Monday, December 31, 2007

Circle Game

Image
I decided to reuse this picture because I have been working on this entry for a long time now.
Photo by: Suna
And the seasons go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on a carousel of time
And go ’round and ’round and ’round in a circle game
—Joni Mitchell

This is the time of year to reflect on what has happened. What, if anything, have I learned from my experiences this year?

  • Life can be very painful. Even the good times can hurt.
  • Things never go like you want them to. Even things you do to avoid hurting others (or, at least, minimize the damage), can end up hurting them more.
  • It’s better to get things out in the open. If something disturbs the harmony of the house, delaying the disturbance does not make it go away. Cleanse the wound quickly before it festers.
Of course, I already knew all of these things. So that brings up my final ovservation:
  • Even though you know something, your mind can still trick you into repeating the mistake through optimism. I knew that, too.

So, what would I change about the last year? Not really anything. I have always believed that even the icky parts of life shape who we are. We need pain to appreciate its absence. We need joy to survive the pain. The Wheel of Fortune is the most beautiful card in the deck. I still try to cherish all of my experiences—even those that hurt.

Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are promise made to yourself, usually without the wherewithal or sometimes even the intention of keeping them. Here are mine for the upcoming year:

  • To do my best to be happy and help others be happy
  • To achieve a balance between work and life
  • To work on making a charitable reaction to any stimulus my first one

These were written by columnist Lynn Ashby. I like them:

  • In the coming year I shall never read any newspaper story that contains the names Paris Hilton, Britney Spears or Karl Rove unless followed by “was indicted.”
  • Not to watch a TV channel that only tells me what I want to hear, that whatever the problem, it is someone else’s fault. I must think outside the Fox. (I wish everyone would try this one.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bird on a Wire

This owl danced for us as we walked back to Dad’s house.
Like a bird on a wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir,
I have tried in my way to be free.
—Leonard Cohen

Once we got moving, things went much better. The trip down to Dad’s was smooth sailing. Traffic was light, and we made really good time. We got there before noon in spite of not getting up until after I had planned on leaving. On the way down, we passed some interesting sights:

  • A Christmas tree made out of old tires—painted gold and decorated
  • Christmas tree made out of round bales—painted green and decorated
  • Kids out playing on the street with their new toys
Dad watches the Cowboys lose.

Dad was in good health and spirits. He seemed really glad to see us and expressed how much he really likes Suna. We ate lunch at Aunt Di’s. Dad and Suna cleaned their plates. I couldn’t finish my usual order, and that is a good sign that I’m continuing to change my eating habits.

Back at the farm, we watched the Cowboys play poorly and lose. We went for a walk back to the stock tank. Once you get used to the emptiness of the countryside, you start to notice the biodiversity that is recovering now that more farms are retuning to grazing and pesticide use is declining. We saw lots of birds and got covered in floating spider webs.

AppraiserMan built a deer stand right on the property line. He and his son were watching the deer in distant field, but the animals were too comfortable where they were to come any nearer. He said that a few days before he had sighted some wild hogs walking right up to the stand. But when they got to where he had a clear shot, they scented him and ran. Too bad. They do a lot of damage to the habitat.

This is a good spot.
Photo by Suna

I had a really good time fantasizing about where I would site a house. But I will probably never build there. The local flora keep my sinuses in an uproar most of the year. Even in the winter, my sinuses were burning and my eyes were watering by the time we got home.

Photo by: Suna
Motion blur by me not stopping completely

On the way back to the house, I noticed a big fire on the horizon. We kept checking in periodically as we walked back. It continued to grow until it was truly frightening. Dad said it was 20 or so miles away, and he is a pretty good judge of distance. He has spent most of his life on that farm. When we left, we verified the distance, just for our own comfort. It was at least a few miles south of Yorktown, which is nine miles from the farm.

On the way home, I took Suna by the Christmas light display that Cuero sets up in the city park every year. She was really impressed by the community effort (each display is designed and maintained by a local business, charity, or group of individuals) it takes to put on such a display (more than a mile of individual creations) in such a small town. My favorite remains the sea monster swimming toward the paddle wheel boat, both of which are set in the lake so their lights reflect in the water.

It seems that just getting out of the house and doing something really improved our mood. This is something to remember when we start getting grumpy.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Time Passages

Al Stewart wrote many of my favorite songs.
Photo Soucre: AlStewart.com
Hear the echoes and feel yourself starting to turn
Don’t know why you should feel that there’s something to learn
It’s just a game that you play
—Al Stewart

I am back-posting Friday’s Feast. It’s really 2 January as I write this, but I’m dating it for the right date. I would like to say that I was late because I was thinking really deep thoughts or carefully considering my answers, but that would not be honest.

Friday’s Feast

Appetizer: Name two things you would like to accomplish in 2008.
  • Become solvent again
  • Have a nice wedding
Soup: With which cartoon character do you share personality traits?
There used to be a character named Ernest. Not only do we share a name, we also share many personality traits. My favorite quote: “Imagine all these young bucks going around trying to re-invent the wheel. Don’t they realize I re-invented it years ago?”
Salad: What time of day (or night) were you born?
11:45 AM. Just in time for lunch. Explains my life-long struggle with weight.
Main Course: Tell us something special about your hometown.
It has one of the highest cancer mortality rates in the country. Lots of chemicals.
This is a picture of my home town taken last Thanksgiving.
Dessert: If you could receive a letter from anyone in the world, who would you want to get one from?
I thought about this one for a while before deciding on Al Stewart, my favorite song writer. He was too literate to have more than a couple of commercial hits, and even those were out of sync with what was going on in the music of the day. You may remember “Year of the Cat,” “On the Border,” or “Time Passages.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

And So This Is Christmas

Who could want more for Christmas than a big pair of shiny balls.
Photo by: Suna
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear
—John Lennon

Well, it is the best Christmas I can remember having for a long time—even if I did wake up at 04:30. I went into the media room and read until everybody else got up.

After yummy cinnamon rolls for breakfast, we opened our presents. The kids seemed pleased with the presents I got them, and I loved what they picked out for me. Beccano got me a “My Little Cthulu” figure (like the one in the link, but red [orange]) with two little victims and an “I’m made of meat” T-shirt. TubaBoy got me a cool book that explains all of the new mystic crystals, manufactured and otherwise. Suna really out did herself. I don’t remember ever getting so many presents—not even when I was a kid. They were all little things that showed a lot of thought, which made them all better.

Big smiles are what it’s all about.
Photo by: Suna

This was also the first Christmas I remember where all of the clothing I got was in the right size. X2’s parents used to buy my clothing gifts in her size, while mine bought her clothing gifts in my size. It was funny, if occasionally stressful.

Now that I know how we do Christmas in this family, I’ll do better next year.

