Identity, Imagination, and Iwata

14 07 2015

As many of you have a likely heard by now, Mr. Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo, died on July 11 after a long battle with cancer. This entry…I think this is more for me and my mental health than anything. Mr. Iwata’s passing really got me and I have been doing a lot of ugly crying the last few days. I apologize in advance if this sometimes meanders and rambles. There have been countless tributes to Mr. Iwata, but I think the most powerful has been the piece of artwork created by Sonja van Vuure (pictured below)

thankyouiwata_smlSonja van Vuure

  This is not intended to be a post about the cruelty that is cancer and how we lose too many, too young (Mr. Iwata was only 55 years old). It isn’t even an attempt to speak as some type of industry “insider” as my years of being in the quasi-loop in the video game world are long behind me. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what this entry IS about, but I didn’t want it to be those things. I have been a Nintendo fan ever since I was little. I grew up, almost for my whole life, with Nintendo. As far back as I can recall, video games were always a part of my life. I have become something of a collector over the years. I remember going to the local video store and renting an NES console and games because we did not own one (I would assume it was because of cost, but I cannot say exactly why). I was two years old when the NES launched. My family did not purchase an NES for another 3 years, maybe 4 years (I want to say we bought one in the Summer of 89, but it may have been 1990). For what it is worth, though, I grew up with the NES as an integral part of my childhood. I remember the first time we rented the NES from the local video store and brought it home, got it hooked up, and invited neighbors over to see it and play it. It became a party. The game that got everyone all riled up? Duck Hunt. Duck Hunt became the first party game. Who ever would have guessed 16 years later family would gather in that same living room at Thanksgiving to play Wii Sports? While playing games and being a fan of Nintendo does not define a life, it certainly highlights the importance of games to my personal existence. Read the rest of this entry »





Back to Never Again

21 07 2013

As some of you know, I do not sleep well. I haven’t slept well in 10+ years. There are a million reasons for this. There are rare occasions when I wake in the middle of the night and have a moment of clarity or creativity. I had one of those the other night. It wasn’t even super creative like when you have one of those wild, hallucinogenic fever dreams. It was just something so simple and succinct that came to me as I awoke. A poem. A very simple poem emerged from the darkness.

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Lines Written in the Middle of the Night

 

I love you.

I miss you. Please,

come home.

 

————–

 

Nothing special about it. Nothing that hasn’t been said 290784978 times in literature. But it all fit. And I could get back to sleep.

 





On Being Useful and Living Long

11 07 2013

Howdy, folks.

I haven’t abandoned you. I haven’t forgotten. It’s been a pretty wild last few weeks. Come, take a walk with me.

In my last writing, I mentioned some plans going forward. The good news? Those plans actually became actions. Having been back in NC for about two weeks, I have begun, albeit slowly and when I have time, working on my book. It will likely be years to finish, if it even does get finished, but it’s something to work on/toward. I’m still open to anyone wishing to contribute, especially if they would like to write a foreword. The other item on the docket was attempting to finally lose weight and get healthy. That, surprisingly, has been the easier of the two. Not that either are easy, bear in mind. I’ve just been working on the health thing a little more…steadfastly.

I did get back to NC and with having to unpack and shop and so on, it took a few days. I spent the first week back just getting a little more into the swing of things and monitoring my diet a little more. The second week I began the DDP Yoga program. Many of you have seen the video that swirled around the internet about DDP Yoga – the story of Arthur and his transformation via DDP Yoga. If you have not, you can watch the video embedded below.

I don’t expect a transformation like that. Not at all. I’m well aware that those results are atypical. But I do expect some results, and after spending 1.5 weeks, I can definitely tell the program works, but you have to be mindful of a lot of other elements. This is not new or revolutionary. At the end of the day, we all just need to exercise more and manage our diets better. I’ve gone 2+ weeks and haven’t had red meat. And not as a means of some crazy fad diet or because of any dietician’s suggestion. I just haven’t eaten any (this, I will point out, will change next week when I’m on vacation with family in Florida). I’ve eaten a bit more chicken than usual, but that’s OK. I’ve certainly forced myself to monitor my actual caloric intake and be mindful of portion size.

