Monday, June 30, 2008

Alone In Her Beauty

Du Fu

Who is lovelier than she?
Yet she lives alone in an empty valley.
She tells me she came from a good family
Which is humbled now into the dust.
...When trouble arose in the Kuan district,
Her brothers and close kin were killed.
What use were their high offices,
Not even shielding their own lives? --
The world has but scorn for adversity;
Hope goes out, like the light of a candle.
Her husband, with a vagrant heart,
Seeks a new face like a new piece of jade;
And when morning-glories furl at night
And mandarin-ducks lie side by side,
All he can see is the smile of the new love,
While the old love weeps unheard.
The brook was pure in its mountain source,
But away from the mountain its waters darken.
...Waiting for her maid to come from selling pearls
For straw to cover the roof again,
She picks a few flowers, no longer for her hair,
And lets pine-needles fall through her fingers,
And, forgetting her thin silk sleeve and the cold,
She leans in the sunset by a tall bamboo.

Tang Shi San Bai Shou
300 Tang Poems


100 years ago today an asteroid exploded over the Tungaska region of Siberia, killing all life and flattening trees over 2000 square kilometers. That is my fun thought for the day! Apophis, an asteroid the size of Yankee stadium, is coming our way. It will miss us, most likely, by thousands of miles. Help fund NEO research through The Planetary Society. And get cool emails that the end is near. Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Shawn Colvin - Polaroids

Idle Thoughts & Incidental Things

I had a rare dream last night. I had a classic anxiety dream (being pursued).  I have not had one of them in a long time, so long that I cannot remember the last one.  Most likely it is a result of the downspin from the project stress.  I've been bouncing all around.

I dreamt I was driving down a road and three men tried to stop my car.  I managed to get past them, but somehow the car was damaged and so I pulled into an industrial parking lot and they were pursuing me through the empty buildings in a game of cat and mouse.  In the dream, they never actually caught me.  I reached a place in one of the buildings where I was trapped, and so I picked a spot to turn and fight, and it was at that point where I woke up.  In form it was a classic anxiety dream.

The day has been quiet and enjoyable. I contemplated doing various things throughout the morning, but never did. I have spent the day drinking iced tea, listening to CD's, and wandering about the internet or watching various programs on TV. I watched a couple of episodes of Ghost Hunters and Myth Busters On-Demand.  I went out on the balcony and read for a while.  I chatted with the neighbors on their balcony.  I wrote some email and some real mail. 

I have been trying to write another short story and I have a couple of ideas, but they are still kind of twisting about and unformed.  I did write a short story that didn't go anywhere, so I saved that off to a file and will take a look at it later and see if there is something there worth following up on.

I am still riding along in my Shawn Colvin mood - right now I am listening to "Get Out Of This House". 

"I spent seventeen years trying to save my soul
I spent twenty-three more down in this hole..."

If you have never heard Shawn Colvin I would recommend the Polaroids album, it is a good sampling of her work - some of her original stuff and some covers of other artists songs.

About midway through the day I had a phrase pop into my head.  The phrase was Five Hundred Suns.  I am not sure what it is, or what it means, right now it is just a phrase, but my sense is that it is something I will write about in some more detail - perhaps it is the germ around which an essay or a story will grow.

So, like this entry, the day has been mostly desultory, which is nice.   A day of idle thoughts and incidentalthings.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Sky On Fire

The fires to the north of us have the air filled with particulates. The sky, even now, has a brownish tint.  However, the silver lining has been the sunrises and sunsets.  This was the sunset last night.  Simply stunning.  A red sky as far as the eye could see.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ella Baila (She Dances) - Flash Fiction

Ella Baila

(She Dances)


She stands, simply, into the rising sun. For a moment she gleams golden, burnished by the light cascading through a gap in the curtains.  She turns and takes her robe from its drape over the straight backed chair near the foot of the bed. Her arms spread, stretching wide, first one and then the other as the robe encases her. She belts it loosely about the waist. She crosses the dark wooden floor with a whispered step, light and swift, a dancer at play. 


She drags the curtains open widely, unleashing the dawn, so that it floods the room.  The torrent of light wakes him.  He blinks sleepily and rolls onto one elbow to watch her.  From the porcelain pitcher on the night stand she pours full a glass of water, the cut of the crystal glistening, a subtle prism.  She rises to her toes so that she can water the lush green plants that dwell in the window planter, just beyond the sill. 


He watches the muscles in her calves tighten as she stretches upward.  His eyes trace the line of her thighs to where they vanish beneath the hem of the robe, and then upward, to where the silk cascades over the rounds and lines of her form. 


All changes are subtle changes in shades of white, from flesh to silk to flesh again.  The only color lies in the orange blossoms that grace the robe, and in her hair, in the single loose braid she binds lightly when she sleeps.  As she waters the plants she whispers her secrets to them, her lips darting from smile to frown to smile again, the curl in the corner of her mouth as expressive as a symphony.


Small droplets rise on the crystal and spill over her fingers.  She trails two along the outside of the glass, and then lifts them to her mouth.  She caresses her lips and her small tongue flicks out to catch a droplet, and then she resumes her whispered conversation with the lush, the green, and the growing, parsing the water to the plants as a generous mother parses food to her children, ensuring each receives what it needs and perhaps, just perhaps, a splash more for the pleasure of it. She tends the plants carefully, with an abundance of love, with sure fingers, touching, moving, pressing, pulling, separating, and setting each in its proper place.


She sways from side to side, her feet tracing a forgotten language on the floor, an old step, something Spanish, not quite a salsa, smaller, tighter, more controlled.  Her lips move as she sings to the plants, her voice barely a whispered rhythm. The silk of the robe shifts and shimmers as her body moves beneath it, as she flexes and turns with subtle movements, the sun rippling on a gently flowing river.  Her morning adoration complete, she rises the glass to her lips and drinks the last of the water, sharing with her plants the clarity of life.


Her robe has spilled open, slightly, an inch or two, through still bound at the waist by the belt. A strip of skin, white beneath white, stretches from her throat to just below the tiny curve of her navel. She sees that he is awake and she smiles at him, laying there, half beneath the white sheets, golden in the sun.  She crosses the room to the edge of the bed and sits, half turned toward him.  She takes his hand in hers and gently slips it inside of the robe, so the palm is pressed against her abdomen.  He feels her warmth, the softness of her skin, the strength of her core.  She reaches up and traces the curve of his cheek, the line of his jaw, and he feels the cool wetness of the water from her fingertips. Looking down at him, she smiles, so softly, and then suddenly she spins away, a dancer once again, and sweeps from the room.  For the first time in the morning she raises her voice above a whisper and he hears the song she is singing.