Grateful Monday on Tuesday, Again

So thank you all: Suna, Beccano, and TubaBoy. This has been a great year because of all of you. I am so grateful that I found you all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Nostradamus

Ah, the more it changes, the more it stays the same
And the Hand just rearranges the players in the game
—Al Stewart
Do parallel universes line up in a series of infinite minute variations?
Original Painting ©1997 by Slawek Wojtowicz

So last night, I visited the parallel universe where X2 and I split long before I met Suna. In that place, we had never left the coast, and I was still earning my living through manual labor. I think I was still working at the Rice Factory. I know my boss at the Rice Factory, Old Easy, was in the dream and much older than he had been when I knew him.

(This was the second time people from that place—and Old Easy in particular—have appeared in my dreams recently. In both, they were older than when I knew them and their personalities had aged, too. That’s what makes me think I am slipping through to a parallel universe.)

It was interesting to note that X2 and I had the same problems as we had in this universe and the same results. The only difference was that I was alone, too. It was a much sadder place for me—not only because I was alone, but also because I knew I had wasted a lot of potential by staying on the coast.

This dream started me wondering. How much are we shaped by our experiences? How much do we shape our experiences? And how much do we simply shape our perception of our experiences?

Without everything that has gone before, would I still be me?

Photo by: Suna

Grateful Monday

So that brings us to this week’s Grateful Monday. I am grateful for everything that has happened to me in this universe. Things could have turned out much worse. I still feel that I have wasted a lot of potential and that I should have done more to help other people. I fantasize about joining the Peace Corps or something like it when I retire, but …

But even the icky stuff in life shapes us and makes us better people. So I am grateful for all the good times I’ve had—and for all the bad times, too. I hope I am continuing to grow and become a better person than I was.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I’ve Got a Light

I’ve got a light and it shines in me
It shines in the eyes of a little baby
—Joyce Poley

Today was the pre-Christmas service where the adult choir backed the children’s choir. I played guitar.

The kids sang pretty well, too. You can see Suna in the background. I am well hidden.
Photo by: TubaBoy

For the most part, the children was hilarious. I won’t talk about Spoiled Brat, who tried to untie the backdrop. There were enough problems with props without her help, thank you. For one thing, the Star broke in rehearsal. I think they got it taped back together for the service.

Suna read a really cute story about the tallest boy in first grade. Beccano became a last minute donkey. All the kids—even SB—were extraordinarily cute.

All in all, the event came off well. There were laughter and tears in the audience as they watch the little ones sing and cavort. The music sounded good from the back of the stage where I hid with my guitar. And watching the little ones having fun and still being so serious was touching.

Don’t tell any one, but I think I’m actually looking forward to next year’s pageant.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Deck the Halls

Happy Suna celebrates yule.
Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
—Traditional

Tonight we celebrated our first Yule as a new family. Suna describes what we did really well. I just wanted to add that it was touching. I hope we can all fulfill our goals for the year ahead. I am focusing on balance.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Yule Party

I work my job all the way to the weekend
Call all my buddies, ask where you been
Let’s get together somewhere, seven o’clock
Wanna pop a top, pop a top
Wann go, wanna roll, wanna rock it
—Phil Vassar
Cosmopolitans are yummy.
Photo Source: Swank Martini Company

Today was the last working day before the Holiday Break at ALE. After work, Suna and I went to a non-ALE event at a former co-worker’s house. It turns out that she is a neighbor and only lives a few blocks away.

It was a really pleasant time, thanks in part to the fact that she makes really excellent Cosmopolitans. I never got her exact recipe, but she told me later that she doubled the alcohol in one of the standard recipes.

There were a lot of old friends whom I had not seen in a while. There were also a couple of people with whom I keep in contact, as much as The Hermit keeps in contact with anyone. And I met another German person whom I had only heard about before—actually I think she is authentic instead of descended like me.

The excitement of the party came when the firetrucks, ambulance, and police flew past. Something had happened several houses down, but we never did find out what. Suna was just relieved that it was next door to one of Beccano’s teachers, not there. When we cleared out (a little later than the party was scheduled to dissolve, only one fire truck remained.

Friday’s Feast

The official Friday’s Feast was off for the holidays, but Sam made up her own:

Appetizer: What is your first thought upon waking in the morning?
I don’t usually have a thought first think in the morning. After grumph, my initial inclination is to reach for Suna. Then I realize how badly I have to pee.
Salad: Of all of the “alternative” therapies available, which is the one you have most trouble believing actually works?
Hmmm…all of them? I don’t put much stock in mainstream therapies either. Good health comes from the balance of mind, body, and soul. Anything that fails to address all three is suspect in my book.
The current cover of my favorite mag.
Photo Source: Shop Notes
Main Course: Name something that you never told your childhood friends because, at the time, you were totally embarrassed about but now are not so afraid of.
I know this sounds like the W defense, but I really can’t think of anything. I find hiding things to be more trouble than it’s worth. I may not always volunteer information, but I have tried to live transparently. When I peed my pants, I didn’t tell everyone, but I didn’t do a Nixon either. If you want to know something about me, ask.
Dessert: If you could subscribe to one magazine and only one, what would it be? (It can be out of print if you need it to be.) And do you subscribe to it now?
The only magazine to which I currently subscribe is Science News, and it is a leftover I will renew because Suna likes it. I also like to read the subscriber-only articles on the web. I’m not a magazine person.

That said, the magazine I really want to subscribe to is Shop Notes.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It’s Still rock and Roll to Me

This is the guitar I chose to play for the choir. I usually dress better than this in public.
Photo by: Suna
It’s the next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways
It’s still rock and roll to me
—Billy Joel

This post is an update on the music scene at The Hermitage. Suna and I participated in two separate rehearsals over the past two nights.

Trey Bone

As you already know, I am now the semi-official guitarist in residence for Trey Bone—the vocal trio that Suna and some of her friends have worked in for almost a decade. I love their harmonies and try not to detract too much from the sound.

I am not really confident in my singing right now because my voice seems to be changing again. And since their harmonies are so tight, there usually isn’t a note left in my range. All this means that I’m not even trying to sing with them. I think they are probably relieved, even if they would not admit it.

So we practiced Tuesday night, and we sounded really good. We are even talking about trying to land a couple of gigs other than the annual freeze out at the race track.

Choir

Last night was the final rehearsal for the Christmas pageant. This year, the Christmas service features the children’s choir, with the adults backing them. I am also playing guitar for this one because only one of the pieces has an official tenor part, and they all have guitar chords above the piano part. Most of the tunes are really easy, and I would be able to memorize them if we had a couple more practices.

After the rehearsal, we had a baby shower for Cute Young Couple, the newest members of the choir.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Survival

Today was the day my nephew-in-law, who is older than I am by a couple of years, went under the knife for prostate cancer. I spoke to my niece, Sweetness, on the phone while he was still under, and she called me back after he was in recovery. The surgery lasted almost seven hours, but the prognosis is good—and that is all that matters.

He should be able to go home by Wednesday, which is the same day the test results will tell us if the doctors got all of the cancer. If not, they can probably wipe out the rest with radiation. But I am hopeful that he won’t have to deal with that.

Grateful Monday

So that is what I am grateful for: good results in bad situations. I am grateful for Sweetness, who deserves so much better than life has dealt her.

