Monday, December 29, 2008

If - Rudyard Kipling

It is a very quiet day at work here today so I have turned my minds eye toward planning and thinking about the year to come. I've been working on my New Year's Resolutions and have been contemplating various thematic inspirations. Sometimes, rather than invent the wheel every time, we can turn to the inspiration of people who were far wiser and far more eloquent then we are. Which brought me in turn to "If" by Rudyard Kipling. I thought I would share it here if you are unfamiliar with the poem, or even if you are, it is a singularly powerful personal mission statement.

If
Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Lazy Sunday Afternoon

I slept in this morning until about nine AM, which is late for me. I woke up once at about three AM, for no particular reason, stirred a bit and then fell back asleep. I must have needed the extra sleep because I was out like a light.

I had an interesting dream. I dreamt that I was going to a revival film festival and I was going to see a movie starring Humphrey Bogart called "The Magnificent Hush". The poster was classic film noir, black and white, with Bogart in suit and hat walking down a cobblestone alley, all shadows and light. It was a very vivid dream so I remember being excited about seeing a little known Bogart classic. I woke from the dream and I was disappointed that it was only a dream. There is no such movie. It did make me want to watch a Humphrey Bogart movie though.

Having slept late, I called a friend of mine to see if he wanted to get something for breakfast, but he declined. He has a relationship that has crumbled apart over the last couple of months and the stress has him very anti-social. He tends toward the anti-social side anyway, so his desire to pull in from the world is actually pretty common. His relationship problems are that usual mix of pride and miscommunication. I wish him luck and am wise enough in the ways of this world to stay the heck out of it.

Breakfast was cream cheese coffee cake (the last of it), coffee and orange juice. Then I came online for a while, chatted in AOL's Spiritual Insights room for about an hour. A good friend of mine there gave me a serious case of vacation envy as they are going fly fishing with friends over the New Year's stretch. I can fly fish, but I do not consider it among my major hobbies, but just thinking about it made me realize it has been a while since I have gone fishing - I went a couple of times last year, but that was about it. I think I am going to have to put "more fishing" on my new years resolution list for the coming year.

The sky was bright and blue and beckoning me outside, so I head out about ten AM. I went down to San Tomas Aquino River Park and took a nice long walk in the sun (it was still a little cool, but the sun on my face felt great). From there, I went over the AMC Saratoga theatre and took a chance on the movie "The Spirit". I admire the ground-breaking iconic work that was Will Eisner's "The Spirit". I admire the vivid visualization of Frank Miller. And I wanted to like the movie...

I like about forty minutes of it and what I liked were the minutes that were pure Frank Miller. However, as far as the whole movie goes - some of it just didn't work. So, I would recommend seeing it on DVD or free cable when the time comes, simply for the crossing of talent (Eisner and Miller) that it represents. Alas however, it is not a good movie.

After the movie, I walked over to REI Sporting Goods to see what they had on sale (mostly ski related stuff and winter clothing), then Staples (I was looking for one of the little accordian folders for keeping track of my bills). Ultimately, I did not get anything at either store. From there, I went over to the grocery store and stocked up on cupboard staples.

I need to make another trip sometime a little later this afternoon to get perishables, but my cupboard is stocked. Then, I stopped at strip mall that has a series of boutique stores and walked through it, partly to be in the sun and walking, and partly to see what was on post christmas sale. Each of the stores looked like it had been hit by a hurricane! All of the clerks and owners had that dazed "what happened to us" look. Retail is down overall, but they seemed to have done a brisk business.

Out of curiosity I asked at each store how they had done and the answer seemed to be pretty universal that they had done "better than they expected" in the pre and post Christmas phases. I took that as a good sign. (California, being the behemoth of a state that we are, tends to lead trends - I suspect we were the first into economic difficulties and will be the first out - assuming we don't go bankrupt because of our state legislatures inability to agree on a budget. Though, FYI, "budget chicken" is a familiar game here in CA.)

From there, I stopped at Goodwill, just to peek around and see if they had any hidden treasures, but I didn't really see anything. Again, my main motivation was to be out and wandering in the sun. From there, I wandered home, stopping at the liquor store to pick up some ice cream for a snack and the Sunday paper. The Sunday paper was long a ritual for me, but it was a ritual that I had gotten out of the habit of during last year and now I am trying to get back into the habit.

I am looking forward to the coming week. I only work three days and then I have a four day weekend. I haven't decided if I am going to do anything for New Years Eve. I dislike being out with the drunks, so my inclination is to stay home. Additionally, and in what is one of the big drawbacks of living in a major urban area at New Year's is all of the clubs double, triple, and quadruple their cover charges - just because they can. Even bars that normally do not run a cover charge run one on New Years. So, you end up paying twenty or thirty bucks just to get in the door of someplace you might enjoy. I pass.

All of that said though, sometimes I do like just...going out and watching the crowds on New Years Eve. So, I will probably make that decision when the time comes - but right now, the inclination is a quiet night at home, perhaps with friends, perhaps not. Now, I am going to eat my ice cream and read my paper.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Resolving Resolutions

2008 is drawing to a close. I am a "New Years Resolution" type of person, so I tend to take some time at the end of each year and the beginning of the next to review my resolutions from last year and make some resolutions for the new year. These are my resolutions from 2008. I tend to look at them and see what worked (successful) and what didn't work (unsuccessful). In between the resolutions I consider successful and unsuccessful are the ones that are either ambivalent (a little bit of both) or irrelevant (overcome by events).

2008 RESOLUTIONS

1. Do something personally productive within my environment the equivalent of every day, and record those actions, so that I can see the activity going on.

I would rate this one as success. I was not able to do something personally productive every day - life and "The Project That Almost Broke Me" intervened and it was a brutally stressful year at various times - but, I consider it a success because I was able to maintain daily logs (of both work and personal items) through the year and both the process of keeping the logs and reviewing them were very insightful. So, though I did not success in the literal sense, the intention was highly successful.

2. Stay in touch with old friends. Create and maintain a communications/contact log.

I would rate this one as successful - the purpose of it was to not let my personal contacts fall into disarray because I was otherwise occupied and in that, I think it was a successful resolution.

3. Use mass transit the equivalent of once every ten working days. Resulting in a reduction of my commute foodprint by 10%.

Also successful. Between mass transit and virtual working I was able to meet and exceed this goal.

4. Take 52 day trips to different places in order to explore and expand my environment.

Not successful. I only managed to get out and about exploring about half the amount of time I wanted to. The intention of this resolution was to just enjoy the small paradise that I live in - I was able to enjoy it, but not as much as I would have liked to. On far too many weekends I was simply burnt out.

5. Aggressively support a specific charity through the year, one that engages you.

This one was not successful. I did more charitable support work in 2008 than in 2007, but it was not as focused as I would have liked. I may carry this one into next year.

6. Spend time each day in prayer and meditation.

Unsuccessful here as well. I lost a lot of focus during the year to stress (I would not hesitate to say 2008 was the most stressful year I have had in a decade or more - there were times when the work or personal life was more intense, but not more stressful.) One of the drawbacks of that level of stress was a loss of focus.

7. Engage in creative writing at a pace of approximately 1 page per day.

Unsuccessful - though I did manage to write far more than I had the previous year and I liked the quality of writing, it lacked the discipline and their were long periods of time when my inner voice was silent or muddled.

8. Learn 12 New Things

Unsuccessful as well. There was learning in the previous year, but too much of it was in the form of negative lessons - learning things the hard way - learning things to NOT do in the future. It counts as learning, but it missed the purpose and intent of the resolution.

9. Engage in some nest building activity every week, for 52 nest building things, and log those things so that you can track them.

Unsuccessful as well, but I definitely intend on carrying this one into the near year. At its root what I want to do is pay more attention in crafting the small portion of the world that I live within.

10. Journal on a daily basis.

Successful. That alone makes me consider the whole exercise a success. I did a very good job this year of observing and self awareness, which means I am entering 2009 feeling - good, feeling strong, feeling so very fortunate.

Christmas Day, Reflected

I had a nice quiet Christmas. If there was a theme it was low key. I went the Christmas Mass. I came home. I spent the day cooking, playing with the computer, watching movies on TV, reading, napping, and snacking - not necessarily in that order. I exchanged phone calls with friends and family. I hosted a small dinner where I served BBQ turkey, baked potatos, sweet peas, and peach pie for dessert. I spooled gently into the evening. In short, a simple and beautiful Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fertile Alliances

CANCER (June 21 - July 22)

To get ready for 2009, I invite you to fantasize in depth about the fertile alliances that might be possible for you to cultivate in the coming months. These lively, inspiring bonds could be with people you haven't met yet. They could be with acquaintances you barely know but would like to know better. And they could be with friends, collaborators, and loved ones you're already intimate with but want to become even closer to. The coming year has the potential to bring revolutionary advances in the quality and intensity of your relationships, so it will be smart for you to work hard on making that happen.

http://www.freewillastrology.com

If you are not familiar with it, I always enjoy Rob Brezny's "Free Will Astrology" columns in the Metro.