"Cuando yo me muera no quiero que lloren

hagan una fiesta con cuetes y flores

que se sirvan vino y me traigan los morales

para que me toquen mis propias canciones."


He does not weep, though his heart is broken. The empty crystal glass on the window sill shatters the sun into a thousand brilliant shards.


*When I die, do not cry,

Celebrate with fireworks and flowers,

Drink wine and tell my stories,

Touch me with my songs."

Orange Blossoms - Lope de Vega

"I went out to a masked ball and stopped under her window; her morning dawned and I saw the sun in her eyes. Oranges, from above, she threw me as a favour: since she knows nothing of love, she thinks everything's a game. Well, I swear if I throw them back they'll turn to orange blossom." Lope de Vega, El bobo del collegia. Sent via BlackBerry by AT

Orange Blossom Dream

I had a particularly vivid dream last night of a woman who was partially clothed in either a white hawaiian shirt (oversized) with orange blossom patterns, or a white short kimono with orange blossom patterns. I could not clearly see who it was (if it was a really person or not). She had milk white skin so the effect was white on white with the flowering orange blossoms providing the only splash of color.

The dream bordered on what I would call the simply erotic. It was not an erotic dream per se, but the simplicity of the imagery combined to leave me with the lingering feeling of the cleanly erotic. I wanted to feel the contrast of cool silk and warm skin under my hand.

It is the second dream I have had in the last couple of days where a white silk kimono figured prominently in the imagery, first with golden letters and than with orange blossoms. Interestingly to me is the juxtaposition of symbolic meaning. In Japanese the color white is the color of mourning, while the orange blossom is a symbol of the strength of love.

So, I wonder if the dream means that the strength of love is in contrast or comparison to death (lose, mourning)? Or did it symbolize the death of love? Either way, it was an interesting dream that work me, very vividly, at around 1:00 AM Pacific time Friday morning. I had a strong sense coming out of the dream that it wasn't my dream, that instead I had witnessed someone elses dream.

Waking from the dream was followed by a raw cascade of emotions that did not seem to be attached to anything specific - a strong sensual awareness and again that sense of the cleanly erotic. Sent via BlackBerry by AT

California Fires

I live in the very bottom, lower left hand side (at the bottom of the San Franciso Bay). Our mornings and evenings sun is an orange orb and the day is...brown. Sent via BlackBerry by AT

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Buddha's Words On Kindness - Metta Sutta

This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness, and who knows the path of peace: Let them be able and upright, straightforward and gentle in speech, humble and not conceited, contented and easily satisfied, unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways, peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful, not proud and demanding in nature. Let them not do the slightest thing that the wise would later reprove. -Buddha, Metta Sutta Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Orange Sky

The sun has broken the horizon line. The sky is brown from the California fires so the sun is an orange ball arcing into the sky. Terrible beauty. The Indigo Girls are singing in my car as I linger over the commute cup of coffee. This is the lyric that sticks in my brain this morning. "If I were leaving, I don't know what I'd do. The more I go the less I know, and the fires still burn on my return...". Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

An Ordinary Thursday Morning

I woke up this morning about 4:30 AM after a solid six and a half hours of sleep.  That is, officially, my normal sleep rhythm.  It is also a place I haven't visited in quite a while.  That was one way that I could tell the work stress was starting to release, as I started to return to my normal sleeping pattern.  In my normal sleeping pattern I tend to go to sleep about 10:00 PM and wake about 4:30 AM.  It varies a little in each direction, depending on what is going on over all, but that is the general pattern.

I love the hour or so before sunrise.  It is the perfect time for a morning walk through a sleeping city neighborhood.  It is a great time for a leisurely breakfast, for morning reading and writing. It is a very quiet time, which I can fill however I choose to fill it.  This morning, it was with a big bowl of oatmeal, a cup of coffee, some toast, and padding around the house in my jeans as I touched up my shirt with an iron.

I am sitting in the living room as I write this, with the sliding glass doors to the balcony wide open. The sky is just starting its turn from the black of night to the varied blues of the morning.  It is crisp outside, cool, but not cold.

I had a cascade of dream fragments last night, with no central narrative. I recall only something about reading a piece of paper with gold letters, and a woman in a white kimono style robe with gold lettering on the robe. There was a crispness in the dream, a sense of well defined edges, and the scent of cleanliness - soap, fresh laundered clothes.  I suspect the root of the dream was mostly ordinary - I did laundry last night (and so was tucked away in fresh linens), and though not directly drawn from the book I am reading, the images of paper and the woman in the white robe were consistent with some of the visuals drawn by J.R. Ward.

I've logged onto my work email account and I can see there was minimal traffic overnight.  A small technical problem that we have some available time to overcome, a followup to an ongoing item, and other than that, the incidental email that flows through a company network pretty much around the clock.  Official communications, status reports, simple questions, scheduled job notifications. It is a welcome relief from the heat of the project when I would log on in the morning and find myself with a hundred plus email stacked up, each screaming with the urgent voices of flying monkeys.

Though I walked back into a bit of a buzz saw on Tuesday, after my four days off, it is a simple buzz saw, something that can be overcome with time and resources.  It slammed my stress meter pretty high, but it was a fast peak of stress, sort of like bumping something you had injured - I reacted because it was sensitive, not because the bump was that hard.

Well, I am reaching the bottom of the cup of coffee, the oatmeal is all gone, the birds are singing and the sky is a pale shade of blue. I am going to pop over to my favorite chat room, say good morning to folks, and then head on in to the office.  I hope you have a great day.  It was nice spending a little time this morning with you, whoever you are.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

You Do Not Need Many Things - Ryokan

My house is buried in the deepest recess of the forest. Every year, ivy vines grow longer than the year before. Undisturbed by the affairs of the world I live at ease, Woodsmen's singing rarely reaching me through the trees. While the sun stays in the sky, I mend my torn clothes and facing the moon, I read holy texts aloud to myself. Let me drop a word of advice for believers of my faith. To enjoy life's immensity, you do not need many things. -Taigu Ryokan (1758-1831) Sent via BlackBerry by AT

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Goblin Strawberries

We were sitting at dinner in a small restaurant, having just had an excellent Waldorf salad and an antipasta plate, a nearly perfect dinner for a cool California evening, watching the sun set, watching people walk by on the street outside, strolling in the fading light of evening. Then, suddenly, without preamble, we were in the land of the Twilight Gods.

