Saturday, October 30, 2010

humble pie

I've gotten into trouble at work because I haven't done what I was directed to do (although I wasn't always sure what the direction was).

I probably messed up a bike at the Bike Exchange because I didn't know what to do and I didn't ask.

I'm not as smart - or as helpful or thoughtful - as I've been telling myself I am.

From my other journal that youse don't see:

As I write this, I see I have a lot invested in people thinking I'm smart and competent. I have wound up shooting myself in the foot, looking stupid by NOT asking for help. (How did I get to be over fifty, and I'm just learning this?)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I was directed yesterday to call the Division of Youth & Family Services to investigate a client.

I hate it.

My detractors will say it's only because I want to be a nice guy to my clients. While that last part is true (it's easier to deal with clients who aren't enraged at you), that's not really why I hate to call DYFS. It's because I think that DYFS involvement is often worse for a family than the problem we may be trying to address.

I did a quick web search to get the link in the first paragraph. While that link was the first Google result, six of the results on the first page are about how DYFS has failed, caused other problems, or overstepped its bounds.

We have to open nuts, but the only tool we have is a sledgehammer. We destroy and lose the meat we're trying to save.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cold ride!

There's a Princeton Freewheelers ride on Monday and Wednesday mornings out of Etra Park in Hightstown (mostly the same group, of mostly retired guys, goes out of Byron Johnson Park in Allentown on Wednesdays). I was off yesterday (had to move my every-other-Wednesday off when it conflicted with a work regional meeting), and rode with 'em.

We left in about 50º F (c-c-c-cold) and a healthy wind (there were eight of us, including one woman, on this ride that has had almost twenty riders in the warmer weather). The ride was short; the leader had to add a few miles to his planned route to make sure we got up over 30 for the day.

One key to staying warm seems to be layers. Another is covering up; my fingertips were cold in my fingerless gloves, and most of the riders had thin, but full-finger gloves (and I do have tights for this weather). I need to decide if I'm gonna pop for the under-the-helmet headwarmer and booties to keep the cold wind off my toes - the shoes are ventilated, which makes sense at 95º, but less sense at 45º.

Friday, October 22, 2010

See a guy about being crazy...

I've posted before about anxiety problems. I started with the EAP (employee assistance professional; a kind of counselor paid for by the job) this week, and the guy I saw gave me homework to write every day about what brought me to him; my notes for the assignment are as follows:

Just saw (Name) for the first time, and he told me to start a journal, to include:
  • Daily writing abut anxiety and work
  • What I tried to do to make it better
  • Successes & “non-successes” (a way to avoid the word “failure”, I guess)
  • Sleep & Exercise
I've only written three times (once, just prior to this post, about this insomnia - it's 3:22, and I've been awake over an hour), but it's really helping. My first notes helped me see some of the strategies that have not been useful, and just seeing him and talking about it made me realize that a memory that recently came up - that I wasn't even sure was a real memory (I have at least one other "memory" of an event that I'm sure did not, in fact, happen) - was of a real event, and knowing that gave me some control over it.

He's talked about referral to either a psychiatrist for medication, or someone for behavioral interventions, but I'm not sure I'm going to need it. (Of course, I'm not now in the depths of the anxiety; I don't know if the tools I have now will dig my way out of that cave when I fall in it again. Or maybe I'll have different tools, so I won't get into the cave in the first place.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back from Hawaii

Went to Hawaii this past week; just got back (and no, I wasn't going to post it in advance here; the burglars might be reading this!) Below is an edited version of the daily notes I took; I'd be happy to bore you with hundreds of pictures if you ask!


  • traffic incredible on way to airport; could not go to in-laws for breakfast; had to park in long-term (stop 39, sections 17, 34)

  • Bags checked; check info in inside pocket of Jim's carry-on.

  • Boarding pass in flap pocket of carry-on.

  • Coffee at Starbuck's

  • Got on the plane and left on time at 1:10 NJ time. It's now 9:56 NJ time, but, at 500+ mph ground speed, we're traveling at a considerable portion of the speed of daylight. Through the whole flight, the sun has been pouring in the cabin windows; it's mid- to late-afternoon local time (over some nameless spot in the Pacific right now). We'll get into Hawaii at about 11:30 pm NJ time, but it will be 5:30 where we land. Gonna be a long day!

  • Been re-reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I remember liking it (I still do), but I also remember leaving it unfinished about 80 pages from the end (of this almost 800 page book). Why did I do that?

  • Also brought umpteen hours of audiobooks and “This American Life” podcasts for flight and exercise listening. I've only listened to one hour of TAL so far; the rest has been the inflight movie (Burton's Alice in Wonderland), Strange & Norrell, and an unspecified amount of napping and staring either out the window or into space generally.


