Wednesday, November 25, 2009

White Sands National Monument


We woke up Tuesday morning and headed to White Sands National Monument before heading home. It was great to see all of that nothingness. We managed to get in and out without buying any nicknacks.

We came back through the Lincoln National Forrest, where it turns out you can buy Christmas trees.

The RV was much happier losing several thousand feet of altitude over the trip home than it was climbing to New Mexico. We made it home just before 11:00 o’clock last night for a night asleep in our own bed before heading out to Angleton for Thanksgiving with many of the same people we were with in Alamogordo.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Funeral and Stress Relief


I hate it when a preacher who has never met anyone in the family and doesn’t even bother to learn how to pronounce the name of the deceased gets brought in for the service. How hard is it to remember “Dorothy?” It only gets worse when said preacher, however well intentioned, takes it upon himself to ignore the reason why he was brought in (I suppose he had some fiduciary arrangement with the funeral home) and elects to treat the mourners as a captive audience for his own brand of evangelism.

I elected not to point out that the story of Jesus and the prostitute might not have been appropriate for the situation and that it did not even become part of the written cannon until more than 600 years after Jesus was crucified. I was proud of myself for showing such restraint. The one good point was that I was too pissed to grieve at the moment.

After the graveside portion of the service concluded, we all went to the furniture store where Kay works to have a final meal together. Her boss provided lots of food and told us to use the store, which is closed on Mondays, as a house. Again, the kindness was touching.

We soon began disbursing back to the various directions from which we had descended on Alamogordo. Suna and I headed north to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site—where ancient Jornada Mogollons scratched ritual drawings on rocks for almost 400 years. Many of the petroglyphs are truly astounding, if difficult to photograph. (The best of the pictures I took will be posted on Facebook soon.)

The solitude and quietness of the site were what I needed to heal a little bit, not to mention the mile-long hike in the mountains. But it was not enough for me to feel up to seeing a couple of Suna’s friends who live in Las Cruces. I had been looking forward to it. After all, this is the first time in more than 10 years I’ve been in New Mexico. But I was emotionally exhausted. I pulled back into the RV park after purchasing some pistachio products from a store that features the “world’s largest pistachio” and promptly fell asleep watching Monday Night Football.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Viewing


The Viewing was hard. It was the first time in several years I had seen Dot or many of the relatives there. Sadness abounded. But we each had an opportunity to say a private good-bye. I was proud that my brother held up well.

Of course, Dot’s kids—Kay, Cindy, Bobby, Jan, and Glen—were all there. My niece Gaylene drove in with her husband and mother. There were lots of great nieces, great nephews, and their kids. Dot’s former boss drove in, and Kay’s current boss, who also knew Dot, was there, too.

Cindy works at the local Best Western, and her boss comped all the rooms for the family. I thought that was a kindness above and beyond. I certainly appreciated the gesture, even though I did’t stay there.

Afterward, we gathered at the Boot Hill RV Resort where I had a space next to my nephew Chris’s bus. Chris and I went to Wally World, and he bought a bunch of stuff to serve at the wake. He broke a smoker, table, and other supplies out of his bus and set up a Wii for the kids, many of whom were too young to understand what was going on.

It sure was fun (and soothing) watching the kids run around and play while Chris grilled burgers and dogs. The adults spend time catching up on the intervening years and slowly coming to terms with mortality.

When we get settled, I’ll post a bunch of the pictures on Facebook.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Going West

Our routing to Alamogordo. More pictures of the trip are posted on Facebook Photo source: Google Maps

Suna and I finished packing the rented RV and headed out for Alamorgordo, New Mexico this morning. The GPS I picked up yesterday provided an interesting route that would take right at 11 hours, including breaks for fuel and a meal. It wasn’t the route I would have mapped, but it was the quickest, most direct one. We enjoyed the changes in scenery.

We left Austin headed north on US-183 to Texas 29. That part I would have guessed. We picked up Texas 71 and headed for San Angelo. We passed a new wind farm on the way, and Suna took some pictures of the gigantic wind mills.

The first surprise in the routing came when the GPS directed us north through Big Spring. I had expected to head west on I-20. Instead, we continued north to US-180.