The waiter brought us the dessert menu.  I opted for a slice of fudge cake ala mode, topped with shaved almonds.  She ordered the goblin strawberries. 

Goblin Strawberries?

A dozen images flashed through my mind in quick succession.  The principle one, the one I enjoyed the most, was straight out of Lord of the Rings.  I imagined Goblins harvesting massive and juicy strawberries in a secret valley, where sycamore trees draped in spanish moss sheltered the hidden harvest and the air was rich with the scent of deep dark loam.

Goblin strawberries are best served chilled, on a bed of finely shaved ice, drizzled with fresh cream and sprinkled with mint.  Being the size of apples, four or five make up a hearty desert.  They are eaten with an antique silver dessert fork, scrimmed with an alphabet lost to the mists of time.

The dessert of course was actually a goblet of strawberries.  Whether she said Goblin strawberries or whether I heard Goblin strawberries doesn't really matter.  What mattered is, for a brief moment, on a street in San Jose, as we lingered over dessert, the Twilight Gods smiled.

The Strange Green Monkey

Last night I dreamt a strange parrot green monkey had climbed into my bedroom through the open window and was doing back-flips on the small desk.  I think I will chalk that one up as just a weird dream.  Off to work. 

Monday, June 23, 2008

Four of Four

Four of Four

I just noticed that I have been on a Shawn Colvin kick this weekend.  I picked up Polaroids (a greatest hits compilation) late last week and have been listening to it intermittently ever since.  I've sitting a home right now, waiting for my nephew to iron his shirt, planning to go out and get something for lunch and then do a little wandering.

It is the fourth day of my four days off and it has been a very much needed and relaxing mini-vacation.  Last nights waking in the small hours was actually a good thing - that is a normal habit of mine, to wake in the middle of the night fairly frequently.  It tends to be a creative and productive time for me, for whatever reason.  That I had not done it in a long time was an indicator of being consumed by the other things in life.

Lunch is going to be at the Cheesecake Factory today and I am already savoring thier chicken and biscuits in my mind, followed by one of the many excellent cheesecakes.  Then, being a guy, I am going to stop at the mall and go to the Sharper Image retail outlet that is having a going out of business sale, and consider  I do enjoy my gadgets.

The Small Hours

We wake up sometimes into the small hours of the night. We are past midnight, but far enough from the dawn that we are certain of only the night.

Why we wake may vary. It may be a sound. It may be a thought. It may be an image carried from a dream. It may be a memory or the echo of a memory. It may be a question. It may be that, lying there in the darkness, alone, we have an answer. It may be a question without an answer. It may be the answer with a question.

There are many things it may be. The only certainty is that we are awake in the small hours of the night.

When it happens to me, like it is happening tonight, I often reach for the constant companionship of my journal. I will take the time to write about whatever is passing through my mind, or I will jot down those unassociated and fragmentary thought streams that are flowing.

That done I will turn to the company of a good book, be it a novel or collection of short stories or poetry. Sometimes I will need to dig deeper and turn to something sacred. Sometimes I will meditate, or kneel in prayer, or pace like some caged beast. Sometimes I will sit in the darkness of the living room and listen to far off voices on the radio. Sometimes I will sit outside and listen to the night sounds of the city of San Jose.

Tonight, there is no particular ghost that haunts me. Laying here tonight, wide awake, I have conjured a few ghosts. But they are the summoned ghosts of reflection. They are not the haunting spirits of the things I have done and failed to do. They have come to sit with me and ponder, to lull me back to sleep with the quiet conversation of memory, not spin me deeper into the blackness.

It is three AM Pacific time on the morning of Monday, June 23rd. I walk around the worlds time zones and think of those I know and love in distant lands. Some are, like me, in the small hours of the night. Some are watching that night give way to dawn. Some are entering the early hours of afternoon, some slipping into evening.

I wonder at what each of them was doing at this eternal hour that stretches forever through the small hours of the night. I smile at the thought somewhere in that eternal hour each person found a slice of hope to go with their coffee. If not, I will be happy to share mine. Sent via BlackBerry by AT

Sunday, June 22, 2008

California Blue

Today the heat wave broke here in San Jose, so it has been a very pleasant day.  I ultimately decided not to run over to the coast, though I still may pop over for lunch tomorrow, maybe down to the Crows Nest at Santa Cruz Harbor.  I was just enjoying relaxing at home a little too much.  Once again, I spend the day reading, writing, listening to music and relaxing.  I am still carrying some of the work stress in my stomach, but it will take a while for it to fall off.  I took this picture today, laying on my back, at the pool in my apartment complex.

It is just clouds on just the sky, but I love the shade of blue, the richness of it.  Hope you enjoy.

A Slice of Hope

Excerpt from "Money For Nothing", starring John Cusack.  Cusask's character, Joey Coyle is in a hotel room, waiting for a flight, talking to room service.  The audience can only hear one side of the conversation.

"What do you suppose it's going to take to get the coffee that I ordered?"

"You know what I'm saying? Because, uh, we have to catch a plane and (Jet Engine Approaching) can't go to sleep."

"What do I want with my coffee?"

"Uh, a slice of hope okay?"

(Jet Engine Departing)

"Just bring the coffee."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Night Call

A Night Call

It was nearly 2:00 AM.  I was sitting in the bedroom at my small desk, reading G. Willow Wilson's Cairo in the summer heat, windows open, the soft sounds of the street outside filling the room.  The phone rang.  I glanced at the caller ID.  Private number.  I picked the phone up and said hello.

It was a womans voice, a stranger, soft tones, uncertain accent. She started to talk. I should have stopped her.  I started to several times and stopped each time.  In her quiet voice in the dark of the night she told me a story. A story of want and need. A story of distance and closeness.  A story of the twilight gods, whom I have loved and served for many years.  She whispered the urgent parts, her voice falling so that I strained to hear each word.  Her voice rose with her passion. Her voice fell with her pain. She unspun a tapestry, pulled each thread apart, sorted them by color, and wove them together again into brilliantly beautiful shards of cloth.  The purity of primary colors.  Black.  Green. White. Blue.