Sweetness, I love you. I meant it when I said don’t forget to take care of yourself over the next few weeks. You promised, and I’m holding you to it.

PS. No picture and no poetry today. Nothing seemed appropriate.


Friday Update: The surgery was successful. The labs showed that they got all of the cancer, and he can return to work without chemotherapy or radiation.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Enchantment

The little bumps on the rock in the background are people.

We slept in a little again, despite not noticing that the alarm was set. It went off at 07, but it was inobtrusive enough that I slept through it until Suna asked me to turn it off. It sounded like the sound powered speakers make when a cell phone is left near them. I kept wondering if we had left a cell phone on the computer, not really thinking that we keep the speakers on it muted.

After the continental breakfast that was most forgettable, we headed out of town to Enchanted Rock. We hiked around the inner loop trail, which took us near the summit but not quite there. Suna has posted some of the best of the pictures of the trip in Flickr.

Once again, we took the scenic route.
Photo by: Google Maps

After the hike around the rock, we wound our way home through Llano, Bertram, and Liberty Hill. It was a pleasant trip. We got home to find that TubaBoy had been successful in learning to drive a stick.

The only down side to today is that Suna seems to be suffering from what may turn out to be an ear infection. The left side of her head is hurting worse as the day progresses. I may try to apply some heat later, if she continues to hurt…if she lets me.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Road

Santamaria’s Muscat was excellent. This Table Red hints of smoked meat. Amazing.
When a dusty road
goes nowhere
it gives you
time to think

Today started slowly. We slept in before getting up to pack for the trip. We left about the time R got in for his visit with the kids.

We made it to Fredericksburg about 13. We ate lunch at Chili’s. I have been hesitant to eat at Chili’s before because looks too much like a TGI Friday’s. (I didn’t link to Friday’s web site because it tries to take over your computer with excessively hostile Flash code.) But I have to admit, it was one of the best burgers I have eaten in a very long time—smokey flavor and juicy without being messy or greasy.

We stayed at a fairly new Best Western, built with an interesting Texas-rustic style. They let us check in early. So we had plenty of time to wander around all of the interesting shops downtown. We managed to buy a few extra little Christmas presents without breaking the bank.

But the best thing was stopping in at a little wine shop, Texas Vineyards and Beyond. There we met Martin Santamaria, the vintner of Santa Maria Cellars. He asked us about our taste in wine and then poured samples of several bottles. We talked about how Suna, Martin, and most craftsmen are more comfortable making things than selling them. The we bought two bottles, which he signed with “Merry Christmas.’

Actually, the best part was after the shopping. Suna said she had never been to Kerrville before—except for the Folk Festival, which is held out of town. So we drove the 22 miles to look at the town. Kerrville has become a depressingly bland town as it has “modernized.”

This is roughly the route we drove today. Not the most direct, but we had not seen this territory in a while.
Map Source: Google Maps

We drove down 16 and then took the road to Ingram. Ingram has retained much of its character. It is still a unique little town with idiosyncratic shops and sights. The we went on out toward Hunt. Not far past the Dam Store is the corner where some old friends make a living with yard furniture. I was so glad to see that the business was still there, that I pulled in to show Suna some of the things on display. We circled through the drive. As I pulled back onto the road, I saw Jack making his way toward the display on bicycle, so I pulled into the drive of the Dove’s Nest. The house where Jack and Jennifer live was named after Jack’s mother.

Once they recognized me—the new truck threw them, not to mention the fact that we fell out of the blue completely unannounced—they invited us in. We had a very pleasant chat for about an hour. Then, not wanting to impose, Suna and I headed back to Fredricksburg for dinner and a quiet evening alone.

We drank the Muscat this evening with some severe snackage; we were still mostly full from the burgers. The Muscat was a light, sweet wine, as you would expect from these grapes. It is very fruity, and I would certainly like to buy a few more bottles, if not a case.We are saving the sweet Table Red for a meal closer to Christmas. It is a really interesting blend of flavors that hints of smoked beef. I was really impressed.

The Night the Lights Went Out at Christmas

This isn’t the black dog that put out the lights. But she would if she could. The cords might be tasty.
Photo by Suna
Hear that midnight rooster crow
Well I’ll have one more before I go
But Honey, don't turn out the light
’Cause I think I’m in the mood for love tonight
—Robert Earl Keen

Last night, I came home from work hungry for my favorite Mexican restaurant. Beccano had already left to spend the night with a friend. TubaBoy and his friends had not yet arrived. So we waited.

I finally decided to call TubaBoy to find out when he and his crew would arrive. “We’re in the driveway,“ he said.

So they came in, and we left. The night was already cold and misty. I backed the truck out of the drive and turned around in the cul-de-sac.

As we pulled up to the stop sign, a large black dog appeared in the headlights. He was exploring the neighbor’s yard across from the end of our street. He jauntily approached a tree wrapped in Christmas lights and lifted his leg. As he jumped away from the tree, the lights went out.

Suna and I both laughed. “I bet he’s thinking, ‘That’s the first time a tree ever bit me!’”

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bears

I have seen bears in Arkansas. I just hope to not make their acquaintance this weekend in the Hill Country
Photo by: Hummer Guy
So meet a bear and take him out to lunch with you
And even though your friends may stop and stare
Just remember that’s a bear there in the bunch with you
And they just don’t come no better than a bear
—Townes van Zandt

Job prospects for Suna seem to be looking up. She had a couple of calls today. I am focusing on keeping mine happy so that they do renew my funding after the end of the fiscal year.

We are also escaping for the weekend, leaving her car with R to give TubBoy lessons in driving a standard transmission vehicle. Suna gave him one but says she had trouble with patience. I have never tried because he always has “better things to do” on the weekends—like go to debate tournaments or hand with his friends.

Friday’s Feast

Appetizer: Make up a word and give us its definition.
Obtusology — the study that seeks to find meaning in the proclamations of our current president. See also, lost causes.
Soup: What is currently your favorite song?
I am pretty fond of John Fogerty's "I Can't Take It No More." He says some things about GW that I wish I had said.
Salad: What’s at the top of your Christmas wish list this year?
A job for Suna. Of course, I would be happy if a more permanent job for me appeared, too.
Main Course: Name a scent that reminds you of someone special in your life.
I've never really been a scent person. The smell of an outhouse reminds me of my grandparents' farm. The smell of rosewater reminds me of Suna.
Dessert: Who is someone on television that you feel probably shouldn’t be, and why?
The guys on ESPN who do Monday Night Football. They seem to forget that we are watching the game, not them. Commentary is one thing. What they do is something else.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thank You for the Music

What would life be without a song or dance
What are we
So, I say, thank you for the music
For giving it to me
—Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus
Three members of Trey Bone play with a drummer at Live Oak UU Church
Photo by: John Montgomery

Tonight was the first rehearsal for Trey Bone since we played a couple of songs at church in October. It went really well, almost as if we had been playing together recently. Suna and the guys harmonized so well that it sent chills down my spine. Would that I could sing that prettily.