The RV strained as we continued to gain altitude moving west. The scenery grew more desert-like and flatter to all appearances. Only the inability to use overdrive at more than 67 MPH told us we were climbing.

Of course, the most interesting part of the trip came after dark. That’s when we passed through the Lincoln National Forrest and over the first ridge of the Rockies. We were coming out of Cloudcroft on the final approach to Alamogordo when Suna said, “Stop. Stop. Deer in the road.” I didn’t see anything, but I took her word for it and hit the breaks. An elk was standing in the road expressing his disdain for the vehicles stopping in his behalf. The first I saw of him was the dark spot on his chest when we started moving.

We saw several more elk crossing the road before we got to the 6% grade that took us into Alamogordo. We made it into the park without further incident and set up for the night.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RIP, Dot

Image Source:
Moon Angel

When I was little, we were so close it used to scare Mom. Like the time I was playing with my blocks and started crying for no apparent reason. Mom told me she picked me up and asked what was wrong. “My Doroth’s sad.” A couple of hours later, Dot called and said she and her husband had had a big fight and wanted to know if she could come home.

Another time I started cleaning up my toys. When Mom asked why, I told her Dorothy was coming. Since she lived out-of-state, Mom said that wasn’t likely. But she showed up for a surprise visit a couple of hours later.

As we got older, we grew apart as siblings often do. A casual search of this blog shows that this is the first time I’ve mentioned her. We didn’t stay in contact much, but we knew we could always count on each other.

Now she’s gone. I’ll miss you, Big Sister.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Suna and I in 2006, when we won the costume contest. I wore the same costume this year sans beard and glasses but with a bit more grunge.Photo by: Genea

Samhain. Halloween to most in the United States and All Hallows Eve to some. I missed it lady year due to a football game. So I was really glad to be home for it and have it coincide with a nearly full moon. Nothing like Halloween and a full moon.

We had the house decorated with electric pumpkins, foam headstones, and a giant vampire bat, not to mention various miscellaneous decor items. We received many compliments from the adult supervisors as the night wore on.

But most fun was scaring the kids.

I resurrected my “Happy Reaper” costume. Suna told me I couldn’t scare the little ones, so I just tried to stay still as much as I could. Most of the kids didn’t notice, but the ones who caught on to the fact that I didn’t blink were creeped out.

One little Asian boy walked up to me and asked, “Are you real?”

“No,” I said.

He laughed and said, “Yes, you are. You just talked.”

Part of my costume involved blood worms and plastic spiders tangled in my green hair. Every now and then ad then as a kid reached for the candy, I would pull a green tangle and ask, “Would you rather have a spider?”

“Sure,” exclaimed the bravest of a trio of middle school girls as she ripped the plastic delicacy from my hair. Her friends drew back with a shudder.

Suna asked that I go see Gina’s decorations. On the way back, I passed two groups of girls, one high school, the second middle school, trying not to look like they were our together. I aimed straight for the edge of the sidewalk so that I could pass without appearing to yield ground. The older girls brazened it out without dropping their eyes, but laughed in nervous release as soon as they were passed. The younger girls were more nervous. The one on my side whimpered a little as I brushed her arm in passing.

Finally, there was a stare-down with a homicidal clown. OK, “homicidal clown” — that may be redundant…on Halloween, anyway.

All in all, I had a great time helping these kids enjoy their night of safe supernatural danger.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No Camera When I Need It

I was feeling a might poorly today, so I only ventured forth from the hotel for one round of groceries that had to tide me for the whole day. One of the highlights was a Greek restaurant called Zorba’s — aren’t they all? I ordered a lamb shank that was so delicious and tender I have no words for it.

The other highlight was the sunset on the way back to the hotel. I was driving West into the sunset on AZ202. The sky was a little hazy at the level of the mountain tops. The sun peeking between two peaks lit up the haze in a way that made the mountain tops look translucent. I seemed to be seeing the sun through the peaks, not between them.

Simply breathtaking.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Montezuma and Sedona

This contraption outside Ye Olde UFO Shoppe was so campy we all had to have our picture taken by it. Photo by: Abel L.