And Then, After Lunch

I stopped at a small deli and had a roast beef and cheddar sandwich, on wheat, with tomatoes and mayo. It was good, simple and filling. After that, I stopped at Lucky on Mathilda Avenue and picked up some odds and ends for tomorrow (specifically, a cream cheese coffee cake for daily munching and an apple pie for dessert).

I am back in the office now and it is still very slow, as expected. I picked up the Metro (our local alternative press newspaper) and I will spend a bit of time now reading it.

Sometimes We Need To Get A Sandwich...

Well, it is the day before Christmas.

It is very quiet here at work. I got one email this morning, from a customer, thanking me for a piece of work I did yesterday.

The phone has rung three times.

I read the entire San Jose Mercury News from front page to back page.

I am going to head out and get something for lunch in a few moments and maybe when I come back I might actually have a coherent thought or two to share.

But it is one of those days where coherent thoughts are optional.

I spoke with my step-father today. My aunt Marie passed away after being removed from life support. The funeral will be in Rapid City, SD on Monday, December 29th. A tough row for her family, but Aunt Marie never regained consciousness following her accident.

A little later in the day I might take the time to write about her and my memories of her and her family.

But, for now, I think I am going to go out and get a sandwich. Life and death are like that. They are always flowing. And sometimes we need to go get a
sandwich.

In Harmony

In harmony with the Tao,
The sky is clear and spacious,
The earth is solid and full,
All creatures flourish together,
Content with the way they are,
Endlessly repeating themselves,
Endlessly renewed.
-Chapter 39, Tao Te Ching
Stephen Mitchell Translation


Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And The Day Turns Quiet

I was looking forward to today. I knew from the rhythm of previous years that it would be quiet at work. After the stresses of 2008 and "The Project That Almost Broke Me" - I was looking forward to today.

I was not disappointed. I came into the office about 7:00 AM and there were three other cars in the parking lot. I got to my desk and logged into my computer and after I sorted through the incidental email I found myself down to two actionable email.

It took me fifty two minutes to resolve both of them. Ahhhhhhhh. I worked at incidental things through the day, supporting my analysts and supporting the one customer who contacted me directly.

I went out to lunch at the Grand Indian Buffet on Lawrence Expressway with my friend Don. I had a superb chicken marsala and an excellent potato and pea curry. We talked about a wide range of things, just conversation. If there was a central theme it was about what to do as we got older.

After lunch we stopped at Fry's Electronics and looked at the big screen TV's and then wandered back to the office. I have one more actionable email. I took care of it.

I spent the afternoon cleaning out the flotsam and jetsam of last year from my electronic files (that is a big job - just to give you a rough idea, I receive and send about 20,000 email a year.) I worked a couple of tickets with my analysts (it is nice to dip down in the trenches and actually have the time to teach them new tricks).

I contemplated Christmas dinner (I am going to do a barbecue slow cooked turkey breast, mashed potatoes and stuffing, and vegetable - keeping it simple and tasteful is my plan).
It is now about three thirty PM and the day is winding down. My email and the phone lines are silent. Tomorrow is going to be even quieter.

For the first time in years I am ending the year with ONE ticket in ITSM (our task management system) and the only reason that ticket remains is the customer decided to delay it until sometime in the first quarter of 2009. I am positioned, professionally, nearly perfectly to enter the new year.

On the personal level the positioning is also very well. 2008 was a brutal and stressful year on several levels - personal and professional - and it simply feels nice to slid into 2009 with no turbulence, not carrying any particularly heavy baggage into the new year. Oh, I know that every year has its challenges and I know that 2009 will not be any different - but, I learned a lot in 2008 and I suspect that those lessons, as long as I remember them, will stand me well in the coming year.

My plan tonight is pretty simple - I am going to stop at Safeway on the way home and pick up some odds and ends to prepare for the holiday and the holiday weekend that follows (all intending to keep it low key, so I am making sure the fridge and cupboard are stocked with tasty things).

Once I get home I plan on going online for a while and playing and writing some Christmas email and sending them out. I am feeling reflective tonight and that is a good feeling. I haven't decided what to have for dinner, so I may run out and get sushi. Sushi is always my fall back position when it comes to dinner, in part because I like sushi, but also because you belly up to the sushi bar and have a wide variety of selections - the whole gamut of taste senstions. (Can you tell I like sushi?)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dinner With Strangers

On the Internet

"the Internet leads to a sort of conscious narcolepsy.."

Heard on NPR in conversation with composer John Adams on Forum.

Sent from my iPhone

Mourning Emptiness

Of all the things I have lost
Of all the things I have lost
I cherish only their loss...
It strikes me as strange
I do not miss the things I have lost
I only feel the hole they left
When I mourn the loss
I am mourning the emptiness


Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Weight of Blankets

Preparing for bed
I open the cedar chest
And pull out another blanket
Wool, blue and white and
Several muted shades of red
I spread it over the comforter
Then open the covers and slide in
The sheets are soft and crisp
And the blankets weigh down
Settling around me with
The gentle burdens of life
All of the things we carry
That buffer us from the cold
Of a winter's night


Sent from my iPhone

Dust of Snow

by Robert Frost (1923)

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Winter At Santana Row


I've updated Flickr with a new photo set, a series of pictures taken while I was out seeing "Slumdog Millionaire" at Santana Row in San Jose. I think they capture the feel of a California winter quiet nicely.




It was a quiet and relaxing day here, just gentle and easy I slide into the holiday season.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Day of Simple Things

Today was a good day. I lingered in bed reading Ted Hughes "Selected
Poems" on waking. Then I took a hot shower. I spent most of the
morning drinking coffee and orange juice and chatting online. It was a
pleasant morning in chat, with subjects ranging from insects to
explosives to elephants! Sometimes the seques are amazing.

Then, I had tamales for lunch at Maria's, followed by one of the very
best movies I have seen in a long time - Danny Boyle's "Slumdog
Millionaire". I highly recommend it. After the movie I went to Borders
on Santana Row and bought the new Koontz novel and the movie "Romance
& Cigarettes". I wandered a bit more, took some photo's, and circled
home.

Dinner was pork chops and rice pudding. Then I watched "Sanctuary" and
"Stargate Atlantis". I chatted a bit more and made a phone call with a
great little conversation and am now going to curl up and read myself
to sleep. The great things in life are simple things and today was a
day of simple things.


Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

20 Seconds

I read the other day that
frequent hand washing prevents cold and flu
"they" said you should
wash your hands for 20 seconds
I stood in front of the sink
and started the water running
I tested it until it was warm
bordering on hot
I rinsed my hands
I hit the soap dispenser
I washed my hands and counted
from 1 to 20
20 seconds is a surprisingly long time
I lathered my hands
Washing them thoroughly
The back, the palm, each finger, the thumb
When the 20 seconds were done
I rinsed them under the hot water
Until the soap was gone
I think "they" would be happy
I was mostly amused
with clean hands

20 Seconds

I read the other day that
frequent hand washing prevents cold and flu
"they" said you should
wash your hands for 20 seconds
I stood in front of the sink
and started the water running
I tested it until it was warm
bordering on hot
I rinsed my hands
I hit the soap dispenser
I washed my hands and counted
from 1 to 20
20 seconds is a surprisingly long time
I lathered my hands
Washing them thoroughly
The back, the palm, each finger, the thumb
When the 20 seconds were done
I rinsed them under the hot water
Until the soap was gone
I think "they" would be happy
I was mostly amused
with clean hands

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yester-Hour

It is night, and cold
The streets are painted black
With the freshness of rain
Reflecting the curtained lights
Of a thousand extraordinary lives
Warm within his red anorak
Miriam's Little Fox weaves within
The ripples of fragmentary conversations
Carelessly unleashed to ramble
Amid the zephyr eddies of the
Storm children of yester-hour


Sent from my iPhone

Rain

Yesterday morning when I woke early I headed into work through the rain. It was a cold and steady rain that painted the streets black and reflected the amber glow of the streetlights. Walking across the parking lot to my office I walked down a sidewalk covered in fallen leaves. The leaves were soaked from the rain fall.

As my feet kicked them up there was that wonderful fecund scent of decaying leaves mingled with the sweet scent of new fallen rain and that faint tang of the sea from the San Francisco Bay. Everything smelled crisp and clear and clean. I was dressed for the the weather - gray t-shirt, business shirt, gray cable sweater, Columbia rain jacket. I was snug and warm inside my clothing and the morning was simply beautiful.

At lunch I walked down the street to the Boomerang Cafe. It was cold and blustery, with the wind pushing and pulling at me. For lunch I had a bowl of Southwestern corn chowder and a tuna and green onion salad with a bottle of Pelegrino. My friend Don and I discussed imaginary money in a lively conversation. After lunch I walked back to the office. A few minutes into the journey the clouds opened up and pelted me with fast, cold, stinging rain that in another few moments turned to sleet.