I leaned back in my chair and listened to the confidence in her voice, I was swallowed in the uncertainty, I was stilled by the depth and I was moved by the currents. I thought of others. I thought of my beloved Crow, who taught me the twin lessons of love and hate.  I thought of Jaybird, whose was my raucous companion. I thought of my morning dove, whose embrace I still think of, so pure a joining of souls was it. I thought of Magpie, who battered me and badgered me and kept me moving when I wanted to just quit. I thought of the Eagle and the Hawk and the Sparrow and the Owl. I thought of all the others who touched me, whose  names I will not invoke.

She, the stranger, had this wonderful lilt in her voice, it would rise up unbidden, take a dark tale and twist it into the light, take a tangled skein and straighten it, draw it cleanly and purely, and then plunge in back into blackness. She left me breathless and empty with her tale and with the untold tales that wove around the narrative of it. She was in that moment the purity of the muse.  She was the eternity of the tale.  She weaved patterns with her bright cloth, ending with blue.  Then her voice fell into silence.  I could hear her breathing.

Say nothing.  She said.  Say nothing.  I knew you were a stranger the moment you answered, but, you listened beautifully.  Next time I call, I will want one of your stories.  A tale to be told to a stranger.  Goodnight.  I love you.

Passing One Thousand

Passing One Thousand

It happened when I wasn't looking.  My journal passed 1,000 reads since I started in six months ago.  I wanted to take a couple of minutes and just comment on it.

I have enjoyed writing the online journal.  I wasn't sure that I would be able to consistently follow through. I half way expected that I would lose interest at some point and taper off and stop.  It would then become one of those orphan journals that hang around out there in cyberspace.  I stumble across them sometimes, read them, and wonder what became of the person writing them.

I wanted to take a moment and thank everyone who has read this, and everyone who has taken the time to comment on it, or to send me a note and let me know that they liked (or didn't like) something.

On a personal level, the journal was born in a stressful time, and it provided a great relief from the stress.  It encouraged me to stop, to observe, to take notes (either physically or mentally), and then to write.  It helped me nurture that love of writing that has been a part of me, sometimes set aside, for so many years. I want to thank those of you who shared in it.

That is all.  LOL - simple and straightforward.  I am taking a moment and...passing one thousand.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Meteor

In was August in South Dakota, burning hot, the day had given ground to the night but the heat was surrendering only grudgingly.  The dispatcher sent us to a report of a fight in progress in a small town called Soldier Creek.  We rolled into town from the south at a little after 1:00 AM and discovered most of the population out in the street, watching the show.  Two brothers, under the influence of Jack Daniels, heat, and rampant testosterone were locked in a wrestling match in the middle of the street.

We moved up on them slowly, night sticks in hand, calling out to them, trying to get them to stop and surrender peacefully.  One did.  The other jumped up and made a run for it.  Val cuffed the first while I chased the second.  It was a short chase, he ran about fifty feet, stumbled and fell, then realized he'd trapped himself in the corner of two tall wooden fences.  I stopped about thirty feet back, shook out my mace can, and waited for Val.

While I waited, the entire town gathered to watch the show.  I mean the entire town - everyone from the little babes in arms up through the old grandmothers and grandfathers.  Nothing like an audience to fill a man already full of liquid courage with the desire to perform for the crowd.  Val came up alongside of me and we talked briefly with bowed heads and then moved out to come at him from two directions.  The plan was simple, as we neared, sooner of later he would have to turn and face one of us.  Whoever he faced would mace him, and the one behind him would night stick him on the knees and we would take him down, hopefully without anyone getting too seriously hurt.

We closed in slowly, like we were approaching a skittish horse.  Half of the crowd was cheering him on to fight us, then other half was telling him to surrender.  With the heat, it had the potential to spill over into other fights.  When I was close enough I started talking to him in a low voice, trying to talk him down, trying to talk him out of fighting, but I could see by the wild look in his eyes that he was going to go down swinging.  I could see the physics lining up, the tensing, the coiling, and I was half a breath away from macing him when suddenly there was this loud crackling noise and a brilliant red light, bright enough to cast shadows, swept through the night sky to the south.

Everyone stopped.

Everyone turned to lookat the meteor as it sizzled through the sky.  It took a full minute at least to chart its fiery course against the velvet darkness of the sky.  As it faded, Val took him by one elbow, I took him by the other, and we eased him against the fence and handcuffed him without a fight.  All told, I think the sight was so awesome, so awe inspiring, so humbling that whatever fight had be raging inside of him just simply...left.  We walked him up to the car, slipped him into the back seat with his brother, and belted him in.  They both began talking excitedly about the meteor. The whole town, assembled there in the street, minutes away from being a mob, was laughing and joking and pointing and describing.  Hands were moving through the air describing the arc of the meteor. Voices were raised in imitations of the crackling sound.  Children were running up and down the street jumping up and down.  The elders were clustered together remembering other meteors.

Val and I slipped back into the car, backed up the street, turned around and drove back toward Rosebud.  The brothers in the back seat were asking us questions about meteors, even as the headed off for a night in jail.  I was glad at least one call had ended without the realization of the promise of violence.

One of Four

One of Four

I've made it through the first of my four days off.  It 100+ degrees out, which is very hot for here. Hell, 100+ is very hot for anywhere!  So, I kept it on a low key today.  Mostly just lounged around the house, relaxed, listened to music, watched some movies, read some.  Was in and out of the swimming pool a couple of times.  Chatted with friends.  Nothing real exciting.  Popped down to the local bar for a was crowdeed, so it was one beer and home.  Hot drunks are just not as entertaining as they used to be. 

I've got several ideas for writing spinning around inside of my imagination right now and I deliberately did not write them down today.  I am letting them twist and turn and build up some creative energies before I turn them loose.  The weatherman is predicting more heat tomorrow, so it may be a repeat of today, with a few variations on the theme.

I was contemplating going over to the coast for the weekend and since I still have three days left, it remains a distinct possibility, but unless the heat breaks, it kind of defeats the purpose.  A nice relaxing day, in my mind, doesn't involve scorching.  It involves cool places and cool drinks and cool thoughts and cool people.

Even tonight my thoughts are mostly just idling along.  I think I will curl up with a book and read myself into the small hours of the night and then lay awake in the darkness and stare at the ceiling and...think...remember...imagine...dream.