Just after I woke up this morning, I got a really nice phone call. Some of the folks I work with wanted to run up to Sedona for the afternoon. That’s just under a hundred miles from where we are. I volunteered to drive.

We grabbed a quick lunch/breakfast at a KFC/A&W combo and headed north.

One of the trainers brought a Garmin GPS system with her. It directed us smoothly through Phoenix and on up to Sedona.

On the way we stopped at Montezuma Castle National Monument – a thousand-plus-year-old settlement that once supported more than 85 people – where I bought a really nice walking stick that I now have to figure out how to get home. It was inhabited for more than 300 years and then mysteriously abandoned. Was it the result of war, drought, or a chupacabra?

After wandering around the settlement, we drove on to Sedona, home of several mystic vortices. We drove to the downtown area, but there were too many tourists to find a parking space. So we drove through town and turned around and headed back.

Then we stopped at a cheesy little group of tourist-trap stores that offered an alien-themed shop and another New Agey one with Kirlian photography to show your aura at $35 a pop. Even my teammate who had been so excited to get her aura photographed balked at the price and the time required. I, however, bought some nice gifts for my loving family. I might not even make them wait until Yule.

The scenery around Sedona is spectacular, and we saw a sunset that was worth the trip. I posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook, and Abel posted some on his MobileMe gallery.

On the trip home, the GPS routed us through the countryside to avoid a 15-mile long construction backup on I-17. I have just been sold on these things.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hearding the Trainers

It seems almost criminal to keep such a beautiful instrument imprisioned in glass. I can see protecting paintings and pottery that way, but instruments only live when they are played.

After two weeks of dealing with the inevitable issues that arise from training in a different time zone and on a different shift that I’m used to, I got a chance to do something fun. This opportunity is impressive because I thought this weekend was going to be dedicated to further issue resolution.

Thankfully, one of the other trainers was able to identify the root cause of a significant headache and turn it over to the content owners for resolution. I learned of this relief when we went to have lunch/breakfast at Chino Bandito – an interesting blend of Chinese, Mexican, and Jamaican cuisine. The operative word here is interesting. The six of us each had a different opinion of the experience. I really liked the blend. Others found a dish that was closer to standard Chinese or Mexican fare.

Anyway, that revelation left me with a couple of free hours this afternoon. So one of my compadres and I took off for the Heard Museum.

The Heard Museum collects Native American arts and crafts – from the Inuit to the Yaqui. It has wonderful displays of modern Native artists who integrate their traditional crafts in modern life. I took a bunch of pictures with my iPhone, but I really wish I had brought my Cannon on this trip.

I took several pictures of the collection, some of which are posted on a Facebook album. Unfortunately, I ran out of space on my phone about the time I got to the “Mothers and Daughters” exhibits. This gallery was filled with work in clay by seven women who were part of the same extended family of artists.

There was a really cool room that looked like comic book art. I thought Beccano would like this, so I deleted a couple of other pics and tried to get a decent shot with the iPhone.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

First Weekend in Chandler

You know it was a slow weekend when I post a picture of a hotel bad.

I didn’t do anything this weekend, my first in Chandler, except catch up on my sleep.

Well, I did go out to a brew pub with some of my coworkers. We had a nice dinner and a very good local version of a Black and Tan and then went back to the hotel for a couple more beers around the pool.

My boss and I arrived here last Sunday to help open a new support site. I spent the week trying to get on schedule working the evening shift, roughly 2:00 PM to 1:00 AM. Unfortunately, there is also a two time zone difference. So, instead of getting back to the hotel between 1:30 and 2:00, my body thinks I am getting back at 3:30 to 4:00. And it still wants to get up about 7:00 in its home time zone.

Now I’m wondering if I should just stay up all night when it’s time to go home.

The hotel, a Hampton Inn, is nice – brand new. It only opened a few days before I arrived. I have a nice suite with a HD TV and no HD channels. Why is it that hotels spend the money on the hardware and ignore the service?

Monday, September 28, 2009

We Finally Won One…

Beccano mallets away at the competition. Aren’t their new uniforms great?

