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week has involved staring an Word documents, technical references, and Flash presentations in an effort to improve some outdated training materials for ALE.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.