Friday, June 27, 2008

Victory In DC

There really shouldn't have been a lot of pressure about this test I took today. Somehow, things didn't work out that way. We had the cancer scare with Judy that ruined a month, then turned out to not be cancer, but a triglyceride problem. It did make studying a small problem, as well as breathing. One tends to hold their breath for days on end. I didn't publish anything because, I think I'm superstitious. Or I scare easily. Whatever, I'm off topic.

The last day for taking this test was this coming Saturday. I filed to take it then. Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call telling me that I would have to change locations from Bethesda, three blocks from my office, to downtown, and that I would have to come in on Thursday morning at 9:00 AM, two days earlier.

Naturally, I was on-line, and who did I notice was also on-line at the same time? My good buddy, friend, pal Open Grove Claudia. I definitely want to grow up to be more like her. Really. I got into chat with her, and she simply said that all studying did was to make sure that you were familiar with the material, and when I was sitting there taking the test, I would see the same material, and it would all look familiar. When that happens, there is never a reason to panic, just calmly to sit and figure things out. Is there any wonder that I keep telling you to read her blog all the time? Another one who is more than just another pretty face. More than just another great writer, and novelist. So much more. A source of mental health. A trusted friend.

I found myself on the subway at 7:00 AM with a box of energy bars that my partner had warned me to take with me. I wasn't prepared for what happened. You are not allowed to take any personal items into the testing area. This includes a cup of coffee, no energy bars, I even had to take off my digital watch. I was led to a small cubicle with a partition, and a camera pointed right at me. I was logged into a system called PROCTOR where I was informed that any untoward behavior caught on the cameras could result in my failing the exam. I can only imagine what I might have schemed up to do with a digital watch. Maybe something with a NSA satellite?

Here is where reading the Mel's of the World, and the O.G. Claudia's and the Glamourpuss' and their fire-walking death-defying looking-fear-in-the-face-positive-mental-attitude stories pay off for you. You push all of that crap out of your mind, and you sit there, and just do it. Skinny Little Blond dresses it up in spectacular imagery, but I have to tell you, ultimately, it's all about competence. We each pick our challenges, and then it's up to us to fullfill the challenge we picked.

After seven hours, and a 30 minute break in between, I pushed the exit button. I had answered over 190 questions out of 230 live questions and another 20 experimental questions correctly to hit two standard deviation units out. That's the 95 percentile. Not where NoR wanted me, but way better than passing. I'm satisfied. I filed for the next exam today. I learned this course in four weeks. My partner took six months. I also have a lot more experience now when I took the exam than he did when he took his. On the other hand, the industry has vastly changed and become much more complex since then. I'm proud, and I thank all of you who helped me stay positive through a lot of less than pleasant.

And keep reading these people, they help you achieve the meaning of life! No small task, and they are sooooooo good at it. Not that I have an opinion, naturally. (Hint, I think they are all existential philosophers, and some then turned to Zen. You'll have to go read them to find out for yourself.) Have a fabulous weekend, and remember to have a good time, please.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Lesson Of The Frogs

A group of frogs were travelling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the unfortunate frogs they would never get out. The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump out of the pit. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and simply gave up. He fell down and died. The othe frog continued to jump as hard as he could. One again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and suffering and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out. When he got out, the frogs asked him, 'Why did you continue jumping? Didn't you hear us?' The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

This story has two lessons:
1) There is life and death in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day.

2) A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. Be careful what you say. Speak life to those who cross your path.

The power of is sometimes hard to understand that an encouraging word can go such a long way. Anyone can speak words that tend to rob another of the spirit to continue in difficult times. Special is the individual who will take time to encourage another.

- author unknown


I take no credit for this article as I did not write it. But I am certainly motivated to put this up by Mel, who lives in flooded Iowa. You should see what she wrote yesterday (Friday). (Ed. Note: Mel, I'm not a sir, my name is Monty. How do you do!)

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Need To Take Some Time Off

I have the first of a series of exams coming up on Saturday, June 29th. I have several thousand pages of material that are being covered. Everyone is confident except me, so I am taking the next two weeks off from blogging, and as much work as I can. Don't worry, you all are like family to me. Ah'll be bach (as Ahnold would say).

I'll catch up on your blogs, and please, give 'em hell. See you soon, and as usual, have a wonderful time!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Few Ideas For You

Open Grove Claudia really outdid herself this week when she wrote a nifty little post on hatred. Claudia is always good. This post goes from low key, but very smart to mind bending. If you have the time for the population demographics lecture at the end of the post, it is downright brilliant and insightful.

Mel who writes Melsdream is a blog that grows on you. Mel wrote about the press today, and how they sensationalized the flooding to the point of creating a situation that didn't exist. Of greater significance to me were two other posts, the first about hitting a deer on the way to work, and the second, about other people's opinions. I just see a lot of wisdom concisely written. I am always short on wisdom, personally.

If you haven't taken the opportunity to read WnG of Whole New G yet and met a total Barack Obama-supporter who hasn't figured out that she should be in politics running for office, and a rabid Boston Celtics fan, who loves spicy tuna sushi, well you haven't lived yet. Why? Because she is sooooooo much more than that.