We are using the same set list as last year, with the addition of a couple of songs. One thing that’s nice is that we’ve slowed down some of the tunes to a more reasonable pace. There were a couple that I felt as if we were racing through. Slower, they sound really good.

Grateful Monday on Tuesday

OK. I’m a little late getting my Grateful Monday post. My dear reader knows that this blog often post a few days or weeks behind. I have enough deadlines at work to feel the need for them in my recreational activities. Humph.

Anyway. Today I am grateful for music. I love the feeling of hitting the notes with everyone—losing yourself in something larger than yourself. I love being able to play or sing or both and have the music just flow through me without thought.

Listening to a really good performance sometimes brings this transcendence, but playing…

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pearl

Image
I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said that when you trade freedom for security you end up with neither.
Photo Source: Planet Hiltron
And ev’n so be their doom, themselves have thought
Who, past the living, warr’d upon those dead
Who, being dead, yet spake thro’ that they wrought—
So fierce their hate against the soul they dread!

Today is the sixty-seventh anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii—a reminder that there are always people who are willing to use violence to take what they want, and violence is sometimes necessary to protect yourself. The difference between then and now is that the violence then was a nation-state acting against another nation-state. Today’s violence derives from savage cowards who use violence randomly to try to force others to kneel.

What a wonderful thought! Let’s move on to something less depressing

Friday’s Feast

Appetizer: What was the last game you purchased?
Oblivion: The Elder Scrolls IV. I played it a couple of times. The Beccano took it over, even though he already had a version for one of his game boxes. I never really understood or followed it. I much prefer the Diablo franchise.
Soup: Name something in which you don’t believe.
Fate or Destiny.
Salad: If you could choose a celebrity to be your boss, who would you pick?
I think I would prefer a non-celebrity. Celebrity requires too much ego, and non-celebrities seem aflicted enough with that vice. So if I could choose, I would choose a mundane boss.
Main Course: What was a lesson you had to learn the hard way?
Gee! There are so many! I guess that it’s not as easy to find work as it was when I was younger. I knew that intellectually. Now I know it in my gut.
Dessert: Describe your idea of the perfect relaxation room.
It is a large room done in soft colors. There are windows at one end, but most of the light is indirect. Even the windows face north. The walls are lined with well-stocked bookshelves. The floor is hardwood, but there are rugs to soften the noise and keep the feet warm.

There is a small sitting area near the windows. Just a couple of chairs. There is a larger sitting area in the center of the room—a couple of couches, a table, and maybe a chair. Music is always available here, but there is a television and a DVD player, too. At the far end of the room is a writing desk.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Talking in Public

I don’t know what this picture is, but it illustrate this topic nicely.
Source: Dave Pollard’s blog on Conversation
In silence listening, like a devout child,
My soul lay passive, by thy various strain
Driven as in surges now beneath the stars,
With momentary stars of my own birth,
Fair constellated foam, still darting off
Into the darkness…
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1807)

It’s cold today, so I was taking my afternoon walk around the inside of the building. In the security-hyperconscious time, people continue the ancient the ancient tradition of conducting private business in public places. OK, so the company cafeteria is not as public as a Damascus café, but still!

I wandered over to the Pepsi machine, thereby more than undoing any health benefits from the walk. I was amazed by how much people relied on the din to cover their conversations—even though they had to raise their voices to be heard over the ambient roar. In those few minutes, I could have gathered juicy intelligence on business practices, marketing strategies, and technical specifics.

But that’s not the frightening thing. As the machine dispensed my carbonated high-fructose corn syrup, I realized how many of these conversations happen in restaurants and taverns all over town. It’s like hiding but not encrypting a wireless signal: “Obscurity is not security,” as the Internet security pundits say.

Good thing I don’t take notes.

Grateful Monday

I am glad that my current boss doesn’t treat me like my former management treated contractors. While I don’t feel like “part of the team,” I really don’t want to. I am treated like a professional, and I try to act like one. I try to deliver more than they expect, but I don’t take ownership of the problems their rush to completion creates. It’s almost my dream job, just without security or insurance.

But someone once said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tannenbaum

Suna pauses on the way to church and the Yule Fest.
Ach Tannebaum, ach Tannebaum, du bist ein edler Zweig!
Du grünest uns den Winter, die lieben Sommerzeit.
—Melchior Franck

Yesterday, Suna, Beccano, and I bought a live tree. It is a Douglas Fir, not a real Tannen. I don’t think Tannens grow in the US. If they do, they certainly are not available in Central Texas.

This is the first time I have bought a live tree (other than rosemary) in decades. Last year, I helped Suna decorate the artificial tree she had used since the second year she was in this house. That fake tree met the dump earlier this year.

Today, we spent most of the day after church decorating the tree. After we finished that, I spent some time stringing outdoor lights on the redbud—the first time I have ever strung outdoor lights in my life. That I can remember, anyway.

I have always been fairly Scrooge-like when it comes to Christmas. Something about all those nasty people pretending to be nice for three weeks a year just turned me off. Not to mention the excess commercialization of the holiday: this year some stores were playing Christmas songs in September.

So why am I suddenly “in the spirit?”

Celebrating Yule while everyone else celebrates Christmas may have something to do with it. Trying to be a better person than the one I had become also plays a part. Finally, a generally more positive environment helps, too.

After the main service, we went to the the Yule Fest. That included lunch and a vendor fair. We were able to get a couple of Yule gifts. They won&rquo;t go under the tree. Rose would probably eat anything we left there. Besides getting the gifts, these purchases support local craftspersons and artists. They also help support the church. Everyone wins.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Millwork

I know editing documents isn’t as hard as millwork or (un)loading trucks. I’ve done enough of those to know that editing is much easier on the back and pays better.
Photo by: Clay Enos
Then it’s me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
For the rest of the afternoon
And the rest of my life
—James Taylor

So this whole week has involved staring an Word documents, technical references, and Flash presentations in an effort to improve some outdated training materials for ALE. The good news is that they authorized a little overtime. But it has been a long, brain-deadening week.

Friday Feast

Appetizer: What is your favorite carnival/amusement park ride?
Even as a child, I didn’t really like amusement park rides. They were all either too scary or too boring. (Yes, I was a wimp.) If I had to choose, I remember liking bumper cars the best. You were in control. You could run into things, and you wouldn’t get hurt.
I think my dad ruined bumper cars for me. He wanted me to treat the cars like practice for driving a real car. Where’s the fun in that?
Soup: How do you react in uncomfortable social situations?
Like Suna, I try to avoid them. Harmony is very important to me, but I won’t sacrifice my beliefs for the sake of conformity—except maybe where Dad is concerned.
Salad: On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how much do you enjoy discussing deep, philosophical topics?
4. Not nearly so much as I did when I was trying to figure out what I believe. Like many philosophers (as opposed to philosophists) I think the questions are usually more important than the answers. I would rather ask and listen than argue. Hmmm. That’s my favorite teaching style, too.
Main Course: Did you get a flu shot this year? If not, do you plan to?
No. No. I am phobic about flu shots. I have no problem with other inoculations.
Dessert: Approximately how many hours per week do you spend watching television?
Too much. 15-30 hours. At the end of the day, my brain and eyes are usually too tired to do much reading.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spider Man

Green Lantern one of my heroes as a kid, but I really liked Cato better.
Photo by: Superhero Quiz
Spider Pig
Spider Pig
Does whatever a spider pig does
The Simpson’s Movie

Suna linked to this Superhero Quiz. It profiles you according to your superhero personality type. And it turns out that I am…Green Lantern? He is described as hot-headed.

