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.

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.

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.
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.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And When I Die

Is this a ghost? Matt says the figure appeared after the negatives were developed. Photo by:Matt from Springfield, Illinois
Now troubles are many,
they’re as deep as a well.
I can swear there ain’t no heaven
but I pray there ain’t no hell.
—Laura Nero

I came across an interesting article (Roach, 2006) this week. It lists several failed attempts to scientifically prove that something of ourselves survives death.

Most of these attempts were funny. One was tragic. That “researcher” set up a means to verify that any postmortem communication was from him. Then he locked up his apartment and turned on the gas, literally giving his life for science.

The question that the article fails to address is this: Why do we feel the need to “scientifically” prove an afterlife? We are a long, long way from having the instrumentation required to measure the presence of the soul, and it is impossible to measure its absence.

The afterlife falls into the realm of religion and belief. That is a completely different system of understanding the universe than science, and the two realms do not seem to overlap. True—brain researchers have now identified a structure in the brain that is responsible for religious experience. But they are unable to say whether that structure evolved (or was designed) to experience real spiritual phenomena or as a mechanism for social control that encourages us to work together for our common survival, occasionally at the cost of our own individual survival.

I do not believe that science and religion are incompatible, merely two different approaches that may yield inconsistent results. I know several Christian scientists (note the small s; I don’t personally know anyone who claims a capital S.) who have fairly strong religious beliefs. All of them manage to compartmentalize the two belief systems.

So I guess the point of this ramble is: Believe what you choose, but don’t think your religious beliefs are fact—we neither prove nor disprove them. And don’t try to force them down anyone else’s throat.

When it comes to the afterlife, my father’s saying applies. “We’ll see.” Or maybe we won’t. If not, it won’t matter to us then.

1 Roach, M. (2006, November 18). “The Big Questions: What happens after you die?” Retrieved October 25, 2007, from New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/channel/opinion/death/mg19225780.075-the-big-questions-what-happens-after-you-die.html

Monday, October 22, 2007

You’ve Got a Friend

Susaphone Sunset
Photo by Suna
When you’re down and troubled
And you need a helping hand
Carole King

UIL Competition

TubaBoy and Beccano competed with the rest of the McNeil band in UIL on Saturday. They earned a Division 1.

Church Fund Raising

We played two songs (Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and somebody’s “Teach Your Children”) for the church’s pledge drive dinner on Sunday. Almost everyone who stayed to listen to the speeches and music was a performer. It is sad, in a way.

Grateful Monday

Today I am grateful for music—the music I play and the music I listen to. Music is integral to human spirituality, I think. Someone at church yesterday quoted someone else as saying that musicians and poets are the true prophets. While I won’t go that far, I believe that music gives us a glimpse at the mind of God.

Tolkien based his creation mythos on music. The Greeks talked of the music of the spheres. Music can inspire tears and leave us breathless. It can make us feel the pain of others or take our own pain away. It can intrude on our most private selves and lay them bare to the world, and it can protect us from prying.

Music is our link to the eternal. It is holy, even when it is profane. I would not want to live in a world without music.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog

Buddy in 2003
Well he’s not very handsome to look at
Oh he’s shaggy and he eats like a hog
And he’s always killin’ my chickens
That dirty old egg-suckin’ dog
—Johnny Cash

Today marked the end of the first week of my new contract. I have seen a lot of people I know for the first time in a couple of months. It’s been a real treat, more so than just knowing I have money coming in.

One of the people I work with has a collection of Far Side cartoons pinned to the cube wall. One of them shows a dog about to press the plunger and detonate a few sticks of dynamite that are laying next to a house. Inside the house, a woman is yelling to her male counterpart, “The dog is trying to blow up the house again. Catch him in the act or he’ll never learn.”

Friday’s Feast

Appetizer: If you were a dog, what breed would you be, and why?
A mutt. I like mutts. They tend to be stronger, smarter, braver, and friendlier than pure breeds. As a human, I am a mutt; why should I be something else as a dog?
Soup: What does the color purple make you think of?
  1. The phrase the color purple makes me think of the movie, which I never saw.
  2. Thinking about the color makes me think of a monastery. Not sure why. I just see a gold robe with a purple sash.
Salad: Approximately how long does it take you to get ready each morning?
90 minutes: an hour to wake up, 30 minutes to get ready.
Main Course: How many cousins do you have, and are you close to them?
None, really. My father’s brother was childless. I never met my mother’s side of the family. There may be distant cousins, on my dad’s side, but I don’t think of them as such, just as relatives.
Dessert: Take your initials (first, middle, last) and come up with something else those letters could stand for.
Extended length bronchitis.
I prefer to use both of my middle initials and leave the result as an acronym: E-LAB. It sounds so scientific-like.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Trackgrease graduating from boot camp—just one of the times he has made me proud.
In an automobile or a crowded bar—
Well, I hope you're all right, wherever you are.
—Jimmy Webb

Grateful Monday

Today I start a new contract. For that I am grateful.

I also realized that I have been expressing gratitude for my new family. I am very grateful to have them in my life. At the same time, I don’t want to lose sight of how grateful I am to my son, who calls himself Trackgrease. Even though we don’t call each other very often, I know he is there, and I hope he knows I am there for him when he needs me.

Through the difficult times of the last year, I am grateful for the support he provided and for allowing me the room I needed. I am grateful that he did not try to second guess, psychoanalyze, or change the situation. He simply accepted that his mother and I were no longer a functional family and did his best to be fair to both of us.