…and didn’t win another one.

The one we won (I’m getting too wrapped up in this homophone, right?) was the football game Friday night. McNeil usually wins all of the out-of-
district games and loses most of the in-district games. This year we started out the opposite way. One of the kids in the stand prophesied that this trend would continue.

I don’t really care. I’m there for the band.

And that brings us to the one we didn’t win. Saturday was the first marching contest of the season—and the only one I’m likely to see. McNeil sounded really good and look pretty good. I thought they had a serious chance, but the judges thought otherwise.

McNeil was the only band that we saw who performed their whole show. That should have counted for something. The other bands had worked on adding flash, but just stood in place for their third movement. We marched the whole damned thing! And sounded good doing it. But apparently flash is more important than knowing your show, and McNeil placed sixth out of a number that resembles a nine but is of lesser value.


Granted, the last three places were determined by only a few hundredths of a point. But still…

So this week, I am grateful to get to hang out with so many dedicated kids who work really hard to put on a show each Friday night. They deserve better than they got.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Trip Home

Dad reassures Suna that the AC in his tractor works.

As I mentioned yesterday, we stopped off at Dad’s on the way home. We couldn’t stay as long as I would have liked, but we got to see him and eat some ice cream at DQ.

My favorite part was when he showed off his new tractor to Suna. He gave her a really good tour of the cab. He even started it and let her pretend to drive.

Suna and Beccano enjoyed riding around on the Mule that Chris loaned him. That gave Dad and I a little chance to talk—mostly about nothing. And that is just fine.

This week, I’m grateful to be able to talk to Dad about nothing in particular.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Port Aransas Retreat

Beccano and Suna Act Touristy

Suna, Beccano, and I took our first “vacation” since we went to North Carolina a couple of years ago. OK. “Vacation” may be a strong word for a weekend retreat to Port Aransas with a group of people from church.

We hadn’t planned on going, but there some kind of harmonic convergence that allowed us to. It started at the game Friday night when we learned that we had a by-week. Then Sunday at church, Janet mentioned that one of the rooms handn’t been taken. Those two things combined with a need to get away and destressify ourselves and then we were on our way.

Suna and I both worked extra hours so that we could take off
early on Friday. We decided to take the interstate to Corpus and the causeway to Port A. We made it to the condo shortly before sunset.

We spent most of Saturday wandering around the area. We started with a couple of walks on the beach taking numerous pictures of the local wildlife. At one point we saw a seabird feeding frenzy. The birds on the horizon we thick enough to be confused for smoke.

Just because it’s pretty. I don’t know what kind of flower it is.

Then we took the ferry to the mainland and wandered around looking at the sites. We got eaten alive by the mosquitoes at the estuary and headed back to the condo and the beach.

Saturday evening was taken up with a pot luck dinner. I improvised a sausage dish with pan fried Kielbasa in sauce of red wine and cheap mustard. It turned out to be delicious, and almost all of it disappeared.

This guy looks serious. You can what I mean by clicking on the image.

Then we went out to the beach again to play with tiny jelly fish that fluoresced when rubbed. These tiny blobs don’t sting, so you can pick them up in your hands. The hardest part was convincing our fellow beachcombers to turn off their flash lights. It seemed counterintuitive that you needed almost complete darkness to see very faint bioluminescence.

A walk this morning, packing our dirty clothes and then we hit the road for home. We saw another instance of the seabird feeding frenzy, this time up close.

Monday, August 31, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, Suna and Beccano talked me into buying a bird feeder for the front yard. I had put one up in my front yard in Granger and found out that most of the seeds in wild bird food are weed seeds. I had a few birds but a whole yard of thistles.

So I was a little sceptical. I have, after all, worked very hard to beautify the front yard over the last few years. I didn't want a bunch of thistles taking over the flower beds and lawn.

Then I came home from work one day this week to find a dozen birds pecking seeds from the lawn. Another half-dozen tiny birds hanging on the feeder. Of course, they all flew off when I pulled into the driveway.

The next morning a small flock flew away when I opened the front door. As I watered the container garden, I noticed the loudness of the Morning Song around me.