The quizmasters tell me, “You have strong will power and a good imagination.” But then they also say I could be any of these folks:

Green Lantern
85%
Spider-Man
85%
Iron Man
80%
Supergirl
75%
Catwoman
70%
Hulk
70%
Superman
65%
Robin
60%
Wonder Woman
60%
Batman
50%
The Flash
45%

I think I would rather be Spider Man, although Iron Man has a better song. Besides, I don’t think of myself as hot-headed. I’m rather even-tempered, if you ask me.

Suna is Wonder Woman, but I could have told you that.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

What would Thanksgiving be without a turkey?
Then lift up the head with a song!
And lift up the hands with a gift!
To the ancient giver of all
The spirit of gratitude lift!
For the joy and promise of Spring,
For the hay and clover sweet,
The barley, the rye, and the oats,
The rice and the corn and the wheat,
The cotton and sugar and fruit,
The flowers and the fine honeycomb,
The country, so fair and so free,
The blessing and the glory of home...

Last night was the coldest of the new winter so far. I slept well for the first time in a while because of the change in the weather. I woke rested and feeling good before the alarm went off.

Before we could leave to see my dad, we had to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade—well, at least the opening act. The daughter of one of our friends from church was a dancer in a show tune. She was one of 600 girls selected from across the nation to participate. That’s quite an honor—almost worth a trip to NYC. (Suna thinks we might have even seen her. I haven’t a clue.)

Then we were off to Dad’s. It was good to see him looking so healthy. He has put on a bit of weight since he can’t work like he used to. I do worry about him being so alone. He has only his cat now since he sold his remaining cattle. Still, I worried about him taking care of the cattle. They are so much bigger than he is, and his reflexes aren’t what they once were.

This year, Dad decided to plant winter wheat. After a Spring that was almost too wet to plant, he is worried that his wheat is very patchy because it has been too dry. It looks as if the birds and insects may have had their Thanksgiving dinner early. The south field looks OK, but the north field is more barren than growing. He hopes that some promised rain this weekend may help. I sure hope so.


This doesn’t capture the extent of the line, but I don’t really think that’s the point. Is it?
Photo by Suna

Thanksgiving Dinner was at Furr’s cafeteria. They have a decent buffet, and Dad really enjoyed it. He ate a lot, almost as much as I did. The line was long, and the wind at the entrance was cold. But we eventually made it inside where it was warm and the food smelled so good. There was a wide selection to choose from. The only bad thing was that the turkey on the turkey and dressing had the flavor and texture of soggy paper. The dressing was good, and there was real turkey breast waiting to be sliced a little farther down the line. That turkey was perfect. Dad says it was the best he ever had, but he says that about everything in his most recent meal&mdahs;it’s either the best or the worst ever.

What amazed me about the whole Furr’s experience was the line. They couldn’t keep people moving through the line fast enough to keep the dining area anywhere near full. And that was with people taking their sweet time eating, visiting, and digesting over the meal. Makes you wonder.

Then it was back to Dad’s house to watch the Cowboys take on the Jets. I think the game was entertaining, but I slept through much of it. Damned tryptophan. All I really remember of the game was the companionship and that the ‘boys won. OK. They smacked the Jets.

Then home: all-in-all, a little more than seven hours behind the wheel. We relaxed a bit and went to bed. It was about as good as it gets on Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

El Dorado

This is apparently the car or TubaBoy’s dreams. We’ll see if it can be done.
Photo by: LG Kelly
In the crystal ball
The gypsy sees the villa
The riders on the hill
The fire in the fields
—Neil Young

Today was another long day at work without much bandwidth for thinking. There was just barely enough downtime to recharge before diving into dreadful technical documents again. I had to edit three procedures that started in the middle. The writer just assumed everybody would know where he was. I didn’t.

After work, there was running an errand with Beccano and trying to help TubaBoy find a car. He has his heart set on a 1984 El Dorado. I am beginning to wonder if there isn’t more work required to get it up to speed than it is worth. We’ll find out on Friday or so when we go look at it.

Self-tagged Meme

This is another meme. Suna had a good idea. She had everyone who read her blog tag themselves. If you are reading this and haven’t already answered these questions, consider yourself tagged.

What were you afraid of as a child?
Although they were once common in Central Texas, I haven’t seen—or heard—a rattler in years.
Photo Source: Chris Dixon Studios

Snakes. I had frequent nightmares about snakes—but never on a plane.

I think I came by this fear genetically. I remember one time my grandfather almost rolled a duce-and-a-half truck swerving across a back-country road to run over a snake. He always had a large Rolaids jar on the table filled with rattlesnake rattlers.

Granddad was not afraid of snakes. He just hated them with a passion. But hatred almost always stems from fear, doesn’t it?

When he would find a rattler sunning itself in the field or on the road. He would grab it by the tail and swing it rapidly over his head. The centrifugal force would keep it from biting him. When he had enough momentum built up, he would throw the snake 10-20 feet in the air (He was 6’ 7”.). When the snake hit the ground it would burst open. Granddad would cut off the rattles with his pocket knife and add them to his collection.

What sound most disturbs you?
Screaming breaks followed by metal grinding against metal. I don't even like that sound in movies.
What is the greatest amount of physical pain you’ve been in?
I have had a couple of surgeries. Luckily, I was well drugged for them—even during the initial recovery. So, I really don’t remember the pain that much.
What’s your biggest fear for your children? (or children in general if you don’t have some of your own.)
I fear our unelected president has made the world unsafe for Americans through his blind self-interest. I fear that his strong desire to do away with the Constitution will succeed. I fear he and his cronies will be successful in establishing an Iran-style (but Christian) theocracy in the United States.
What is the hardest physical challenge you’ve achieved?
I whipped my body into shape, transforming myself from a road musician to someone who could heft 50-kilo bags of rice over my head for a full work day.
Which do you prefer: Mountains or oceans/big water?
Mountains with a view of the ocean. Such terrain exists in several places in the world.
Ever had a close relative or friend with cancer?
  • My father
  • My brother
  • A niece
  • A nephew-in-law
  • A father-in-law
  • Do I need to go on?
  • What are the things your friends count on you for?
    Honesty
    What is the best part of being in a committed relationship?
    Love and companionship. A peaceful home.
    What is the hardest part of being in a committed relationship?
    Committed relationships are hard work. And the things that need work change over time, as with anything that lives and grows. Today i would have to say it is dealing with uncertainty. But maybe that is more a function of me getting older and having less time to recover from setbacks.
    Summer or Winter? Why?
    Winter. It is easier to stay warm in Texas than to cool off.
    Have you ever been in a school-yard fight?
    Once. He hit me and ran. I was not fast enough, being fat, to catch him.
    Why blog?
    Why not?
    Did you learn about sex, and/or sex safety from your parents?
    I learned in the grand American tradition: from what I heard on the street and men’s magazines. I also remember studying Gray’s Anatomy in high school to try to figure out how all the parts interlocked.
    How do you plan to talk to your kids about sex and/or sex safety?
    Honestly, bluntly. Trackgrease is in his thirties, so I don’t have to deal with this issue with him. TubaBoy and Beccano both seem to have the information they need. I’m open for discussion, questions, and bad advice.
    What are you most thankful for this year?
    Suna.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007

    World Premier

    He looks crazy in the picture, but he seems like a very pleasant, funny man.
    Instrumentals don’t have lyrics.
    —Me, just now

    Music today centered on church. The choir performed three songs that we hardly rehearsed for the prelude. It’s really difficult to read the music and the lyrics at the same time. I much prefer performing when I have at least one of those fiendish thingies memorized.