The biggest problem for me has been portion control. I just never really paid any attention to it, and that is, in no small part, why I am the way I am. I am trying to keep a watchful eye on what I eat and when I eat. I still snack here and there, but now I do so with healthy/healthier alternatives – fruit, yogurt, granola, etc.. While those all have various fats and sugars, they are better than many other alternatives. Likewise, I’ve always been good about eating fresh produce rather than frozen and/or processed goods, but now I’m really, really forcing myself to purchase more perishable goods and use those because I hate to ever let anything go to waste.

At the conclusion of the first week with DDP Yoga, I successfully lost 5 lbs. I know quite a bit of it was collective water weight, but I have definitely trimmed a little fat. I’m not actually all that concerned about the number of pounds lost, at least not now, because I’m still in the early stages and it’s much more important to get into the rhythms and patterns of balancing eating, exercising, and work. Once the school year begins, the real test will come along with balancing those items. As you all know, I put in A LOT of time at school. I am making more of an effort this year to do more for me, in no small part because of actions that happened last year. I’m not going to neglect my job or, more importantly, my students, but I am going to put myself a few steps up the priority list.

I will start concerning myself with the number of pounds and things like that as I’ve really moved into the program and away from the baby steps. I can tell right now that I am building a lot of muscle in areas which I have neglected for a long time. I can tell, just by the way some of my clothes fit, that there are some minor changes happening. And that’s good. And I’m going to stick with it. But I’m not worried about the actual number of pounds lost because I can feel some of the differences already.

At the end of the day, I set out to lose some weight, improve my diet, and live a longer, healthier life. Those are not out of the question.

As for some other things, well, it’s been a weird few weeks being back here. I fully admit that returning to NC was very, very, very difficult. I was in Pittsburgh long enough to re-establish some roots. I was able to meet up with a number of friends and build some relationships I tore down in advance to moving down here. I was doing some of my famed amateur-but-still-somewhat-decent home repair for my mother. You may remember from a few years ago when I built the pond in the backyard of my mother’s house? Well, this year was an all new project.

A railroad tie and concrete block retaining wall had been falling apart for the better part of a decade. The steps that led up the hillside (and onto the deck of the old swimming pool, now the overlook above the pond) had, effectively, completely fell apart. The entire ground underneath the stone had completely washed out, shifted, and been dug out by chipmunks. The only things holding it together were some patchwork concrete block and large, flat stone slabs. It needed replaced.

This was a project completed mostly by myself. I did have a little help from my brother, but he mostly helped with hauling the bricks and doing a little (and I do mean little) digging. This was pretty much an 80/20 split in my favor. You can click each image below for a full-sized version.

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So, there you go. When all was said and done, that project was completed for under $500 and took, in actual working time, about 6 days. I stretched it a bit longer than the 6 days in no small part because I could and there was no reason to kill myself. With that said – the project, from top to bottom, was a NIGHTMARE entirely because of the ineptitude of Lowe’s Home Improvement. I have never, ever, ever in my life had so miserable experience from a company.

It took three entirely separate trips to get the bricks ordered. The 1st trip was to comparison shop and get some feedback from the people in the lawn and garden department. That was a great trip. Sadly, it was the only good trip of the bunch. A few days later, after deciding on which bricks to order, we return to Lowe’s. As we walk to the back of the garden center, two employees, who were talking to one another, look in my direction and immediately turn tail and disappear. We waited for 30+ minutes for assistance in the garden center. None came. We asked the sale clerk to get someone. They called. Nobody came. We left without purchasing the bricks and supplies. Thus, we had to make a 3rd trip to make our order. The third trip started the same way as the 2nd trip. Nobody in the garden center. Had to have the sales clerk call for help. Every member of the garden center sales staff was on break at the exact same time. They had to get someone who was covering for the entire garden center plus working inside. He came out and we told him which bricks we wanted to order, how many we needed, and that we would need them delivered. As we were having them delivered, we were going to throw in a few other items to go along with it to save us even more trips. We ordered some bags of gravel and some bags of paving base.

