Escaping the 06511 zip code

Leaving behind some great friends

Now, do not get me wrong – I had a lot of fun with many of my friends in New Haven, and for those who will be staying there for additional school or folks I met who live in CT outside of New Haven – I will miss them greatly.  They were the most immediate source of aid and comfort in the face of often finding coursework and daily life experiences with the rudeness of New Havenites – and I am deeply thankful for their presence.

Plus, they gave me excuses and dining partners for outings to the various delicious restaurants around the city:

Kelli and I at our beloved Plan B Burger, with our eyes wide shut for the photo!

Kelli and I at our beloved Plan B Burger, with our eyes wide shut for the sole photo I could convince our waiter to take with my expensive DSLR camera (they were nervous about breaking it)!

For the ways in which “technology can really ruin people’s ability to be truly present with one another” can sometimes sound like a valid concern, it will be that self-same technology which allows me to continue to cultivate and enjoy friendships forged over as many as 3 years – and that is a wonderful thing.

No end in sight/packing up the remainder of my crap

So, as mentioned in the previous post, the afternoon after commencement was meant to be packing whirlwind, but it turned into a much-needed 12 hour coma for myself and my visiting family.

It is a damned good thing we did so, too… because even in the face of weeks (in fact more than a year, as I used the space in my car to bring home stuff every time I have gone home since May 2013) of packing and preparation, the amount of crap we had to box, bag, and otherwise defenestrate was astonishing.

IMG_20131210_102846_677

The room prior to being emptied, back in the middle of December

Sure, it is true that I was in the same house in DC for nearly 4 years and had accumulated a lot of stuff there (and I am a camper and a builder/fixer, so much of it was useful gear)… so that all got moved up north in 2011, and then I added 3 New Haven years of crap to it (again, mostly useful stuff… just bulky).

So.

It was a hell of a long day, with our intentions starting at “it should take about 4 hours, we can depart at noon or so and drive part of the way to our respective destinations” and eventually arrived at “well, we just packed for 8.5 hours, Michael is passing out standing up.”

My bedroom of 3 years is now a cold, empty husk... like me :D

My bedroom of 3 years is now a cold, empty husk… like me 😀

I went to Bob’s to pick up the trailer, and again recognized how tired I was, and also how unsafe it is to drive while exhausted… but even less safe to tow a trailer in the darkening evening.

I spoke to Bob and was able to secure a bed in their guest room to sleep for the night, and I cannot overstate how important this was to my (eventual) safe passage south to Maryland.  I slept deeply and departed on Wednesday (rather than Tuesday), and did the trip in one fell swoop.

Crazy to think how many hours I spent in the basement there, and how much fun I had in the space I worked so hard to renovate and make useful.

Crazy to think how many hours I spent in the basement there, and how much fun I had in the space I worked so hard to renovate and make useful.

For more on the arrival and continuing story of my time in Maryland, please see the blog I put together for that experience, at this link.

The setting of New Haven. and (happily) moving away from it

The number of gang shootings and drug violence in my immediate neighborhood (some of which can be seen here) was a serious part of my time in New Haven – something like 21 or 22 instances of shots fired in 3 years, within 5 houses of mine.  This is besides the more “typical” crimes experienced by Yale students – down around the university, muggings are a common experience, and not where I lived (after all, I lived in the poor part of town so no one had money on them to be stolen).

Crime is not a new experience for my living situation, but I will tell you what really wore me down the most – the rudeness and generally aggressive-paired-with-frustration that came forth from many of the people I interacted with in New Haven… particularly while driving.  In a serious way I am thankful for 3 years spent in the area, 2 of which involved a lot of driving – I was always a decent driver, but I am at a place in my life where NYC is “just an annoyance to be avoided” as opposed to the stressful bugbear of past-Mike’s outlook on driving.  Through this crucible I became a better driver, and indeed the crucibles abounded in and around New Haven.

Thankful as I am for all the good and for the bad experiences turned into good lessons learned, I was more than ready to get out by the time the semester ended and I headed south.

My tired parents and brother, helping finalize the packing process

My tired parents and brother, helping finalize the packing process

FAR too many things do I own; the vast majority of them went home to OH for me to deal with at a later time (oh joy)

FAR too many things do I own; the vast majority of them went home to OH for me to deal with at a later time (oh joy)

Final thoughts on school

I have always loved Calvin & Hobbes, and this one comic captures many of my thoughts about the academy in general, after a good 8 years trapped in it:

Cannot agree enough

Cannot agree enough

Critical thinking and carefully examining the problems of our world are vital aspects of any well-lived life – but the number of times I have watched the sinking ship of “a conversation with relevance to the real world” from a lifeboat, as my peers would continue the quibbling that sunk the ship of relevance in the first place… was too many for me to bear.  I was way ready to get out of the academy more than 2 years ago, even – but I stuck it out, and for many reasons (the lessons learned in class, the lessons learned about how not to act or live by observing other people, and most importantly: nearly full coverage of my shoulder surgeries and physical therapy all made this waiting game worth it).  I am deeply thankful for the opportunities I had at Yale, but it simply wasn’t a good fit for me in many ways because, frankly, I dislike obfuscation and prefer action to pontification.