I love the sound of the birds in the morning. For this I am grateful.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Meaning of Life

The meaning of life … is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.
— Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist.

More To Be Grateful For

Beccano in his brother’s dorm residence hall living-learning domicile

Last night Beccano told us that Junior Roundup—the day juniors at McNeil get their schedules and books—was this morning. Both he and Suna said that he had told us previously, and it had slipped all of our minds. So I got up early (for me) this morning to take him by school.

We had a nice talk on the way to school. About half way there, he said, “You know. You don’t have to go in with me. I’m just going to get my books. It shouldn’t take that long since I’m not getting a locker or anything. That’s what takes all the time.” So we planned put where and how I should pick him up when he was done.

I found a parking place in the lee of the PAC and started this blog about how proud I am of this young man. It was just a couple of years ago that he wouldn’t even ask a clerk at a game store about a game he really wanted. Now here he is going into a crowded room to deal with authority figures on his own—not wanting his peers to see him with a parental unit.

It also made me aware of how independent Trackgrease was and how I should have appreciated that more.

I am grateful to have had both of these fine young men in my life. I have learned so much from each of them that my paltry contributions to them are negligible in comparison. Mostly I am grateful to Trackgrease for surviving the vast number of parenting mistakes his mother and I made in raising him. I would do a much better job if I could have a do-over.

Mobile Blogging from here.

RIP: Les Paul

OK. I never was a big fan of Les Paul (June 9, 1915 – August 13, 2009). I only recently discovered how much I like the music he and Mary Ford recorded before I was born. But no one can doubt the influence he had on twentieth century music. Where would rock and roll be without the guitar that bore his name?

Ironically, when The Economist showed up in the mail on Friday, the cover featured an angel playing a Les Paul guitar to promote a feature on why we love music.

Les Paul became an inspiration to me a few years ago when I heard an NPR interview with him. Arthritis had all but taken his hands. He could only use one finger on his left hand consistently, sometimes two. But he kept playing. The bit they played on the radio sounded as good as many four-fingered guitarists and better than most.

How did he deal with the pain? He said, if you want to play, you do what you have to.

Les Paul died last Thursday, but today I am grateful for all that he gave us.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Suna is talking to a neighbor we haven’t seen in a long time. We actually met a lot of people have known or should have known on campus this weekend.

The convocation was held in the gym. All us old folk had to sit in plastic bleachers or folding chairs for an hour or so before the event began— just long enough for ourbutts to go to sleep and our backs to ache.

A brass quintet started a few minutes before the students arrived. They played well, but the gathered families wouldn’t shut up enough to be able to hear the band. Some of us applauded any way.

While we were waiting, we met a nice family I’m San Antonio. We talked of traffic, the drought, and hail storms until the quintet started playing.

Of course, I had to go just before the students marched in, but I got to see Kynan and Nic precess anyway.

Kynan’s roommate and Beccano leaving the brunch.

The convocation itself sounded more Unitarian as it went on. The speech on integrity drove home both why we were today and what has gone wrong in this country since Reagan, maybe even Nixon or Johnson.

Afterward, the kids all gathered outside on a set of bleachers for a panoramic photo. We got a couple of shots or parts of Kynan’s face in the crowd. Then we gave him the last of the stuff from home (at least, until he comes home for the first time). The students still have a full day ahead and a busy week to follow.

Suna, Beccano, and I went home with a brief stop a Piranha Records, where I got a Stone Coyotes CD. Beccano, who inspired the stop, couldn’t find anything he wanted.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


This is the “living learning center” where Tubaboy will live for the next academic year. When I was in college, we called them “dorms.”

Suna and I spent the day on the campus of Southwestern University in Georgetown. The students had their own activities, while parents were ensconced in crowded lectures that either extolled the virtues of the university or encouraged us to let go and empower our fledglings to solve their own problems—a learning method in which I wholeheartedly believe. (That may be the longest sentence I have written in 20+ years.)