The sleet popped off my coat, striking with a certain violence. I held my hood with my hand to keep it from blowing off and the sleet stung my hand like small angry white insects. My shoes and my pants were quickly wet from the rain and the sleet. As I walked I watched the sleet bouncing off the sidewalk and listened to the rushing sound it made. I was warm inside my coat and able to enjoy each moment of it.

That evening, on the way home, I stopped at Borders bookstore to look for a certain movie. They did not have the movie I was looking for but their computer says it is at another store, not that far away, so I will swing by there tonight. I came out of the store and stood in front of the door for a little while.

The rain was pouring down. It was heavy, cold, drenching. A young mother went by pushing a child in a stroller. The mother was dressed for the weather and the child was a small bundle of coats and blankets, with a tiny little face and bright blue eyes peeking out. The child extended a small gloved hand in and out of the canopy of the stroller, playing with the falling rain.

Later that evening, I sat at home, curled in my favorite chair, reading a novel, drinking a cup of hot vanilla chocolate and listening to the rain pouring down on the roof and gurgling as it flowed through the gutters and down spout. Rain filled the day and filling the day it filled the sense of the day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Strange-In-A-Good-Way Monday Morning

Every day begins the night before.

On Sunday night, after a relaxing and lazy day, I ate a big bowl of homemade chicken soup, I watched a little TV, I wrote a few email, I had a nice conversation on the phone with someone dear, I read a chapter in my novel and fell asleep to the sound of rain falling on the roof and gurgling in the downspout.

I fell asleep early.

At about 5:00 AM I woke to a scent. It took me a moment to figure out what it was as I lay there in the darkness. I could hear someone moving through the apartment. I could hear music playing softly. I glanced at the clock and noticed the hour. I recognized the scent - it was Axe body spray.

My first thought was a cranky one. I thought about getting up and asking my nephew what the heck he was doing up at 5:00 AM spraying Axe when it was a Monday morning. My assumption was that he had stayed up all night and now, rudely, woken me in the morning.

Then my brain slowly clicked in. My nephew works all over the clock, based on need, and I remembered he had told me he was going into work at 5:30 AM Monday morning. I realized that he was just getting up to go to work, and there I was willing to get up and be cranky.

But, I also discovered that I was pretty much wide awake because I had fallen asleep early the night before. So I rolled out of bed and told him about my morning thoughts. He laughed and promised to go easy on the Axe!

My apartment has a square lay out. The living room, dining room and kitched are in the front half and the two bedrooms are in the back half, with the bathroom between the bedrooms. there is a small corridor that leads from the living room to the bathroom and bedrooms and on one side of that corridor is the furnace and on the otherside a coat closet.

The intake vent for the furnace is near the floor. It is an efficient little place - but the furnace intake catches scents and pushes them up and through the furnace into the bedroom. With the cold weather right now, my nephew blasted himself with his Axe and the aerosol fell to the floor and was sucked into the vents!

I had an early morning meeting today, so I rolled out, drank some coffee and got ready to head into the office, then I dropped my nephew off at his work place on the way in. He is fortunate in that he works just a little over a mile from the apartment so it is either a five minute bus ride or a thirty minute walk.

After I dropped him off I drove into work, stopping at the coffee shop on the way in. It was a cold morning, raining intermittently after a night of fairly heavy rain and the city streets were black and glistening in the amber glow of the mercury vapor street lights. Because of the early hour traffic was very light so the drive in was beautiful and pleasant.

I was listening to Warren Zevon on the radio and just enjoyed the drive in immensely. Since I came in early I got a good start on my email and voice-mail queues before beginning the morning cycle of meetings. One of the advantages of starting the day early is that it will end early - by the time I go to lunch at noon it will be three quarters over. So, let me return to the working world with one of the Warren Zevon songs on "Mutineer".

"Piano Fighter" by Warren Zevon, 1993, Zevon Music, BMI

Mom and Papa bought a Chickering
Every day I'd sit and play that thing
I practiced hard;
it was more than a whim
I played with grim determination, Jim

Someone called Piano Fighter
I'm a holy roller, I'm a real lowrider
Hold me tight, honey, hold me tighter
Then let me go, Piano Fighter

I worked in sessions and I played in bands
A thousand casuals and one-night stands
Here on Thursday, gone on Friday
Heading down the Dixie highway

Someone called Piano Fighter
I'm a holy roller, I'm a real lowrider
Hold me tight, honey, hold me tighter
Then let me go, Piano Fighter

Maybe I'll go to Reno
Nobody knows my name
I'll play Claire de Lune in a quiet saloon
Steady work for a change
Ain't going down that long, lonesome road
Ain't going down that long, lonesome road
Got in trouble down in New Orleans
I must admit that I was strung out, painted in the corner of a limousine

Someone called Piano Fighter
I'm a thin ice walker, I'm a freelance writer
Hold me tight, honey, hold me tighter
Then let me go, Piano Fighter
Someone called Piano Fighter

I'm a holy roller, I'm a real lowrider
Hold me tight, honey, hold me tighter
Then let me go, Piano Fighter

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Gift

I dreamt that I was in a museum gallery. A very large room with
hardwood floors and white walls, well lit and spacious. In the center
of the room was a long wooden table. On the wooden table was a thick
wooden block and on the wooden block was a silver mortar and pestle.
The docent told me that in the mortar was the most valuable gift the
museum had ever received. It was filled with red earth. It was a
certain type of clay that, when powdered, was the main component upon
which many paints were based. Priceless and yet simple.


Sent from my iPhone

Friday, December 12, 2008

Music - Natasha Josefowitz

MUSIC

As I lie next to you
I am your violin
All smooth curves
Waiting to be played upon

As you lie next to me
You are my bow
Straight and thin
Rigidly poised
In expectation

Slowly you fine tune my body
Listening for the different sounds
Our music makes
As your bow glides
Over my body

At first tentatively
Testing the chords
Then gently
Plucking at the strings

Until the soft humming
Becomes a duet
Then a string ensemble
Some brass joins in
Finally the full orchestra
Explodes in a symphony
Of cymbals and drums

The applause is silent

-Natasha Josefowitz
"Passionate Hearts: The Poetry of Sexual Love", edited by Wendy Wentz,
New World Library, 1996 (Tenth year edition 2007)


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Sushi To Go

Just got home from a quiet-but-busy day. Stopped on the way home at Sushi Totoro, so I am now sitting here with a bowl of miso soup, California rolls and Philadelphia rolls. We have a cold front rolling in with the promise of showers over the weekend so I am looking forward to a nice quiet weekend spent - hanging out and just enjoying the quiet things in life. I have a couple of new books to read, I have a couple of loads of laundry to do, and I have a collection of movies from which I may take my choice. This weekend I have planned to have no plans - just take things as they come.

I spent most of the work day troubleshooting a problem that cropped up earlier in the week and they (meaning the developers) thought they had found the root cause - except - it turned out to be not the root cause. LOL - not only not the root cause, but at the end of the day I am pretty convinced it had nothing to do with nothing. (I did find the root cause after a couple of hours of methodical testing). I always like when that happens. Even though as a manager now my role is no longer purely technical it is nice when I put my technical skills to work and out perform other people. That is the part of me that is inherently competitive - it is good to be good.

I am almost finished reading Jack Higgin's "The Killing Ground", a Sean Dillon novel. It is decent, a well plotted if formulaic thriller that I latched onto when I was visiting my folks. Next up (novel wise) is "A Painted House" by John Grisham, which I also pinched from the folks. I tend to like John Grisham novels and my step-father Bill recommended this one very highly.

My mother was in and out of the hospital again, this time with a bleeding ulcer. She is now back at home. After she was released from the hospital they spent a couple of hours in a furniture store looking a new chairs (my sister and I offered to buy them new chairs for Christmas). My mom say's that they tried about twenty different chairs - but still have not decided on what to get. They both have features that they want in a chair and they could not find a chair that met exactly what they wanted so my sister is going to take them up to Pierre, SD in the next couple of weeks to look at another furniture store. (That is the challenge of living in rural America - many of the things we urban dwellers take for granted - i.e. multiple furniture stores - simply are not there.)

There was an amusing exchange - my mother is trying to convince my step-father to get one of the chairs that has the automatic lift - that eases them in and lifts them out of the chair. My step-father refuses, because he's "not that old yet". My mother thinks he is. And immediately after telling me that she told me "but, I am not old enough to need one yet, but Bill is". My mother is actually older than my step-father. I suspect she conveniently forgot that.

I am planning on going out with friends on Sunday morning to see the Keanu Reeve's remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still". Like me, my friends are huge Sci Fi fans, so whether or not the remake is any good is not particularly relevant. We will see it because it is. Zen Sci-Fi. After that the plan is to go to Hawg's in Campbell for lunch (an excellent sea food restaurant). Saturday is pretty wide open, beyond our routine breakfast at the Hickory Pit, also in Campbell.