Oh wait.  There was something real exciting.  I might tell you about it tomorrow.  It involved a phone call.

Two Photographers

For those of you who like photography here are a pair of links to two very good professional photographers.

Arnold Newman (thanks Book)

Yann Arthus-Bertrand (thanks TBen)

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.  One of the things I love about the virtual world is when our friends toss us those cool little tidbits we might never have stumbled on ourselves.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bolts Of Silk Link

"Poetry With Something To Say"


The Long Slow Weekend

At about 2:00 PM today I logged off my computer at work, chatted with my analysts, and headed out of the office.  I have a four day weekend.  The first serious time off I have had since Christmas. The first time off I have had in at least eight months where I do not have specific thoughts of work running through my brain. General thoughts are always there, that comes with the turf, but general thoughts can be set aside for specific thoughts - specific and immediate thoughts.

I came home and treated myself to a rootbeer float and a candy bar.  (I rarely eat candy bars.)  It was a Three Musketeers for those who are interested.  I don't have anything planned for four days.  I don't have anything I have to do for four days.  I will plan and do things as the mood strikes me, in the moment. I have some general vague ideas of things I might want to do.  Like, for instance, tonight dinner and thoughts of dinner are floating around in my brain.

I logged on and sent some email and chatted with some friends, both in Spiritual Insights and in IM.  Then, I slipped on the swim trunks and took a leisurely turn through the pool.  It is ninety plus out there right now but the pool was cool and refreshing.  Then, a spin through the shower, and back online to make this journal entry.  I have some thoughts spinning around that I will write about over the weekend, but right now, I do not really feel like tackling anything more substantial than this, a simple entry.

One of the things I will be writing is a thank you note.  To Everyone.  I am sure that many of you who are my friends simply do not understand how grateful I am for your virtual company over the last couple of months.  At times, this world has been a sort of virtual refuge from the corporate America, or, as I have taken to referring to it lately, The Land of the Flying Monkeys.

So, I am going to relax this weekend. A couple of day trips. Some time on the guitar. Some time reading. Some time writing.  Some time making phone calls.  Some time meditating. Some time watching movies.  Some time eating.  Some time people watching. And just...some time.  I am sure looking forward to it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Crashing Back To Earth

I got off work at the relatively sane hour of about 4:30 PM and had a relatively smooth commute home. It was in the low nineties, so the first task was a long swim in the pool, which I had to myself. Dinner was a bowl of tomato soup and a sandwich, chased with a tall glass of iced tea. After dinner I watched the local news, then sprawled out on the couch and alternated between napping and reading (J.R. Ward "Dark Lover", an urban fantasy/paranormal romance). About 8:00 I considered getting up and doing something, but ultimately decided to go bed and continue the simple slow cycle of napping and reading. That was pretty much my night. It was extremely enjoyable. I was "there". I wasn't plotting and planning the next work day, or evaluating the day that had gone before. It is not that work, that great stressor of the first half of 2008, has gone away - but rather the manic intensity of it has subsided with the successful go live of the project on Monday. I will be crashing back to earth, in a good way, over the next couple of weeks as my body and psyche release all of the stress I've been carrying and burying. Normalcy approachs. Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Monday, June 16, 2008

As Night Falls...A Soundscape

I am sitting in the living room, lit by a single light bulb, listening to the sounds of night in the courtyard outside. There are a few air conditioners humming on other balconies. There is the ticking of the clock on the kitchen wall. There is the sound of a car driving by. There is a sliding door opening. There is a child somewhere talking excitedly in a language I do not recognize. I walk outside and stand for a while, leaning against the rail. I hear the clang of the gate at the far end of the complex, then the staccato click of high heels on concrete. Again, the sound of a sliding door zipping shut, followed by the crash of a screen door bouncing on an aluminum frame. The distant highway sounds like a river, rising and falling with a quiet rush. A caged bird sings somewhere. The sky is sliding into a deep blue, stars, a mere handful of them, sparkling overhead. Yet another car, closer, in the parking lot, pulling in, door opening and closing, the chirp of an alarm. A male voice talking urgently, a female voice, quieter and calmer answering. He is seeking something and she is guiding him toward it. Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Pablo Neruda - XLVIII

Two happy lovers make one bread, A single moon drop in the grass. Walking, they cast two shadows that flow together; Waking, they leave one sun empty in their bed. Of all the possible truths, they chose the day; They held it, not with ropes but with an aroma. They did not shred the peace; they did not shatter words; Their happiness is a transparent tower. The air and wine accompany the lovers. The night delights them with its joyous petals. They have a right to all the carnations. Two happy lovers, without an ending, with no death, They are born, they die, many times while they live: They have the eternal life of the Natural. Pablo Neruda, XLVIII (Translated by Stephen Tapscott) Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Pool of Purity

The Pool of Purity

Or Zen And The Art of Swimming

It is about four thirty in the afternoon on a lazy day.  I have kept things on a low speed all day, just concentrating on slowing down.  A morning online, breakfast with a friend, a lazy afternoon, a errand to the insurance broker, then home for more low speed laziness.  A few phone calls, a few emails, some im's, more music, a little chat, a little wandering.  Then a call from a friend to go out and see a movie tonight (The Happening).  I glance at the clock and decide to take a swim before they get here.

I switch from my blue jeans and a button down shirt to my tan Columbia swimming trunks, put on the flip flops, grab my goggles and head to the pool.  Because I live in an apartment complex, the pool is often heavily chlorinated, so I almost always wear a pair of Speedo swim goggles, just to be merciful on my eyes.

The sun is filtered through the high haze from the Felton, California fire to the south and west of us, so the light is neither bright nor dim.  There is a young couple and their children in the pool, but they are playing near the shallow end.  I say hello and slip past them into the water.  It is cool but not cold, almost perfect.  I skim into the surface of the water and do a slow American crawl to the deep end of the pool, slicing through the water, focusing on form.  I am a good swimmer.  I love the water and learned to swim at a very young age.

The bottom of the pool slides below me and I can see my shadow and the shadow of the wake that spreads from around me in a V on the painted floor of the pool.  I tuck and turn at the far end., knowing the length of the pool in strokes from one end to another.  I bob to the surface and tread water long enough to tighten the belt on the trunk, and then start to swim slow, steady, even laps the length of the pool.  I swim twenty two laps.  That isn't a lot because the pool is small, but it is enough so that I feel as if I have actually been swimming, not just splashing in the water.

