Tesla’s First Birthday

One year ago tonight, little miss Tesla Fae entered the world, and my life will never be the same.

There are dozens of events that can "change your life forever." The party you went to where you met the friends you spend the next few decades relying on. The job you took that defines the direction of the rest of your career. Meeting the amazing woman you're lucky enough to eventually marry. But all of these are events that mainly impact you and how you travel your own path.

Having a child is different. Suddenly, I'm not just responsible for myself. There's this whole new person in the world who wouldn't be here without me. And it's my job to help her make sense of all this craziness, and find her own path through the woods. It's exciting, and inspiring, and terrifying.

I feel like we lucked out with Tesla. She has been a source of pure joy, since the moment she was born. She's always happy, always inquisitive, and always an inspiration. Her bouts of anger only last a moment, and then she bounces back to the bright-eyed explorer we've come to know. As her mom said today, we're learning as much from Tesla as she's learning from us. She's already an amazing person, and I can't wait to see who she becomes.

With great children comes great responsibility. I know the most important responsibility I have in the coming years will be giving Tesla the support and guidance she'll need to become who and what she wants to be. I know I'll make mistakes, and I still have a lot of learning and becoming of my own to do. But I'd like to make a few promises to her (and any siblings she may later have), that I will always strive to uphold.

  • I promise to give you a stable, supportive childhood, so you'll always feel safe to explore the world around you, as well as the world within you. I will do everything I can to shield you from the kinds of insecurities that slowed me down, including working my hardest to shed the ones I still cling to, so you have as positive a role model as possible. And I will do everything I can to help you find and follow your own passions.

  • I promise to surround you with positive examples of relationships (both romantic and friendly), so that you will always recognize the right kinds of relationships to pursue on your own, and be able to avoid the other kind. I will love your mom the way I want your future spouse to love you, and I will teach you to be the kind of friend you'll want to find in others.

  • I promise to teach you all I know of the world. I'll teach you about people, so you can seek out the good ones and deal effectively with the rest. I'll teach you how to work hard and how to manage your money, so you'll never be dependent upon someone else to guide your fate. I'll teach you about beauty, and how to find it in the simplest things and in the unlikeliest places. And I'll teach you how to find other teachers along your road, who can show you wonders I haven't even dreamed of.

  • Most importantly, I will love you. Always and unconditionally. This doesn't mean we won't get annoyed with one another from time to time, or argue over bedtimes, curfew, or politics. But even at the worst of moments, I will love you more than I love life itself. And when I lose my final grasp on life itself, I will be happy knowing that a bit of me (hopefully the best bit) will live on in you.

Happy first birthday, Tesla! Thank you for everything you've taught me, so far. I can't wait to see you grow into the intelligent, loving, bad-ass, wonderful woman I know you are. I love you more than you will ever know!


























Season Premiere: This Monday

As of this coming Monday, I work for George.

More specifically, I'll be the product manager for the upcoming redesign of the Edutopia.org website, which is part of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. It's going to be a pretty challenging project, but a hell of a fun ride! At least for the one year length of the contract. But by then it will hopefully lead to something else for the longer term.

And I'll be working at Big Rock Ranch (see below), which is right next door to Skywalker Ranch (where the cafeteria is). It's going to be an hour and a half commute each way, but I think you'll agree it'll be well worth it.

On the down side, that means I have five days to get as much of my moving done as possible before I lose my life to work for the next few months. Zoooom!

The moment between seasons

It's a strange feeling, being aware of your place in your own story. Your life, played out like a TV series, chapters broken into seasons, one feeding into the next. And the moment of anticipation between the seasons...

Last season was an interesting one. Google, eBay, Solace, loss, maddening growing pains, and that wonderful True Love bit right before the big layoff / family drama finale. Brilliant!

And here I am in the moment between seasons. Rewatching old episodes to squeeze the maximum possible meaning from what has come before. Projecting forward to see what it will mean for the next season. Paying attention to the little hints and teasers, pointing to the exciting things to come. So many new adventures. So much drama - of a very different kind.

It feels like the season premiere is coming fast. I just hope I can get all the set pieces in place in time. It's going to be one hell of a ride!

