a rumor. Manila a distant dream. The Bay Area came in fitful episodes, brief summers, and a fog-filled memory of wandering down Market St, the mist so thick that you couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of you.

And so all these memories, long forgotten in these years of self-inflicted exile, came upon me with a vengeance.

there’s nothing here that you’ll miss
I can guarantee you this is a cloud of smoke
trying to occupy space
what a fucking joke, what a fucking joke….

I waited for a bus to separate the both of us
and take me off far away from you
‘cause my feelings never change a bit
I always feel like shit
I don’t know why I guess that I just do
you once talked to me about love
and you painted pictures of a never-neverland
and I could’ve gone to that place
but I didn’t understand
I didn’t understand
I didn’t understand
—Elliot Smith “I Didn’t Understand”

This was the song I was listening to as I drove south on the Glendale Fwy., and that feeling of being haunted by a dream didn’t pass until I made it to the Golden State Fwy. It was like a shadow thrust upon me. A dark weight cast on my heart.

This is why I feel like I can’t move back to L.A. just yet. Some ghosts just pop out of nowhere. I need an exorcist or something.

letting go

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trust not to hope
hope will have you believing in things
that have no hope of coming true
and despair is not the absence of hope
no, despair is hope so thin and frail and fragile
hope so deadly, so fell, so fraught with peril
a thread of hope so sharp, so razor-thin
cutting deeply, jaggedly, viciously

rather, trust to luck
trust to possibilities
to the random oscillating probabilities
where lie hidden inevitabilities
where lies your track through this maze of maybes and perhapses
and time makes chance into fate
randomness into destiny

trust to change
no man is an island
but even islands crumble into mud
slide into the sea
only to rise up again in a tumult of earth’s fury
of magma bursting forth into the sky
that even sunlight’s colors are waver in that blast

seas become deserts
deserts become fertile plains
mountains come tumbling down in heaps
valleys fold upward, inwards, thrusting ever skyward
this is true alchemy
matter becomes light
becomes the wellspring of life
(for we are all, each and everyone, made out of stardust
blasted into space from millions of light years away)
becomes the harbinger of death
(of nuclear holocaust
and the deadly winter to follow)

trust to the past
what is done is done
and cannot be undone
set down in unquenchable light
streaming to all the sides of the universe
men will lie and twist facts to suit their purpose and write it down in a book
but these are only parlor tricks,
tricks of light

but the truth will out
and ghosts cannot be silent
you believe what you want to believe
not because they fooled you
but because you’ve chosen to walk through the world with your eyes closed
your ears shut
your hands tucked into your pockets
holding no one
no thing
alone and apart
no love or affection

oh, the truth will out
no words can unshatter a heart
no false hope can unspill blood
and what is gone is gone
(and let its absence set you free)

trust to the future
and know that it will unfold
the great trajectories have always been out of your hands
we can but shape each tiny element within our grasp
with meticulous care
measuring millimeters
counting out milligrams
these small things
the relics of dust motes
of mayflies and tadpoles
and yet it will continue to matter
as much as the single raindrop falling to the earth
a single current of wind bearing a single fragment of pollen
a single photon bouncing and scattering upon the sky
caught as a single flash of blue in the corner of your eye

trust always in the present
each breath is a promise kept
no, a gift given
in this here
in this now
there will always be joy
remember that you are alive
and everything else is extra
survival is no simple thing
your presence here today is a testament
that you have fought with the shadows
and the darkness
and you have prevailed

Nietschze (and Kanye West)
may not have gotten it completely right
what doesn’t kill you
makes you who you are
and even the darkness can be turned to good purpose
and pain is only a price
and nothing is forever

It is the simple things that will give you greatest joy
you’ve made it this far
how can you say you have not triumphed?


they might be giants "older"

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A humorous paen to aging and mortality.



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Now that I’ve found a blog engine that I’m relatively happy with, I’m thinking about folding all of my old entries into it. Not sure exactly what that will accomplish except that it will be easier to search for certain topics, but I’m sure that I’ll waste at least a few hours trying to figure it out.

In the meantime, I’m reintegrating some entries mostly from last August/September that I ended up writing elsewhere because of some technical difficulties I was having at the time, plus the fact that I was a little paranoid about who might possibly be reading my blog. I figure since a year has passed, none of it really matters at this point.



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Today came without much fanfare or glee. I am quite happy that I have the day off, though. This week I’ve been working rather fucked-up hours, and it’s begun having a toll on me. I’m not a big fan of leaving work and finding the sun rising up to meet me. I still have to work another shift with similar hours tomorrow, but thankfully I have the weekend off as well.

What a weird journey the past couple of weeks have been. Strange how even a dream can throw me into a depressive episode. But hope springs eternal, as they say.

I just have to remember to take things one day at a time. I always get into trouble whenever I start looking too far ahead. I ought to know by now that nothing ever comes easily for me, and even my best plans can go badly astray. But luckily, sometimes it’s the process that is worth more than the end-point. As the cliché goes, it’s the journey and not the destination. I suppose that’s why getting in my car and going for a drive has always been a fool-proof way to improve my mood a little.

I am also reminded of the fact that every ending is always a new beginning. It sounds hackneyed, but it never really hit me until I pondered my past 25 years of formal education. Each matriculation has always been tinged with a sense of loss. But every new place I’ve gone has also been fraught with new possibilities. New opportunities. For a great portion of my life, I’ve been slow to explore these dimensions, much to my everlasting regret in some cases, but I’m learning. Even an old dog can be taught new tricks. (And yeah, I realize I’m really not that old.)

So here’s to yet another circuit completed around that ol’ big ball of gas lighting the day, while riding on this magnificent spaceship otherwise known as Earth. I will probably never reach the stars, but I never tire of gazing at them, and it’s always good to have something to aim at.


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Septembers have also been traditionally the month that I would start re-reading The Lord of the Rings. There is always something poignant about the ending of summer. It reminds me that it’s time to move on, and to fly towards the shadows of the unknown.

This time, I’m reading a quite different book from J.R.R. Tolkien. Entitled The Children of Hurin, this story takes place nearly 6,000 years before The Lord of the Rings, far west of the Shire, a land that was ravaged and drowned during the War of Wrath in the age of legends, which Elrond remembers and alludes to in comparison to the War of the Last Alliance.

This novel was actually just published this year, edited carefully by Tolkien’s son Christopher. Of the legends that Tolkien wrote, the story of Túrin Turambar was the most complete, although up until now it had been fragmented across Tolkien’s various notes.