He writes everything down and we all go up to the cash register. The girl on the register wasn’t entirely sure how to do a home delivery, but figured it out eventually. She entered all of the information, rang in our coupon, we paid our bill, and we left. The delivery was scheduled for a few days later. All was right with the world.

Skip ahead to the delivery date. The Lowe’s driver arrives and unloads the bricks. We’ve got a major problem. The bricks he’s delivering are the wrong brings. We had ordered the charcoal (red and grey) castle wall stone, not the pure red. I notify the delivery driver that these are wrong. I say to him that I know it isn’t his fault and I’m not upset with him, but this is a major problem. He tells me I need to take up the problem at the store because he had other deliveries to make that day and he could come by later to pick up the bricks. So, my brother and I gather up the receipts and everything else and head back in for yet another trip. We approach the customer service counter and were less-than-cordially welcomes by a miserable looking woman with an attitude in her tone of voice. I explain to the woman that the incorrect bricks were delivered and the delivery driver told us to talk to the store. The attitude worsens as she begins flipping through her book of barcodes looking for the bricks. Bear in mind, we have already told this woman that we had lined up people to help assemble the wall and that we couldn’t do an exchange. She then begins to get upset with us because she was under the impression we wanted to exchange the bricks for those which we ordered.

We remind her that, no, we can’t do an exchange and wait even longer to get these picked up and new bricks delivered. My brother and mother had made time in their schedules to help me with this. So, we ask for the manager, because we’re not getting anywhere with her. She calls him over and the first thing – the very first damn thing – the manager does is immediately blame us. He looks at the receipt and tells us that accepting the receipt was acceptance of whatever items purchased and that we should pay more attention to what’s been rung up. At this point, I lost my cool with him.

There were about ten different ways for him to handle this situation. That was the single-most wrong way to handle this. Instead of walking up and asking what was the problem and how can this be fixed, he IMMEDIATELY blamed us for the employees of his store being completely and totally inept in every fashion possible. My response to the manager was that, last I checked, I was not an employee of Lowes and shouldn’t have to go over my receipt with a fine tooth comb for errors because, apparently, the other team members routinely cannot handle the basic functions of his or her jobs. Either the cashier entered the wrong data or, and I suspect this is the case, the garden center employee who ran from me one night and then had to be drug out kicking and screaming to take the order info the next night wrote down the wrong information. The delivery driver did his job of dropping off the materials, but he was supposed to pick them back up and return them to the store. It was a massive failure on every level possible, and the manager had the cojones enough to blame us first. Like I said, there were so, so many ways in which the manager could have handled that situation, and he picked the absolute, 100% wrong way to do it.

After some back-and-forth with the terrible management, he offered to refund 20% (originally offered 10%, which was not met warmly). We weren’t looking to get the thing for free, far from it, but the gross incompetence of the staff and then argumentative-ness of the customer service representative and management was certainly worth something.

Wait, it gets better.

Unbeknownst to us, half of the additional items ordered (and paid for) in the delivery were also missing. We completely and totally missed this because of being so flustered over being given the incorrect bricks. Remember how I mentioned earlier that we ordered the gravel and paver base? Yeah, only half of what we ordered and paid for (our receipt, thank you very much, indicated that 6 bags of gravel and 4 bags of paver base had been purchased and paid for). Sooooooooooo….another trip to Lowes. Thankfully this was handled with the local garden center staff. We presented our receipt and notified them we were picking up the rest of our order that did not get delivered. They said OK and marked us off and let us go about our merry way.

So, in the end, we did get the wall built and everything turned OK, but we were beholden to Lowes because of their ability to deliver what we wanted. And it was all screwed up. Nothing went smoothly and most everything was wrong. After being told that we were wrong and needed to do the job of the employees, the manager, in a somewhat condescending way, refunded what amounted to the cost of the delivery, which was also a nightmare.