There are a lot more things I could say about this place, but suffice to say: I took the advice of a YDS peer long ago and always assumed good intentions in the words, throughts, and deeds of my Yale Divinity peers – as everyone up there, so far as I could tell, had their hearts genuinely in the right place.  Just, too often did someone offer their politics instead of their religious convictions (if any, a complex issue at YDS as I experienced it) – and just like in church in real life, I didn’t come to hear about a person’s politics, I came to hear a religious message.  I got some of the religious insights and training I sought, often from unexpected sources, but at the end of the experience I am so deeply, truly grateful to be moving back out into the real world and out of the bubble of seminary (which, to be fair, is a reality about most seminaries, being a bubble).

I think, if you go back and read through this blog, you’ll see that I moved over time further and further into projects and camping trips because 1) they were in the real world and away from the bubble; and 2) they were constructive actions, as opposed to the academy’s tendency to deconstruct everything with a nauseating smugness and then offer no solutions whatsoever.  My mind and body were ready to depart, and now departed I am (save for the summer’s internship, which due to my fighting for it, will be physical labor- and project-heavy… as rehabilitation after so long in the academy).

Glad to have gone, but more glad to have finished and now to be gone, it seems.

Thanks for reading the blog!

To those folks who have followed my blogged time in New Haven and at Yale Divinity School, I can quote unto you the message I painted on the basement stairs over 2 years ago:

Thanks indeed, Winchester House

Thanks indeed, Winchester House

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Amping up my quest for improved household air quality – plants upstairs and down

Having spent time the other day replacing the house furnace and my own little box fan/filter with new and higher end filters, I got to considering: I am of the opinion that replacing those filters is ENTIRELY worth the money, but to some degree it bothers me that the old ones are just thrown away.

And it bothers me that I have to keep paying, as well, to be quite honest.

So I started doing a skill I have had for years (and honed to masterclass while one-armed healing from surgery): namely, searching Google for abstract ideas and project desires I have, and finding those unrelated searches coalescing into a real plan.

In this case, I eventually found out that NASA of all groups did a study on the possibilies offered to internal building air quality improvement by the use of certain plants.

As a science fiction nerd, this already was cool in my mind – the whole “spaceship with self contained oxygen garden” idea always fascinated me, and now I get to do it with my house!!

The plants I got include a peace lilly; a mother in law’s tongue; three small pots with rosemary seeded; a money plant; and a golden pothos vine – all combine their efforts to turn carbon dioxide into the freshest oxygen, but they will also better regulate the humidity of my bedroom; the rosemary will make the air smell pleasant AND give me some of the health benefits of rosemary oil AND allow me to brew fresh tea whenever I would like; the peace lilly and a few others actually EAT carbon monoxide and formaldehyde and other nastiness out of the air; and so all things considered, I should probably actually sleep better (both from the knowledge of cleaner air, but honestly from increased ease of breathing)!!!

Welcome to the jungle

Welcome to the jungle

All told, the desk’s transition to THAT much greenery will be temporary, as some of the plants need less sun and will be moved atop the dresser on the left.  Even still, given that I ordered areca palm seeds (which easily sprout up to shoulder height and then SPEW fresh oxygen), its not like I even have enough space in my bedroom for all the plants I’d like.

As with so much else in the house, I consider this another test run of something important to me for my eventual house of my own.

As time, I will perhaps post updates of how effective this seems to be (and given I have a housemate with two guinea pigs next door to my bedroom and the associated smells, I will QUICKLY be able to detect changes I should think).

The final academic showdown: the last semester

Academics, nearly defeated

Reptilian possibilies for the future...

Reptilian possibilities for the near future…

So here we are, the final spring semester (or really, ANY semester) of my academic career.  I am almost as tired as the above leopard geckos, when it comes to school and its crap.

At least for the foreseeable future.  Perhaps one day, I will be dumb enough to go for a PhD of some sort and again give up my ability to enjoy myself and the people in my life due to asinine assignments and abnormal hours spent working.

Even still, the class lineup for this spring is as follows:

1) Southeast Asian Christianities – merely a requirement, the Non-Christian requirement, to be fulfilled here (not too many other options are offered, so a LOT of people take this course).  Taught by Chloe Starr, a scholar focused closely on that area, it will hopefully be interesting to examine issues of native Korean and Japanese religion, and how those tend to interplay with the rise of Christian presence in those lands over time.  Given it will be a strongly historical course, I am thinking it will be pretty good.