The tone is quite different from LotR. The style is quite aligned with the Norse legends, very much reminding me of a prose version of The Kalevala, for example. But it is also reminscent of the Bible as well. There are no whimsical hobbits, no wizards, no clear-cut good guys. The elves are more akin to the gods of pagan mythology, prone to fierce wrath, reminiscent of the rages of Zeus or Thor, and they are sometimes quite merciless to mortal man.

And the main protagonist is a hard-headed bastard, too prideful for his own good, leading him down a hellish road to complete ruin.

He’s my kind of protagonist. (Except for the part where he fucks his sister. That’s just too messed up.)

It’s interesting to compare the novelized version to the fragments I’ve read in the Book of Lost Tales, in The Silmarillion, and in The Unfinished Tales. My sense from these versions is that Túrin is just a cursed bastard who—while he does brood a lot and he is a very poor communicator—he is generally a good guy who can’t do anything right no matter how much he tries. Every triumph somehow turns into utter defeat. Every achievement always costs him something dear.

In the novel, it is a little more clear that a lot of his problem is that he is a stubborn mule who can’t stand giving in, and who would rather sit out in the cold and freeze to death than go back and apologize, because he knows that he didn’t do anything wrong.

His uncompromising nature causes a lot of avoidable grief, in the end costing him his life.

For the longest time, I had resigned myself to the fact that I’m the type of person who would rather be right than happy. I think of Sir Thomas More, who refused to deny his faith to make Henry the VIII happy and therefore lost his head.

Of course, the sad fact of the matter is that, as a human being, it’s nearly impossible to be completely right, so there’s little point in torturing myself.

Of course, happiness is not exactly an easy thing to achieve.

Slartibartfast: I’d rather be happy than right any day.
Arthur Dent: And are you?
Slartibartfast: No. That’s where it all falls down, of course.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

There is also the possibility that I am literally cursed. Now I don’t really believe all that much in the occult. I do believe that there are forces in the universe which we know nothing of, and which are not accounted for by the laws of physics as we know them, but we’re learning more and more all the time, and I doubt that anyone out there can really channel all-powerful spirits, nor does anyone have a direct hotline to God. If we figure things out, it will be through blood, sweat, tears, and the scientific method and not by something like voodoo or astrology or fundamentalist religion.

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
—Galileo Galilei

But, still, there is something voyeuristic in watching how the pseudo-scientific process operates. I once paid a tarot card reader to read my fortune, and the first thing she noticed is that there is an extremely dark cloud overshadowing my life.

While I have no proof at all for such a thing, I knew she was right as soon as she said it.

(Interestingly, my sister has also been told by a fortune teller that there is a curse on her. Maybe it’s just standard technique by these shysters to bilk us out of our money. But both me and my sister knew the truth of it as soon as we heard it.)

These days, I feel like dying young might be a blessing, because then at least I won’t have to undergo so much torture in life. While I don’t think it’s really possible (yet), I do wish that reincarnation did exist. I’d definitely like to be able to press the reset button and start all over again. Seriously.

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Is “ephemerality” even a real word?

Today’s cartoon from Hugh Macleod:

That moment is gone forever and in its place is me spending the rest of my short life trying in vain to get that moment back

basic concepts in wound healing

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One of the things we learn as children about wounds is that you should never pick at your scabs. This is guaranteed to prevent healing of the wound, and can actually promote scarring to the point of disfigurement.

You would think that at this stage in my life, after over two decades of formal education, the last seven specifically focused on the Art of Healing™, that I would know this very basic fact that even three year olds can grasp, and that I would not pick at my wounds.

You would, however, be underestimating how absurd I am.

There is this anecdotal idea that continued picking at a wound can also promote cancer. This may well be a mistaken association. True, it is known that some non-healing wounds are actually malignancies, but I think this is just a characteristic of these particular malignancies, and not a consequence of picking at your scabs.

Still, theoretically, the mechanism is sound. Wound healing stimulates cell proliferation, and any time cells proliferate, there is a risk of error in the replication process. Errors in the replication process are otherwise known as mutations. Mutations typically cause cells to self-destruct, but if you accumulate enough of them rapidly, you’ll quickly find that you’re on your way to developing a tumor. But I have yet to read any literature actually confirming that this can happen.

So I wonder, if I keep picking at this wound in my soul, will malignancy soon develop? Is my soul destined to become rotten and defiled? (I’ve tried a few times to hit bottom, but I can never fall far enough. It’s like trying to kill yourself by holding your breath—it’s possible to succeed, but you’ve got to have supreme will, and more likely than not, you’ve got to be insane, too.)

For some reason, I have very little confidence that I will surpass the age of 39. While every sane man is afraid of mortality, I wonder if it might not be a blessing. I can’t imagine going through more than another 10 years of this kind of suffering.

(Then again, there is that infinitesimal chance that I might actually find fulfillment and happiness. Although I’m not holding my breath.)


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Or self-fulfilling prophecy, depending on how you look at it, I suppose. It all depends on who exactly reads my blog, I suppose.

Enough of being cryptic.

I think—I think—I’ve snapped out of it.

This episode of insanity reminds me of Frodo Baggins’ fate after he fulfills the task of destroying the One Ring. Every year on the anniversaries of his wounding on Weathertop, and the destruction of the Ring in Mt Doom, he basically loses it. (I found an interesting article that deconstructs why Frodo needed to leave the Shire and go to Aman, analyzing things in terms of PTSD.)

Except there have got to be a few Septembers where I didn’t go nuts. OK, maybe I did my brooding last year in August, and the year before that, I had my episodes while on vacation. Hmm. The year before that I thought I was relatively OK. I mean, I was exhausted and moderately physically ill from my first ward month at the Childrens’ Hospital, but I recovered reasonably well during my vacation. Two years before that, as a third year in med school, I did OK. Sure, it was in the aftermath of another disasterous outcome, but, hey, what are you going to do?

Fine. I guess Septembers are just bad for me. I blame the fact that school starts in autumn. So there.

There’s got to be a way to be able to think about the past and not go mad.