Free Agent

I am now officially a free agent again.

No, no, Rae and I didn't break up. The separation was between me and eBay. We still love each other, but eBay is going through a lot of emotional issues and isn't coping very well, so it needs some "me time." :-)

I have two weeks to wrap up all of the projects and hand them off to one of the survivors, then I'll be sitting down to concentrate on updating my resume and kicking the networking into high gear. So if you know anyone who's hiring product managers, community managers or (maybe) front end web developers, let me know.

And don't worry. I saw this coming and am not terribly upset about it. The severance is better than I expected, and I see the free time I'll have as an opportunity to explore some of the ideas that have been on the back burner for far too long.

Exciting times!

Introducing My Better Half

Ray & Rae at PolyCon 2008While I did hint at the possibility of not being single for long, it occurs to me that I have not yet made a wide-spread announcement that I am indeed head over heals in love.

I met Rae (also known as stride) at BayCon last month. Cindy introduced her to me along with Darne, Chris, Jen, Snoopy and that whole awesome gang. I instantly knew I was going to keep the whole lot of them, but I particularly had a crush on Rae. And that was before I saw her in the Illyria costume. Yowza!

Of course, since this is me we're talking about, she wasn't single. Big surprise, right? But lucky for me, she was in the process of breaking it off, and that process got accelerated when drama hit the fan the following weekend at Valhalla. And after a few weeks of drama, long soul-searching conversations, mad flirting and far more patience and self-control than I thought possible, here we are.

I can't wait for you all to meet her. She's amazing. She's one the sweetest, most kind-hearted people I've ever met, she's geeky as hell (she does graphic design and web development for IGN/GameSpy, cosplays, and is an RPG & video gamer), she works faire, she knows how to handle a sword, she's just as much of a cuddle slut as I am, she's wicked smart, pleasantly amused by sarcasm, and just all around made of awesome. Oh yeah, and did I mention she's smoking hot? There are soooo many guys pissed off at me right now for "cutting in line." Lucky me! :-)

It's weird. We've only known one another for a little over a month, but it feels like we've known one another for years. I always say the one thing I'm looking for more than anything else is resonance. And I think this could very well be it.

And if not, we'll have one hell of a breakup party in November!
(After which her sister will slice me open and feed me to the fishes.) :-)

Chris’s 3 Rules of Dating

At BayCon, Chris revealed his three rules of dating, which contained enough insight and resonance that we later pressed him to post them for posterity. And after reviewing his expanded version, I have come to the conclusion that they're just as relevant to one's work life as one's love life.

Since I think these are pure brilliance and don't want anyone to miss them just because they're too lazy to follow a link, I'll reprint them here:

Chris's 3 Rules of Dating

I developed these some years back and several people asked me to write them down for them so here goes. Will they work for you? Maybe. I am reasonably confident that they worked for me given the beautiful, competent and intelligent woman I wound up marrying (see Poeso)!

Any set of rules/guidelines should be as succinct and unambiguous as possible which necesitates them being broadly worded. It also means that there are clarifications for specific points (in case you didn't catch the obvious intent) I have included a few. Finally, like Asimov's Laws of Robotics, these rules are in an order for a good reason...

Rule #1: Be comfortable with yourself! If you can't be comfortable with yourself then other probably can't be either. Being comfortable includes being comfortable around people you don't know or by yourself. Don't always rely on the opinions of others. In the end, it is your opinion of yourself that matters. Don't mistake Arrogance for Confidence. The Arrogant need other people to be wrong so that they can be right which builds in weakness. The Confident recognize that there are many viewpoints that can be right and refines their viewpoints by allowing them to be challenged.

Rule #2: Meet new people. There are many people in the world who can be "right" for you. The more people you interact with the more likely you are to meet one of them. Just because someone appears to be "right" doesn't mean that they are not already taken or will ever be emotionally available to you. Take heart, enjoy your time with them and LEARN what a "right" person looks like and looks for. The worst that can happen is you get a cool new friend and maybe learn something about yourself. Sometimes meeting new people means expanding upon the relationships you already have. "Friend of a friend" is more likely to have common interests and come to you "pre vetted" by the people you already trust. Make time for the people who make you feel good about yourself. Who knows, one of the cool friends you have may have been waiting for you to become "emotionally available" and you may not have noticed it. Either way, it helps with Rule #1.