For example: we learned the value of shelf liner in the morning session. To be fair, there was also a lot of information repeated from the New Student Day this Spring. But that repetition was needed as the crowd today was much larger than this Spring. Many of the adults hadn’t already been told of the campus police presence. Or of the dedication of the faculty and staff to the betterment of our children.

Suna enjoyed the lemonade they served to keep us from keeling over on a 100º+ cloudless afternoon.

All of the speakers were as polished as you would expect from a highly rated, if small, liberal arts college. Most were even funny, and all seemed sincere and caring. The cynic in me says that’s why they were the ones on stage, but I have also found those qualities in everyone we have met here.

One thing I am certain of is that if Kynan starves here, it’s his own damned fault. The food is plentiful and good, and I don’t believe that is just to impress the parents. It is institutional food—very good institutional food, but still very institutional.

I started this post during the second afternoon session, which was misnamed “Begin with the End in Mind” or something very like that. It was really four students droning about how great Southwestern is now that they have adjusted to college life. Since I have always been turned off by self-proclamations of school spirit (thanks to the fascist traditions of Brazoswood High), I left to read and write for a few minutes.

Mobile Blogging from here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Life Is Hard But Good

OK. Suna blogged this one, too. But it’s such a nice picture. Photo by: Jon Montgomery

Well, I’m still not blogging with the consistency that I was earlier this year, but maybe that’s a good thing. Work is good, and it’s been taking most, if not all, of my writing energy lately. So I’ll keep this Grateful Monday short.

This week I’m grateful that our family economics are to the point where both Suna and I can start investing some of our energies outside the home. Tonight, Suna is leading a meeting at church. I cooked a nice sausage dinner—Suna and Beccano picked out the sausage yesterday—and had it ready when Suna got home.

Suna, the boys, and I sat down to dinner and conversation, something else to be grateful for. In spite of the dreadful manipulation of paranoid souls in which the Right continues to engage, I have some hope for the future. With Trackgrease, Tubaboy, and Beccano putting their energies into making the world a better place, how can we fail? Again.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

John Deere Green

Dad sits in his new tractor.

See the album on Facebook.

This was a long Saturday. I started, as usual, by oversleeping. Mom once gave me a plaque for my bedroom door that reads, “There has to be a better way to start out the day than by getting up in the morning.”

Suna had a beading class in the afternoon. So after reviewing the calendar earlier this week, I determined that this would probably be the only weekend this month that I could make the trip down—even a day trip.

Other than just seeing Dad again, I wanted to meet his new tractor. After five years of arguing with him, we were finally able to talk him into the tractor. Not only does he deserve the new tractor, he needs it to be able to stay on the farm and continue working it. He hasn’t had air conditioning in his old tractor for several years. I believe this lack contributed to and worsened his recent health problems.

Chris and Beth were again spending the weekend at the farm. Chris was busy fixing things that, being neither a farmer nor a welder, I had no idea how to fix. He built a couple of new stands for Dads implements. Dad had been propping these implements on rickety collections of scrap lumber and stone.

After lunch, Beth and I drove into Victoria to buy a connector I needed to hook up speakers to the new TV Chris gave Dad a couple of weeks ago. It took much longer than I thought because we made several pointless stops, learning, among other things, that the Radio Shack in Cuero no longer exists and that the Best Buy in Victoria Mall is a dark and scary place.

While we were doing that Dad took a nap and Chris fixed the generator on Dad’s friend Robert’s antique tractor. By the time he got back, I had smoked sausage coming off the grill, and Beth had made another big batch of Grandma’s German sweet rice. Chris was a little miffed that we hadn’t called to rescue him. He spent five hours total for a half-hour’s work.

I headed home about 22:30, glad that I had taken the truck even though I didn’t see any deer on the side of the road. Maybe I should be glad because I didn’t see any deer. You’re more likely to hit the ones you don’t see.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I’m Back

I’m so glad to have this guy hang around for a little while longer.

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a while—neither writing nor doing much in the way of reading. I’m sorry. It’s been a couple of months where life just got in the way. So I thought it appropriate to resume this endeavor with Grateful Monday.

I have so much to be grateful for, and so much has happened since 22 May. I hope to back-post some of what has happened, not that I think anyone is all that interested. I just have a thing for completeness.