2) Introduction to Christian Ethics II – this is one of those courses where you surprisingly don’t have to take the first portion of the content first, or at all – this class will focus heavily on differing notions of social gospel; and more contemporary developments in Christian ethical thoughts.  Taught by Frederick Simmons, a very very very very intelligent man, the class will be a good closing experience for the slew of ethical this and ethical that I have taken over the years.  In a peculiar way, I have taken several courses at YDS with “ethics” in the title… but none of them, I have discovered, actually counted for the “ethics” requirement.  Discerning the difference between “ethics” and “ethics” apparently being some kind of master final exam of ethical prowess, I just took this class to satisfy the requirement.

3) MLK, Religion, and Civil Rights – taught by Clarence Hardy, this course ought to be a very interesting look at the Civil Rights movement; more on this as the course develops.

4) the Lutheran student colloquium, on the final topic of “random things the professor wants to teach” – I just enjoy spending time with some of my closest friends from and at YDS, in the Lutheran student contingent.  Not 100% clear on what will be taught, by former bishop of New England Margaret Payne, but it should at least be fun to sit in with friends.

Sadly, of course, I will have to do a damnable internship over this coming summer (with the associated 6 credit hour course, thankfully which takes place over 2 full days in May in New Haven in person, and then solely via Internet communications… so I will be free to escape New Haven VERY soon).

Games galore, sweet baby Jesus

So the job with managing the researchers for the French Resistance project has been lucrative enough to pay for car upgrades, cover some cost of living stuff… and thus left enough for more games to be added to the collection, including:

3 of the new games, gotten for 50% off and brand new in box (via BGG)

3 of the new games, gotten for 50% off and brand new in box (via BGG)

Android: Netrunner: a two player assymetrical card game, pitting the big evil megacorporation of the cyberpunk future versus the lone hacker, this game is surprisingly easy to play once you work through the odd language choices for many of the components of the game. And highly addictive. Highly.  I bought more of the expansions for it than I am comfortable admitting.
A Few Acres of Snow: a two player board game, the core mechanic of which is drawn from Dominion (namely, deck building during the game), this game involves the French and British battling for the American provinces during the French and Indian War.  Also addictive and awesome.
1989 Dawn of Freedom: a 2 player game which pits the Communist against the Democrat in Eastern Europe in the eponymous year, the game revolves around using your sides tools (communist uses repression and arrests; democrat uses intellectuals and protest marches) to try and sway the opinion of each sub area on the map to your side.  Interesting that the Communist player starts in control of the entire map, and gains points for maintaining as much control as possible over time, whereas the Democrat scores for gains.
Galactic Emperor: Quite honestly, not a game I was aware of… but the guy who sold me 1989 and Tzolk’in was willing to toss it in for 50% off the list price of $60 brand new in the box, so sure!  A quick paced and small board to battle for control of the galaxy (oddly enough, given the title)
Tzolk’in – The Mayan Calendar: this game has a series of plastic cogs built into the board upon which each player places worker tokens… and then the gears move and thus the “calendar” represents time moving them about.  Heard great things, got 50% off as well.
Ticket to Ride Marklin Edition: got this over Christmas, but its the quintessential railroading intro game for non-gamers, but the map is of Germany (and the trains are all Marklin model trains).
Bora Bora: a German game about settling and expanding in the Polynesian part of the world, the game balances economy building with propitiating the Gods, and seems to be really quite interesting to play with the full 4 players based on scarcity of space and resources.
The End of the Triumvirate: one of the few three player games out there, its Caesar vs Pompey vs Cassius, and its SO much fun, forcing players to watch both political and military gains of their rivals.
Glory to Rome: a card game with somewhat tongue-in-cheek art, the core mechanic is apparently around gaining and then profiting off the resale of materials to rebuild Rome after a fire, and involves all manner of delightful screwing with other players
Pandemic On The Brink expansion: another expansion purchased over break, it makes a tough game damned near impossible to win 😀

Making my own billiards table lighting, for $48 less

Billiards table, but not lit well enough :(

Billiards table, but not lit well enough 😦

The fact of the matter remains, the basement is not well-lit enough for my tastes.  I suppose, to be fair, my tastes are known to widely vary, as most of the time I prefer no light at all; but when gaming or working on a project, I want to see everything in great detail.

Exterior fixture, ready to be installed

Exterior fixture, ready to be installed

The basic idea was: buy light fixture, don’t break the bank, and install it.  Then, Home Despot decided to dislike offering decent deals on lights suitable for the unfinished ceiling in the basement (with exposed rafters, not much space existed to connect fixtures).  So their offerings were in the $60-$80 range, which is to say: way too goddamned expensive.  Not being especially interested in that, I looked in other aisles and found an exterior flood light fixture with third socket for a total of $14… bought a simple extension cord, rigged it up, and now have more light in the basement than I know what to do with!