I am of half a mind to sort through my CD collection this weekend - I have a new CD bookcase (have had it for a while) and I think the rainy weather might be a perfectly good excuse to spend the day indulging in music. My mood is good tonight, so who knows what sort of things the weekend will hold. I've been meaning to set aside some time to write, but just haven't been able to get to it, and this weekend might turn out to be the perfect time for it.

So, I am slipping into this Friday evening in a good mood, with excellent sushi and miso soup, with the Christmas tree twinkling, with Annie Lennox playing (Bare), and with the heater keeping the apartment nice and warm against the encroaching storm front. And I happened to notice that Charles Bronson "The Mechanic" is on TV a little later tonight...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Flicker

Flicker

Something caught my eye
Just enough to pull me
Distract me
Draw me away for a moment
A spark that flickered and
Never became a fire
And later, much later
I cannot remember
What caught my eye
But in the vaulted heaven
Of memory
That spark still dazzled


Sent from my iPhone

Inside A Flower Photo Set On Flickr


Last summer I was out for my evening walk. I had walked a three mile course - out from my apartment, down Will Rogers to Saratoga, up Saratoga to Payne, down Payne to San Tomas Expressway and then cut back through toward Starbird Park. As I turned back on Williams Road I turned into the setting sun and along Williams Road there was a row of flowers next to the sidewalk. The sunlight was perfect. They glistened in astounding beauty. I was carrying my Sony DSC9 in my pocket (my usual companion when walking), so I pulled the camera out and took this photo's on the macro settings. I did not Photoshop them at all - just took the images, trimmed them for size and originally posted them on in my AOL photo bucket. Even looking at them today I find them to be dazzling in their brillance. The full set of 8 photos is here on my Flickr photostream.




Here is one of the images, my favorite - I think that particular one has a sort of earthy elegance that I find hypnotic.


Two Musical Artists Discovered

Rae recommended Rachel Yamagata to me - I had never heard of her, but she has some excellent work. Here is a link to one of her songs on YouTube. This is a slow and delicate piece, but her work ranges pretty widely from the delicate to the passionate to the explosive. She's been added to the list of artists to explore.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZJx0Y8J970

I was wandering around in Flickr and clicked on a link to this artist - Roisin Murphy. I've listened to several of her songs over on YouTube and I like her. I've added her to my list of artists to explore.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2ITx5nDmV4&feature=related

Dawn - Last Saturday

Taken on my morning run, dawn, last Saturday. At this point I am
actually running...with donuts. Hint. It is not a good idea to take
the route on a morning run that goes by the donut shop.

Monday, December 8, 2008

12 Things In A Box

I was reading my friend Sparkle's journal and she references an little exercise that I thought appealed to me. Imagine that you have just met someone new and to introduce yourself you present them with a box that contains 12 items that help the individual know you. I am simply going to dive right in...

-A small bundle of prairie grass.
-A pair of cowboy boots
-A laptop computer
-A camera
-A guitar
-A collection of Ted Hughes poetry
-A copy of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
-A length of rope
-A picture of my family
-A pen and blank notebook
-A Van Morrison CD
-An Indigo Girls CD

Okay, I fired that off without too much thought, those were the things that popped into my mind. Sometimes I find what flows quickly out of us is best, or at least, perhaps, most revealing.

Today's Observation

Eating a macaroon and playing with your iPhone results in a messy
phone, but in no way deters macaroon eating.

Sent from my iPhone

Every Day...A Whole Lifespan

"Every morning, particularly, can be seen as a rebirth. The day is young, we are full of energy and have a whole day ahead of us. Every moment we get older and are tired enough in the evening to fall asleep and die a small death. All we can do then is toss and turn in bed, and our whole mind is dreamy and foggy. Every day can be regarded as a whole lifespan, since we can only live one day at a time; the past is gone and the future may or may not come; only this rebirth, this day, this moment is important."

-Ayya Khema, "When the Iron Eagle Flies" from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pictures on Flickr

I just opened a Flickr account so I can share more of my photographs. This is a link to the set I just uploaded, taken at Thanksgiving in South Dakota.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/roderckdhu/sets/72157610824962538/


Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Colors

Noticed this splash of Christmas colors while I was out running
errands this afternoon. It seems that nature is putting on her
Christmas dress!

Sometimes The Night Will Call

Sometimes the night will call
Sometimes the darkness fall
Sometimes you take a chance
Sometimes you lose it all...

I was standing in the shower, the second time for the day, after an
idle morning and the verse above popped into my head. I always like
that when it happens. Sometimes inspiration arises almost complete and
almost without warning, Sometimes you can trace back a tenuous thread
- a word, a phrase, an image, a thought. Other times the inspiration
is just there.

The same holds true for the muses that inspire us in this life. Often
you will never know where they came from. You will never know when the
spirit of a muse is going to descend on someone you already know. It
is just astounding and magical and I like the way it works. Maybe that
is why I always wander around in a perpetual state of amazement and
amusement.


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The Tale of a Scar

I was a child, maybe four, maybe five years old. My brother and I were playing in tag in the living room. I ran behind the rocking chair and he jumped onto the rocking chair. It rocked. It hit me. It knocked me across the room into the livingroom window frame. It laid open my forehead. Years passed and I have gathered my share of scars, including a much longer one that crosses that childhood scar at an angle. When I look in the mirror in the morning and see those two reminders of life, it is the smaller, older scar that makes me smile and think of my brother fondly.

(If you look over to the links on the right hand side you will see a link to a blog called One Minute Writer - this entry was original posted there in the comment section in relation to one of the daily prompts.)

Noon On A Slow Friday

I woke up this morning and I peeked around and then I rolled over and went back to sleep. It just seemed to be the right action in the right moment. Of course, when I woke up an hour later and was groggy from to much sleep, LOL, well, I doubted the wisdom of the original decision.

A lot of things in life are like that I think. They make perfect sense in the moment that we do them and then further downstream when we are dealing with the consequences of those decisions, we wonder at the rightness of them. But, I think that the rightness of a particular decision belongs entirely in the moment and many of the threads of causation are imagination filling in the blanks between events. Our minds can easily connect dots where no lines exist.

It is shortly past noon now and I am slowing falling into the day. I am not sure I am going to do anything of any significance, but I am going to do something - maybe. It might just be a perfect day for doing nothing (as I ignore the dishes in the sink from breakfast). Sometimes ignoring things is an art as well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Palace of the One Eyed King

It is actually one of the Moffet Towers buildings in the morning fog
today. The fog was very heavy...

In The Land Of The Blind

I was sitting on a meeting today at work and that quote popped into my
mind about "in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king".

The conclusion was ultimately one of those things that truly irritate
me. The decision was made to remove a functionality from the users
because the perception was that it was not being used correctly. There
was no quantative data and no method to validate it's success or
failure in place. The decision was based on anecdotal evidence and
inconvenience. Grrrrrr. LOL - I felt like saying "uh, we're analysts
right? Do you think we should maybe analyze some data?"

"I know what the data says, but I am going with my gut on this one..."

Some times the gut is very right. Some times the gut is very wrong.
The best decisions are those where analytics and instinct line up. The
gnomes deep in the machinery have a very different view of the kingdom
than the one eyed king in his palace...


Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Traveling Day

I started the morning with breakfast. It was a cold and windy day.
Reached the airport smoothly, and then...

The turn around flight from Denver to Rapid City was delayed two hours
due to icing. So I sat, wrote, watched and read. The flight to Denver
was smooth. At Denver, my original connecting flight was delayed and
hour, so after a brisk walk I made the connection and boarded. We
rolled back from the gate and...waited. And waited. Computer problems.
We rolled back to the gate, deplaned, and boarded another plane. Where
we rolled back from the gate and...waited. Computer problems. They
fixed it. We flew out and arrived in San Jose about two hours late. At
San Jose, I discovered my bag is on the plane...behind me. So, again,
I wait. But I am at home waiting and I have tomorrow off. It was a
good day, all in all.


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Reflections of a Minor Motel Fetish

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Winters Tale

There is a time when the best thing we can do is run through the darkness.

It is an act of faith. It is a statement of trust to run through the night.

We trust our memory of the terrain. We trust our memory of the twists, the turns, the curves, the rise and the fall of the path.

It is a flowing moment of liberation.

Why we run is a winter’s tale.

Sometimes when we run we run toward things.

Sometimes when we run we run away from things.

Sometimes, I would say the best of times, we simply run because we can.

I left the ranch about eight p.m. I had spent the day idly and felt the need to run rising as the evening overtook us. I dressed warmly, in layers, so I could peel them off as I went.

It was a short jog out of the ranch yard to the road and I turned north. It is a mile and a half along a relatively straight road to the mailbox.