And that’s my story. So, please be very, very careful when purchasing anything from the Lowes in Monroeville, PA (Store #1660). I would honestly not recommend them for anything even remotely major after this fiasco. I plan on taking my business (or, rather, my family in PGH) to the likes of Home Depot or (semi) local business, such as Ace Hardware.





Destroying the Village

22 06 2013

Howdy folks. I know what you’re thinking; “what is this madness? Walt posting twice? In less than a week? What dark forces are at play here?” Well, there are no dark forces at work, at least none of which I am aware. I did say I was planning on bringing the blog back, and I’m trying to keep to my word.

When I was student teaching and then working as a substitute, I set out to challenge myself on my old Livejournal (man, Livejournal…) to write one post per day, 100 word minimum, for 100 days. Over the course of those 100 days, I missed about 3 posts. I still met the 100 posts, but it took a few days longer. I can say, with some degree of certainty, that I was in a better place emotionally then. I do find writing therapeutic, and God bless all of you for reading whatever inane bullshit I put on the internet.

So why am I writing today? I wanted to give you guys an update on things and what to (hopefully) expect going forward.

I am not trying to delude myself into thinking that this blog is anything great or has a huge readership. It isn’t and it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it the old college try, both for my mental needs as well as for all y’all’s reading pleasure (or displeasure, as the case may be).  I like having an outlet, and I know others do, too. And this is as good a place as any, so…

I am looking at adding people who wish to write here. I’m pretty much open to whatever. I really, really don’t care what you write about and how you go about doing it. Got something on your mind? Be my guest. Working on a short story and want to get it out there for feedback? I’m only too happy to let you use this as a free forum. Dislike the extension of Dan Bylsma and, especially, Todd Reirden even more than me? Go to town.

At the core, I am looking to branch back out from just talking hockey. God knows I’ll do a lot of that, but I want to move beyond sports, and I need others to do that. I am not too proud to ask for help.

Griggsy has said he’ll be back to work on stuff and I’ve talked to a few others. If you are all interested, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Once I get back to NC I will spend some time retooling the blog, too. I’m going to make some cosmetic changes and so forth, so please be aware of that as things will be out-of-place and/or incomplete.

-Walt





Rise

19 06 2013

Well, this isn’t awkward. Nope. Not at all.

Howdy, folks. I know it’s been a while. A long, long while. A lot has happened since I last wrote. Some good, some bad, some in-between type things.

First, and foremost, I feel I need to apologize for effectively allowing this blog to go to pot since last October. There were a variety of reasons why that happened, not the least of which was my complete and total mental collapse. Good news, guys — I’m not dead!

Here’s the thing – I’ve got a ton of stuff on my mind and things to report, but I’m not going to bore you (and I do bore you) with a never ending post of babble and bull. I will focus on one thing in this entry with a little groundwork laid for future posts.

I have spent the last month, more or less, back in Pittsburgh visiting with friends and family. It has both been the greatest and more horrible thing I’ve ever done. Great because, obviously, I love my friends and family and generally just miss the “access” Pittsburgh provides to cultural events and dining and so forth. Certainly when compared to Fayetteville, Pittsburgh is the greatest city in the world. It has been awful, too, for mostly those same reasons. I now have to give those things up all over again, only this time, unlike in 2011, I have been actively cultivating friendships and close, personal bonds. In 2011 I had undergone a passive, borderline eugenics-like program, a culling, if you will, to make the leaving easier. Now? Total opposite. I’ve actually been growing and engendering the seeds into flowers.

That decision, of course, makes my return to NC…difficult. I am, I admit, conflicted. I do not want to return, but I know I have to. My end game, as it stands now, is to return to Pittsburgh as soon as possible. I fully admit, I am considering returning to PA at the end of the next school year even if I don’t have a job lined up simply because…well, that’s a whole different set of stories. Not saying it’s 100% a go, but it’s pretty much a coin flip now.

So, the main purpose of this posting. This isn’t just to show that I’m not dead, or, more appropriately, that the blog isn’t dead. I had considered just letting the name and everything lapse, but…it’s cheap enough to keep this bad boy running each year and sometimes I just need to write.