The lights, lit

The lights, lit

As a matter of fact, I am so pleased with that on-demand light above the billiards table that I have decided to now use it as the gaming table; this also have the nice side effect of reducing time spent dissassembling or setting up the projector on the circular table, which IS a big deal, given my having infected my friend Kelli with an addiction to Battlestar Galactica!!

Fabricating LED stairwell lighting for the basement

Prepping the low cost LED fixtures for the stairs...

Prepping the low cost LED fixtures for the stairs…

The other aspect of basement lighting which needed some help was the stairs – painted dark brown by “choice” (namely, that is what the landlord had on hand for free), it is a hell of a contrast from the super bright projector on the white screen… so restroom breaks during screenings are precarious at times.  Being disinterested in spending lots of money on assembly or powering it, I came up with and fabricated 6 modules with 2 LEDs apiece, on every other stair.

One fixture working and in place

One fixture working and in place

At the time of this writing, between 1 and 3 of the modules work.  Looks like I have VERY selectively flaky soldered connections somewhere in the lines, and will have to go back through to sort  that out.  Even still, I happen to think it looks pretty awesome (and more importantly: provides enough light to see the stair edges without making the ambient light in the basement during a screening increase)!!

The exciting spring ahead: non-school related things galore 😀

As much as it pains me to say (and to be clear, it is actually my genuine pleasure to admit this), I am going to have to do as little as possible school-related this spring.  Spring break will be mostly spent daring to rent a trailer and move home to OH most of my belongings, to make my May escape quick and painless.  The weekends I won’t be board gaming or screening television and movies with friends, I will be restarting this past summer’s New England Camping Experiences (NECE), starting probably at the end of this month.  The big one will be most of a week in February to Acadia National Park in Maine, to be there at the point where the sun first (also?) rises on these United States.

Stay tuned, the blog should have lots of awesome photos this semester.

Finally, a sneak peak of the new glasses I have ordered and am awaiting

Finally, a sneak peak of the new glasses I have ordered and am awaiting

“This baby’s got a few surprises left in her, sweetheart.” – the return of the MFALCON, new foglights and winter front grill covers

Leaving the Jeep better than I received it

So to be sure, it has been a massive blessing to have borrowed my friend Andrea’s Jeep – but I am ready to be back to my car and the stick shift’s far finer control.  As I send the Jeep back, the hood struts have been replaced (so the hood can remain open by itself) and the tailgate lock actuator (so now the gate can be opened from the outside AND locked).  I also ran Lucas fuel additive through several tanks of fuel, and both improved the fuel efficiency as well as brought the idling RPM from 1100 down to approximately 575 or so.  Definitely a fun vehicle to drive (and to think, I didn’t even get the chance to off-road with it), but too expensive per mile for me to drive any longer!

Thusly, given that this week saw me move to pushups on a 45 degree incline at physical therapy, and then on Thursday I received the permission of the surgeon, I have returned to my beloved MFALCON.

But I was not idle during my convalescence.  I planned out, and as of very recently, did the work involved in a couple of modifications and additions to the vehicle.

Clean and shiny as all hell (call it 90% wax, 10% sheen off the frozen rinse water)

Clean and shiny as all hell (call it 90% wax, 10% sheen off the frozen rinse water)

Fog lights, replacing the turn signals

Initially back in August, I recognized I would eventually want to install fog lights on my car – the extra light is a good thing for safety, but I also happen to think that fogs which are tinted look damned sexy whether on or off! :3

the new turn signal and fog light arrays

the new turn signal and fog light arrays

The assembly comes as a set (the stock assembly is a turn signal, a reflector, and then a fake fog light lens reflector), and thus I had to purchase replacement assemblies with the real fogs, as the sizing on the middle reflector is different.

the finished product, turn signals orange and fog lights yellow

the finished product, turn signals orange and fog lights yellow

And let me tell you, it was REALLY enjoyable to do a project even as simple as this, ordering and then cutting to size amber (turn signals) and yellow (fog lights) vinyl tint.  Having been incapable of doing much of anything for months as my arm healed, this was a really viable project for my still-healing arm while also being very practical and not too expensive.

New turn signals and fog lights installed, looking *awesome*

New turn signals and fog lights installed, looking *awesome*

Fabricating winter fronts for the upper and lower grills

A few weekends later, being optimistic that the surgeon would indeed clear me to drive my car again, and bearing in mind my home town of Chesterland Ohio is functionally the central Antarctic frozen wastes, I realize that my poor diesel engine will have a tough time warming up and staying warm while driving at home for a month (not as a flaw from my personal vehicle – diesels in general produce far less waste heat).  So taking a cue from school buses and semi trucks, I wanted to figure out some sort of winter front for my car.  There is a recently-released professional winter front available from ID Parts – but I do not want to spend $100 for this addition to my car’s winter time capabilities.