To imagine that one could have done better may be more tolerable than to face the reality of utter helplessness.

lux aeternum

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Let the starlight guide my path
bear witness to my salvation
my redemption

Remembering things I’ve always known
but always forgetting
I am but a dust mote
—stardust, really
the spent ash of long dead stars
(from ashes to ashes, dust to dust)

Orion gleaming upon my left
as if in flight
bow in hand, string drawn at the ready

And Venus (whom the pagans named Eärendel)
glittering like a holy jewel
against the empty darkness

The sea to my right, the deep black shadow
sight unseen, the sound of the waves unheard
only the slight tang of salt touching my tongue

I remembered to breathe deeply
and if this is the closest I can get to contentment
At this point, I’ll take whatever I can get

mindtrace (a full review)

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I feel like things spiralled out of control in my fevered brain Tuesday night/Wednesday morning with an unlooked-for dream.

But if I dissect out the past few weeks, I guess I’ve been asking for it. It’s like jumping up-and-down on an unstable bridge.

I was seriously blind-sided by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Apparently other readers saw it coming a while ago, but I had absolutely no inkling about Severus Snape’s motivation for protecting Harry. When I read the chapter “The Tale of the Prince”, it hit me like a ton of bricks, forcing me to reflect upon the trajectory of my life these past 10 years.

I’ve learned that there’s no real way to compartmentalize trauma, whether psychological or physical. You may think you’ve packed it all away, nice and neat and clean, or at least walled it off like an abscess, a tubercular granuloma, but then one day it wakes you up from your sleep, leaving you crying or screaming. You submerge these things at your peril. These are the kernels of PTSD.

I looked back to June of this year, and it doesn’t look like I started losing my mind overtly until quite recently. I mean, there is definitely a sense of unease in my posts from the past three months, but, I don’t know. I was thinking that maybe I was little more hopeful than I’ve usually been.

The bottom started falling out when I started thinking about my birthday. A decade, and I’m starting to appreciate how emotionally stunted I am.

I’m going to try to go back to S.D. right now, though. Under the cover of darkness, like a thief in the night.

hope springs eternal

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dating pools

(from xkcd by Randall Munroe)


the coming of cold iron

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I never watched the original version of “3:10 to Yuma” but I suspect it probably didn’t have the nuances of the remake starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. The plot is relatively straight-forward. Ben Wade, the infamous leader of a band of outlaws that have robbed the Southern Pacific Railroad twenty-two times, finally gets caught. Meanwhile, Dan Evans, a veteran of the Civil War who lost his leg, and a rancher who is being forced off his land by the Southern Pacific Railroad, decides to take the job to bring Ben Wade to justice, by escorting him to the prison train that stops in the town of Contention. Of course, Wade’s band of outlaws does all they can to save their boss.

The mythology of the Old West, in terms of honor and what makes a man a man is mostly intact, and the landscape of the barren desert of the Southwest is evocatively utilized, but what is even more haunting is the undercurrent subtext: the Western is a long obsolete genre, and the director Richard Mangold succeeds in capturing the sense of the ending of an age. The mythologic yeoman farmer/freeman rancher is obliterated by the onrushing modernity of the railroad, and outlaws become subject not necessarily to justice, but to economic necessity and the iron will of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand, and the Native Americans are swept completely under the rug, literally erased from history. The oncoming age is not about mythic concepts such as loyalty and honor. It is about profit, and every man (and woman) has a price.

In the background of every scene is evidence of the railroad. Despite the fact that it is the railroad that is the cause of his oppression, Evans nonetheless grudgingly allies himself with their cause, and even rides beside the man who had burned down his barn at the behest of a landowner whom Evans owes a considerable debt to, and who wants to clear the way for the railroad. The imagery of the teams of men and women, many of them immigrant Chinese, building that steel road in the middle of nowhere haunts me, and whatever the outcome, we both know that in a sense, both Evans and Wade are doomed, whether they live or die.

What “3:10 to Yuma” especially reminded me of is China Miéville’s novel Iron Council, which actually superficially resembles a rather standard Western plot, focusing on the attempt to capture an outlaw who helped organize a workers’ rebellion against the railroad company, and the eventual confrontation that this leads to. While Mangold narrates the end of the Frontier, paved over by Capitalism, Miéville concentrates on the nature of Marxist revolutions and how they tend to fail, because of individual ego, because it seems like human nature to want power instead of justice, and because the ancien regime simply has more firepower and more resources than the revolutionaries do. But the end is the same: profit supplants any sort of justice, and instead of robbing people with guns, the new outlaws aren’t outlaws because they operate with the sanction of the government and steal your money by manipulating the system in their favor. (For modern day examples, see the present day Republican Party. Also see the perfidy of Walmart and its never-ending quest to break the average man and woman into indentured servitude.)

The thing with Westerns is that you know how it’s going to end. While there are still large tracts of desert out there, it’s astounding to see how we have started to terraform our planet. The last time I flew from the West Coast to the East Coast, we flew over the Imperial Valley, and it’s almost bizarre how green it is, fed by hundreds of miles of aqueducts lined with concrete.

View Larger Map

The suburbs of L.A. have started encroaching on the Mojave Desert

View Larger Map

My sister reminds me of the quite optimistic thought that one of these days—particularly given the reality of climate change—wars will be fought over water supplies the same way we know fight over oil supplies, and the Colorado River will certainly be up for contention. Will the cities in California, Nevada, Arizona, Baja California, and Sonora band together in adversity? Or will the Colorado River become a war zone?

blast crater

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I guess there is no recovering from this. Even 10 years out.

Some wounds, you just live with as best as you can, I guess.



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Not sure why, but my brain feels like its full right now. There are like 100,000 thoughts spinning through this absurd skein of neurons wound up tighter than you could cinch a piece of string around Kate Moss’s waist, and I’m just paralyzed.

I need some sort of clarity. Or at least simplicity.



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My mood is better now.

I guess I just needed a change in scenery.

I haven’t been back in L.A. for three weeks now, and I guess I just need to go home every so often to re-center myself.

It could be that, or it could be the fact that my sleep and work schedules are just completely absurd, and it’s fucking with my mind.

This last shift I worked was the first time that my whacked out thoughts surfaced at work, which is disturbing. Seeing all those babies, I thought of her and her daughter, who is now three.

You don’t realize how much time passes until there are kids around, who seem to grow leaps and bounds every time you see them.

But I can’t stay and dwell on this part of my life anymore, frozen in time, locked into place. While it would be folly to deny that this event (or more accurately, this non-event) has significantly shaped my life, and has defined a lot of who I am, it does me no good to keep thinking about it and analyzing it over and over again.

It’s time to move on. Even though the future terrifies me.