Then, I do one of my favorite things. I take a deep breath, fill my lungs, and slowly swim the length of the pool underwater, slowly letting the air out.  I have scuba dived and skin dived off and on for years and so know the tricks to stay underwater, to make each lungful of air last as long as possible and stillleave myself a margin of safety.

I don't count how many times I swim the length of the pool underwater.  Maybe a dozen.  Maybe more.  Finally, feeling refreshed and recharged, I pop to the surface and just...float.  I float for about ten minutes, until I am done floating, then climb out of the pool.  There are now two old chinese ladies sitting in the gazebo.  The tease me as I go by, telling me to go back and swim some more.  We laugh.

Back in the apartment it is a quick shower and then I dress, khaki cargo pants, a blue t-shirt, socks, my New Balance walking shoes.  I settle in to write this entry.

There is a moment of purity in swimming that I want to share.  It happens when I am underwater. My lungs are near the end of their capacity and I am expelling a small amount of air with each sweep of my arms in an underwater breast stroke and scissor kick. Each cycle is a powerful sweep forward engaging my whole body.  It is a moment of pure physicality.  My mind clears of all things.  When it fades, I actually repeat the motion, keeping a conscious awareness of it so I can write about it.  Otherwise, it is just a moment of purity that is beyond description.  Even what I write now is just a pale shadow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sunset On Fire

There is a big fire in the mountains to the west of us, near Felton, CA.  The wind is blowing off the Pacific - and this is the sun a few minutes ago.  Nature is pretty damn impressive.

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Been at it since five AM.  Another pair of hours to go and a checkpoint meeting and then...a rest period...and probably pick it up in the AM, depending on where we sit by the checkpoint meeting.  So far, things are looking good.

I am tired, but got a second wind about 2:00 PM for no particular reason.  I am sure when that runs out I will collapse and twitch the caffiene out through the night, then be back up and in action tomorrow.  Most likely tomorrow will be a more focused check of specific things. 

So, back to validation. 



Transition cutover is that part of a software project where you take what you have been working on for, in this case, nearly eight months, and you begin to move it over into the production environment.  Migrating code and data, getting all of those moving parts to suddenly line up and fall together.

We started last night, so I was up off and on through the night, fielding phone calls, answering email.  It is currently about five thirty AM and I have already been at it about two hours, running on short sleep, coffee, and discipline.  I will run pretty much around the clock for three days in a row.  This is a relatively small project so the cut-over is a relatively short time period and the plan allows for sleep.  The best laid plans of mice and men often...well you know the rest.

The peak of the stress was a few weeks ago and this time period, though stomach tangling, is mostly lined up.  This is the time period when all of the stress of the previous weeks either pays off or doesn't.  I've been on a few train wrecks at transition cutover during my years in this line of work. This won't be one.  You usually know going in if you are going to crash.  Of course, I caught a new wrinkle in thing last night, but it is peripheral to everything else and won't effect go live.  It will just get dropped on the list of things to discuss and craft a solution for.

All stress of course is relative - I see the morning news dominated by the floods in Cedar Rapids and you know, I have next to nothing to fret about in the grand scheme of things. I am safe, I am warm, I am well fed, I am happy, and those nearest and dearest to me are mostly the same, save those who are voluntarily in harms way somewhere. My friends, though they have their challenges, are basically well.

If you think of yourself as a vessel, and stress as the steam inside of the vessel, this is the dangerous part of high stress - its the point where you begin to open the valve and let the pressure start to bleed off to return to normal.  On personal level, I just try and focus on letting myself return slowly.  Be aware that I can be emotionally raw.  Be aware that I might take offense at something that was not intended to offend.  Be aware that I am seeing the world through a distorting filter. 

Now, that distorting filter has its advantages. I tend to see the world through a strange set of filters anyway, LOL, so sometimes the distorting filters work as a double negative.  If you see the world as a strange place and the filters are strange, does that make you see the world as normal?  Hahahahaha - I have no idea really, but the idea appeals to me.

It is during times like this that I often feel deeply and profoundly and humbly human. Human in the classic sense of being interconnected with everyone else - good, bad, and indifferent.  So, that is a good thing as well.

As the pressure comes off, I am looking forward to a period of insights and looking forward to sharing them.  Today will be a day of calm focus and disciplined engineering processes - and I am sure some strange thoughts through the strange filters.  As a manager, and on this particular project, my part as a technical resource is done and there is a project manager who has oversight of the cutover plan and who job it is to drive it through to completion.  My job is to just support people and deal with challenges as they arise, so I will be heading into the office shortly - and mostly doing nothing. 

I may spend a good portion of the day starting to pull together the notes, read the old email, circle around a couple of times and make sure things are accounted for.  I am sure I will spend a good part of it just monitoring email and teleconferences. 

It may also be a creative day as I attempt to capture all of the thoughts and impressions that flow out of the pressure valve as the steam slowly releases over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Duirwaigh Inspiration Flash Movie

I was profile surfing on AOL and stumbled across this.  This is just a very cool and inspirational flash movie.

Alice In Wonderland Dreams

Alice In Wonderland

OK - this was one of the first entries that I almost entirely censored.  It was…mostly irrelevant.  I started out talking about one thing and went entirely off on an almost indecipherable tangent.  I saved the tangent and will take a look at it sometime next week and see if it makes any sense.

I am in the final days of the project so my brain is firing in a hundred different directions simultaneously.  What I wanted to write about was…exactly that, a brain firing.

Stress suppresses many things (and this is where I got totally lost on a stress related tangent that I will explore later).  One of the things high stress suppresses is dreams.  I am a frequent and vivid dreamer with a strong visual imagination and excellent recall. 

I have noticed over the last couple of months that the frequency, coherency, and vividness of my dreams has been diminishing.  On more than one occasion I have gone to sleep thinking about something (usually work related, sometimes personal) and woke up - right into the middle of the continuation of the same thought.  As if all I did while sleeping was take an interval in the middle of the thought stream.

Additionally, looking back through my journal, I can see I tossed out a lot of dream fragments - but not very many complete dreams (relatively).  In the last couple of weeks the dreams were mostly - either the memories of dreams (with no conscious recollection of the dream itself), or simply "strange thoughts upon waking".