The initial pile of materials is confusing.

The initial pile of materials is confusing.

The solution was obvious, then: TO THE INTERNET!! I looked up various materials, even things like Lexan and Optix (various strength grades of acrylics) as backing materials; while using my friend Tom’s suggestion that the visible portion ought to be leather, for cool looks.  I ended up deciding on a lauan back board, with material taken from a $5 faux leather lady’s coat (thanks Good Will!!!) as the cover; the covers would attach to their respective grills using Velcro.

The finished bottom grill cover

The finished bottom grill cover

Without the CEID at Yale, I would have had to buy a bunch more tools (particularly on the fabric cutting and working side of things) – even still, I did pick up a titanium circular cutting tool and am VERY glad I did.  The overall cost was slightly over $50, so that is half the cost of buying a premade one.

The mockup emblem with the now-finished top grill covers for either side of it

The mockup emblem with the now-finished top grill covers for either side of it

Though the brown coat material doesn’t look half bad, I decided I wanted an accent color to really pop against the Storm Grey of my car; Burnt Orange it was!!

Yours truly, test-fitting the winter fronts

Yours truly, test-fitting the winter fronts

Additionally, even though this is faux leather (and thus a petroleum product), I want to try and protect the paint as best I can from the elements.  I looked into the options for leather conditioner + water sealer, and I found Aquaseal.

Fogs and turn signals still look good; winter fronts installed and making a HUGE difference on time to warm up

Fogs and turn signals still look good; winter fronts installed and making a HUGE difference on time to warm up

Traveling home to Ohio for Christmas and the 2013/2014 transition

So, these mods done, I got some help from a friend (for the sake of my poor shoulder) to get the Thule roof box atop my car, and then loaded – since last spring, I decided that each trip I take home will see my car loaded with things I do not want to get rid of, but do not need here with me in New Haven… so that eventually, when I depart this place in May 2014, the moving experience then will be easy (and almost solely furniture).

Thule box on the roof, the car is getting packed and ready to be driven into (apparently) some serious Lake Effect snow in NY

Thule box on the roof, the car is getting packed and ready to be driven into (apparently) some serious Lake Effect snow in NY

Also for the sake of my shoulder, I decided to split the trip into two days of travel – I will drive first to my friend John’s house in Rochester NY, to visit and board game with him.  Then, on Sunday, I will drive the approximately 4 remaining hours home.  Apparently big winter storms all across New England and New York starting tomorrow, so this should be interesting!

Giving Thanks, 2013: a very lengthy list of causes for gratitude

A couple weeks after Thanksgiving, I am now in the clear from school and work alike, and wanted to sit down and do a prolonged examination of the sizeable pile of blessings I have really gained deepened appreciation for, particularly over the course of surgery and healing from it.

This particular Thanksigiving, a good number of my friends have reached their parents’ homes, or their relative’s homes, or the hearth and hearts with whom they will be spending this holiday instituted by the good General Washington, to give thanks unto Almighty God.  Atypically for me, I was here in New Haven and not with my immediate family in Ohio, due to the continuing healing process from my shoulder surgery in September (combination of being disallowed to drive my efficient car yet; not be willing or able to afford the huge costs of driving my borrowed Jeep all the way to Cleveland; and not having the money or the capacity to sit on AMTRAK seats for 17+ hours, given that my arm is still finicky).  My good friend Andrea, from krav maga, has not only let me park my VW at her house since Sept 16 – she has also allowed me to borrow her Jeep.  But as if that weren’t enough, she ALSO invited me to be with her family on Thanksgiving. I was welcomed into her dad’s home on Thanksgiving itself; and into her mom’s home on the day after (and given that her mom remarried and converted to Judaism, and it was shabbat + Thanksgiving + Chanukah dinner, I ate a *lot*).  I have also become very good friends with my classmate Kelli, and have fully addicted her to both Battlestar Galactica and board- and card-gaming of all sorts, which has been a lot of fun over the course of this fall.  So for one, I am deeply thankful for the good friends, friends to last a lifetime, I have made while here in CT.