I guess that’s a big part of it. It’s easiest to deal with things that you have no control over, whose outcome is already known. I’d rather dwell in the past, as painful as it’s been, instead of trying to shape the future.

I’d rather be my own victim, instead of being the protagonist of my own tale.

It’s been a long time since I crept outside of my comfort zone. I mean, I’m not as painfully shy as I used to be. I sort of know how to make friends. My repetoire of random things to talk about has expanded over the years.

But I really have to change the way I deal with the world. I need to learn how to stop focusing on the negative things, and learn how to concentrate on the positive things. This is going to be one big stretch. But I can’t keep going the way I’ve been going.

But it’s 2:30 am, and I’m trying my damndest to stay coherent, and I guess I’m failing miserably. More than a change of the scenery, I need a change of vision. Or rather, Vision™ with a capital “V”.

I’ve got to make these turnings of the years count for something, and I can’t stop growing, no matter how terrifying it is, and no matter how much it hurts.

arcade fire "no cars go"

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I left work this morning singing that line: “Between the click of the light and the start of the dream.” Orion gleamed through the clouds. The crescent moon was rising, and Venus also glittered in the east like a jewel, heralding the rising sun in less than an hour.

I tried not to think about eating shit on the freeway, but my reaction time just ain’t what it should be at 5 am in the morning after not sleeping. I’m still intact, though.

I thought about how the only place lately that I’m not sad is when I’m at work. I don’t have any time to ruminate over the past since I’m so busy.

I am curious to know why this all popped up all of the sudden.

There is clearly something wrong with my brain.

We know a place where no planes go
We know a place where no ships go

Hey! No cars go
Hey! No cars go
where we know
We know a place no spaceships go
We know a place where no subs go

Hey! No cars go
Hey! No cars go
where we know

Now go !
Hey! Us kids know
Hey! No cars go
where we know
Between the click of the light and the start of the dream
Between the click of the light and the start of the dream
Between the click of the light and the start of the dream
Between the click of the light and the start of the dream

Little babies, let’s go!
Women and children! Let’s go!
Old folks, let’s go! Don’t know where we’re goin’…

That last part always sends chills down the spine of my back, like it’s the crescendo to some awesome climax. I dig it.

the downward spiral

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How did I get here?

How do I leave?


youtube candy

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Before I find myself dragged back down into the pit of self-pity as I {reminisce} {rather mawkishly}, I thought I would share some mashups that I thought were particularly clever.

  1. Maroon 5 doing a mashup of the Police “So Lonely” with Akon “Don’t Matter” and R Kelly “Ignition”
  2. Lily Allen “Smile” mashed-up with The Cure “Lullaby”
  3. Pussycat Dolls “Don’t Cha”, Justin Timberlake “Sexyback”, and Akon “Smack That”

even farther back

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1995: Deep wounds. Ugly scars. And then: new, unfounded hopes and unfulfillable wishes. I learn a secret that, in the end, fucks me up bad, but which I am bound by honor to keep. (And would the outcome really have changed if I had betrayed it? Except for the damnation of my soul?)

  1. TLC “Waterfalls” (A piece of advice that I didn’t follow when it may have helped me)
  2. 4xample “I’d Rather Be Alone” (The beginning is set in Union Station between Downtown L.A. and Chinatown, across the street from the site of the first settlement.)
  3. Terry Ellis (of En Vogue) “Where Ever You Are”
  4. 3T “Anything” (Here is where this blog’s protagonist goes berserk. For the next three years twelve years and counting)
  5. 4PM “Sukiyaki” (Applicable to more than one of my pathetic stories about my life)

trying to achieve escape velocity (retrospective: 10 years ago)

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I’m not really sure what triggered this strange mood of mine. My mind wanders back to the end of my college days, unearthing a lot of bittersweet memories. (And do I even have any memories that just have the sweet and not the bitter?)

Ever since junior high, and perhaps even farther back than that, I’ve found that I have a habit of keeping track of time by tying events together with songs that were popular at the time. For a while, me and my friends from college would compile our yearly “best-of” playlist and share them, but we haven’t done it in a while now.

Even though iTunes makes managing music pretty painless, I think there is still something to the art of making a mixtape mix CD mp3 playlist. Not quite as challenging as actually mixing perhaps, but I think some of the principles are the same.

In any case, back to 1997:

  1. Boyz II Men “4 Seasons of Loneliness”
  2. Janet Jackson “Every Time” (Bah, I can’t find a decent version of the video on YouTube)
  3. Laurnea “Can’t Let Go” (D’oh! Not on YouTube. Not sure what this looks like because WMP doesn’t really work on my Mac)
    Powered by AOL Video

mindtrace (i'm getting better)

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Maybe this story of fighter planes with nukes accidentally left on board flying over the U.S. was the genesis of one of the dreams I had the other day.

Nine years ago, driving down to San Diego to watch “Dogeaters” at the Mandeville Center on the UCSD campus.

If you could read my mind, love,
what a tale my thoughts could tell,
just like an old time movie
‘bout a ghost from a wishin’ well.
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
with chains upon my feet.
You know that ghost is me.
And I will never be set free
as long as I’m a ghost that you can’t see.

If I could read your mind, love,
what a tale your thoughts could tell,
just like a paperback novel,
the kind that drugstores sell.
When you reach the part where the heartaches come,
the hero would be me.
But heroes often fail.
And you won’t read that book again
because the ending is just too hard to take.

I’d walk away like a movie star
who gets burned in a three way script.
Enter number two.
A movie queen to play the scene
of bringing all the good things out in me.
But for now, love, let’s be real.
I never knew I could act this way,
and I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it.
I don’t know where we went wrong
but the feeling’s gone,
and I just can’t get it back.
If you could read my mind, love,
what a tale my thoughts could tell,
just like an old time movie ‘bout a ghost from a wishin’ well. In a castle dark or a fortress strong
with chains upon my feet,
but stories always end. And if you read between the lines
you’ll know that I’m just tryin’ to understand
the feelin’ that we lack.
I never knew I could feel this way,
and I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it.
I don’t know where we went wrong
but the feelin’s gone,
and I just can’t get it back.

Apparently I’m not going escape this pit of despair just quite yet.

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87,600 hours

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The last 10 years of unbearable loneliness have finally gotten to me, I think.

I may very well be losing my fucking mind.