    Worse, I was almost on my own as the tenor section. The Percussive Punctuater was away at a men’s retreat. Usually, all I have to do is hit the notes and make the appropriate vowel sounds. Booming Baritone was assigned to sing bass. (He switch hits between tenor, baritone, and bass. Amazing.)

    Luckily, one of the altos volunteered to help out. Otherwise, things would have drawn serious vacuum. But between us, we got the tenor part to sound something remotely like what was written.

    A local composer, P. Kellach Waddle, handled the offertory music. He performed one of his own compositions—The Morning Dispair: Prelude in F Major for Solo Bass, a modern double-bass solo. It was awesome. He played some wonderful harmonics and toyed with pitch. With modern classical music, you never know if the tuning issues are intentional or not. So I always assume they are for effect.

    For the postlude, he conducted a trio:

    • Our own lovely choir director on piano
    • Michael Dzbenski, tenor
    • Josh Borski, oboe

    They performed a world premier of Hopes: Mini-cantata from the Requiem Mass, a work in four movements. It is based on text from Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor. The total postlude was slightly under 10 minutes. The longest of the four movements was just over four minutes. What I am trying to convey here is that it was very accessible. It focused on the optimistic parts of the Requiem, which may have also limited its duration. But that made it perfect for a postlude. Send the people away feeling good and wanting more.

    Saturday, November 17, 2007

    I’ll Fix Your Flat Tire, Merle


    Suna and the Round Rock Community Choir
    Well, I’ll fix your flat tire, Merle
    Don’t you get your sweet country-pickin’ fingers
    All covered with erl
    ’Cause you’re a honky, I know,
    But, Merle, you’ve got soul
    So I’ll fix your flat tire, Merle
    —[Pure Prairie League]

    Tonight was Suna’s first concert singing with the Round Rock Community Choir. I am embarrassed to link to their home page, which shows only the address of the concert—literally no useful information. The photo gallery has not been updated since 2002. Somebody, please help these poor un-communicants into the 21st century.

    Getting everyone there was quite a challenge. First, Tubaboy had a debate tournament and my impression was that he would not attend with us. So I drove Beccano and Suna to the church. When we dropped Suna off, I realized I had forgotten the camera she asked me three times to remember.

    So Beccano and I trouped back to the house. I ran upstairs, grabbed the camera from the coffee table, and hurried back down the stairs. As I was locking the door, Tubaboy arrived with a car load of his friends. I gave them directions to the church, and Beccano and I headed out to grab a promised Sonicburger before the concert.

    We were just pulling out with our food (I planned to eat in the church parking lot to ensure that we were on time) when Tubaboy called. It seems that they had a flat tire. I got directions to where they were, which was—amazingly enough—right around the corner from the performance.

    I spent the next half-hour teaching the boys how to change a flat. I think they were disappointed that I did not change the tire for them. But one of the basic tenets of instructional design is active learning. So I showed them just enough to get them started and let them go to it. They got it done and showed up at the intermission. This was after a frantic call explaining that one of the lugs had twisted off with the lug nut. I explained, “That’s why there are five of them.”

    Tubaboy asked, “So we can drive it and we won’t die?”

    The concert itself was very good. They performed three pieces—or maybe just one piece with three movements—before the intermission. For the first half, Beccano and I sat in the lower section of the church. We couldn’t see Suna very well. There was a mic stand just in front of her face from our perspective. The choir performed with orchestral—brass and percussion—accompaniment. The single tuba filled the big room, and the overall effect was good.

    So we moved to the balcony at intermission. Tubaboy and his friends arrived shortly after the choir resumed (sans orchestra). They performed four pieces, one with flute accompanying. They would have been better served without the flute. She could not play loud enough to carry over the choir—except when she missed a note.

    Then they moved to the 12 days of Christmas. It was weird hearing all this Christmas music before Thanksgiving when there was no merchandise on display. But the arrangement was unique. Each verse was done in a different musical style—ranging from Gregorian chant to John Phillip Sousa. And the choir turned pages loudly during the rests. It was very amusing.

    Afterward. we went home to listen to the dogs bark.

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    Second Fiddle

    Miniskirts were one of the fads of my youth, but I really can’t remember seeing one worn more than a couple of times. Photo Source: Scavenge
    Play fiddle play
    Will there never come a day
    When I won’t have to play the part
    Of second fiddle to your heart?
    —Buck Owens

    Well, it happened again. I came in second for a job. Granted, it isn’t a job that I really wanted to begin with. But I did want it after they getting to know the people I would have been working with and after how hard they worked to sell me on it.

    My only hope now is that their first choice fall through for some reason—hopefully, because of finding something better.

    OK. That isn’t my only hope, but is my only hope for this job. And after Suna got word that her department had been told to release all contractors before Christmas, finding something that lasts past January suddenly got more important.

    Friday Feast

    Appetizer: What was your first “real” job?
    What is “real?” My first traditional job was washing dishes at a fried shrip joint for less than a dollar an hour. At that time, I was already playing bass in a country band and averaging averaging $20 for a four-hour show. This is one of the experiences that taught me to value my time. If you’re going to make $30,000, it is much better to work 1,000 hours at $30/hour than 2,000 hours at $15 hour.
    Soup: Where would you go if you wanted to spark your creativity?
    The country side, preferably near a lake. I need water in view. Barring that, any place quiet.
    Salad: Complete this sentence: I am embarrassed when…
    …I make a mistake. And I make more and more of them these days.
    Main Course: What values did your parents instill in you?
    Honesty, hard work, and an abiding respect for others. You know—all the values the Republicans disdane because the don’t help you make money quickly.
    Dessert: Name 3 fads from your teenage years.
    • Mini skirts
    • CB radios
    • Pet rocks

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    Manic Monday


    Trackgrease and Sam frolick ca 1989.
    It’s just another manic Monday
    I wish it was Sunday
    ’Cause that’s my funday
    An I-don't-have-to-run day
    —[Bangles]

    Today has been another ringer of a day. I was also unable to get a ride to get my bike out of the shop. I have a looming deadline at work, but my source doesn’t seem to have any sense of urgency about getting the material in shape. Sigh.