Rule #3: Avoid worthless relationships! Admit it, everyone has gotten into or stayed in a relationship that is just not fulfilling and never will be. Sex, routine, emotional security, what ever the reason in the end all you are doing is keeping yourself from growing as a person. Either work to improve the relationship you are in or get out! Grow or leave. Harsh, but this is the biggest trap most people fall in to: staying in a dead end relationship because they lack the confidence to either make it work or end it. If you are not yet in a relationship, remember rule #1, enjoy being with yourself. You don't need to get hooked up just to validate your self image. Flirt, have fun, be daring, but don't date some one unless you see in them the qualities that make you say "wow, I'd be really happy to tell my friends I am dating this person"

Here we go again. I wonder where this one will lead…

I didn't really realize how stressed I've been lately until I went to BayCon.

Well, that's not entirely true. I did come to a realization last week that work is stressing me out more than it should, and had a talk with my boss's boss about it. It felt good to get some things off my chest, and I think the upcoming follow-up conversations will be productive, to a degree. But there are still a few things that are very much up in the air.

So BayCon was a breath of fresh air. I got to see a lot of people I very rarely get to see. I ran in to a few people I haven't seen in years (who had very interesting stories to tell). And I made some really amazing new friends. The kind of people you instantly know you'll be keeping for decades, rather than months or years.

But mainly, I got to be myself. At work, lately, I've been a tangled mass of pent up passion, nervousness and frustration. At home, I've been exhausted, distracted and unfocused. And socially, I've been a bit of a hermit. That's not me. That's the hollow shell of me that keeps shit together while the inner me makes course corrections. It's not a big deal. It happens every so often. And it gets easier, the earlier I can recognize it for what it is.

So now I need a vision quest. I need to get away from the world I'm currently saturated in, to get some perspective, reflect on my options, and decide where I want to go next. Or, more precisely, who I want to be.

Luckily, it just so happens that Valhalla is this coming weekend. And Bill, bless his heart, is willing to gatelist me for the weekend. A weekend on holy ground, surrounded by My Kind, with the therapeutic smell of pine and wood fire all around. This could be just what the doctor ordered!

Anyone going to Valhalla this weekend and want to carpool?

Love is in the air…

Two wedding announcements in one week.

Wedding #1 - The other day, my roommates let me know that they're going to be getting married next January. In Vegas. Cindy & Jason are my Lily & Marshall (for you How I Met Your Mother fans), so their getting married is no surprise. In fact, they pretty much act married already. But it'll be nice to see it made official.

Wedding #2 - Tonight, Fred & Malaya took me out to dinner. They got me a gift while they were in Athens, so we've been trying to schedule this dinner for a while now. But it turns out they had other motivation as well. They let me know that they've finally set a date, and will be getting married in September. And, since I'm the one who set them up... they asked me to marry them! Of course I said yes! I'm incredibly honored.

But, the real fun came later, when I called my mom. "You remember Malaya, that school teacher I dated that you really liked? Well, I'm marrying her. Yes, really. In September. No, I'm not lying. I'm marrying her to the guy I set her up with." Getting my mom's hopes up just to crash them back down is really much more fun than it should be. :-)
And any time you can get your own mother to call you a son of a bitch, that's just a bonus.

Of course, this means I need to find a date for the weddings. Preferably one who doesn't mind the idea of being the priest's date. :)

Now I need to figure out when Father's Day is, so I can go shopping for a new suit.

Birthday Present #1 – I bought a house!!

My House!!I've been dreaming of buying my mom a house for over five years now. And as of yesterday, it's finally a reality! I am the proud new owner of a lovely 3/2 house on a quarter acre lot in Orangevale. And my mom is finally moving out of her trailer and into a real house for the first time in half a decade. Needless to say, she, Dale, the grandkids and the dog are all thrilled!