It never ends, this aching sorrow, this sense of ultimate bereftness
half a person, and the time just passes by, runs out
my soul is an hourglass dripping time
(all we need is… time)
neither past nor future hold any surprises
a thousand rainy days have come and gone away
like rain clouds and summer squalls
and all those memories evaporated
like salty tears,
like blood from my wounds.

It never ends, tortured, tormented by memories so sweet, so dear,
so never meant to be mine
bewitched by starlight, the softness of your voice
the fragrance of your hair carried by the wind
your eyes sparkling in the sunset
as the sun plunges into the deep blue sea

I’ll say it at last. I only want emptiness.
Not this half-remembering, half-dreaming
scraping and tearing, wishing it were not so
my heart flutters, my mind flails
and I cannot wish
I dare not wish
for time to run widdershins
maybe in a trillion, trillion tries
I would still slam into stone
obliterate myself at high speed
leaving behind this mangled mess
that tries to pass itself off as a man

It never ends, I’ll weep and wail
curse and go into convulsions
and still I can’t seem to extricate this madness
from my heart
an expired hope that will not die
(long past sell-by date, but still on the shelf)
fury and rage cannot serve me
and as far as I’ve tried, I cannot hit bottom
nor find myself drowning in this bitter cup of despair
(the heart, the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak)

And yet Death is the only escape
The only open door
The final common pathway
One day at last, I will bravely step over that threshold
and find some kind of peace

rivermaya "himala"

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It was 1996 when I first heard this song, on the island of Tablas, in the province of Romblon, awaiting a plane to take us back to Manila.

I still think of that fleeting moment on the edge of the sea, just her and I, and I wonder if I could’ve said the right things, or not said anything at all

I remember the flight from Manila to San Francisco, and the dark velvet of the night sky. It felt like I was actually in outer space, floating amidst the stars.

If I ask the sky for a miracle, would it be wrong? But that miracle never came true.

The original is by Rivermaya, but I couldn’t find a good video with them in it. This is a fan-made video for a version that is a duet between Yeng Constantino and Jay-R.

Pangarap ko’y
My wish:
makita kang
to see you
naglalaro sa buwan.
playing on the moon.
Inalay mo
You offered
sa aking ang
to me
gabing walang hangganan.
the never-ending night.
Hindi mahanap
We will not find
sa lupa ang pag-asa.
on earth, any hope.
Nakikiusap na lang.
We can only plead.
A miracle,
kasalanan bang
is it a sin
humingi ako sa langit ng
if I ask heaven for
isang himala?
one miracle?
Kasalanan bang
Is it a sin
Humingi ako sa langit ng
if I ask heaven for
isang himala?
one miracle?
Pangarap ko’y
I wish for
Liwanag ng umaga
the brightness of morning
that caresses
Sa iyong mga mata
your eyes
‘di mahagilip
We will not catch sight
sa lupa ang pag-asa.
on earth, of any hope.
Nakikiusap sa buwan.
We’ll ask it of the moon.
A miracle,
kasalanan bang
is it a sin
humingi ako sa langit ng
if I ask heaven for
isang himala?
one miracle?
Kasalanan bang
Is it a sin
Humingi ako sa langit ng
if I ask heaven for
isang himala?
one miracle?

And even if I could, I wouldn’t dare turn back the clock to try and undo my decisions that led me down this path.

I see it now. Even if I got caught in a temporal loop like in “Groundhog Day”, I don’t think I could ever get things right.

And I guess it was her wish, her miracle, that came true.

This is the original version of the song, sync’ed to a video featuring the lead characters of Final Fantasy VIII: Rinoa Heartilly and Squall Lionheart.

And even then, her visage haunted me, in my dreams and in my waking moments. Even in her absence, she was there. And I was lost and forsaken, and didn’t know where to go. I still don’t.

She is like a star, flying further and further away from me, leaving this black emptiness of night between us, this chasm that I could never cross, growing wider and deeper with each passing day, until even her light will not reach me

the flaming lips "do you realize?"

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commentary for the day

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That last post was actually quite painful. Who knew that sifting through six years of blog posts could evoke such bathos?

I feel better. I needed to get that off of my chest. I’m sure no one will understand what the hell I’m talking about, even if they’ve known me for a while.

I seem to enjoy speaking in circumlocutions, spinning around the matter, chasing my tail. Maybe I was brain-damaged as a child.

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no desire

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why this dream now,
disinterring the past
I thought I had buried it deep
buried it well

septembers are haunted with heartache

15 years ago,
my soul was stricken with longing
(and I think I do regret it
it doomed my soul
cracked it into pieces in the end
I am still gathering all up
despite knowing it cannot be mended)
this mistake that was a precursor to my doom
my ill-fate
(the stars were awry
the auguries were ill-omened)

12 years ago,
the pall of autumn fell upon me
my sight darkened
I remember swimming in dark currents
wishing that the darkness would take me
would end the wrack and ruin
the abysmal disaster that was my soul
oh, I remember wishing that the pain would stop
and still it kept coming
no matter how quickly I ran
the darkness was at my heels
and I was lost
and even the thousand fingers of God Herself
could not keep me from falling

10 years ago,
I bared my soul to her
for a split second
(coming out of left field
unlooked for
and even writing that word down
makes my heart ache)
and seeing that I was doomed
I covered it all up again
pretended I had said nothing
and cast myself into a sea of doubt

and still the sea would not take me
(I am running out of breath
and even now the anguish flows through me
like an electrical current
immolating me
but not killing me)

9 years ago,
in darkling shadows
in the murk of broken dreams
in the dust of the debris of my wishes, my hopes
I gazed at the Lonely Mountain
upon which sat the sentinels of Night
alone amidst 3 million souls
I wandered
(still wandering)
and home was no shelter
only a monument to my failures
my defeat
my folly
and stricken dumb

8 years ago, exiled by Fate
taking the road that I was doomed to follow
(and just when I think I couldn’t possibly be more alone
Destiny deems it fit to strike yet another blow)
doubt and despair
drowning me

6 years ago,
the world that we knew
ended in cataclysm
wounding the city between the two rivers
scarring the earth and the sky
and though thousands died
it was but a harbinger of the deaths
of a thousand more
in the pointlessness of a war with no enemy
unless you count ourselves

4 years ago {Part I}{Part II}{Part III},
I tried to pretend
that I belonged
I tried to pretend
to live the life that had been denied me
the path I would never take
the happiness that I would never experience
and even though they were just reflections
just silhouettes
distant shadows
it was enough
it was something
but all illusions end
the glamor dispelled
and I fled once again
still wounded
but so far from death
and the fires burned all around me
like the second circle of Hell
or perhaps the sixth
condemned for my heresies
my blasphemy
my lack of faith