  • Got checked in last night; 6:00 pm or so Hawaii time (midnight NJ time); slept miserably. Still all messed up about the time & sleep this am, but went for a walk and shop; got some pictures and gifts for everybody (nobody's forgotten; now I can improve if I need to). Only real plan for today is to board the ship, though Reg found a couple of walking trips we can do if we want.

  • Oy. Heard back from one of my supervisors on a case I had written her about who was suicidal (or not); and the family & psych sections of the assessment instrument had not saved. Anxiety up; I quick filled 'em in while I had internet access, and emailed her that I had corrected it. THAT certainly messed up my day.

  • On the dock by 11:30 (cab came straight here). Supposedly couldn't board until noon, but we were group 4, and on the ship by 11:50. They had the buffet open (smart decision) so we ate, and walked around & got bearings, and sat, and the room was available. Bags are in the hall; they'll probably be delivered soon. Room is small, but trim.


  • Got in and settled well. Overnight, sailed to Maui, and did out first day driving about. On the way to pick up the rental car there was some rain, and the most vivid rainbow I've ever seen. From there, went to a park where there were a number of surfers; saw some surfing and much beach-y wonderfulness. Then to Paui, with artsy shops and hippie-ish people (and how do they afford these incredible real-estate prices?). Then to Grandma's coffee, a shop near the center of the island with excellent coffee and a local duo on ukes (is that a cliché?), and then to the County Fair, where we walked too far in the too-hot, but I got a hat. When we dropped off the car, Reg left her sweatshirt, and we had to go get it (grumble...). Slept, and now to dinner soon.

  • Back from dinner. Regina is not a fan of diners (she doesn't get the mystique), but she's agreed to a trip to the on-ship diner for some-meal-or-other. The two ship's restaurants are good, but I don't think they're serious about desserts – they CERTAINLY aren't serious about chocolate!


  • Second day in Maui; loved the “Ride down the Volcano” event – well, I did; Regina was too nervous about the speeds (which were, admittedly, pretty high – 27mph in places – this was not the sluggish trip down a wooded path she had envisioned). I thought it was great. The bikes were heavy, lowly-geared single-speeds, with drum brakes front and back. They were great for the pure gravity downhill, but awful for any pedaling, especially for trying to catch up; I couldn't get the cranks spinning fast enough to engage until the bike was moving very slowly indeed.

  • Late lunch at the diner. The brownie sundae was good. And onion rings!

  • Later, to try to stay awake, did another walk, and discovered another crypto-restaurant; there's a bar on 12-Forward facing the pool that has food at some times. The Lanai on 11-Aft also had food out, including the excellent pretzel-rolls that are one of my secrets on this trip. Many folks appear to be in it for the eating (and the drinking). Many also just lying in the sun, listening to the Jimmy Buffet cover-band by the pool on 11-Midships. (There's also a completely netted-in basketball court on 14, and two private decks on 13 where the crew is allowed to hang out on their time off.) Also saw the shops when they were open (finally)... noting impressive to me.

  • Did the Easy-Fly registration (airport boarding passes and bags check-in) today, so we can trot around in Honolulu on our last day without dragging the bags around.

  • Finished Tristram Shandy. Finally.

Oct 5.

  • Started Vanity Fair.

  • Long excursion today. Started with trip to Kilauea Volcano Crater on the big island. Predicted partly cloudy, but rain much of the day, and as a result we couldn't see some things and pictures are iffy. Walked up to a lookout point, and it was so wet, we decided not to go to see the edge of the big crater; nonetheless, we saw another crater, stopped by steam vents, walked across a big lava field (with both pahoehoe lava – flat – and a-a lava, the crackly type). Went through an underground lava tube. Saw a place where lava had backed up around a tree and then the tree burned away.

  • After the volcano stuff, Chad (out guide, about whom more later) was feeling like he owed us something, so he took us to an orchid nursery. Pictures of pretty flowers!

  • Then to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory, where we took care of most of the required gift buying.

  • Stopped by a pretty bay that Chad knew (and used to go when he cut school).

  • Finally to the Akaka falls, and back to the ship.

  • Chad was a hoot. The more he warmed up, the more he told us about his misspent life, his dissolute friends, and some of the seamier customs of island residents, including the special arrangements offered to persons over 50% Hawaiian, the problems with Micronesians moving in (they tend to become gang members), and the fact that there are so many people with various heritages on the islands – Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, “Caucasian”, Filipino – and so few full Hawaiians.

  • And during the ride, we saw a wild pig by the side of the road (the largest animals on the islands are pigs, sheep, and cattle that have escaped and gone feral). One of the tourists was from Georgia, and had some pig-catching experience... and the driver stopped the van, the fellow jumped out, and caught the pig by the hind feet and under the stomach. It was a young pig (where was the mother?), and it was either confused or outraged when it was let go, because it stopped and stared at us for a moment as we drove away.