I'm going up this weekend to help my mom move in. If anyone wants to drop by and see the place, let me know. And if you want to come and help move, even better! :-)

Obviously, I'll be posting more photos later, after mom has finished painting, moving in and redecorating.

My Birthday

I'd like to thank everyone who came out to help me celebrate my 33rd bday. The Friday night outing to see Grindhouse was insane amounts of fun, as was the drunken afterparty (Matt & Marina, I've seen the incriminating video - it's adorable!). The BBQ on Sunday was a smashing success. Everyone fell in love with Cindy & Jason, due to their wicked food skills (aren't they the best roommates ever?). A bunch of friends from different social groups all got to intermingle with one another. And we even has a surprise appearance by my mom and Dale, who spent the bulk of their time on the back patio telling embarrassing stories from my childhood (you see why they weren't invited?). It was awesome!

The gifts were pretty damn cool, too! I'm still a little in shock that Gabe got me a frikkin' Apple TV. After all that joking, I never really thought anyone would take me seriously. Fred gets groups gifts, not me, and this one wasn't even a group gift. I'm flabergasted! Plus, there were books and DVDs and nicknacks and all sorts of other wrapped goodies. They love me, they really really love me! :)

But my favorite birthday gifts this year have to be the two that I am buying for myself. I don't want to jinx anything, so I'll tell you about them as soon as they're official. One should be within the next week or two, the other within the next month. But man, are they cool!!

Fuck this shit, I’m going home.

Ray's Broken ChairI have to have these two documents merged together, proof-read, and send off to the developers by Sunday afternoon, so I'm pulling an all-nighter to get it all done without having to cancel my weekend plans. At 1:30am, I'm tired, starving, grumpy, and oh so close to finishing. I lean back in my chair to relax for a second... and the whole fucking back of the chair breaks off!!

Fuck that noise. I'll finish this tomorrow. I'm going home.

[To truly appreciate this post, you need to picture the look on my face when I leaned back, heard a big SNAP, and just kept going.]

Red-Headed Grandchildren

I sent my mom a copy of Done The Impossible, so she could hear all about the charity fundraiser I worked my ass off on last year, and see some of the friends I made in the process. She loved it! And her first comment (after asking why I didn't get interviewed) was that I should marry Christina Hendricks. You know, my mom's taste in people for me to marry has really improved since college! :-)

She must really like her, too. The last time I told my mom about someone I had a crush on, she said I could only marry her if she'd send my mom flowers like Sarah did. (I still can't believe that was the first time anyone ever sent my mom flowers! She'll never stop loving Sarah for that.) But she says Christina wouldn't even have to do that. Just so long as she provided beautiful red-headed grandchildren. My mother cracks me up!

Then it occurred to me that I got a photo taken with Christina back at Flanvention. So now I'm emailing my mom the below photo so she can dream of beautiful red-headed grandchildren (and leave my brother alone about it for a while - he owes me!).

A calm between storms

I am at my best when I am in motion.

When I have a deadline looming over my head, I am at my most productive. When I am in a fast paced social arena, I am at my most confident. When I am faced with adversity and the odds are against me, I am at my most motivated. I love who I am when I'm in full motion.

Then there are the quiet times. With too much time on my hands, I get nothing done. When I am in an unfamiliar social situation, I am shy and incapable of starting a conversation. When I am not challenged, I lose my fire and become lethargic. I hate who I am when I am coasting.

Right now I think I'm kind of in a transitional phase. I have almost completely lost my passion for that which has most defined me for the past few years. I have already found a new passion, but I have not yet gotten a chance to sink my teeth into it and really embrace it. I find myself simultaneously aching for a new side project to keep me busy and feeling completely overwhelmed by the side projects I am already juggling (and making so little progress on). It's a sense of restless anticipation, trying to keep myself from sliding too far into inaction while I wait for Timing to catch up with me.

Transitions are nothing new. What is odd about this one is that it is so mellow. Typically, I would cling to the old, dying phase, stubbornly fighting to keep it in the air, until I finally crack. Then I would descend into a passionate, feverish sort of vision quest. When the fever broke, and all of my demons had finished throwing their worst at me, only I would remain. I would have found the thing I was missing, and have a fresh new perspective and a passion to go out and make things happen once again.