Two years ago,
hope sprung quickly
only to be trampled again
and only emptiness followed
and vain musings
(and just when I thought about how little hope I had
even then, Fate would steal it away from
leaving me begging on the streets)

One year ago,
my courage had failed me completely
and I could not dare
stifled, stymied, still
and what little hope I had left
fluttered away
lost in a haze of fading memory
and I dare not even wonder
and I dare not try and remember
the melody of a song
the rhyme of the lyrics
like sharp barbs that can still stab me in the heart
still make me bleed
(though I thought my heart had turned to stone long ago
crystallized, desiccated
and still I go on living)

So my soul quivers in fear
what this September might bring
the shadows of the past come back to haunt me
oh let me lie still, just still, unmoved, unmoving
if contentment is beyond my grasp
if happiness is a vain ambition
at least let the torment end


mind trace

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  1. Moon Dawntreader Summer The Summer Queen
  2. χσ
  3. Aaliyah “Journey to the Past” Anastasia
  4. My Beloved Always.


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Last night I dreamt that someone confessed her feelings for me—not that it mattered even in my dream, since she was married and had kids. And she kissed me, leaving me literally floored. It was too late, much too much too late, but to know that all my heartache, all my suffering had not been completely in vain was something of a comfort to me. Even though nothing could change, that bit of knowledge consoled me.

I also dreamt that there was a nuclear explosion in Atlanta. It was unclear to me what had happened. It may have been a dirty bomb planted by a terrorist. It may have been some weapons-grade plutonium that was being transported and that accidentally ended up going critical. Or it may have been something that Castro had saved up all these years since the missile crisis, and, expecting that he would be dead soon, he decided to use it.

Naturally this sparked all out panic and anarchy nationwide. I found myself fleeing L.A. in my first car—a 1980 Mercedes Benz 300D that had been in a frame-altering high speed T-bone collision and that had many, many parts failing. Strangely, my brother had access to a helicopter. We imagined that maybe Santa Barbara or even Lancaster would be far enough to survive a direct hit to the city.


tortured soul

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you’re damned right my soul is tortured
twisted and wracked beyond even my darkest imaginings
fraught with pain and blood and death (though it is the vomit, the piss, and the shit that gets to me the most
and worse yet, the stench of bacteria feeding on still-live flesh
I have nightmares about resistant Staph aureus and Pseudomonas more than any of my other fears combined)

but I try my best to hold my shit together
because ain’t no one else gonna do it for me
and in the end I chose this path
with both eyes open
knowing full well what I was getting myself into
and what I was leaving behind

and so my madness may manifest itself in stolen moments
spurts and gurgles
a sick desperation in my laugh
and this violently deranged spew that writhes out of my mind
and onto the paper
or into the endless medium of the vast ether
the only one who will listen
to the ravings of a lunatic

still I awaken in the morning to face the day
with the will to do good like a raging fire in my heart
driving my unwilling flesh
and there is no reward
and there is no return
only knowing that I am who I am
that I decided this fate
and that I accomplished what I had set out to do
though it will never be enough

not enough to fill the emptiness
the vast void that used to be my soul
evaporating like moonshine
spilled carelessly upon the filthy concrete sidewalk

and I might ask “was it worth it?”
knowing the answer is “what else could I have done?”
and “what else could I have been?”
far greater men than I have failed to escape their destinies
and who am I to ask that this cup be taken from my hand?

and “do I regret?”
but what can I regret
except fantasies that were destined to never come true
and the sleepless nights of wondering if I was good enough
smart enough
strong enough
and letting that uncertainty eat through my heart like acid
the lesser of two evils
in a world that may very well be hell
and I have far less blood on my hands than other denizens
of this diabolical plane

I do not seek your pity
nor your understanding
nor even that you listen
I ask only for your abeyance of judgement
for the story has not yet run its course
and at its end you can tally your verdict
and condemn me if you must


massive attack "teardrop"

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I first heard this song one fevered night that I was driving to L.A. the long way around, up I-15, somewhere between Escondido and Temecula. Mix Master Mike was DJ’ing Spin Psycle.

Map of the Route from San Diego to Los Angeles via I-15

It was also the first song that played on my iPod as I drove away from my ex-girlfriend’s wedding reception, leaving me with a curiously empty feeling that has been magnified over the past few years. (My soul seems to have curled up upon itself, what with the trial-by-fire that is residency training. The lost nights of sleep, the hours locked up in the hospital, the train wreck patients that run you over as they careen towards their inevitable deaths, unheeding of anything that you might do. These things alone have consumed my life, leaving me numb and unfeeling. But I digress. I’ll only briefly mention that there have been brief sparks of hope that flared then quickly died, stillborn in my confused mind.)

(I think I’ve forgotten how to have fun. Not the desperate “fun” that EtOH provides, but honest-to-goodness, actual fun. As a consequence, I rarely have anything interesting to say to anyone that doesn’t involve work. As a corollary, I rarely have any thoughts about what might make a fun date. Hence, this continuing solitary existence of which I can see no feasible way out of, at least in this life.)

What is interesting is that this song is used as the theme song for that hospital drama “House, M.D.” Disturbingly, just like those train wreck patients that have left indelible marks all over my soul, I find myself careening down a track that will lead me to a fate akin to Hugh Laurie’s dramatis persona, except I doubt that I’ll have a cute intern who will moon over me. My only hope is that I don’t get hooked on Oxycodone like the good doctor on T.V.

even starlight fades

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the fragrance of her hair haunts me
the way her eyes sparkle when she smiles
the sound of her laughter
the curve of her face
the quiet grace of her every move

and still, my heart grows colder by the moment
my soul mummified,

(All things seem ever distant farther than the farthest star that I can see)

Of the things that I have feared
I ponder which is the worst
the silence
the darkness
or the emptiness

(The numbness binds me to the floor
smothers me
sucks the will to live out of me
Why fight it?
Disorder ever increases
And the emptiness is all that will be in the end…)

and yet I am not so far gone to give in to the nothingness
the black void of the vacuum
to let my body fall into the eternal night and burst
this slim thread of hope tethers me to reality
(and how it burns, how it aches)
pulls me down into the gravity well
(it feels like it’s tearing me apart)

knowing that I am ill at heart
ill in mind
is not enough
and even the tools of modernity
(these yellow and red pills)
only keep the emptiness at bay
so that it merely abrades
rather than lacerates
scrapes and rasps
rather than bites
(and the emptiness inside me is like a ravening creature,
hungry for my soul)