It is through WnG that I met Woman With No Regrets who carries the nickname NoR. She just bought a house, after a divorce, which she is working to get over, even though she goes climbing in the mountains where she lives with her friends and ex-husband almost every weekend. She is an excellent writer, very open, and very involved, which makes her very compelling. If you really need more, she will resume posting pictures soon. Of what, you'll have to find out for yourself.

None of these are in any particular order, with the exception of these that I have saved for last. The Professionals. Or, they ought to be.

Skinny Little Blond writes the most magnificent fiction with fantastic imagery. If Sartre or Camus were alive, they would be assigning her short stories to their classes.

Glamourpuss is well-known for her exploits in pole dancing, trapeze, the pitfalls of dating, and the exposition on various forms of proper dress for the well dressed, not to mention the various appropriate vintages of the finest chocolate. She also has this little blog that she writes these small pieces in that are simply marvelous called Clairvoyance. It's well worth reading.

And then there's Heart in San Francisco. She belongs here, because she is such an excellent writer. Her skills pair up well with her fertile imagination, her smarts, and her insights. She is not to be missed.

Last is the only paid professional, James Burnette and his blog Burnettiquette. Once you get involved there, it becomes quite addictive. It's almost like a public service. Either that or James Burnette knows exactly how I think. Or worse, he may be a whole lot smarter than me. Actually, come to think of it, that's a whole lot better! It may be best for you to decide for yourself.

You have a whole weekend, and the NBA playoffs don't look like they have a lot more to go, so have a fabulous weekend, and enjoy some quality reading!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I Don't Have The Words, I'm Simply Very Lucky

Last night, Judy and I drove to Frederick, Maryland to have dinner with some friends of ours who we have known for a long time. They had both held high ranking government jobs, and retired. Now, they had moved away from the city, and we were visiting them at their new condo in Frederick.

They have a beautiful, new kitchen, with terrazzo floors, and an island to cook on, a convection oven, plus a microwave with a convection oven in it. They wanted to go out to a local diner. So, we went.

We were shown to a booth, and we sat down and ordered dinner. Each of us ordered one of the specials. I got the roast tenderloin of beef, Judy got roast beef, they got a turkey dinner and a kabob. Everyone else's dinner seemed fine. Mine was overcooked.

I'm sure almost everyone has heard of someone who suddenly got something stuck in their throat while they were eating. It is much rarer to see someone get something stuck in their throat while they are eating, and have someone save their life while you are in the restaurant. But, if you REALLY want to be three standard deviation units out, be the one who can't breathe.

There are several reasons that I was very lucky. First, I was sitting on the outside of the booth. I will NEVER sit on the inside of a booth again, as long as I am alive. I was able to get to my feet, and point to my mouth and indicate that I couldn't breath. This attracted attention, not just from Judy at my table, but from the Licensed Practical Nurse at the next table, the Registered Nurse at the table two behind us, and the Emergency Tech two aisles over.

The LPN did something, she couldn't get her arms around my chest. I had evidently turned blue, and was turning a rich shade of purple. I could see, but was having trouble hearing. I was pretty sure I was about to pass out, and then die. I was trying for a brilliant idea, but my head was exploding. The EMT had pulled my arms over my head, and suddenly, whatever it was dropped out of the bottom. And then I was choking on air. You hear a lot when people are yelling at you, and you try to do what they are telling you. It is clear that they may know what to do, because you certainly don't. I wanted to poke whatever it was, a piece of meat, down. I had no way to tell them.

Open Grove Claudia had a post earlier this week and asked the question what do you want to do before you die? As soon as I pass my exams, I am going to learn some emergency first aid. I need to stop feeling quite as shaken up as I do, and education is generally the answer for me. From the bottom of my heart, it gives me a lot of pleasure to say, have a fabulous week! I will.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dona Nobis Pacem

You may notice that you don't hear much about Darfur anymore. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but there was not a sudden outbreak of peace in Darfur. We have a friend, I'll call her Rachael, who is a career diplomat with the State Department for certain West African countries. She was the first diplomat allowed into Darfur when they opened the borders. According to Rachael, everyone has simply given up on Darfur. No cease fire held, and no one cares anymore. This doesn't mean that the killing has stopped. It just means that there are so many different factions fighting over so many issues going back so many hundreds of years that some things are not quite clear anymore. Still, they are fought to the death over. Africa and the Middle East have remarkable similarities.

I should tell you that Rachael has a personal issue she likes to advance as a part of her work. She'd like to eradicate slavery. She writes and presents papers all over the place, and generally keeps various groups of people informed. I don't want to publish her picture, or tell you her last name. First, you all think that there's no slavery where you live. Wrong. There's slavery right here in the Nation's Capitol. There are women who have come here from places such as China and Russia who are paying off someone's debt working as prostitutes, and living meager existences. According to Rachael, these women will live and die in indentured servitude, often of various occupational diseases.

I am grateful for Rachael and people like her. She is doing a job that I don't have the temperament to do without going crazy. I did more than buy her and her husband a drink. I also hugged her, and thanked her for what she does. It was the least I could do.