If you have not yet noticed, the tone of this writing has drastically improved since the last series of posts. That, my gentle snowflakes, is the purpose of this writing.

It has been a long, long, long times since I have felt like this. It’s been well over 10 years, possibly 15 years, that I have been able to hold my head up and look to the future with some degree of hope and promise.

I’m not saying this will last forever, certainly not without intense work, but I finally feel better about things. For the longest time I viewed my life and my world as the living embodiment of the great Rollo May quote on depression; “Depression is the inability to construct a future.” That had been me for a painfully long time. Every time I would look ahead, I could not, in any way, shape, or form, begin to piece together any discernible future. Not for me, not for others around me, etc. I was being perpetually hunted by the nagging thoughts how I simply did not belong among the people of this Earth.

But I have finally emerged. I finally am able to build a future, even a far-off future that is small in scope.

I have finally been able to set some goals for myself that I feel confident in and am approaching with a deadly seriousness. I have two goals set to begin immediately. The first goal, which is not at all unique, but I have had enough incentive otherwise in the last month, is to really, truly get serious about taking better care of myself. I’ve always put everyone else before me. I’m still going to care for others and do for others, but I’m going to make time for myself. That includes taking better care of my physical self. It has been a 20 year battle, but I have finally started to win the war with my own brain and thoughts. Now I need to win the battle with my fat ass.

I will fully admit there is a cosmetic level to this desire, but it is primarily from a health concern reason. I want to prevent things from happening and that is not the way I am trending at present.

Like I said, this is not a unique sentiment, but it is one that I am getting serious about in no small part because I am terrified of where things are going.

The second goal is to do what I have wanted to do for a long, long time – I am going to self-publish a book. It will be similar to the stuff I write here, but not the same (and way less hockey/sports talk). If you’ve read any of Sloane Crosley’s books, I am aiming for something along those lines – whimsical missives about life and the world’s idiosyncrasies.

There are other items that have allowed me to construct the future, but those will not be spoken of here, at least not now.

It is good to be back. Let’s make this a regular thing.

-Walt

 





“The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls”

6 10 2012

It has been a long, long time since I have written anything. It wasn’t for lack of material about which to write (NHL Lockout, replacement refs in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Pirates laughable collapse, the election, my personal life, etc). It was simply a matter of professional life absolutely consuming every waking moment from July onward. Because I am both (a recovering) Catholic and Irish, I always feel guilty when I write anything for pleasure when “there’s work to be done.”

As most of you are aware, I am a high school teacher by trade. This is not a post about the problems of the US Educational system or how poorly I get paid for a thankless job. This is about something far, far more profound and personal. Please, if you only ever come here for the sports and ramblings of a borderline personality, you may want to look away from this post. If, however, you are more interested in my thoughts on some psychological issues with which I have been dealing, please, continue reading.

Some of you out there actually know me, or should I say knew me, in the real world. As most everyone knows by now, “Walt Flanagan” is not my real name. It is the identity I have assumed for all my dealings online and otherwise. When when I created this blog in 2011 I paid the extra couple bucks to have an anonymous registration so it could not easily be searched and associated with my real name. Of course, if you have read this…ever or are even remotely capable of putting two and two together, it’s likely you can figure out precisely who is the person behind this madness.

Over the last year, I have undergone what I can only describe as truly moving and profound developments in my life. Moving away from PA was an “easy” decision because I always knew it would happen. Granted, I didn’t expect to end up in the ass end of North Carolina, but it is sometimes hard to know exactly where the current will take you. I had attempted to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for that parting. It did make the leaving easy, but the long tail has been the undeniably difficult part in this (for those unfamiliar, you can read up on the “long tail” here ).

I have spent numerous hours looking into some of the possible causes for my madness. The curse and blessing of being me is that I am very much in tune with my own stunning levels of bullshit. I know who I am and what I intend. I also know my strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to psychological instability. I am many, many, many things in this world. A doctor is not one of those things. That said, I know, without ever having been tested for any such maladies, that I “suffer” from a variety of psychological issues, including manic-depressive tendencies. Many of you have seen it in action when I am riding high or falling real low. Sometimes within the span of a few hours.