I started out slowly, moving at an even pace until my eyes adjusted to the night. The world was cast entirely in shades of silver and gray. Once my eyes had adjusted to the night I could make out the strand of the road, light against dark.

I kept my paces short to keep my feet underneath me, to keep my balance centered, to land surely on each foot.

Aussie ran alongside me, ranging ahead and behind, coursing back and forth across the road.

Somewhere to the east coyotes were howling. I could see occasional fields of stars amid the mostly overcast sky.

It has been a long time since I ran through the South Dakota night. Time folded into itself and those moments joined with these. The run took on that timeless sense that all good runs do. Something surrenders into the purity of the moment.

I reached the mailbox and turned for home. My pace was faster, surer, covering the road I had covered moments before. I picked up the pace, felt my legs starting to burn, felt my lungs drawing in the sharp cold South Dakota winter nights air.

Aussie pulled in close to me on the run home. The pace was fast enough that when he ranged from side to side he got left behind and I could hear the rapid pace of his paws as he would rush up behind me.

I pushed myself hard when the yard lights of the ranch approached, lengthening my stride running with speed through the darkness. The approaching yard lights began to affect my night vision, I could feel it fading.

Some, as I approached the ranch, I was running at speed through the darkness, trusting entirely to my memory of the terrain I had just crossed.

My memory was flawed.

Not badly, but enough.

Just at the turn of the ranch road I hit a rock. I good sized one, slight domed, a sudden solid strike. It did not break my stride but I felt the blow. I slowed down and took the last quarter of mile at an easy pace.

I was limping by the time I reached the ranch. I went inside and stripped down. I took off my shoe and checked my foot. Tender, but nothing broken – just a solid blow in the darkness to the bridge of my foot.

I am sitting here now icing it and feeling that soft throbbing.

Every moment of the run was worth it. Sometimes we run simply because we can. Sometimes we pay a price because we decide to run, because we decide to trust, because we run for the sake of running.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday In South Dakota

It seems odd but the last four days have flown by at a slow pace. LOL – that is the only way that I can think of to describe it. On Thursday I basically travelled all thirteen hours, arriving here at the ranch at about 11:00 PM. I talked briefly with my step dad and then fell asleep. We woke early the next morning (6:00 AM), drove into Winner, had breakfast at Joie’s and then went up to Winner Regional Hospital to visit my mother who was it with what ultimately turned out to be a form of colitis. We spent the day at the hospital, circling out once to get some lunch and once to run some errands. We left in the evening and drove back to the ranch. My mother called from the hospital and let us know that the doctor had swung by and told her that they were going to release her on Saturday.

So, Saturday was a shorter repeat of Friday. Bill (my step father) and I rolled out at 6:00 AM and headed into Winner and breakfast at Joie’s. From there we spent the morning at the hospital and Mom was discharged about noon. We ran a few more errands, stopped for lunch, and headed back to the ranch. (If you are a Google fan, Google Earth Carter South Dakota, the come about three miles west and eight miles south and there is the ranch).

I cooked dinner for my folks (steak, potatoes au gratin, baked beans) and we spent the rest of Saturday visiting and catching up. There were visits from relatives and family friends that pretty much occupied the evening, intermingled with telephone calls. I did figure out how to connect by dial-up, LOL, something I had not done with this particular laptop. It seems to work fairly well, but I feel guilty tying up the only phone line.

Today (Sunday) was far more laid back. We all slept in (the toll of the last several days). Breakfast was catch as catch can. The weather was nicer today. The sun was out and shining most of the day and the sky was blue. The temperature was up in the low forties but there was a biting wind from the west.

We spent the morning visiting. Bill’s niece Mary has been transcribing an old journal that belonged to great Aunt Hattie. Aunt Hattie had forty years of diaries that Mary is working on transcribing. Bill has some of the early transcription work and we spent the morning reading and talking about it. I will transcribe part of it here a little later in the week, because it is interesting stuff, at least to me.
In the early afternoon I put on my jacket and headed out to take a walk around the ranch. My mom’s dog Aussie decided to come with me. I just rambled around and took some pictures and enjoyed the day. It was partially overcast and with that wind my fingers and cheeks took a bit of a bite, but nothing significant. I will upload some of the pictures once I get back to California – with the dial up, uploading a picture of any size is going to tie the phone up. It was a typical blustery early winter South Dakota day.

The amusing point of the walk happened when we were in the wind break to the rest of the ranch. The trees still have some big snow drifts from the storm a few weeks ago, so I was walking up and down over the drifts and Aussie was ranging back and forth, poking into the cover, looking for things. He had ranged about fifty feet ahead of me when I topped a small drift and started a cotton tail rabbit from his shelter beneath a small bush. He leapt up and went bounding off over the drifts, heading straight for the dog. Aussie never saw the rabbit coming until it blazed past him. Normally, Aussie is reckless when it comes to chasing rabbits, but this one surprised him and as the rabbit bolted past, rather then give chase, Aussie jumped about four feet into the air with a yelp. He landed and the look on his face was “what the heck was that”! By the time he figured out it was a rabbit, it had already slipped into the cedars and was gone. Aussie when over and ranged in and out of the cedars trying to sniff it out, but it was probably safe in it’s burrow.
My sister came out and we spent the afternoon visiting, and then it was nap time. I laid down to take a nap but tossed and turned for a while. By the time I was ready to drop off into sleep it was what I call the “dangerous nap” time – that is the time when a nap runs the risk of turning into sleep, and if you fall asleep you will wake up in the middle of the night. So, I powered myself out.

We shared the tasks of getting dinner cooking, I spent some time on the telephone with one of my brothers (we basically passed the phone around). I popped online briefly and sent a few emails. I feel guilty composing emails online since I am tying up the only telephone, so I thought I would write things (like this journal entry) offline and send them quickly when I come online later in the night.
So far the visit has been very nice and the days have passed quickly, even though the pace has been very slow. (It seems contrary, but that is my impression.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lay Over

Okay, I have walked the length and breadth of SLC, drank coffee, had
lunch, ate a Cinnabon, sat, people watched, texted, called, emailed,
im'ed, peeked, poked, prodded and paused. I met a lady going to Geneva
to winter in the French Alps on a journey of self exploration. I
talked to a salesman of stepper machines. I helped a little old couple
carry their bags through the terminal. I talked to a TSA agent for a
while. I browsed the shops. I bought a bejewled elephant for my
mother. I bought a pair of earrings for my sister. I drank raspberry
water. In short, a typical layover. Life is an amazing thing!


Sent from my iPhone

SLC

So far so good. Flight was smooth out of San Jose and easy into SLC.
Now, I have about three hours to pass here. Going to see if I can get
online and play.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Traveling Light Today In The Eye Of The Storm

Work is winding down. All of my meetings for the day are complete. All of the immediate tasks are either finished or assigned to some to finish them. I am entering vacation very cleanly from a work stand point and it has been a while since I have had a vacation and could say that.

The last three years I have taken my San Diego vacation in late July, I have ended up working remotely at least some portion of the trip, and the same usually holds true on my South Dakota trips. I will accept the responsibility for some of it as a chronic overachiever.

After our unseasonable sun the day is gray and cool and smells of the approach of rain. This time tomorrow, I should be on an airplane approaching the Rapid city, SD airport, and then driving through the night and back to the reservation and the ranch with my sister. I am going to try and travel as lightly as possible. I was joking with a friend of mine today at lunch that the huge advantage of a South Dakota winter vacation is that you really don't have to make any clothing choices. It's pretty much blue jeans and button down shirts and boots and that is about it. I leave some cold weather clothing in South Dakota - a heavy winter jacket, sweaters, thermal underwear, cap and gloves. My sister will bring them to the airport to meet me.

My mother is back at the doctor again today (since last night), this time with another infection. I am hugely curious as to what I am going to find when I see her - it has been about a year since I was last home and though we talk on the phone quite frequently her last round of health related issues has me curious. One of the challenges is plain old communication - so that is where a good eye to eye conversation will be of great help.

My plan tonight is simple. I am going to do a load of laundry (clothes for the trip). I am going to eat dinner (my nephew Tom is going to attempt to cook a chicken pot pie, something he has never tried before). I just sent myself a note reminding me to mail the rent check (almost forgot about that!). Then I will wile away the night playing on the computer, watching some TV, visiting with my nephew, and just settling into vacation mode. I will pack in the morning (I travel so much for work I can pack in ten minutes for any trip, regardless of the length).

I pack lightly following the three by three principle. (Wear one set of clothes, pack two sets - if you mix and match the shirts and pants, and do laundry, you can go nine days without wearing the same combination twice.) The other packing principle I follow is what I call the Walgreen's principle. No matter where you go in the US, odds are very high their is a Walgrens. Don't bother packing toiletries. Stop at Walgrens early in the trip.) Because I think the little details of life are often very telling, let me share my packing list and you can see what it says about me.

I take two bags.