  • There will be a volcano show tonight of some sort, but I don't know if I'll stay up for it... (Later) It turns out I mostly missed it; I was napping, but trying to be awake when we passed the volcano. I woke when Regina came back to the stateroom (I had not made my intention clear to her, and she let me sleep – she had also forgotten the camera). I ran to the open deck, and saw two glowing areas that looked like huge forest fires disappearing astern. And now it's about two hours later, and I can't get back to sleep.

Oct 6

  • Kona. We don't dock here; instead, we're anchored at some distance (I have no way to estimate) offshore, and the ship uses tenders to ferry passengers to the island. It turns out that the tenders are the ship's lifeboats. Our excursion today meets at the theater, and from there I presume we will be led together to the tender. There appears to be some rush and chaos about getting to the tenders; the daily newsletter has notes about how to get a tender and what order and procedure will be used.

  • The excursion today is a kayak/snorkel day; I went to breakfast in my swimsuit. I don't have dry pockets or a belt to hang the camera bag, so I'm using the laptop bag, first impressed into service as my airline carry-on bag, as my day bag.

  • The kayak excursion turned out to be a lot of fun, but a lot of work; much paddling (Reg and I got to be a good team; with some practice, we might compete! Naaah...), and some snorkeling, which was less than successful; had to swim (could not really figure out why; possibly because of the choppy water). We flipped the kayak. Twice. Nonetheless, we saved everything except a pair of Reg's cheap sunglasses. We left most of our gear – including our camera and my glasses – back at the office, so very few pictures today.

  • This evening, Reg wanted to go to a class about Hawaiian history, so we arranged dinner around that; dinner in the Skylight at five-ish, then the class, and now we're thinking about the buffet for vegetables. (But I'm so full, because I also dropped in at one of the bars this afternoon for a bratwurst and some excellent steak fries...)

Oct 7

  • Asleep by 8:00 last night, and up a bit before 5:00 to exercise.

  • Today's excursion is another kayaking day, plus some hiking, This one tuned out to be up a lazy river (so lazy that it took some time to figure out which way it was flowing; it turned out we were paddling upstream, not that it made a difference). We were remarking, to each other and to some of the (many) other participants, that today's excursion and yesterday's had the same difficulty rating, and should not have in any fair system of grading (yesterday's was far more demanding). Yesterday, we had about twelve or fourteen people; today we had over forty (with some age and corpulence among them!). The hike was along some fairly steep paths to a couple of nifty waterfalls (swimming at one, which we did not do), then lunch, supervised by a couple of feral roosters.

  • Back early. Read some on the deck outside the stateroom (and napped some). Views are especially nice today; got some pictures off the deck. Clothes and shoes are drying out there, which is completely against the rules, but we're keeping them low and out of sight.

Oct 8

  • Easy day today. After exercise, light breakfast (can you believe it?). Ship leaves at 1:30, so we've got to be back for that; we've got a bus tour to Waimea Canyon, billed as Hawaii's “Grand Canyon”. It was fairly grand, all right. Bus-driver from Missouri who gave us a history and geography lesson, along with info about the local flora and fauna. We stopped a few times; first at a local store to gawk at shell jewelry (not much spending, although Regina now has a new favorite coffee from Kawai); then to the canyon (wow...). Then we went to a place where a lava tube causes a geyser-like water action when the breakers come in. That was interesting, but what was more interesting were the feral chickens and roosters (too tough to eat and no predators; they've got it good!)

  • Then back to lunch and to begin packing. We've got the boarding passes and the luggage tags for check-in; as long as the bags are packed, tagged, and outside the door by midnight, we should see them next in Newark.

  • Our side of the ship is due to pass the Na Pali cliffs sometime before 6:00 pm. I keep running out and getting pictures, just in case; I don't want a repeat of the sleeping-through-passing-the-volcano experience!

Oct 9

  • Disembark today. Got the bill; no unexplained charges (although we had a bit of a discussion about the luggage-to-the-airport EasyFly service). Off the ship by 9:00 or so...

  • then to a quick visit to the statue of Kamehameha I, and the royal palace, where we found out where to catch the bus to the airport, and saw a stand selling the World Famous Hawaii Hot Dogs!

  • Then on to the Honolulu Art Museum, which was a little gem of a place (but no pictures there, because you can't do photos at an art museum).

  • Then to a Starbucks, where I had a devil of a time getting the wifi on the netbook to work. Reg checked her email, and didn't get the one about her new employee. I checked mine and Luci says “we'll talk when you get back.” Great. Also tried to change my state email password, but the server is so slow I'm afraid I'l get cut off halfway through the process; I'll do it from the wired computer at home.

  • Walked to the bus stop, and got the bus to the airport; about 2:30 for a 7:50 flight. So far, so good.

  • Got on the flight, no problem. We'll be back in Jersey about noon, their time, tomorrow.