The lack of posts over the months since surgery has been in large part due to the unenviable difficulties of typing with only one hand… at least up until recently, when the surgeon cleared me for “active daily living.”  This sounds a lot further along than it really is – I am allowed to brush my teeth or comb my hair with my right arm, but am not to open doors, drive my stick shift, or really do ANY pushing or pulling involving any sort of weight with my right arm.  Even still, given that the surgeon completely lacerated and then reattached the ligaments between my right arm and torso on September 17… I am pretty damned pleased with this high level of progress (and lack of any complications, thus far).  The physical therapy moved from 3 times per week down to 2, as I was able to regain nearly the full range of motion far, far more quickly than they were able to predict or realistically expect.  So these days, they have me working with ever-growing weights (read: 3 or 4 pounds, still VERY light), in order to get the muscles and ligaments working in sync again.  So for healing and in fact the prolonged forced period of heavy resting I was required to do (and would never ever do voluntarily otherwise, due to thriving on being productive), I am deeply thankful.

One part of why I am finishing the composition of this post several days after Thanksgiving itself is because I wanted to fully finish my academic requirements and not allow any distractions to prolong that experience.  The fact that I only took three courses this semester (because my planned internship with the Yale Chaplain’s Office was not viable with the surgery, so I didn’t do the internship course as my 4th) was instrumental in my healing properly and being able to rest as much as my body needed.  Even still, as those close to me have heard time and again (and perhaps too often, as complaining ain’t do nobody no good anyhow), I am quite, quite, quite ready to be done with school.  That is, to be frank, too polite and concise a way of explaining how I feel – I am deeply struggling with the sensation of being stuck in a holding pattern, forced to accrue debt and listen to some classmates (most, if not all, of whom have great intentions) prattle on and on about things they have no idea about, having come to YDS without much in the way of practical life experience.  It would be one thing to discuss practical concerns if all parties were versed in the way the world actually works; it is another, and quite frankly corrosive, thing to be subjected to pontification by the unexperienced.  So, I am thankful for the things I have learned and experienced while at Yale, but I am very thankful that I am nearly done with school for a long time to come (this disclaimer allows me to go get a PhD in 20 years, to be clear).

Another outcome from shoulder surgery was that I had to quit work at the Law School – not being able to use my right arm for 3 months (but immediately after surgery, having no idea whatsoever of the actual timing of when I would be able to use it), I realized the honorable and indeed wise choice was to tender my resignation – it was neither fair to them to be put on indefinite hold, nor to me to pressure myself at all to return to work, as my dominant right arm needs 110% of my focus to heal.  That said, the whole three months without pay was a problem for my fall finances, as it turns out.  So a few weeks ago, I was panicked and looking for work online that would be viable with mostly one arm (this was prior to being cleared for two handed typing by the doc).  Figuring I would not have success, I decided to check the Yale student jobs postings, and was amazed to find a perfect fit – a research project on the French Resistance, which is at a stage where some 170,000 cards, each detailing an event during the resistance against the Germans during WWII, needs to be categorized and potentially entered into a spreadsheet.  Being fluent in French and pretty good with computers in general, I have not only secured that job; I have been promoted to managing researcher, supervising 10 research assistants while doing some coding of cards myself.  This has been a wonderful development; for the obvious financial reasons, but also because I was going more than a little stir crazy after three months of enforced nothing.  So, I am thankful for the great job I had at the Law School in the past, and the great job I have with the international program now.

Finally, I am thankful for the fact that I have done a great deal of soul-searching and careful thinking on what I would like to do as the next stage in my life.  Again, as per the last several posts here where I have discussed options, this is only an option (and many of the other ones are still live) – but more and more over time, I have begun to lean towards the possibility of moving back to northeast Ohio, probably even to my parents’ house, in order to save on rent and food; at the same time, snag a job at Cleveland Clinic or University Health or Metro Health, possibly even doing IT – I am disinterested in pursuing a career in helping people if I am unable to afford my cost of living plus loan payments, and would rather work a handful of years in a good job like that to fully pay down debt, and THEN work to get a job in the career I want; and if I play my cards right, I will squirrel away enough money so that I can buy the piece of land I want so badly, to start turning into an agrarian paradise, at the same time as pursuing that career job.  We shall, as they say, see… but nevertheless, I am thankful to be able to consider options before jumping into anything.

What blog post would be complete without Ike?  Especially Christmas tree Ike.

What blog post would be complete without Ike? Especially Christmas tree Ike.

“As I lay (recline) healing” – musings of the unwillingly idle

“What the Faulkner is he complaining about, being idle” you might be wondering.  Two things are indisputably true:

1) I function best when I feel/am useful
2) the healing process from these surgeries has kicked my ass and then laughed at me – even if I wanted to do anything more than physical therapy or class, I simply could not.

So, musings:

State of the Shoulder

First and foremost, how does my shoulder feel 37 days after the surgeries?  The answer depends on the day, but 10 days ago the pain had gotten manageable and was no longer tiring me out to a serious degree!

Then, I started physical therapy.

Everything is awful, thought I!  The pain has returned and thus being exhausted at all hours; the scar tissue collection my shoulder had begun was being destroyed.