Well, last night the dream dam burst and kicked out a cascade of dream images - all at once.  No structure, no coherency, no semblance of a narrative.  Just a bunch of images - dropped - as I woke.  I sat there on the edge of the bed in the half light and scribbled fierce notes in the journal I keep by my bed.  I think I managed to capture most of them.  A couple of them were coherent enough that I recognized the people in the dream images and I sent out a handful of email this morning telling them about the images.

In no particular order, here are the images I saw cascading out in vivid dream images.

V. was sitting on a giant hand cooking something on a hibachi.  It was an actual giant hand.

B. was splashing through a stream choked with the run off of dirty snow. She was weaving in and out of the stream as if she was running.

J. was lifting a giant tire, as if he was Atlas.

K. was sitting on the edge of a car, throwing darts at balloons blowing by in the wind.

D. was sitting at the breakfast bar in a diner, showing two Bigfoot's how to work the juke box station.  (Do you remember those? When you used to go to a diner they had little tiny control modules in each booth and at intervals along the counter to play the juke box?)

I. and D. stopped by because they were in town visiting their daughter.  They brought me fresh baked sausage bread and a basket of fresh beets.

Cyborg rabbits were watching someone's house with night vision. (I could tell they were cyborgs because they had glowing red eyes, like the Terminator.)

I was laying in the dirt next to a giant old log, on my back, watching the sun move through the trees and smelling the rich damp earth.

Someone called, I picked up the phone and they talked to me in a language I could not hear, but understood.  I have no recollection of what I was told.

I crossed through a tree line and could see a field filled with giant needles, their eyelets glistening in the sun.

In the golden light of the morning sun, I could see a hand, first laying on a stomach, and then lightly stroking a lover with grazing finger tips.

All of the dream images had a very "Alice in Wonderland" feel to them that I would call "brighter than life", as if they were in Technicolor or something similar.

Hello Alice, Goodbye

Hello Alice, Goodbye

Hello Alice in Wonderland
Its time to say goodbye
Let's laugh ourselves
Through a very good cry

Dreams of a long lost lover
Bitter mingling with the sweet
Fingers tangled in her hair
Always perpetually neat

Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
Its time to say hello
Let's cry for ourselves
Then let the laughter grow

Covered in ash and smoke
So damn pretty she glows
Smelling like fire and sweat
If you look in her eyes she knows

Hello Alice in Wonderland
Its time to say goodbye
Let's laugh ourselves
Through a very good cry

She always danced best
When she danced all alone
Her love a cutthroat razor
That cut you to the bone

Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
Its time to say hello
Let's cry for ourselves
Then let the laughter grow

Hello Alice in Wonderland, Goodbye
Goodbye Alice in Wonderland, Hello
Hello Alice, Goodbye
Hello Alice, Goodbye

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mares Tails

As the sun falls in San Jose, a parting image of mares tails at sunset.  Beauty abounds. Grace abides.



I slept fairly well last night.  One of the things I do while in the final run on a project is focus - focus down on everything.   That means I am conscious of diet, exercise, sleep, etc.  Staying tight and focused.  I unwound last night watching a movie with my nephew and then curled up with a book and alternated between reading and writing until about 11:00 PM and then fell asleep.  I woke up about 6:00 AM (first formal meeting was at 8:00 AM) and then...just...laid there in bed.

Because it was hot out yesterday I had slept with the window open.  My bedroom faces to the east so the first light of dawn often floods the room.  That is fine with me since I am, by inclination, a morning person anyway.  So, laying there in bed I watched the tree outside the window light up and turn golden and green with the sun rise.  It was pretty spectacular contrasted against the bright blue sky. 

Once the sun was up I rolled out, ran through the shower and headed into the office.  I kept focused and kept the day moving smoothly.  So far, so good.  Working through the checklist, checked a couple of items off, investigated a couple of more, coordinated a few others.  Confused one of my analysts by asking her for some data she had never had anything to do with.  Fortunately, the analyst who had actually done the work overheard me and corrected me.  Team work makes the world go wrong.

I had lunch down the street (turkey and corn chowder, spiced tofu, cheese and tomato salad, and a boiled egg, with several glasses of water).  Staged items for tomorrow.  Sent and received some email from my trusty crackberry.  Then, finally, wrapped it up and came home.  Dinner was burrito and more water.

My mood is pretty good, things seem to be progressing fairly smoothly.  That is not unusual - most turbulence in a project tends to clear up as people focus on delivering specific items prior to go-live.  So, all and all good.  I wrote the poem before at the tail end of last week and had carried it around on my flash drive for a couple of days before I remembered to add it to the journal below.

Tonights plan is to just relax, unwind, and go to be early.  The countdown continues.

Lighting In A Bottle

Lightning In A Bottle
(For S.)

She came in from the field one day
Said she brought me a gift
Asked if I had time to play
I set aside my evening worries

As that golden sun was falling
Behind the towering clouds of late July
She held up an old jar and starting calling
She called out to all the angels

Bring me something special tonight
Bring me some lightning in a bottle
Bring me something good and right
Bring me some lightning in a bottle

I stood there and watched her dancing
Swirling around on the grass
I could see her spirit flying
Flying to those clouds so far away

She was smiling and she was singing
Her young voice rising on the wind
Her bright brown eyes were laughing
As she spun around and around

Bring me something special tonight
Bring me some lightning in a bottle
Bring me something good and right
Bring me some lightning in a bottle

I don't know if the angels heard her song
But the spirits of my mothers world
Picked her up and carried her along
The whole horizon lit up with jagged light

She waved that old jar all around
And then closed the lid nice and tight
She came to me and set the bottle down
Said Dad this will make things right…

I brought you something special tonight
I brought some lightning in a bottle
I brought you something good and right
I brought some lightning in a bottle

Monday, June 9, 2008



Dinner was simple tonight - hot links, mac and cheese, and grilled potatoes.  I washed it down with a tall glass of iced tea. 

We've entered the final run to the finish line on the project that has eaten so much of my time (and life) over the last couple of months.  Stress will spike a time or two between here and the end, but the worst of it is over. 

As the leader of this particular project my job is two fold - support the people in the grass doing the detail work and fret those details.  So, if you can imagine it, my next nine days are going to be filled with details.  Was this done?  Is that done?  Are those parts in place?  Did we remember to check this?  What is the contingency if that doesn't work.  Details.  Details.  Details.