One is a blue nylon carry-all (with a gladstone design, though it is not actually a gladstone).

In the blue bag goes.

2 boxer shorts
2 pairs of socks
2 gray pocket t-shirts
2 button down shirts (one black, one blue)
2 pairs of pants (one dockers, one blue jeans)
1 pair of pajamas (cotton)
1 silk sleeping bag liner(1)
1 small "Eagle" packing cube with:
1 laptop charger
1 CAT 5 network cable
1 Electric razor and cord
1 mouse for laptop
1 phone charger
1 camera charger

One is a laptop backpack. Into this goes:
1 laptop computer
1 power cord with airplane adapter
1 pair of sunglasses
1 light beach towel(2)
1 washcloth(3)
1 hair brush
1 small travel soap
1 small travel deoderant
1 spare battery for iPhone
1 travel phone charger
1 camera (Sony DSC09)
1 CD/DVD Travel Case with 3 movies.
1 Squid(4)
1 Toothbrush and Toothpaste in plastic case(5)

And that will pretty much be it. Once I get past security at the airport I will add a bottle of water, some snacks, and an airport book.(6)

I have footnoted a few of the entries and I thought I would take the time to explain them in a little more detail. I travel extensively for work, have for years, and have learned some great lessons for travel.

(1) Silk sleeping bag liner. You can buy one of these at any camping store, depending on quality and size, they run from $20 to $100. They pack very tightly in a little case and do not weigh much. I tend to value my sleep and when traveling, sleep can be a tricky thing in strange beds and strange sheets and strange places. The silk sleeping bag liner means that regardless of the quality of the hotel (or friends house) you always sleep in a consistent quality "feeling". Believe me, it can make a big difference should you hit the motel where the sheets are Walmart irregulars. On longer trips I will actually take a pair of flat sheets from my home.

(2) Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Mine is solid blue and doubles as a flying blanket or improvised pillow.

(3) A good washcloth is invaluable for, uh, washing things. And wiping things up you spilled.

(4) A squid is a cool little outlet splitter. They come in all sizes, mine splits one to three. If you need to charge something while in an airport and the outlets are full, you can split it and share with other people at the same time. Also holds true for wherever you end up staying, be it motel or a friends house.

(5) I have had the experience of squishing my toothpaste inside the bag. Ewwwwwww. So, I have this little target crush proof case that holds toothpaste and toothbrush together.

(6) The airport book! Years ago I started the tradition with myself. When I fly, I get a new book at the airport gift store. There is one rule. I have to buy a new author, someone I have never read before. Then, when I finish reading the book (often on the same trip), I leave the book in the airport on a bench or seat, having written a note inside giving it as a gift, with my email address. Over the years, I have gotten some great notes from people who picked up the book.

The only other thing I often note when I travel is always layer (sweater and light jacket), so you can warm up or cool down when you are in the airplane or airport. I am going to start out in San Jose (60's), travel through Salt Lake City, and end up in Rapid City (20's). If I dressed warm for the arrival city, I would cook before I got there. If I dressed cool to leave, I would freeze enroute.

As you can see, my brain is already deeply in vacation! I am already on my way! At least in my imagination.

Monday, November 17, 2008

About The Pictures Below

The weather in San Francisco was very good and the sun was bright, which made it a nearly perfect day for an amateur photographer. From top to bottom...

Turtle was very large bronze fountain, very detailed and life like, though a little too large for any use I might have for it. I loved the detail. (If you click on any picture you can see a larger version of it and see some of the detail.)

Three Pieces of Dim Sum - clockwise from top - a potsticker, a spicy pork dumpling, and shrimp on green pepper.

The Lion of November was another bronze foundation, once again, I love the detail. The sun was very cooperative.

The Frog Prince - detail of yet another bronze fountain.

Rod Waiting - my beloved HiTech V-Lights on a hardware floor. I was leaning against the wall waiting for my coffee at a Starbuck on Geary.

Pacific Sun - North Beach, San Francisco.

Iconic SF - the Transamerica tower from Chinatown.

Guardian - one of the Temple Lions at the gateway to Chinatown.

Ghosts of Chinatown - murals on a fire escape, central Chinatown.

Edifice - the sun on an anonymous highrise. I stopped at wondered at the web of thousands of lives that must spin around it.

Chain - detail of chain in parking lot fence.

Bronze Children - another statue on the street in Chinatown.

Beautiful Machine - detail of a Harley parked on the street in Chinatown, simply a beautiful machine.

Hope you enjoy them.

Chinatown Pictures - Sunday November 16th













Believe in Life

"Nothing else matters much - not wealth, nor learning, nor even health
- without this gift: the spiritual capacity to keep zest in living.
This is the creed of creeds, the final deposit and distillation of all
important faiths: that you should be able to believe in life." Harry
Emerson Fosdick

Sent from my iPhone

And Today

I tossed and turned a bit before I fell asleep last night. My monkey
mind had gotten a hold on something that had nothing to do with
anything and would not let it go.

It kept poking at it until I finally dropped off to sleep around
midnight. I did seem to sleep well through the night and woke about
6:30 a.m.. I am not sure if I dreamt, I have the sensation of having
done so, but no specific memories to back that up.

I am lingering in bed for a few minutes just to deliberately set the
pace of the day. Since I am in my last three days before vacation
starts I will be trying to not rush at it. Move steadily and
deliberately to the threshold and then step across.

Today's focus at work will be to line up anything that will need to be
handed off to someone else while I am gone. After I finish the working
day I will come home, have a quiet and simple dinner, and then spend
the evening idly cleaning and straightening. I like to come home from
vacation to the neat and tidy.

Now, I have idled enough to slow the pace of the day down some, so I
am going to run through the shower and get started. (Plus, I can smell
that great fragrance of morning coffee.)


Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Gate to Chinatown

The Four Seas Chinatown SF

A most excellent day in SF. Beautiful weather, good company, and dim
sum.

Simply Sunday Morning

I woke up this morning about six thirty AM or so. I had slept well during the night and I dreamed, but I only vaguely remember that the dream was about something mechanical. I don't recall any other details. I fired up my morning pot of coffee and opened the apartment up to let the morning breeze and morning sun it. It is another beautiful day here in San Jose.

I am heading up to Chinatown (San Francisco) in about an hour or so, maybe less. I am waiting for my friends Pierre and Helen to come up from south San Jose and then we will head for our favorite dim sum restaurant, the Four Seas. We'll enjoy lunch, wander Chinatown, and then maybe drift into some other part of San Francisco before winding our way homeward. It should be a great day.

I saw the new James Bond movie yesterday and I enjoyed it. So far Daniel Craig has been an excellent Bond. As a result of seeing the movie I have been listening to a CD I have that is all Bond theme songs - LOL - so that has been amusing me. My favorite is "For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton.

I have three working days before I go on vacation, so I am looking forward to that (the going on vacation part). This time next week I will be back in good old South Dakota. I will take one of my laptops with me, but internet connection is limited there. For me, going to South Dakota is very much like falling off the grid. I have AT&T for cell phone service and the Rosebud is All Tell, so I generally don't have cell service there. My folks have internet, but it is dial-up, so that is limited as well. I generally take a laptop for three reasons - to store and edit photos, to write, and to play the occassional game (I loaded the most recent copy of Hoyle's Casino on my PC).

When I am there I visit, I wander around, I read, I think, I write, I take pictures and I just generally slip into a very slow easy rhythm, which is often the whole purpose of going back to the ranch. Life is lived at a very different pace there. To be honest, it is too slow for me. I like urban living, I like the convenience of things, I like the diversity of things. Generally, after four or five days I start getting restless.

But, on the plus side, I do have some creative writing projects that have been hovering in the wings, waiting for me to get a chance to sit down and write, so I am looking forward to being able to spend some time doing that. Additionally, it is always good just to stop and reflect and the ranch lends itself to a relaxed reflection. I can already feel myself slipping into a more relaxed mode.

I had a long vacation in late July and early August, with my trip down to San Diego, and that was nice, but this feels far more relaxed. This is basically a purposeless vacation (yes, there are many things that I will do with old friends and family, but there is not a central organizing principle to it), so it will be a chance to just rest and relax.

Well, I feel like I rambled a bit this morning, but that is fine as well. Some days are meant for rambling. On that note, I will ramble up to San Francisco, then ramble to Chinatown, then the Four Seas, and then I will ramble through multiple plates of tasty dim sum.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Some Days

Some days are just good. I started mine with a dear friend of mine
telling me a funny story and that set the mood for a very good day
that is ending now. I am off to wander the Dreaming World.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, November 14, 2008

Summa Bonum

Friday has slipped to a close. I am going to celebrate that closure
with a nap. All in all the day was not bad. It was fairly quiet at
work. We are deploying a reporting module to one of our programs next
week, so the day was mostly spent in test and test review meetings. We
still have a ways to go, at least one more cycle of build and deploy,
so it will most likely carry into next week.