Everything is blessedly alright, acknowledged I after the pain subsided and I thought about it.  Not only have the wounds completely closed and are free from complication (thus ending the live option of serious infection, thank God); the fact of the matter is, against all expectations, that I have started PT with a MUCH bigger range of motion than people do.  That is not to say I can do much of anything with the arm – I am still only capable of passive motion (eg leaning over and letting the right arm dangle to and fro; or using a cane in my left hand to move my right arm in different directions).  But I am nevertheless able to reach far above my head in two different directions as of 12 days into PT… which means I will likely get back to normal more quickly AND I don’t have as much to worry about in terms of complications.

Ike keeps a scaly eye on my healing process

Ike keeps a scaly eye on my healing process

That said, I have at least 5 more weeks in the sling, according to the last appointment with the surgeon.  I am to slowly leave the arm out of the sling each day, to get the elbow more comfortable with being unbent (though I assure you, it is massively uncomfortable to do so, yeesh), all the while continuing with my twice-daily exercises at home to maintain the gains from PT sessions (which are three times per week).

The road ahead (and the return to eventually using my own car)

The fact that I am least in pain when reclining, so I have every reason to research interesting plans and projects for the months ahead, once I am the two-armed man again.  Besides looking into gargoyle geckos and the design and construction of a 100% self-sustaining vivarium for them (stay tuned approx 14 months from now, once I am settled somewhere and have the money to build it, God-willing), I have been doing a great deal of systematic reading about my car, and ways to finally iron out the rest of the intermittent power loss issue (uphill on the highway, the engine sometimes goes into ‘limp mode’ and slows me down to 50mph… not especially fun).

now stored away as I mend

now stored away as I mend

But I have also read about performance and efficiency enhancements, to say nothing of adding utility AND good lucks to that wondrous diesel machine of mine.  A short list, for the interested:

-new camshaft, upgrades for the engine computer, bigger fuel injection nozzles – interestingly enough, well-designed diesel engines like this 1Z Volkswagen TDI become MORE efficient when you give them more fuel and performance engine components.  I am told I might be able to kiss 60 miles per gallon if I drive super careful on the highway… but 55mpg will be normal.   So worth it/LOL PRIUSUX
-need to try and fix the three spots of cosmetic rust, so the car can last to the 1 million miles I have planned for it
-very understated accent paint on things like the edge of the front grille, the canoe tiedown points, brake calipers
-painting the majority of my rooftop cargo carrier to match the car’s Storm Grey; doing the rim of the lid with the same aforementioned accent color (specifics still unclear)
-possiblt turn the interior into an altar to the stars and outer space (beyond just being the MFALCON, more on this later)
-slowly figure out a utility trailer, buy and renovate it as needed, to enable me to move out of New Haven without renting anything + to help me build my own house one day by transporting materials with my own gear!
Mind you, I can afford none of this now, and won’t soon have any money.  But I thrive on planning and tweaking things to improve them…

Post-Yale plans

So then, to close I offer a short update on where I hope to go, and what I want to do once I depart this place.

1) I am unwilling to pay rent any longer. I am going to carefully look into the “where” and strive to purchase land if at all possible; the “what” I do ought to be secondary to joining a community where I can flourish

2) I am at my best when I help others, but the lifestyle encouraged by academia (namely living beyond my means on loans while talking about sustainability) just doesn’t do it for me any more.  I want a goddamned salary to start paying down debt; as much as I feel drawn to a place like DC to dive into helping others, it would be arch-hypocrisy to live beyond my means while trying to encourage others to be sustainable.  So the “what I do” is wider open than before, which is both exciting and nervewracking.

3) I have had my fill of urban spaces.  I need to be where folks are friendly and where I would have lots of open, quiet space within which to meditate and purge my system of years of built-up annoyance and bitterness at all manner of things. Maybe not QUITE “My side of the mountain,” but close seems to be my ideal.  Any suggested locales to research would be appreciated.

4) Finally, there is an opportunity in front of me which would fulfill a lot of these hopes. I cannot say much still, but prayers and kind thoughts would be much appreciated.

This post brought to you by one-handed typing. ow.

By the sign of the Trident – right shoulder surgery, x2

Preparing for the one-armed days ahead

The surgeries, I was told by my friends and the surgeon and Internet research, that I should expect to spend many moons after surgery being unable to sleep or indeed sit comfortably without a recliner… and I put figured that reading books would be difficult with one arm alone.

So.

Recliner was acquired for a song and only part of a dance (read: $45) from Craigslist and is close to brand new.  Installed it into the basement (not realizing it would eventually need to be moved to my bedroom, as the pain meds made 2 flights of stairs to the bathroom in my house).

That left the issue of reading.