Thank you, Trackgrease. You have made me very proud of you. It took me a long time to get here. For a long time, the wounds were too fresh, and I did not want to explain them to you. I still don’t, not really. Thank you for the time and space I needed.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hay Unos Ojos

There are some eyes…
Photo by: Suna’s Friend
Hay unos ojos que si me miran
Hacen que mi alma tiemble de amor
Son unos ojos tan primorosos
Ojos más lindos no he visto yo.
Rubén Fuentes

Friday Feast

Appetizer: When was the last time you were surprised?
When I realized that Suna was interested in me as more than a coworker and friend.
Soup: Fill in the blanks: My eyes are ________, but I wish they were __________.
Human, multispectral. I would love to see in any availble spectrum at will, including those we do not have instrumentation to detect.
Salad: If you were a Beanie Baby, what would you look like and what would your name be?

Troi takes no nonsense.
Photo Source: StarTrek.com
I wouldn’t be a Beanie Baby. I would be a Star Trek action figure—probably Miles O’Brien or someone like him—hopefully not Ensign Expendable. I would have a hard time choosing, because all of the really interesting characters were female. The males tended to be woody and flat. The females were allowed some range. My favorite is Deanna Troi. I always admired her skillsets, intelligence, and empathy. And again, nice eyes.
Main Course: Name two things you consistently do that you consider to be healthy habits.
  1. Watch my weight
    I weigh daily. I have dropped almost 70 pounds over the last 30 months. No special diet, except to get the process started. The drop has been slow, if not steady. I don’t stress over platforms or setbacks, but I have kept at it with some success.
  2. Exercise
    OK. I don’t really exercise all that regularly. I try to do something every day, and I am getting better about it.
Dessert: What brand of toothpaste are you using these days? Do you like it? Why or why not?
Colgate or Crest Cinamon Gel. It’s what Suna prefers. I don’t really care, so long as it isn’t one of those sugar and critus things.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Evening: The Sunset

This isn’t the sunset we saw today. This one happened in Panamá in 2003.
Evening has come to pass
The time of day doesn't last
Evening has earned its place today
I'm tired of working away
—Mike Pinder

Grateful Monday

So what I am thankful for today is TubaBoy. He helped me move some things (the last trip to the Granger house) and remember what it’s like to be young. He broke some glass shelves that I will have to replace, but he did it through inexperience. It reminded me so much of the way I was at his age that I couldn’t help but get angry. And I couldn’t stay that way long, not more than a minute or so.

Payback is hell. Yup. Sorry, Dad, for all the things of yours I broke.

But most of all, after a band practice during which some very stressful things happened. The boys asked if we could go to the Sonic to eat. Granted I have a job, but I have not started working (or getting paid) yet. So I was stand-offish, still stressed from earlier events. I eventually realized that taking them would be good for me as well as good for them. On the way, I was still grumbling to myself. TubaBoy looked up and said, “What a pretty sunset.”

It was. That’s all it took. Thank you, TubaBoy.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Cheap Sunglasses

My Cheap Sunglasses Somehow, ZZ Top didn’t list my cheap sunglasses in their song.
Now go out and get yourself some thick black frames
With the glass so dark they won’t even know your name
And the choice is up to you cause they come in two classes:
Rhinestone shades and cheap sunglasses

Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, & Frank Beard

Today’s Friday Feast

Appetizer: On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how much do you look forward to your birthday?
If it weren’t for others, I probably wouldn’t notice it enough to differentiate it from any other day. But it does feel good when other people remember, and bad when they don’t (assuming I do). Funny how that works, ain’t it?
Soup: What is one word you don’t like the sound, spelling, or meaning of?
There are so many to choose from… If pressed, I would say “onomatopoeia.” I can’t spell it. An English word should not have that many contiguous vowels.
Salad: Do you wear sunglasses when you’re outside? If so, what does your current pair look like?
Sometimes. I like the shiny mirror ones that DPS officers stereotypically wear, but I can’t wear those any more because I often need to wear my corrective lenses. More often these days.
Main Course: If you were to write a book, to whom would you dedicate it?
I will have to dedicate my current effort to Suna.
Dessert: Name a beverage that you enjoy.
My current favorite is a frozen margarita. Love the salt, in spite of the blood pressure.

On the Job Front

I had another lovely interview this morning. I told them up-front that I had already decided to take a contract with ALE. From that point, we all relaxed and just had fun in the interview. I think I may end up doing some additional work for them on a piece-work basis, but wow! I wish they had a full-time opening. It sounds like exactly what I want to do.

I’ll just have to be patient for awhile.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Shot of Something

A single shot of cola is enough to start the day?
Gimme a shot of faith, a shot of confidence, a shot of something
A shot of something
—Manic Eden

TubaBoy was a hoot this morning. We were running late getting out of the house. He and Beccano were as sleepy as I still remember being on early-morning school days. When they both hollered that they were ready to leave, I exited the study to get my road cup. There was TubaBoy with a two liter Pepsi One in one hand and a shot glass full of black liquid in the other. As I realized what I was seeing, he tossed back the shot of cola and banged the shot glass down with a satisfied exhalation.

When I started laughing, he said, “Sorry. I needed some caffeine—not too much, not too little.”

Monday, October 01, 2007

Thank You

Gwen and Rose play tuggawar
Photo by Suna
And so today, my world it smiles,
Your hand in mine, we walk the miles,
Thanks to you, it will be done
For you to me are the only one.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant

Another of Suna’s traditions that I have decided to emulate is Grateful Monday. I used to start out each week by having a bunch of my co-workers each tell of something positive that had happened during the week. I like Suna’s idea of expressing thanks for something that makes her life better.

Choosing this first one was easy. It was something I read that cheered me a lot. Suna wrote, “But, we have our little family, and that is the highlight of any day. The silly kids, the entertaining dogs…the loving partner. All of this helps get through whatever little nuisances show up.” For that, I am thankful today.