I went to lunch at the Grand Buffet (Indian) on Lawrence Expressway. I
had chicken Marsala, potato curry, bismati rice and cucumbers in
yogurt. Very tasty.

The afternoon was not so pleasant. We are entering our review season
and our company uses a distributed ranking system - and unfortunately
it often results in a forced ranking system. I run a small group of
overachievers so fitting them into the distribution and meeting my own
sense of fairness is always a struggle with my management and HR. I
spent the last two hours of the day in that discussion. We settled it
- I won some and I lost some. I didn't like it one bit, but it is done.

Performance appraisals and rankings are one of my key philosophical
differences with my company. It is a battle I fight every year.
Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose.

I console myself with the knowledge of two things. My units morale is
high and my analysts understand that sometimes I fight the dragon and
the dragon wins. The second is the classic summa bonum - the greater
good - sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and as long as you win
the right ones, the greater good is achieved. Doesn't mean I like it
and it doesn't mean I will stop fighting. It just is what it is.

Going to head out to the Chinese buffet shortly for dinner with Tom
and Tony. Seems to be a buffet kind of day now that I think about it.
Pick the best you can from the buffet.

Summa bonum.


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Erica Jong On Talent

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent
to the dark place it leads. -Erica Jong


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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two New Links

I added a pair of links to "The Places Rod Goes" on the right hand side (my link list).

One Minute Writer is a blog about, well, writing things in one minute. The person who runs it suggests a topic and people respond in comments or by back linking to their own blog.

American Memory is a project from the Library of Congress. Very cool - an excellent resource and a great place to explore.

Zombies!

Today I learned something...priceless. This is something that will change your life. It is a bit of knowledge that will astound your friends and confound your enemies! You can look at them with superior knowledge and ask: "So, do you know where the word Zombie comes from?". It comes from an african word "Nzambi" meaning - "Spirit of the Dead". Now, don't you feel all smug and superior? You are one of the few people...who know.

Here is a link to a great article about zombies by the always amusing and insightful Simon Pegg (Co-creator and star of Shaun of the Dead).

Simon Pegg On Zombies

Trust

Trust.

It is a pretty astounding thing. That we function at all in society is a result of a vast interlocking system of trust. We approach a green light at the intersection and we trust the people approaching the red-light are going to stop since it is "our turn". There are a million other daily examples.

I was reading up on negotiating techniques today (I negotiate a lot in my work, finding ways to move through the conflicting interests that are common in any large complex organization) when I came across an article by Seth Freeman, a teacher of negotiation and conflict management at New York and Columbia universities.

The article was primarily about the current credit crisis, but it laid out six steps toward building trust very concisely and I thought I would take a few minutes and share them with you all here, just in case you ever need them. The high level framework of establishing (and re-establishing) trust is universal.

1.) Who can serve as a credible bridge of trust? If two parties do not trust each other, is there a third party that both parties trust that is willing to serve as a bridge of trust? Picking a successful mediator to establish that bridge of trust is often tricky. This most effective mediator is someone who a.) has a general interest in resolving the issue but b.) does not have a vested interest in a specific outcome.

2.) How can we most effectively watch or test the two parties ability to perform? In any issue of trust it is important to remember something. Both parties think they are in the right. Both parties have a legimate reason to not trust the other. Any effective monitoring solution must monitor both parties - to the satisfaction of each party.

3.) What incentives and penalties can best encourage performance? The parties will want to construct a system that rewards trustworthy behavior and penalizes untrustworthy behavior. Be as explicit as possible with the events or milestones that will trigger both behavioral modification alternatives.

4.) Build in mild, moderate, and strong trust supports within the incentive/penalty process. A range of behaviors allows the parties involved to begin the intervention process early and mildly if it starts to go astray - and at the same time allows both parties to have options, enabling them to feel in control of the process, and reducing the coercive feel of it.

5.) Does the solution satisfy all parties key interests? It is important that the solution be both simple (easy to comply with, easy to monitor, easy to enforce) and comprehensive (covering all of the key points at dispute). The vast majority of negotiations break down because one or both parties have one or more key interests that are not satisfactorily addressed in the solution. It is often very tempting in any negotiation to set aside the really sticky break points and address them later. This is almost always a mistake. Be sure and include them in your roadmap to establishing trust.

6.) What if the worst case scenario happens? It is always best to think of that worst case scenario before it happens. When they happen, our emotions, our ego, our pride, our feelings, all get tangled up inside of them. Take the time in the process to determine what the worst case scenario is and discuss how it will be addressed when it occurs (not if - when). If you prepare for the worst case scenario you will find that everything short of it is much easier to handle.

(Seth Freeman is currently writing a book called "Promises: Making Commitments More Reliable in Business and Beyond".)

Lunch - Sushi Boat

Miso soup. California Rolls. Philadelphia Rolls. Tummy.

It Wasn't A House, But...

Last night I dreamt of the Empire State Building. I dreamt that I was in the lobby of the building waiting for the elevator to go up to the upper floors (specifically, in the dream, I was waiting to go to the 64th floor). Following on the heels of the dreams of houses, I found it an unusual dream, though there was no narrative flow or specific event in the dream and there was no strong sense associated. I was just waiting to take the elevator to the 64th floor of the Empire State Building.

Here is the official web site for the Empire State Building. I was browsing through it this morning wondering if there was something special about the 64th floor, but nothing leapt out at me. I have been in the Empire State Building, so memories of the building are definitely buried somewhere deep in my subconscious.

Empire State Building - Official Site

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cinnamon Altoids

Cinnamon Altoids. If you haven’t tried them yet I highly recommend them. Like all Altoids they pack quite a punch and I have become semi-addicted to them over the last month.

It is late in the evening here in California and I am sitting in the living room, writing this entry and watching Fringe on Fox. I have been enjoying the series and I hope it lasts for a while. I tend to enjoy those offbeat television shows like Fringe, and I was a huge fan of the X-Files.

I almost tipped over and went to sleep earlier tonight, but in the process of moving around and getting ready to go to bed I kind of woke up. LOL - that almost always amuses me when it happens - except - when you are at the end of a long day and you are tired and you crawl into the warmth of your bed - and your eyes pop open and you are wide awake. Fortunately that is not what happened to me tonight - tonight I just was not as tired as I thought I was.

I am definitely in the mental countdown to vacation - six working days to go! I always hesitate to call my trips to South Dakota in the winter as “vacation”. It is not like I am going there to take the waters or something. Visiting family is always great - but to me, a vacation is someplace nice, preferably in a nice hotel, with cable TV, internet, pay per view, a pool, a spa, a restaurant, a bar, room service and Euro trash. Visiting family is relaxing but it is most decidedly not a nice hotel.

I always have my fingers crossed at this time of year and hope that I am not going to fly into the teeth of an early winter storm, and I do mean teeth! Two years ago I flew back at Thanksgiving (I usually alternate between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the summer or spring visit tossed in every other year or so) and I flew into one of the worst blizzards in twenty years. That was quite an experience - being chewed by the teeth of that snow storm.

Tonight has been a very pleasant evening. I got home and had a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. The evening was cool and gray and it ached for comfort food. I chased it down with a bowl of chocolate ice cream. I settled in and watched some TV on DVR (I watched last nights Terminator and Heroes). I strummed my guitar for a while. I took a very nice phone call. I took a bath.

I popped online for a bit to read and write some email, popped into Spiritual Insights chat room on AOL to see how the evening was going (quiet), and then popped off to go bed. Seems like there was a lot of popping involved! All in all, I would have to call it a good day.

The Weave of Days

Sometimes days are laid side by side in stark contrast with each
other. Yesterday was chaos. Today was lingering over morning coffee, a
smooth commute, and an almost empty calender and a phone that has not
rung in three hours. I often think it is amazing how quickly life can
turn as it weaves through our days.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Night and Irish Films

It is a beautiful California night. I got home from work, cooked a light dinner (soup and sandwich), and then went out for a rambling, zig-zag, hour walk, threading in and out of neighborhoods. It was just cool enough to be crisp inside the velvet blackness of the night. The neon lights at the Maple Leaf plaza looks very cool as I walked past the Sushi Boat, the Final Score, Yaz, the Pho place and Ringer Hut. Classic California night.

The day was fairly chaotic at work this morning - I got into the office early, got on the phone, and then basically spent the next five hours glued to the telephone in a series of meetings and impromptu calls that stacked up one after another. By the time I slipped out to lunch it had been a full day. It quieted down in the afternoon and I managed to get quite a bit accomplished. With the end of the project that almost broke me, it feels nice to be slipping back into the normal rhythms. I still have a lot of work, I am constantly busy, but it is an achievable busy - I go home at the end of the day with the sense of having actual done something.

