September 7th, 2010


So, where were we ...

OK, so maybe this time I have some sort of an excuse ... after my wailing and gnashing of teeth about not posting this stuff for a month, I promptly disappear for another week, but I can point to having been out of town over the holiday weekend (drove to Columbus, OH on Friday, visited with The Wife's family on Saturday, drove back home on Sunday ... yes, that thrilling) as one time-sink that was to blame! I guess part of my problem is that I still have a mental image of myself being "a regular LiveJournaler", from back in the days when I'd rarely miss a day of posting here, and would frequently have numerous posts per day. However, the combination of having to severely "edit myself" in terms of having an opinion on anything in interest of being the ideal bland zombie cog for what ever corporate machine that might be eventually considering hiring me, and ramping up my Twitter usage in my active job search (and my using that venue for my more trivial notations), has left LJ somewhat in the lurch ... reserved for originating book reviews and cross-posting stuff like my blitherings over on The Job Stalker.

Perhaps most notable about this weekend is that I did nothing (well, aside from some Twitter reading and link-snagging from there) on the Job Search. As I've noted, I am pretty much on a 24/7 cycle on that and it felt very strange to not be churning through stuff towards that end. Not "good", mind you (as anytime I reflected on the fact I dropped into panic and guilt), just "different". Unfortunately, it's pretty clear that my job search has exactly the same results if I do massive amounts of efforts or if I do nothing, and that is depressing.

Speaking of depressing, my current cobbled-together-from-parts "Frankenstein" machine is starting to look terminal. Over the past few weeks it's gotten into a habit of freezing up on me (at totally random times), requiring a hard re-boot. Needless to say, this has gotten me paranoid about saving stuff I'm working on (well, not paranoid enough, as I "lost" 8 hours of Twitter posts I was planning on reading this morning when it froze up overnight), but it's moved from freezing up every few days to needing to be re-booted 2-4 times a day now. There is an outside chance that I might be able to get my "old" (good) computer functioning (the one that died last December), as it maybe is having a "cable issue" instead of a "drive issue", which would explain why Ubuntu didn't recognize the new HD I'd gotten for it some months back. However, I have to be in a state of extreme emotional equanimity to be able to get into the guts of a computer, and I've not had that level of stability much of late. The other option, of course, would be to spend $$$ on a new system, $$$ that at least I don't think we have (The Wife, on the other hand, still spends money like the proverbial drunken sailor, hence our very expensive 8 hours with her family over the weekend, which, between car rental, gas, hotel, and several restaurant meals, no doubt cost more than 2-3 functional refurb machines or a decent new one!).

I have had a few "freelance" sort of things crop up ... unfortunately, the vast majority of them don't seem to go anywhere, which is making me half-way gun-shy to even bother following up on those sorts of contacts. One of the reasons that I've always avoided "Freelance" as a career path is that it's 90% sales and then with whatever time you have left in your waking hours you get to desperately try to get the damn work done. I've never had the thick skin necessary for sales, and get really sad/hurt/resentful when an assignment disappears on me ... I can only imagine how miserable I'd be if I was having to actively be out there trying to piece together a living from dribs and drabs of stuff. Sure, I'd be happy to have enough assignments that I was able to patch together an income from them (assuming they'd be coming in the door of their own accord), but the thought of having to pitch dozens of things for every actual paid assignment makes me want to curl up into a ball under my desk!

Anyway, over there ==> is the latest Job Stalker entry (so at least I've not gotten behind again!) from Thursday. It's actually what would have been Friday's content, but things got screwy with the holiday weekend. Always appreciate the clicky-clicky, as it's depressing to see nobody reading my stuff over there.

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Paranoid ...

This was one of those “pig in a poke” acquisitions from the Barnes & Noble on-line clearance sale (where I try to find 13 $1.99 books to get up to free shipping on the order), and it is as “odd” as any that have come my way via that channel. Ronald K. Siegel's Whispers: the Voices of Paranoia is a rather strange book; it reads like fiction, but is based in the actual clinical work of its author. Dr. Siegel is “Associate Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Bio-behavioral Science at UCLA”, and is “frequently called upon as an expert in high-profile criminal cases”. Most of the stories here hinge on this latter role, as the paranoia discussed has, generally speaking, expressed itself in lethal endgames. However, the former role is key as well, as much, if not all, of the paranoid episodes detailed are drug-induced, and his experience is both clinical and personal in this area.

I had to chuckle a number of times in reading this, reflecting on various psychiatrists that I encountered in my years of “metaphysical studies”, as some of them seemed to have only gotten into that line of work for the drugs, and were frequently in possession of a wide array of psychoactive substances in their traveling kits. Obviously, if one is studying the mind, and subjective states of the mind, it can be argued that one can't really understand the subject without subjecting oneself to the chemicals which create “interesting” states … this goes all the way back to Freud's cocaine use. This is most excessively illustrated here in one section where Siegel is “researching” the conditions that one subject was in during a multi-day stand-off where he shot his sister, watched his infant nephew die of dehydration, shot up the train car they were traveling in, and did a vast lot of coke … which Siegel attempts to match, line for line!

While that is, perhaps, the most extreme of the cases outlined in the book, the dozen he discusses are all pretty bizarre, from the folks who are convinced there are tiny black bugs under their skin (and worms, and other stuff), which they gouge, scrape, burn, etc. to get rid of, to a guy who decides that he is God, but who is frustrated that the Doctor (who had been a stage magician in his youth) is able to produce more dramatic “miracles” than he can. In between, he interviews “Hitler's brain” (an Eliza-like computer program that a neo-Nazi tech wiz had obsessively developed with all the sayings and writings that he could amass from the mad dictator … works with a satellite scientist who had, largely based on a very strange movie, become convinced that a vast conspiracy (and dwarfs) were out to get him … dissuades an old lady from her conviction that nanobots were installed in her teeth by her dentist, causing the title's “whispers” … looks at the situation of a ballerina/hostess whose increasing cocaine use leads her to kill the object of her desires … visions of bugs, and midgets, and assorted other drug-induced critters that leads one man to suicide, and another to killing his girlfriend's kid … a chess prodigy who had “snapped” in Viet Nam, and was living out a progressively more macabre war game around him … a gal who killed her daughter while in the midst of a religious fantasy fueled by a combination of drugs and preachy TV … and a big-time drug dealer who was convinced that he was being stalked by (again) dwarfs.

All these are little trips down the rabbit hole … from the full-on replicating of the train siege to the Hunter S. Thompson like “playing along with” the dealer's dwarf hunts, Siegel is himself caught up in each of these stories, to the extent that one has to wonder how “real” these tales are, and how “fictionalized” they may have become in the telling here. He is the author of a couple of other books (described as “highly regarded”), so I'm assuming that these are fairly close to reality, as strange (and sometimes implausible) they appear to be.

Whispers does appear to still be in print, so you might be able to find it in your local book vendor's psychology section, but it's also out there in the new/used channels for under a quarter for either the hardcover or paperback editions. It's an unsettling, but fascinating read … if the subject matter is of interest to you, it's certainly worth picking up!

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