    Then Suna got word that her contract will be terminated early (at the end of the fiscal year) because her department lost funding for her position. This is one of the things about contract work. It is somewhat less dependable than being “an employee.” But then, it pays better than being an employee.

    Grateful Monday

    So on a day like this, what do I have to be grateful for? There is always something.

    After not being able to reach Trackgrease on Veterans Day, I was able to get through to him today. I’m not (and never have been) one to call anyone regularly. I sometimes go years without talking to relatives. But it’s always good to talk to my son.

    And he had news for me. He’s engaged. I didn’t tell him that Suna and I are, too. I thought it was better to let him bask in the attention. I’ll tell him next time we talk. So again, I’m thankful for Trackgrease today.

    Friday, November 09, 2007

    Popcorn

    I’m not the only one who likes movies and popcorn.
    Photo by: RobynRenee
    Happy little kernels of corn are we,
    Wrapped up in our jackets of white;
    We hop and we pop,
    We’re so full of glee,
    Hopping ’til we pop just right!
    —Mary H. Howliston

    Friday’s Feast

    Appetizer: Which snack do you like to get when you go to the movies?
    Popcorn. Except for the gobs of butter, it’s relatively healthy. I used to grab a pound of Reces cups and a gallon of soda—not the diet kind. Now I force myself to be content with popcorn and a small drink.
    Soup: What year did you start using the Internet?
    I remember using Prodigy as early as 1992. I was a late bloomer.
    Salad: What is your first name in Pig Latin?
    E-lay
    Main Course: Name something you are picky about.
    Less and less these days. The older I get, the less certain I am that I am right about anything. But I probably pick more nits over sentence construction than anything else.
    Dessert: Fill in the blanks: I ____ ____ yesterday and I ____ ____ today.
    I got paid yesterday, and I spent it today.

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    The Circle Game


    Stonehenge, a holy circle
    Photo Source: From Old Books
    We’re captive on the carousel of time
    We can’t return we can only look behind
    From where we came
    And go round and round and round
    In the circle game
    —Joni Mitchell

    So, Suna tagged me for a meme, which is apparently the blog equivalent of a chain letter—without the promise of great luck or the threat of dire consequences, at least in this event.

    The Rules: Once tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you. Then post the rules before your list, and list 8 random things about yourself. At the end of the post, you must tag and link to 8 other people, visit their sites, and leave a comment letting them know they’ve been tagged.

    1. I used to play Ernie Ball Super Slinkies, but I kept breaking them. So I changed to F-150s.
    2. With Rotosounds on my jazz bass, I can get a sound fairly similar to the low notes on a Steinway Concert Grand piano.
    3. I really do believe that the third time is a charm.
    4. Yeah, buddy. That's my own hair.
    5. Two hundred thousand years of evolution on the shores of the North Sea did not prepare this German boy for summer in Texas.
    6. My fovorite color is red…or black…or sometimes blue…that blue that’s so dark it’s often mistaken for black.
    7. The number 7-5/8 is significant.
    8. I was once the only white boy in an R&B band.
    The people I tagged are:
    1. Beccano
    2. Suna’s Other Blog

    Uh. That’s really all the people I know who blog whom Suna didn’t already tag. (Just tagged Suna out of persnicketiness.

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    Peaceful, Easy Feelin’

    Nebulae are beautiful and mysterious, like the future.
    Image Source: NASA
    I know you won’t let me down
    ’Cause I’m already standin’ on the ground
    —Jackson Browne

    Grateful Monday

    This is one of those days. I am in a whiney, grumpy mood. But this is Grateful Monday. So what do I have to be grateful for? Today, it is simply that Suna describes herself as “one big bundle of snooze!!!” Being in neutral is not a bad thing. I am even a little envious.

    I am grateful for feeling OK about being in neutral. I am grateful for something Suna said a long time ago that is especially appropriate today.

    I don’t expect our lives to be sweetness and light for the next few decades, but I also don’t see dismal failure. I see us dealing with what life brings us, together, with a solid foundation of love and respect (both)...We can take care of each other, please each other, and learn from each other.

    That is what I am grateful for—that peaceful future.

    Saturday, November 03, 2007

    You Can’t Always Get What You Want

    What I want:
    Photo Source: Wikipedia What I need.
    Photo by Suna
    You can’t always get what you want
    But if you try sometimes
    You might find
    You get what you need
    —Mic Jagger & Keith Richards

    Prospects

    Well, I had another interview yesterday. This one was with a niche-market software company. They seem to be really good people who have a solid business model. They are looking for someone to wear a bunch of hats, which usually means a lot of hours. They are also looking for someone who is really innovative, and I’m not sure I passed that test. Should hear one way or the other by sometime next week.

    Friday Feast

    Appetizer: How much money do you plan to spend this upcoming holiday season?
    The short answer is “As little as possible but as much as it takes.’ That is my usual approach to the holidays. There will probably me more emphasis on economizing this year because of the pending ending of my contract.

    If, on the other hand, I have more permanent employment, I may be a little less frugal. I certainly do not enjoy being frugal at holiday season.

    Soup: What was the last television show you watched, and was it good?
    Here, I have to quote Suna. “The last show I watched was the Colbert Report on Wednesday night, because we were at a Thursday football game last night.” I dozed through parts of it, as usual.
    Salad: If you had to paint the walls of your living room tomorrow, what color would you choose?
    I would go along with whatever Suna chose. She has a much more refined sense of color than anyone I know. I might provide some input, but the final decision would be hers.
    Main Course: Name something clever or practical you have thought of that should be invented, but hasn’t yet.
    Genetically engineered microorganisms that eat arterial plaque. When the arteries were clean again, they would die back from starvation. Many Americans eat enough junk that their cultures would thrive for decades.
    Dessert: List 3 things you would like to receive as gifts this upcoming holiday season.
    The answers to this question would vary a lot depending on whether or not the responses are required to be reasonable expectations. For example, I would like to receive a million dollars, but that is not a reasonable expectation. I would also like the third Trio CD, but Linda, Emmylou, and Dolly haven’t recorded it yet. So—sigh—here are three reasonable things.
    • A quiet place to write
      This would just be a room where I can close the door for a couple of hours at a time and think.
    • A new mattress
      This would really be a gift for both Suna and me.
    • Bowflex exercise machine
      This would have to be a shared gift with the whole family. I couldn’t expect to spend this much money on myself, or to have anyone spend that much money on me. And we would have to figure out where to put one. Luckily, they have a nifty space planner.

    Of course, this list has three things. I am always more interested in intangible gifts.

    Friday, November 02, 2007

    Madman across the Water

    Musting Two-piece Driver’s seat
    This is the seat I wish were on my bike.
    Photo source: Cycle Spot
    There’s a joke and I know it very well
    It’s one of those that I told you long ago
    Take my word I’m a madman don’t you know
    —Bernie Taupin

    The joke is on me this time. It’s an old one in tech writing circles: assume a piece of information is so basic that everyone already knows it. In this, the basic knowledge was how to remove the seat on a 2003 Honda VTX 1800R.

