Untilted

It bothers me that the little sleep I get is dominated by dreams of work. Being on night shift, my sleep schedule is completely inverted, and I’m lucky if I can get 5 hours of solid sleep a day. When i start to come out of sleep, if my dreams aren’t involved with work, they soon become involved with work as I remember that it’s daytime and I have to sleep to prepare for my shift tonight. It’s like my life has completely stopped and exists solely for the service of my job. That’s an empty feeling.

I have two more nights this week; Saturday morning’s shift will be the 12-hour bitch that I dread. Once that’s over, 3 nights off, and then another two four-night weeks before I rotate out to 3 weeks of swing shifts. If you’re looking for the end, you won’t find it — the wheel keeps rolling. Best I can do is pretend I still have hope and that relief is around the curve.

A plastic lunch tray.

Cafeteria

After reading “Why You Never Truly Leave High School” (published in NYMag last year but just making its rounds to my social circles), I’m left with a few mealy-mouthed feelings and an urge to tear open old scars and lick the new wounds. The article posits that the common experience in the average American high school is that of cruelty, shame, and humiliation, the overall effect of throwing a mass of strangers into a box as they struggle to create a baseless hierarchy for themselves. This description is not entirely disconnected from my own experience.

How a person handles, and is handled by, society when they are in this most impressionable moment in their adolescent life has profound implications on how they are to succeed or fail later in their life. I myself am trying to live down the shame and castigation of that era (I suspect quite a few of us are), reliving hurts by the pound and victories by the ounce in the physical and emotional violence of that caged society. Were I allowed to drop out and shove off on my own into a world populated with adults with metrics and rubrics anchored in reality, my experience would have been largely superior to the one I endured. High school is a cruel little world where judgments and stratifications are not based in any sort of reality. Your height, your weight, your clothing, your parent’s position, your attractiveness, your ability to handle others with authority — those have more to do with where you go in life than the lessons in the pages of those textbooks.

On an almost daily basis, I mentally look into the face of the bastards who had something to say about what I was, who I was, how I was dressed, which side of the tracks I lived on. Every day I hear their words in my soul. Spiteful words, rolled easily off the tongue like professionals. “I was just playing” removes none of the sting. Terrible words stuck into my mind like barbs at a time when I had no neurological facilities to pluck them out. Those words have become me. The damages, in my opinion, are permanent.

And here I sit at the age of 42, repeating the same tropes, reliving the same moments, attempting, day-in, day-out, to find the right acknowledgment to make me content. My life all these years is a struggle to place my tray at the right cafeteria table. Damage is deep, but with hope and a helping hand, damage can be undone. Mine is the fight to find contentment for myself.

In Touch

Been compiling all of my contacts from various address books, phone books, and contact lists into one central place. It’s strange, the gaps and the old information. Missing phone number here. 10-year-old instant messaging contact name there. 5 year old email address with a service that’s no longer in vogue. Makes me realize the importance of constant contact. Each fresh relationship, each updated connection, that is the sum total of our worth. Human capital. You are who you know as well as who you keep in touch with. It is not enough to aggregate relationships; you must maintain them. I must do that if I am to maintain my net worth above social poverty level.

Fodder

It’s sick that I have to call my mother to wish her a happy Father’s Day. No child should have to do that. But there it is. She attempted to serve double-duty as my father for my entire life; she could only give me half the story, but she kept trying nonetheless. I applaud her efforts.

As far as my opinion of my absentee father, I’ve written about this before.

Own up to your past, folks.

GRK in full bloom

Coming in on RADAR

I have a passing fascination with the machinery of this country’s infrastructure. Being the son of an Air Force mother, I had the fortune of seeing the technology that powers the defense and commerce of this country first-hand, and it gave me an understanding that this network of beacons, RADAR installations, weather stations, radio towers, VOR stations, GPS anchors, etc., is a lot bigger than any one of us, and its presence, on the Federal dime, was (and remains to be) for the benefit of everyone. It filled my young mind with a sense of civic duty, that I’m a part of this large body politic, and that in some way I had a part to play in my little area of this large landscape.

For as long as a few years, I’ve wanted to go check out the nearby NOAA/NWS RADAR station GRK located 500 yards from the shore of Granger Lake near Granger, TX. Today, having a completely open afternoon and a strong need to get out of town for at least a few hours, I plotted my route, hopped in my car, and headed up Highway 95 from Elgin, through Taylor, then Granger. The skies were mostly cloudy, air warm and humid, wind strong from the South blowing in the moist Gulf air for what may be an interesting evening of storms Monday. Seemed like a perfect time for a drive to see this station.

The installation’s tower stands approximately 5 stories tall from the ground to the lightning rod mounted on top of the dome, and is fronted by three portable box buildings holding the RADAR telemetry equipment, radios, servers, batteries, generators, and anything the NWS would need to operate and debug this instrument from remote. The entire installation is caged by three-strand barbed wire, chain-link fencing, and some of the prettiest “No Trespassing – Private Property” land on the map.

The surrounding landscape is rather flat and this installation is on the top of a very long hill, so it commands a perfectly unobstructed view of the sky in all directions. From that location, I’m sure I could’ve seen the tops of the clouds as far south as San Antonio and as far north as Waco, if not farther. I can only imagine the view from the top of the tower, and can imagine the dish inside the dome making its slow sweep across the landscape, just above the horizon, stacking invisible cones of varying slopes as it shoots out its microwave beam of slow light, observing the brightness and distance of the reflections and how much the movement of water and wind shift the color of those reflections (which is generally how Doppler RADAR works). I look out across the Granger Lake basin, and it’s a big, busy sky.

Passing miles of soybean crops, I'm coming up eastbound to GRK on FM 971.

Passing miles of soybean crops, I’m coming up eastbound to GRK on FM 971.

Coming up closer to GRK on FM 971. This installation is

Coming up closer to GRK on FM 971. This installation is actually taller than it looks.

GRK from the Southwest.

GRK from the Southwest.

GRK from the graveled parking area directly across the highway from the gate.

GRK from the graveled parking area directly south across the highway from the gate. Note the signage actually reads “GRL02″, which I’m sure is short for “GRanger Lake”.

GRK from the Southeast.

GRK from the Southeast. I believe the building on the right to be the generator and battery facility.

Close up of the GRK RADAR dome. I wonder what sort of radio-transparent material it's made of.

Close up of the GRK RADAR dome. I wonder what sort of radio-transparent material it’s made of.

The view from the hill down into the Granger Lake basin. This is all downhill from here.

The view from the hill down into the Granger Lake basin. This is all downhill from here.

From the dam at Granger Lake, you can see the GRK dome towering above the landscape in the distance.

From the dam at Granger Lake, you can see the GRK dome towering above the landscape in the distance near the center of the frame.

It’s just a little installation, nothing major, but it is a symbol and a functional part of something much larger than all of us. We benefit from the data this instrument and the federal agency that operates it provides. When you are looking for your local TV meteorologists to give you the news about how wet your shoes are about to be, this instrument is where they are getting their data. Regardless of how they trump up their weather technology advantage over their televised competition, they don’t actually have their own Doppler RADAR equipment – the National Weather Service does. Without this stream of data, your good-haired meteorologist has no job and you have no warning about the F4 tornado heading your way. For this service alone, I am willing to pay my taxes. For this alone, I am proud to be a citizen of this land.