So I decided a $200 consumer book stand meant for reading from any angle (standing, sitting, reclining, laying down, etc) was overpriced without even knowing it maxed out at 4 lbs (due to the adjustable elbow being plastic).  As someone who dislikes stupid designs, this assured that I would design and build my own book stand.

So I did.

$47 or so worth of galvanized steel, Velcro, plumbing fittings, and spare lumber later, here was the final project outcome:

bookstand and recliner in the basement

bookstand and recliner in the basement

Sadly, as mentioned, the recliner had to move upstairs to my room, where it (and by extension, I) exist to this very day.

recliner in place in my bedroom so it would be closer to the restroom

recliner in place in my bedroom so it would be closer to the restroom

On the vehicular front, my stick shift car is not viable for months; thankfully, my good friend from krav maga, Andrea, owns a house with a driveway the MFALCON can live for months… and a 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a Mike-useable automatic transmission.  Helped her wash it, even had my dad restore the headlights while he was here after the surgery happened, and Convalescent-Mike has got wheels.

Jeep borrowed from my friend Andrea and storing my car there

Jeep borrowed from my friend Andrea and storing my car there

Merely a flesh wound…

But what were these surgeries, and why were they needed?  A question many folks have asked me, so I wanted to offer a brief timeline and explanation here.

Causes

1) in late May, whilst throwing an elbow strike at krav maga, it suddenly felt like something tore; an x-ray and 2 MRIs later, it turns out I had a tear in the posterior labarum (in short, the bundles of fibers holding the muscles to the joint);
2) I also have a genetic abnormality in the capsule of the shoulder, meaning the ligaments holding the arm to the torso formed improperly from birth; this is related to
3) the fact that I have serious hypermobility in my shoulder (think double-jointed thumbs), making my shoulders (naturally the least stable joint in the human body) dangerously prone to injury of the potentially irreparable sort in the future

initial dressing, sling, and ice pack harness

initial dressing, sling, and ice pack harness

Surgical intentions:

1) orthoscopically (incision-free) fixing the labral tear
2) an incision in the front of the shoulder to determine just how much the capsule needed fixing by reattaching it to the bone (oy)
3) poking around to make sure there were no other problems hidden from 2 MRIs (OY)

The surgery itself went quite well, with neither complication nor infection.  This whole process was far les stressful because my wonderful parents insisted on traveling the many miles from Cleveland to be with me.

And boy golly did I need the help post-surgery, as I will elaborate below.

… “the Trident?”

An odd title for this post perhaps, yes.  But odder still was the eventual removal of the dressing, and finding a blue tattooed Trident.  The surgeon, apparently, moonlights as a Greek hoplite who travels overseas to fight.

the two wounds and the Trident

the two wounds and the Trident

My body is too big for the prescribed Vicodin to touch me, so they gave me heavier-duty narcotics for the pain. And sweet Jesus I am glad they did, because the first week after was *incredibly* painful.  Even through percocet and oxycontin, and staying 6 days at the Yale Health Infirmary (the tertiary blessing in this whole debacle) I still struggled with the pain of using my ab muscles to get out of bed for using the restroom; thus my father’s presence for the first week was huge, as he could help me get up and lay down, and make me laugh in the midst of grimacing.  My mom too was present, and was an angel of medicine and maintaining cleanliness (the fear of infection given the 4 inch incision was quite pronounced).

My mom remained for the second week, and helped me all the way through, which also turned out more necessary than I realized.

Prognosis at the end of the second week post-surgery?

In short, its good.

my bike turned into exercise equipment for the winter and my healing

my bike turned into exercise equipment for the winter and my healing

In long, its goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood.

I am infection- and complication-free after the most vulnerable time for those; I am off the pain meds (which means clearer head and better sleep, at the cost of pain a lot).  My friends have all been wonderful about striving to help me; my professors have been understanding; and my wonderful parents, prior to returning home, made sure I was as prepped as I could be.

my friends Matt and Jess, bringing me get-well apple cobbler

my friends Matt and Jess, bringing me get-well apple cobbler

That said, one-armed-living ain’t always fun. Had to buy shoes with clasps and Velcro (Tevas, a la my friend Tom).  And a grabber tool.  And other such tools.  Not all foods can be eaten one-handed; even fewer can be prepared.  Nevertheless, I fight ever onwards, ever upwards.

Another 3-5 weeks in the sling; an indeterminate number of months of physical therapy to follow.

And now you know the rest of the story.

my mom and I enjoying lunch on the new chairs she bought me

my mom and I enjoying lunch on the new chairs she bought me

dinner with my folks before they depart after two weeks of caring for me

dinner with my folks before they depart after two weeks of caring for me

enjoying fresh air towards healing fully

enjoying fresh air towards healing fully