After my walk, as I settled in for the evening, I watched a pretty amusing movie that I had not seen before - “The Last of the High Kings” with Jared Leto in an Irish coming of age story. Sweet, poignant and funny, I would recommend it if you have not seen it. I went through a phase a few years back where I was hooked on either Irish movies or movies with an Irish theme. Let me see if I can list my top ten favorite Irish movies...

Positions One, Two and Three are a solid lock with the Barrytown Trilogy.

(1) The Commitments
(2) The Van
(3) The Snapper

Then, hats off to just a solid performance by Gabriel Byrne in:

(4) Into the West
Then, let me stack a couple others up:

(5) The Wind In The Barley
(6) Some Mothers Son
(7) The Playboys
(8) Michael Collins
(9) Millions
(10) The Last of the High Kings

And, three more classics:

(11) The Fighting Prince of Donegal
(12) Darby O'Gill and the Little People
(13) The Quiet Man


There are many, many others that are excellent. The Irish Film Board turns out some excellent work, some truly great independent (non-Hollywood) films.

I spoke with my mother on the telephone Sunday and she is doing much better. She is still feeling the after effects of the acute pancreatitis, but is mentally alert and very much herself. I will be heading back to South Dakota on the 20th for ten days of Thanksgiving vacation (returning to California on the 30th), so I am looking forward to the visit. One of the things I plan on doing while there is to sit down and have a heart to heart with my parents on the issues and challenges of aging - we have had several of those conversations over the years, but I think another one would be a good idea. I think it is important that the wishes of the individuals be expressed and understood while they are hale and hearty.

So, this week is going to fly by at work, as will the next, since I have seven working days left before I take off on vacation and it usually takes two or three days at least to get everything coordinated. Most likely I will take my personal laptop with my on vacation (either the Mac or the PC - yes, I have two laptops - three if I count my work laptop). Though the ranch is basically “off the grid” - dial up only, no AT&T cell phone coverage, I often take the laptop so I can process photos, write, and play games. When I am there is something pops up work related that I have to deal with, I usually drive into Winner, SD and get a hotel room, specifically for the internet connection. LOL - someday they will have broadband at the ranch - that day just isn’t there yet.

Tonight, for the rest of the night, after having a great telephone call with a dear friend, my plan is to read and relax and hopefully fall into a deep and restful sleep. I did dream last night but, given the chaos of the morning, the substance of those dreams has fallen away. Perhaps I will remember tonight’s dreams better.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fall

"Fall. My favorite time of year. There is something sincere about the
season of dying. These rotting leaves know no manner of lying. They
just are...alive then dead...only to return
again...stronger...revealing their true beautiful colors. And yet,
still loving that part of the tree that shed them. If you were to ask
them the autumn leaves would say that love has the power to transcend
all things." Eric J. Kraus, from the graphic short story "Maura".


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Dreams About Houses

"HOUSES : Houses in dreams generally symbolise individual people. Usually that person is yourself. It may symbolise some important issue maybe concerning your health, your work or relationships. The dream will show how you are adapting to the changing circumstances around you. Sometimes the dream maybe specifically about your approach to something. Some house dreams are about other people and their personalities so if the dream takes place in their house then it maybe about them."

As I looked on the web for the meaning of dreams about houses, I realized that I did not actually dream "of" a house or houses, but rather I dreamt "about" houses. Specifically they were dreams about people in relationship to houses. I found that an interesting thing I had not realized until a short while ago. It doesn't really shed any light on the dreams of course, but it is an observation.

Dreams of Houses

Last night I had three successive dreams of houses, which was highly
unusual. In the first, I dreamt that a friend of mine was moving into
a new house, with all the attending excitement - a bit of apprehension
about leaving the old house, but the thrill of the new.

In the second I was going to a meeting of some sort of housing
association or board. They were all older women dressed as you might
see in a movie about a rural Italian gathering. They were intimidating
looking, but they were quite friendly and in a good mood. They made me
feel very welcome and shared yellow sponge cake with white frosting,
served on nearly translucent bone china and small silver dessert forks.

In the third dream a familiar stranger had just entered a relatinship
and was moving in with their lover. The move was into a townhouse and
so was a step down for them. They were having misgivings - nervously
anticipating the relationship and wondering if they had made the right
decision at the same time.


Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Again Fog

I love the morning fog.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Another Sunset

Came out of Kazoo sushi on Winchester and Hamilton and discovered the
stormy weather had given us another great sunset. Clouds, with their
shapes and flows and contrasts give us such stunning sights as to take
your breath away.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Tuesday Afternoon Note

I have had a couple of busy weeks so I have not really had many opportunities to update my journal here. Hopefully, things are settling out a little and that will let me fall back into my normal rhythms. As I mentioned in an earlier entry my mother had a nice little health scare over the last two weeks.

My mother is 72 years old. She was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. She is Ogalala Lakota. She went to Holy Rosary in Pine Ridge and St. Francis Indian School in St. Francis (on the Rosebud). She graduated from Sinte Gleska in Rosebud and went on to a long career as a teacher at a variety of schools, finishing her career at Todd County Middle School in Mission, SD. She retired about seven years ago now. Her health has been mostly good, other than scattered incidents. She does have a chronic back ailment that has worsened in the last couple of years.

She appears to have had an acute case of pancreatitis, for which she is currently hospitalized. Last Tuesday she was taken to the emergency room at the IHS (Indian Health Services) hospital in Rosebud, and then after some discussion with her primary care physician transferred to Winner Regional in Winner, South Dakota, where is currently a patient. Since her hospitalization they have been running a battery of tests. The acute pancreatitis is the principle reason she was hospitalized, but she also experienced being badly disoriented - to the point where she has no memory of the first two or three days in the hospital.

Because she is on strong pain medication for her chronic back problem (oxycontin and oxycodone) the doctor suspects that the combined effects of the pain killers kept her from noticing the symptoms of the pancreatitis until it was acute. They have done CT and MRI scans and have ruled out a stroke, so the principle suspect right now in the disorientation is a medication interaction, though acute pancreatitis can also cause neurological symptoms such as disorientation, fatigue, and lethargy.

Mostly I had been talking with my sister (who lives close to my parents) and my step-dad. I've also had other conversations with other siblings and relatives, usually just of the concerned relative or friend nature. Mostly we've been in a wait and see mode. I spoke with my mother over the weekend and she was definitely disoriented.

However, on the good side, she called me last night with her new cell phone. For years she and my step dad have shared a cell phone (since they are usually together anyway when they leave the ranch), but she sent him out to buy her a cell phone since she is laid up in the hospital. She was lucid, alert, and very much in the moment.

We talked for a while about her illness and about the immediate concerns - her doctor is keeping her in the hospital in a "swing bed", a term I had never heard before. It means "When a patient reaches the point in recovery where acute care hospitalization is no longer necessary, but they are physically unable to go home".

My mother started physical therapy the other day as she has an unusual symptom (pain in the balls of her feet) and is having difficulty getting around. Because she lives with my step-dad the concern is that unless she is mobile, if she were to fall, he would not be able to lift her (due to his own health care issues). Depending on how that all works out we will continue the ongoing discussions about potential impacts and long term care.

I will be flying back to South Dakota for Thanksgiving anyway (leaving on the 20th and coming back to California on the 30th), so I am looking forward to some good discussions with my folks and my sister while I am there, just running over the various options and preferences. My folks live on the ranch, about eight miles off the nearest paved road, in rural South Dakota. They have talked about moving into one of the nearby towns a couple of times over the last few years, so it may be time to renew that discussion. We have plenty of options. They have good insurance, as well as medicare and IHS (being enrolled tribal members residing on the reservation).

IHS is iffy when it comes to health care, but it is health care, and what IHS cannot resolve can be covered with their own insurance and medicare/medicaid. Additionally, financial concerns are, thankfully, not a major part of the picture. If the best decision is for in-home care of some sort, then that is the route we'll take. My hope of course is that it is just an incident related to the acute pancreatitis, but I am also aware of comfortable with the course of aging. Naturally, I hope my mother pulls through cleanly and is around for another 20 years to periodically slap me on the head and keep me in line. Time will tell, like it always does.

Other than that, things have actually been going well for me. We are sliding into winter here in this part of California and I really enjoyed that storm we went through. At the start of the California winter I often say "I love the rain", LOL, but I know from experience that if you ask me that question come spring, my primary thought is "I hope this dang rain stops".

On the creative side, I have been working on a short story that turned into an interlocking set of short stories. It swirled around inside of me for a while and in the last day or two the lead character found her voice to tell her tale, so I am looking forward to finishing writing that up and I will post it here for you all to read. I have been thinking about opening another journal on blogspot in order to highlight just my creative writing - my poetry and my short fiction. I have been interspersing it here in this journal, but I was looking through it the other day and there is more than enough to put into its own journal (and I happened to discover another journal or two in blogspot that had taken exactly that approach). It will allow more of a showcase approach to my creative writing.

My thanks to everyone who sent kind words and best wishes and expressed concern about my mother - you have my grateful appreciation as your always do my friends.