But I think I'm starting to apply a bit more prescience to my life these days. I'm able to see the dying phase for what it is, and distance myself from it enough that it doesn't drag me down with it. I'll keep it around just long enough to get me by until the right opportunity presents itself for my next big passion. There's no great drama, no moment of brilliant revelation. Just a little bit of fidgety impatience and a lot of frustration over not being as in-motion as I would like to be.

So where does that leave me? Working for my favorite company ever, in a position that I have lost my love for, attempting to switch to a new position that everyone seems to think I would rock at - but which is taking forever to give me a handhold. Having, for the first time in a very long time, more than enough self confidence to be able to get out there and start dating again, but not being willing to settle for anything less than the amazing degree of chemistry I was recently spoiled with - still lonely, but a more contented form of loneliness than before. Having nothing in my life that I can justifiably complain about, and yet nothing that I feel like raving about either. Just a sort of calm between storms.

I hope the next storm hits soon. All this coasting is driving me batty.

Reconnecting and letting go

I went up to San Francisco last night to party with Corinne C and her gang. It has been far, far too long since I spent time with them. And, as usual, I ended up meeting quite a few amazing people. It really put into perspective how withdrawn my life has been lately, spending so much time at work and at home. I can't live like that. I crave social interaction. I need it. Without it, my mind grows stale and I lose some of my lust for life. I think it explains why I've been so stressed out for no apparent reason lately. This must not be allowed to continue.

It became clear to me that there are several areas of my Self that I have allowed to atrophy over the past year or so. I used to dance all the time. I used to look forward to that sense of euphoria that comes with well-earned physical exhaustion. This has not been the case as of late, and I am paying the price, physically. I need to start riding my bike more. I need to get back to yoga. I need to go dancing at least once a week. I need to get in touch with Monique and see if they're doing open cancan rehearsals again this year. It's too late for this year, but I really would love to be starting aerial classes by my birthday next year. One step at a time. (pun regretfully intended)

All in all, it was an excellent weekend. I met several people who I'm looking forward to seeing more of in the coming years. I got back in touch with a few people I don't see nearly enough of. I saw some positively beautiful scenery. And I had some very enlightening conversations with people I had never met before, and will likely never see again.

So of course the Fates had to even it out by inflicting the evils of San Francisco on me. When I got back to my car, the passenger side window was smashed in, and the contents of my glovebox were emptied on my seat. Minus my new iPod and my grizwald. So now I'm out $250 for a new window, $400 for the iPod, and $100 for the grizwald. At first, I was tempted to get seriously pissed off, and launch into a rant about how much I hate the city. Instead, I'm trying to shrug it off as a lesson about getting too attached to physical possessions. So instead of spending all that money replacing my geek toys, I've decided to spend a few hundred dollars on a Target gift card for the Katrina girl. What she lost is much more important than what I lost.

Of course, we'll see if I still feel that way in a few weeks, when the podcast withdrawal sets in...

The 10 Million Dollar Question

What would you do if you won $10 million, after taxes. I've seen this on a few people's journals, and feel compelled to answer.

First off, I would not make it public knowledge. I would wait as long as possible before telling even my closest friends or family. Partially to give myself time to adjust to the change before dealing with other people's reactions, and partly to make sure it had as little impact on how people treat me as possible. Once I did start spending the money, however, it would probably go something like this:

  • $2 million to buy a house for my mom to live in. This would include about $1 million to buy a nice estate in Shingle Spring (like this one, this one, this one, or this one) and another $1 million in a joint savings account, the interest on which she could use to pay for housekeeping, gardening, maintenance, and such. After the life she's lived, she deserves to spend her last few decades in style.

  • $1 million to buy a home in the bay area for myself to live in. Although I would have to hunt for quite some time to find one that I really, really liked, since I still think that's a disgusting amount of money to spend on a home, and I wouldn't want to live anywhere *too* ritzy-looking. And my options might be a little limited, since I would still want to live within bike riding distance of work.