Read the rest of this entry »





Tiptoe, softly.

24 02 2012

Wow. It’s been a wild 20-or-so days since I last posted.

Outside of a truly embarrassing loss to the Sabres, the Pens have been playing pretty solid hockey. James Neal has been signed to a long-term deal at a reasonable cap hit, especially in years 4-6 (operating under the assumption of small increases in cap limits going forward). I have my concerns that Neal is starting to slow down. I made mention of this in my Pens Preview,but there is the possibility of the Gary Roberts Effect at work. What that means – Neal trains with Roberts during the off-season and Roberts’ regimen is so strict and grueling that players tend to fall off as the season drags on. Funny to criticize a 30-goal scorer, but he may also just be in a little bit of a lull/slump. When all is said and done, I think Neal will slightly over-perform my projections on offense, but will under-perform my projections on defense (he’s not going to end up +15 given he’s a neutral +/- right now). Neal has been an absolute beast on the PP, though, far outpacing my projection. I’ll be interested to see where he ends up when game 82 rolls around.

In other news…

As something of a follow-up to the last post – my continual search for a partner in this world continues. Things ultimately didn’t work out with the last girl, and that sucked, but it happens. There were no hard feelings or ill will. Honest and true, I wish her well in life and hope she finds what she’s looking for.

The world, however, continues to turn. And I continued my search. As luck would have it, I met someone else. Someone who may yet be a better fit for my lifestyle and outlook. I don’t wish to put too many eggs in one basket/count the chickens before the hatching/insert other cliché or idiom here, but I really dig this girl. It’s really, really, really hard to find someone who is almost as insane about hockey as I am down here in North Carolina. I found me a hockey fan. Granted, she supports the Hurricanes, but that’s OK.

I am genuinely excited and slightly fearful of seeing where things go. When meeting new people, especially those I am trying to impress and/or not make run screaming, I find it hard to strike the balance between being invasive and non-existent. I often fall into the trap, when I invest myself in something, of being overbearing. I don’t normally do things half-assed. If I am going to put the time and effort into something, I give it my all. Sadly, when dealing with people, I can be a little intense. It truly is a charming quirk of mine, but also is a little intimidating and hard to deal with at first, but is certainly something that can be cherished down the line.

Striking that balance, however, is difficult. As such, I must tiptoe, softly.

If, over the course of this weekend, I need a break from work I plan on writing about Kathleen Edwards’ new record, “Voyageur.” It’s a shame it released so early in 2012 because it such a magnificent album that it will be overlooked for a “best of 2012” list or award. Look for the review to come soon, but it truly is a wonderful record. If you liked her previous works or are a fan of artists like Neko Case, Sarah Harmer, etc., you owe it to yourself to purchase this album.

Work has been…trying. I love my job and, generally, I like all the people I work with, but I have some concerns about the future and the direction the school is heading. I see some major problems going forward. The semester has been going smoothly, but I am so effing happy for Spring Break. Next week is the last week before break and it’s going to be Hellish. It is going to be non-stop, but that’s OK. If nothing else, the week will go by quickly.

I am excited to come back to Pittsburgh, too, over break. I’ll only be in town for a week (really, a little less than a week), but it will be nice to just get away from NC for a little while.

And this Summer? Pft. Not even going to think about it. Total nightmare scenario between conferences and this and that. Not sure if I’ll even be able to make it back up. I’ll worry about that later. God willing (likely won’t happen), I can make it up to Pittsburgh later in June and get tickets to the NHL draft.

It’s been a wild ride, though. I am ultimately glad I took the gamble to come down here, but I have been missing Pittsburgh lately. It could be because of the weird weather of a southern Winter or it could be that I still don’t really know many people down here, but I’m really looking forward to being in an area where snow is likely. The last two days have been beastly. I’m talking north of 80 degrees. I’m just not used to that, certainly not in FEBRUARY. Oi.

But that’s life. And I tiptoe, softly.