What words might there be that could turn her heart?
I have asked the night how many times?
I have asked the sea
and the wounded city
I have asked the thunder clouds and the lightning bolts
I have asked my heart in the still silence
and nothing stirs
and the question still remains

and no words will come
now and perhaps ever
and the silence will be my legacy
unto the grave
(and still my soul stirs uneasily,
not yet willing to dissipate into the starry void)

and the songs come to mock me
(and to comfort me)
promising things that can never be
(not on this world line
not in my light cone)
and I am still bewildered
still heartsick
about how it all went wrong
and how the words failed me then
and how my faith in the words falter
every time my heartbeat quickens
and my breath catches

and yet the words are all that I have
all that I have to give
all that have any meaning
in this downward spiral
this frozen moment in time
this threshold between what is
and what will never be
this singular space
this fated moment
(and this too shall pass)

and only hope will remain
until it too breaks apart
fissions into a scattering of deadly light

(and even in this dying moment
the possibilities still exist
the potential lies dormant
waiting to be tapped
if only I could find the right words.)



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“will you come with me?”
and she would say “yes”
just that
and I would know

but I am Diogenes
with my flickering, failing light
looking for what cannot be found
lost, forsaken, abandoned, bereft

I imagine
we are who we are
by the rough edges
that signal not only intent
but identity

and by accident or masochistic subconscious intent
I’ve shorn the sharp protrusions clean-off
scraped off any of the cruft that would tell the world what I am
who I am
and the answers are lost
down that memory hole that is time
as irrevocable as if it were spaghettified
by a supermassive black hole

come unstuck
into the vacuum
punctuated only by the cold ancient light of a billion stars come too late to make a difference

I’ve only myself to tell me what i’m worth
and if I believed anything I said
I’d be truly worthless
and it’s only in dreams
that I am reminded of what I am
or at least what I could be

(The branches are shorn off
and cauterized
and time waits for no man
even quantum indecision decoheres)

I don’t remember the last time I dreamt
of joy and happiness
even my dreams are filled with sadness and despair



posted on

every thought is second-guessed
every impulse examined
every sliver of hope is processed
every emotion filtered

veering away is reflex now
turning around is routine
(you say you want a revolution…)
reaction, transaction, perdition

innocence burned away long ago
and ethics and morality a bare, ragged sheet I hang on to
and I’m four years old again, clinging to my security blanket
gripping tightly the cords of my parachute
and all I know is falling, falling…

every surprise evokes a startle response
every unexpected moment of joy smothered and choked
every pleasure deflated, conflated, derailed
and equilibrium is stillness, is silence, is death

skipping to the end again
looking too far ahead
the second hand ticks away
the grains of sand fall
and dreams of starlight decohere

only a hologram
an illusion
stray photons randomly striking my retina
painting images upon my fevered mind

not hate, but indifference
stifles me, muffles my voice
binds my writing hand
pins me to the ground
and I am a silent witness
to the atrocities I commit
worst against myself

everything is a clinical vignette
I can critically deconstruct
my own implosion
my soul crumpling inward
watching myself with perverse fascination
deviancy, voyeurism

watching myself die
microsecond by microsecond
and feeling hopeless to stop it


faith (and the lack thereof)

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When was the last time anyone believed in you?
Outside of the trappings of your profession
without the aegis of your Oath?

When was the last time someone saw that fleeting, flickering fire
that light that echoes the beams of starlight streaking through the merciless void?

The glimpse of that dark amber window
into the gleaming sea of your soul?

(I am a shadow, a ghost
a flickering, fading thing
a wisp of a memory of a dream)

Time wears all things
and even mountains crumble
and oceans turn to desert
and what is one soul in a million?

Light flickers, fades
And only the silent darkness

But it is not the darkness that I fear
Only the emptiness


creation from nothing (quantum mechanics)

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To be loved, you must love…
But those who have so little, the ones who need it the most…
are the least likely to give it…

because anybody who has so little is afraid to lose what he just barely has got…

it seeps out of me, evaporates
this living water
without purpose
I am dying, drop by drop

(Did you ever know what love was?
Or is, like everything you have ever wrought,
a fairy tale? A madman’s dream?)

half a person

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Can you still be human when you’ve purposefully amputated your capacity to love? When you’ve decided to never feel another goddamn thing again, and there is nothing in your heart but dark emptiness?

When flesh, when lust, becomes only yet another material object to consume, instead of being part and parcel of a sacred emotion?

I didn’t think you could transform into something monstrous by sheer inertia, but I guess I was wrong.

The feelings still come, but they die stillborn as soon as it comes to me.

It’s almost reflex now.

I can probably stand this numbness for a few years or so, but certainly not for much >longer.

Either my transformation will be complete, or I will be dead.

Although in the end, it means the same thing.


meta: the snow queen

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I haven’t been this affected by the death of a character ever since Gandalf fell into the abyss in Moria.

I’m trying to think of other literary moments that moved me deeply. There is that scene in Minas Tirith where Merry is half-dead from facing the Lord of the Nazgûl and as he stumbles along, he runs into Pippin, who has to carry him to the Houses of Healing. As Pippin is carrying him, Merry asks him if he is going to bury him.

Miriamele’s despair-filled, cynical, and nihilistic deflowering in Memory, Thorn, and Sorrow has also stuck with me for a decade and a half, ever since I first read that book in 1990.

And finally Lir’s final farewell from the Unicorn in The Last Unicorn always pulls at my heart strings as well.

whispers of the gods

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

—the 3rd Law of Prediction, by Arthur C. Clarke

While all of archaeology and paleontology seem to reaffirm the idea that life started on Earth as single-celled organisms, eventually evolving into multicellular forms that eventually became intelligent, and that all civilization came about around the same time, in places like Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley, and the Huang Ho River Valley, I’ve always been fascinated by the myth that we came from a technologically advanced past, devolving into a long dark age that is has only been recently pierced (and only partially, as the Republican Party in the U.S. demonstrates all too well.)

I suppose it speaks to a Puritanical/Calvinistic interpretation of the Bible, in which we permanently fell from Grace. Supposedly the past was a Edenic utopia, while the future becomes even more and more depraved.

But the myth pops up from time to time, and it’s has been employed mightily from some of the best science-fiction writers.