  • $500,000 would be dedicated for stuff that would make me happy. This includes paying off my debt, upgrading the hell out of my electronics, visiting Italy, Australia, and a few other places, and paying off the credit card debt of several people I know whose lives would be imminently more satisfying if they didn't have that weight around their neck (this includes my family and several friends).

  • $500,000 would go into a savings account to be used for paying off my nieces/nephews (and kids, should that ever happen) college fees. Although they and their parents would not be informed of this until they were already in college, and they would not have access to the money until after they had completed their degree. The last thing I want is for the next generation of my family to grow up spoiled and never work an honest job because they didn't have to. If they want to go to college, they'll still have to bust their ass to do it, so they're not just pissing away the money and not really paying attention, like several rich kids I know. But at the same time, they wouldn't have to abandon their college plans for fear of lifetime debt, like I did.

  • $1 million would go into a savings account, so that I could live off of the interest. This would be supplemental income, since I would not want to quit my job. I might eventually decide to use this fund as a nest egg for starting my own company, but for at least the next several years I'd want to keep working at eBay, since I get a lot of personal satisfaction from helping small business succeed, and working at eBay is a great way to contribute to that goal.

  • The remaining $5 million would go into a separate savings account, with the interest from that account being donated to whatever charity or worthy cause I decide to support each year. And, of course, the amount in that account would probably go down steadily year to year, as I am unable to resist donating more than just the interest amount to particular causes I hear about on NPR or through friends (I have a hunch both of the Alison's would inspire me quite a bit in this area).

What have we learned from this experience? Housing and credit card debt are the two biggest money sinks in most people's lives. Remove those, and most people can support themselves without a lot of stress. But beyond that, $10 million is a disgustingly huge amount of money, that no real person could ever really spend on anything worthwhile, beyond charity. Which just makes me sick to think that there are so many people out there for whom $10 million is a small amount. Just think of the good that could be done if people like Bill Gates or George Lucas were to keep $10 million to support their lifestyle and dedicate the remainder of their wealth to solving some of the more fundamental problems in our world.

The more I think about this, the more sick I feel.

A new year. A new chapter.

New Year's Eve has always been my favorite holiday. There's just something inherently satisfying about taking a moment to recognize the passing of time, and to reflect on the things you have accomplished, the changes you have gone though, and the challenges that remain to be faced. For the past month, I have been trying to figure out what I wanted to say about this past year, and what I see for the year to come. Several aspects of my life were very much in flux throughout December and January, and I hadn't gotten a chance to completely internalize them yet. Finally, though, I am beginning to rise above the confusion.

The story so far, a look forward, and resolutions...

Lost and Found

[I'll write a full account of my first Burning Man experience later, when I've had time to rest, rehydrate and unpack. But I wanted to get this bit out while it still has meaning.]

I'm back from Burning Man. As expected, my first year of Burning Man was not the mind-blowingly positive experience that it is for most people. It was, however, exactly what I intended it to be: an opportunity to remove myself from the world and shake the hornet nest that is my mind, and see what demons really are behind my current woes, so I can begin to understand them.

I brought a lot with me to the playa: pain, anger, frustration, distrust, fear, and isolation. Some of that was left on the playa, and swept away in the ashes of the burn. Some remains to be dealt with. But what I left behind was replaced with something new. I do not have names for all of these yet, but I'm sure that will be revealed to me in time. But there are a few things I brought back which I can name.

The first is a fortune cookie that I was given at a little noodle house and bar on Venus, which read: "You must leave something behind to receive something new." I have been repeating this to myself in different tones since then, and have found not only that it is true now, but that it has also been true in the past. Some were left behind in order to purge myself of them, and some were left for safe keeping. I just need to bring a gift to leave behind in order to retrieve them.

Another thing that I brought back with me was a fifth question. I mentioned before the four questions which, if asked enough times, will eventually reveal a truth about you. And I also mentioned that different people live their lives by one of these questions or the other. But I missed one question. "What are you afraid of?" I am amazed at the variety of my answers so far. This question may be the key to unlocking my current riddle.