    One writer even said that the procedure was so easy, he would not not explain it. “Besides, you’ve probably don it a thousand times already.” OK. That was pass was in a procedure for hunting down ground problems. So, maybe he gets a pass.

    Why am I ranting on this topic again? I needed to change the battery on my bike after it left me stranded. To do that, I had to remove the rider’s seat. I spent two days trying to find out how. Once I had the secret, the whole operation took less than a half hour— and that only because I was going very slowly.

    So what is the secret? The two bolts that hold the seat on really have allen heads. The hex indentions are covered by chrome caps. The owner’s manual even says to remove the caps, but it point to the wrong bolts and never says how to remove them. Turns out there are two ways:

    • Push hard and pry with your fingernail.
    • Pop them off with a flat head screwdriver.

    I reccommend the second option.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2007

    Mohammed’s Radio

    Nine of Swords—The Nightmare Card
    Photo Source: Learn Tarot
    Everybody’s restless and they’ve got no place to go
    Someone’s always trying to tell them
    Something they already know
    —Warren Zevon

    As part of last week’s Friday Feast, I said that I seldom remember my dreams. That was enough to get my id upset. So two nights in a row, I have awakened in the middle of the night—OK, an hour or so before the alarm—after a bad dream. I can’t really call them nightmares because they left me more uncomfortable than frightened.

    Endless Work Obligations
    I was in a meeting at work. It was at ALE, in the department where I currently contract. My employers kept loading on more and more responsibilities and tightening deadlines in the way that ALE does. I was trying to tell them that I couldn’t possibly accomplish everything they wanted by the end of my contract. But all that came out was, “OK.” I couldn’t get back to sleep after this one and eventually woke Suna up a few minutes before the alarm. Sigh.

    Wolves not drempt
    Photo Source: Veracity
    The “Wolf” That Wouldn’t Die
    Suna and I were looking at a house in the country. It closely resembled a floor plan she showed me just before we turned in—a nice two-story that was sided in rough cedar and nestled between a couple of hills. I went out on the back deck to look over the lake. Suddenly, a wolf-like creature started running over the surface of the lake, almost directly at me. I knew this, even though the deck was probably 40 feet above the lake.

    Luckily, I had an automatic rifle handy. I squeezed of a shot and missed. Then I missed again. I held down the trigger for a short burst. The creature went down, rolling over backward. Then it got back up. It ran past me. I emptied the cartridge. Again and again, it got back up each time I hit it.

    Finally, I woke up. I was not scared so much as frustrated, and I had a very full bladder. I went back to sleep fairly quickly after crawling back in and pulling up the covers.

    Now I don’t want to go into a deep analysis of these dreams. It is fairly obvious that I am worried about something, probably nothing that a stable job wouldn’t provide the right ammunition for.


    31 October. Another interpretation of the second dream, if not this sequence, is that I have been feeling my own mortality recently. Death stalks us all. We may knock it back a bit, but it always gets up. Just like in those stupid horror movies.

    Monday, October 29, 2007

    Rocket Man

    And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
    Till touch down brings me round again to find
    I’m not the man they think I am at home
    Oh, no, no, no! I’m a rocket man
    —Bernie Taupin

    Grateful Monday

    My kind of a Rocket Man—he dispenses cold beer.
    Photo Source: Rocket Man Equipment Co.

    I’m grateful I don’t have a jet pack. An article in Reasononline (Mangu-Ward, 2007) got me thinking about all the things the futurists predicted—from underwater cities to flying cars—and why I am grateful they did not come to be. At least, not yet.

    I am no stick-in-the-mud Luddite or anything like that. I just don’t see the need for personal flight. I don’t jump out of good airplanes, and I don’t want a jet pack.

    As Katherine Mangu-Ward notes, we—you and I, the lowly consumers of this world—control which inventions dominate the market. And as long as we have jobs left in this country where we can earn some disposable income, we will continue to make people who understand what we want rich. We want something that is usable, safe, and not-too-expensive. We have jet packs, underwater cities, and flying cars; we just don’t want them.

    References
    Mangu-Ward, K. (2007, October). From Sky Flivver to Hydropolis: What happened to the science-fiction future? Retrieved October 29, 2007, from reasononline: http://reason.com/news/show/122027.html

    Saturday, October 27, 2007

    Rock Candy


    Candy can make your breath smell better, make your teeth rot, and act as a disease vector.
    Photo Source: Baylor College of Medicine
    When you’re seventeen reachin’ for your dreams
    Don’t let no one reach it for you.
    Stretch out take a chance.
    If it can be done, you can do it.
    —Montrose

    Friday Night Lights

    I learned tonight that I only like close games when I am not attached to either of the teams. I never minded when the Cowboys had a close game because I always knew that they could pull it out of the fire at the last minute. Whether or not they did so was another question.

    But tonight the kids’ high school team played and lost a fairly tight game. They took the lead early. Then they relinquished it and played catch-up the rest of the night. Neither team played very well, but it was a high school game, after all.

    Since I really wanted the kids to win their Homecoming game—especially since some evil administrator forbade a dance—it was a long night.

    Friday Feast

    Appetizer: Name a great website you would recommend to others.
    http://www.bloglines.com/
    Bloglines provides a simple interface to manage your favorite RSS feeds (blogs, news, whatever) and access them from anywhere. You don’t have to have a copy of your selections on a USB key to see what’s happening when you’re at work, at Starbucks, or anywhere else.
    Soup: On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 as highest), how often do you dream at night?
    Almost everybody dreams every night. The question is whether or not you remember your dreams. I used to be a 10; now I’m closer to a 1. When I was a kid, I would dream movies—plots, character development, and all that. I would even go back to sleep and rewrite the ending of dreams if I didn’t like the way they turned out.
     
    Now I hardly ever remember my dreams, unless they are bad enough to wake me up—and that happens more often now than I like. When I remember them, my dreams are more often than not just me floating somewhere in a vast sea of information trying to categorize and file all the random bits that are streaming in.
    Salad: Did you have a pet as a child? If so, what kind and what was its name?
    Do you have a couple of hours? I almost always had a dog, and a variety of other pets came and went over time. Just no cats. My mother and I were both allergic to cat dander.
     
    I grew up with so many dogs that I am often accused of being one. I get along better with dogs than I do with most people. Dogs are honest. They don’t lie. If they like you, they like you. If they don’t…
     
    Dogs also understand hierarchy. They like to know who is in charge. If you feed them, love them, and show them a little kindness and respect, they are more than willing to let you be in charge. But you must be willing to remind them occasionally.
    Main Course: If you had the chance to star in a commercial, what would you choose to advertise?
    There are really two answers to this question:
    1. First, I don’t have a product that I am in love with enough to back with my own name and reputation.
    2. How much are they paying?
    Dessert: What is your favorite kind of hard candy?
    I don’t really like hard candy. If I had to choose one though, it would be those free mints they give out at Mexican restraints.