So here’s what I am grateful for:

  • Dad is alive and well. He is going to keep farming for at least another year and has decided to buy a new tractor. All of that has been in question at one time or another since May.
  • Suna’s position at the company with which she has been contracting seems secure. They may even bring her on as a real employee.
  • My contract at the Fruit Company will end about a month earlier because I have accepted an offer to work there (albeit in another department) as a real employee. I’m looking forward to getting back into tech support training and working with some old friends.
  • TrackGrease seems to have gotten married. I don’t think I was officially invited, but I am happy for him. And I’m proud of him. I don’t think I tell him that enough. I know I don’t call enough.
  • TubaBoy has been getting ready to start his undergraduate education at Southwestern.
  • Beccano is getting ready for his junior year of high school. He continues to play guitar really well. Getting better all the time.

That’s the short version.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Edwin Starr asked the first question in today’s menu roughly 40 years ago. We’ve been arguing this question for as long as there have been people, and it will probably be argued long after humans have gone extinct.Photo source: B&S Online

Once again, I am posting Food for Thought late—and for the same reason: job business. That’s a good thing.

Since this is Memorial Day weekend, I’ve been thinking about service and sacrifice lately. Not the happiest of thoughts, but sometimes necessary. The first question was written by modern thinker and soul singer Edwin Starr.

Appetizer: War: what is it good for?
In a perfect world, I would agree with Starr’s answer. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. It is occasionally necessary to fight, even to the death. It is not necessary anywhere near as often as we do it. War should be the diplomatic tool of last resort, not of first choice.
Soup: Whom do you honor on Memorial Day?
First, my son. Trackgrease volunteered to serve and stayed in the Reserves for eight years after he left active duty. My brother Edwin was a paratrooper during the Korean conflict. My brother Jim served in the Army during Viet Nam, luckily in Germany. My brother Bill, also served. My uncle Carol was in the Navy during WWII. My father tried to enlist but was turned away because he was unable to turn his wrist to the correct angle to “properly” hold a rifle—never mind that he could light a match with a bullet.
All of these survived their service.
Salad: Has there ever been a draft evader in your family?
My great grandfather came to the United States to avoid serving in the Kaiser’s army. Technically, I was a draft evader for 1o days. The law requiring us to register for the draft expired 10 days after my deadline for registration. A friend of mine went to register a couple of days before my deadline, and they just laughed at him for bothering. So I didn’t bother.
Entré: If so, do you support that decision?
Well, given the fact that I wouldn’t have been here if he had stayed in Germany, the self-serving answer is, “Of course I do!”
Dessert: Why do we continue to go to war?
The reasons for war are too numerous to list, but they always boil down to greed. Sometimes the greed is on both sides. Sometimes, only on one side.
I wish nations would follow the Taoist protocols, which have their parallels in most modern religions:
    • Avoid rather than hurt.
    • Hurt rather than maim.
    • Maim rather than kill.
    • Kill rather than be killed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Music This Weekend

I don’t have a picture of Rebecca’s recital, but here she is conducting our choir a couple of weeks ago. We are so blessed to have her.Photo by John Phelps

There was a lot of music this weekend, starting with a rehearsal on Saturday morning at the church. Jan, Jo, and I ran through a rather drab piece called “Bittersweet.” J&J are big fans of playing what is written, and swing doesn’t really swing that way. Well, I wouldn’t really call “Bittersweet” swing. It’t more like someone who has never had the blues trying to transcribe a blues piece.

We performed this piece Sunday morning. Nobody died, but it was not my proudest moment as a musician. Luckily, we have a very kind congregation, and many of them were congratulatory. Jan was honest when she said that it had a few “rough spots.”

That afternoon the choir director gave a piano recital. She opened with “French Suite #2” by JS Bach, then moved on to Beethoven. She concluded with a Chopin piano concerto. (I lost the program, so these are mostly guesses based on a failing memory.) Rebbecca played really well and raised a little money for the Bill Sauber Memorial Fund, which supports music infrastructure at the church.