But one of the most valuable nuggets of wisdom that has been added to my arsenal I didn't receive until I returned from the playa and continued feeding my B5 addiction.

"I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."
- Marcus Cole, Babylon 5: A Late Delivery from Avalon

One of my fundamental life philosophies is that you have to bend when the wind blows. When you brace against the wind and attempt to resist the laws of nature, you will shatter when the winds blow hard. But if you learn to ride the winds, there's no limit to how far you can fly.

Lately, I realize, I have not been bending. I have been trying too hard to make a stand and sink in new roots, and haven't been embracing the chaos that is inherent in the system. So when the chaos knocks on my door, it comes as a punishment instead of as a challenge. If I keep this up much longer, I will shatter. My first order of business should be remembering where I left that ability to dance gleefully in the winds of chaos, and what gift I must bring with me in order to retrieve it.

I think I know the answer to where I left it. And I'm pretty sure that M&Ms are the appropriate gift. But I might also need to retrieve a few more treasures as well, while I'm there. I'll wait a few more days to see if I get a call that could change the nature of this treasure hunt. If the call doesn't come in, I'll be on my way back to the wilderness to do some digging.

What do you believe?

Do you believe in mystery? That there are tiny, almost imperceivable currents in your life that prevent you from being exposed to things before you're ready for them, and steer you toward them when the time is right?

Imagine that there is a book, or a movie, or a song that you have been dying to experience for ages, but for some reason or another never gotten around to. Years later, you're struggling with some philosophical dilemma, and you decide to pull it off the shelf to distract you from your quandary. And as it begins, you see every hidden detail of your mental chaos laid out in front of you in meaningful metaphors and pseudo-prophetic dialog.

Is there some invisible hand guiding your path? Shooing you away from metaphors that will not yet have meaning for you, and nudging you toward them when you are finally in need of the lessons they will bring? Or is the language of metaphors such that you will find meaning where you look for it, and would have found just as much meaning in another source, if your need was as great?

If there's one thing that I have learned in my service, it is fluency in metaphor. But being able to speak a language doesn't mean that one necessarily understands the physics of how sound is created and shaped into words, nor the esoteric inner workings of linguistic theory.

Nevertheless, I see the answers when I look for them. I have been asking a lot of questions over the past several months. But as my life seemed to be spiraling into chaos, I was too afraid to look for the answers to most of those questions. I wasn't sure I could handle them if they were as dark as I had feared.

Now that the worst of it is over and I am finally working on getting back on my feet, I have begun to indulge myself in looking for a few of the answers. And, as usual, the answers come in metaphor. They're in magazine articles, on DVDs, in music, in reflections, and even in unexpected software releases. I can see which way the wind is blowing, but can not yet tell if it is a breeze or a storm. If only I could quiet the fury inside, perhaps I could hear the messages more clearly.

What is the question you live your life by? What do you want? Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going? Ask yourself these questions repeatedly, until all of your flippant surface responses are depleted and the truth begins to emerge. Which questions bring forth answers that make you feel whole? Which bring forth answers that make you fear yourself?

Which answers are you willing to die for? And, more importantly, which answers are you willing to live for?

Good Fire, Bad Fire

"Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you never can tell."
- Joan Crawford

This is how I feel right now. Although it is more about Life than Love.

The vast majority of negative energy in my life lately is rooted around that spontaneously combusting wall heater and the evil lawsuit that spawned from it. Thanks to that fire, my spirit is beaten and bloody, and I'm so emotionally raw that every other problem in my life seems ten times nastier as a result.

But the vast majority of my joy for the past few weeks has come from the fire of a hand made medieval kiln and the amazing group of people who built it. Thanks to them, I remember what it means to be alive, and I can muster the moxie to keep fighting the good fight.

No, you never can tell what role fire will play in your life. But the effect it has on you, overall, is much more predictable. When it burns down your house, the trauma is intense and painful in the short term, but fades over time into a buddhist-like lesson on the unimportance of physical and monetary goods. But when the fire warms your heart, that warmth is wholesome and vibrant and stays with you through the decades - an ever-present reminder of your connection to the world.

Maybe fire isn't so bad after all...