From Western civilization, the myth of Atlantis looms large. Even the Disney Corporation imagines that ancient Atlanteans possessed highly advanced technology, the likes of which we are only recently matching.

Then there is this book I ran into on one of my trips to Borders that, while smacking of pseudoscience, seeks to explain the almost simultaneous (give or take a few hundred years) collapse of the Sumerian, Egyptian, Mayan, and Anasazi civilizations (to name a few of those cited) and they peg the blame on some hitherto uncharacterized cyclic astronomical phenomenon. (The existence of a yet undiscovered companion star to the Sun is one such hypothesis. Others include contact with extraterrestrials. Less ambitious explanations are the onset of worldwide climate change probably due to a cyclic astronomical event, but more speculatively, may have been a toxic by-product of early civilization.)

Even J.R.R. Tolkien was seemingly obsessed with the idea of a technologically-advanced Atlantis, destroyed by a great wave that matches the description of a tsunami. He co-opted the myth into his own legendarium, and devised the legends of Númenor.

In my mind, the prototypical Intergalactic Empire is Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, centered around the world of Trantor. I’ve only read one of the books, way out of order, and what struck me the most was the description of the search for the lost Sol System.

But building upon this prototypical universe, Ursula K Le Guin imagines the Ekumen{see also The Ekumen: an Ursula K Le Guin reference page, a league of star systems that somewhat resembles the Federation from Star Trek, except that the Ekumen seems to be more of an utopian anarchy than a democratic republic. The agents of the Ekumen are proscribed from interefering with low-tech civilizations. (Compare this to the Prime Directive.)

But part of the Hainish cycle is the conceit that intelligent life started on a planet called Hain (known to Terrans as Davenant) and through terraforming and bioforming, they have shepherded intelligent life throughout the countless milllions of years.

Even Phillip K Dick imagines the existence of a highly-advanced extraterrestrial civilization with whom we once had contact with, and who left the relic known as VALIS in orbit around the Earth to help us re-establish contact.

And likewise, in The Snow Queen, Joan Vinge introduces the notion of an Old Empire which disintegrated, leaving colony worlds stranded for millenia, until one of these worlds recovered well enough to restart a technologic revolution.

The other component that Vinge introduces is the notion of the Sibyl, a human being who (through a nanotechnologic modification of neural tissue) is able to access the latent databanks of the Old Empire.

I’ve always wondered if the words “Sibyl” and “sibilant” were related. It doesn’t seem like it just from the sources that I’ve Googled. And for some reason I’ve always thought of “sibilant” to be similar in connotation to whispering, even though it really more closely means “hissing” (like a ssssnake) But I imagine that’s how the Sibyl would give her prophecies, by whispering, or hissing.

There is also the anecdote that the cave in Delphi that the Sibyl supposedly gave her prophecies from had a volcanic gas vent which emitted complex hydrocarbons that caused hallucinations.

Meanwhile, the supposed etymology of the word “sibyl” is theoboule, meaning “divine wish”

hot. continued.

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The expected high temperature today is supposedly 90° but the humidity is up to 60% and I’m already going out of my mind. It’s time to find a place with A/C to hang out.

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep. At around 12am, it was still about 70° outside. I even tried putting a block of ice in front of my electric fan. It improved the heat from stifling to barely tolerable.

I wonder if I bought a bottle of rubbing alcohol and poured it over myself. My mom used to do this to keep our temperatures down when we were sick as kids.

And just when you think physical chemistry couldn’t possibly have any applicability to your life, I discovered that because rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol or propan-2-ol for the pendantic) really only has one hydrogen atom that’s free for hydrogen bonding, you can’t get enough surface tension for a spray bottle to work.

To backtrack a bit, I had bought myself a spray bottle and filled it with ice cold water so I could spritz myself with it and sit in front of an electric fan. While this worked somewhat, I wasn’t satisfied, so I decided to get more serious and I poured some rubbing alcohol into the spray bottle. Nothing would come out of it. Damn.

You would think that because my ancestors grew up in climates exactly like this (freaking hot and humid), that I’d have some sort of adaptibility, but then you’d be wrong. Apparently I can only live in a narrow climate range of about 65°-75° F. This used to be the weather in San Diego year round but it looks like global warming (or climate change, if you like) is changing things quite drastically. I do hope that Southern California manages to turn into a tropical rainforest, rather than a parched, lifeless desert, but it hasn’t rained in like literally a year.


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Damn it, the heat is practically melting my brain. It’s been near 100 degrees all weekend, and as humid as a tropical rainforest. Which means that by the time I get home it’s like 120 degrees inside my apartment and disgustingly moist.

It’s as if the damned summers from the Midwest have come to San Diego to haunt me.

My kingdom for some A/C.

But I’m really digging this book I’m reading, entitled The Snow Queen. These kinds of stories—hard science fiction melded together with cutting edge post-modern/post-colonial critical analysis—always arrest my imagination. Joan Vinge tackles both imperialism and misogyny. Other authors who successfully pull this off that I’ve read are Ursula K Le Guin and Octavia Butler. Richard K Morgan does a fine job as well in his Takeshi Kovacs novels. Charlie Stross plays with this terrority too. And wwhat thetse writers do for science fiction, China Miéville has done for fantasy.

The idea of interstellar empires has fascinated me, and as a child of the new diaspora of globalization, I am fascinated by the speculations and the possible prophecies writers imagine about what will happen to the people on the periphery. The minorities, the folks on the far end of the tech gap, the disempowered, and the underserved. The sociopolitical dynamics of technology interest me as much as the technology itself.

I find myself looking up to the sky, with the stars drowned out by the artificial glow of the sodium and fluorescent lights of the city, seemingly forever out of reach.

Will we even return to the moon in my lifetime, much less make it to Mars, much less make it beyond our heliopause? (Although the Pioneer and Voyager probes will eventually reach interstellar space.)

But not all new worlds are external worlds floating around in the cosmos, and I realize that I’ve left much territory in my soul completely fallow. As I learn to strip away the doubts and misgivings from the past that weigh me down so much, I’m finding that the world isn’t such a terrible place after all (although there is much in it that is terrible) and maybe, just maybe, I’ll find a little piece of the universe that I can call my own.

Enlightenment? Not quite.

But every journey starts with the first step, as the cliché goes.

september already?!?!

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Another year, another orbit around the sun.

Holy crap, I’m turning 31 in 13 days!!!

Where did the last 12 months go?