Finally, I went to jam with the new rock band I’m kinda playing with. It was our first practice with a new guitarist after the guy who asked me to join left. The singer was out of town, so the new guitarist and I faked our way through the songs we do. And I have to say we rocked. It was a great time, and I think will shape my mood for the week. I love playing loud and strong music with a deep pocket.

Although I wasn’t that into it at the time, I have come to think of Jailbreak as one of the best rock albums ever. Just driving, good-time music that’s as fun to play as it is to listen to.Photo source: Rock God Cred

If you can play rock music and stand still, you ain’t doing it right. If you do it right, it’s a fun way to get a decent cardiovascular workout.

So that’s what I’m grateful for this week: music, especially rock music. Give me a deep, throbbing bass line and a wall of sound. Give me a good drummer and a strong beat. That makes me too happy to stand still! Like the song says:

Roll me over and turn me around.
Let me keep spinnin’ ’till I hit the ground.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Makes You Stronger?

Kevin Sorbo played the title role in the 1990s TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys Photo source: Oak Leaf Collectibles
What doesn’t kill you:
  • Makes you stronger
  • Makes you wish it had

This set of questions derives from a comparison Howard Thurman made of humans to jack pines, a tree species that usually requires a forest fire to free its seeds from cones. From the destruction, a new stand of trees arises phoenix-like. So here we go.

Appetizer: What did you think of the Hercules TV series?
The 1960s cartoon series was one of my favorites. I watched it almost every morning before school on Channel 13. The 1990s live action series was OK. Not one of my favorites, but it had the advantage of airing adjacent to Xena: Warrior Princess.
Soup: Are you generally more optimistic or pessimistic?
I vacillate. I believe we have to take the bad with the good, so we might as well get the most out of it. I also believe we need negative experience to appreciate (or even comprehend) positive experience. Life is like a black and white photo; without contrast, everything is indistinguishable. So, I guess I have optimistic tendencies. I believe that everything always works out for the best—even if we can’t see it at the time. Regardless, it all contributes to who we are. If things happened differently, we would be different people.
I would much rather be writing about this guy, who watched me take a walk around campus at lunch the other day.
Salad: Which event in your life made you stronger or a better person for having survived it?
So many to choose from! Each one was incredibly painful and yet shaped who I am today. So, I’ll talk about the death of my brother Bill. It was traumatic for my family. He was younger than I am today, still in his prime. You don’t ever recover from that, but you can assimilate the experience, embrace the pain, and move forward.
Bill’s death shocked me out of my complacency. It freed me from a need to keep climbing the corporate ladder and pursue money and power. Until then I thought that if I just had more, I would be happier. I worked insane hours, and I neglected my family and my own health. There would be time in the future for happiness.
I awoke to the reality of my own mortality. I eventually left the corporate culture that was killing me. I took a job at a university to wind down. It paid barely enough to survive, but it was enough for awhile. A friend once asked me what I had planned for the day. I said I was going to hang out at the lake and then go into work. “Don’t you have chores?” she asked. I nodded. “The lake will be there tomorrow,” she chided. “But I might not be.”
I make more money than I did then, but I believe my work is about more than making money. While I still help big companies make more money, I also help the people who work for them do their jobs better. I know that in some cases, the training I designed has helped people keep their jobs and provide for their families. I have found a balance that I might not have found if my brother’s death hadn’t forced me to reassess what was important to me.
Entré: Given the choice, would you skip it if you had a “do over”?
I would rather have all of my siblings be alive and healthy and with me. I don’t know what the consequences of that might be. Perhaps I would have been the one to go first. I am also really annoyed at myself for writing this question. I don’t believe in “do overs.” We are who we are because of our experiences. Change the experiences and we change who we are.
Still, I miss Bill. And Edwin. And Mom.
Dammit! Now I’m all teary. Human beings aren’t a fire species. We’re just all fucked up, born to suffer. And we try to justify it by saying it makes us better. Even if it does, it still sucks.
Dessert: Does adversity build character or reveal it?
I believe adversity builds character only if the foundation is already there. But I also believe that we can go through our whole lives without knowing what we are capable of if nothing ever tests our mettle. Wouldn’t that be nice?