So it is move forward, circle back, move sideways, circle around, jump over there - sort of like line dancing, only without cowgirls.

I'll be online (and on email) off and on during the week, usually between tasks.  There is always a fine line where any additional work becomes counter-productive - I can easily fret myself into a place where you make mistakes, simple mistakes, that have costly implications.

Tonight, as I wrapped up the day, I stopped and sat with my senior analyst.  I often like to take a couple of minutes each day and sit with a different analyst and just get a feel for where they are - not the technical details, but a pulse of how they are feeling.  Intuition. Gut feeling.  Emotional check.  Our intuition as humans is often far more finely tuned then we realize.

E., my senior analyst, was in a good mood, philosophical and confident.  I worried a few of the details around and she assured me that every that could be lined up was lined up, and that we would be fine. She reminded me of some of the other projects we'd work on together - one's that dwarfed this one in size and complexity.  One's that went well, very well, and very badly. (We've been working together now for twelve years, in a variety of roles, so we know each other well.)

Her confidence was a solid touchstone and helped still my own jitters.  Her reminding me of perspective was another.  It is good to work with people you like and respect and admire.  I wish and hope that all of you have at least one of those relationships.  Most of my team and I at work have been together now (more or less) for eight or nine years.  I take care of them and they take care of me.  Which is how it is supposed to work.

So, with one day down and four more to go in the final week (the last days of the project are the actual cut-over and go live), we are sitting pretty well.  We know what needs to be done between here and there, and barring an attack of the flying monkeys, we'll make it.  And we have been attacked by flying monkeys before.  They come with the territory.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

PSA About - Miles Per Gallon

Gas Mileage Tips

What with the increased price of gas, many of us are watching our gas mileage.  Below are a set of tips from the folks at Edmunds that can increase your gas mileage significantly, up to thirty five percent in mixed driving (mixed driving is when you spend part of the time on the interstate and part of the time on city roads).

1. When leaving a stop sign or stop light accelerate gently by pressing lightly on the gas pedal.  Try it a couple of times to get the feel for the best gentle acceleration pattern for your personal vehicle.

2. When approaching a stop sign or stop light that is red or turning red, take your foot off the accelerator and roll up to the light or sign, braking gently.

(These first two tips alone can make a huge difference in mixed driving.)

3. Relax, take your time, and drive the speed limit.  Speeding takes more gas - more gas accelerating, more gas decelerating, and more gas cruising.

4. Follow the 45 AC rule.  (Using AC will take 3 to 5 MPG off your cars mileage).  If you are under 45 mph, turn the AC off and roll a window down.  If you are over 45 MPG, roll the windows up and turn on the AC (wind resistance at over 45 wipes out any advantage in having the window rolled down).

5. Don't tailgate - leave two seconds between you and the car in front of you.  Tailgating causes you to accelerate and decelerate harder, which effects your gas mileage. Focus on "driving smoothly".  Give people room, and accelerate and decelerate gently.

6. It takes the average human being 20 minutes to walk one mile.  If you have stores and such close to you, walk to them, besides saving gas, you will get your exercise too.

7. Take mass transit.  (Many people, according to Edmunds, believe that mass transit will not work for them, but then cannot answer even rudimentary questions about their mass transit systems.)  Try it a few days and see how it works for you.  If a clean mass transit ride is not possible, consider a "mixed commute".  A mixed commute is where you drive to a park and ride lot, or drive to a more convenient mass transit route, and then take the route the rest of the way in or out of your work.

8. Carpool.  Many counties and government agencies provide a service that matches car poolers up. If you can't coordinate something at work, you can try them.  (Edmunds also reminds you that even 1 day a week or carpooling or mass transit reduces you gas expenses by 20 percent, assuming a normal five day work week.)

9. Never leave your car idling.  With modern fuel injection engines, starting the car takes about thirty seconds worth of gas.  So if you are stopping for longer than thirty seconds - and idling - you are wasting gas.

10. If your job allows, ask if you can work either an alternate schedule (say, four ten hour days) or virtually, even one day every two weeks reduces your commute footprint by 10 percent.  It never hurts to ask.

11. Combine your errands into a single trip.  Most people run errands in a starfish pattern (in and out of home over the course of a day).  Plan them to run them all at once in a circle or an out and back pattern.  Another errand suggestion is keep track of your errands for a while and see which ones you can extend the pattern on.  (For example, if you go to the grocery store on twice a week, see if you can cut back to once a week.  If you go once a week, cut back to once every two weeks, etc.).  Many of our errands are "spur of the moment".  With a little planning, we can sometimes radically change our patterns.  Another suggestion is to combine your errands with your commute - stop to or from work - and save yourself an entire trip.


Sleeping On Saturday

Sleeping On Saturday

Well, yesterday turned into a marathon sleep session.  I went to the Sunnyvale Art & Wine Festival with some friends.  We had a good time - the weather was almost perfect - clear blue skies and moderate temperatures.  We wandered the festival, looked at the wide variety of arts and crafts, had some excellent sushi for lunch, and then called it a day about three in the afternoon.

I wandered home and took a swim in the pool then laid down to read and take a little nap...that's all, just a little about five.  I woke up once around six thirty and then again about eight and four AM.  So, all in all, with a few exceptions, I slept close to twelve hours.  That is my body telling me to shut it down, slow it down, and just relax.  It seems to have worked, since I am sitting here enjoying the day and feeling fairly alert, all in all.

If I dreamt I do not remember what the dreams were, it was that sound of a sleep.

When I woke up in the morning all was still and cool and quiet, so I made a pot of coffee, found my book, and read the closing chapters of "Odd Hours" in the wee small hours of the day.  Once I had finished I logged on, read and responded to some email, then chatted and googled the early morning hours away. 

Around about nine AM I was off to get some breakfast with a friend.  It was a good breakfast.  I had a western sausage omelet - spicy sausage, mushrooms, pepperjack cheese - with a side of sour cream and some tabasco sauce, hashbrowns, wheat toast with strawberry jam, a glass of OJ and two cups of coffee.  Intermingle that with some good morning conversation and it was a great Sunday morning.

Then, I ran a few of the small errands that had to be run, circled back home, dropped some stuff off and then came online for some more idle time.  The internet, in all of its splendor, has long since become my idle entertainment source of choice.  I've slipped smoothly through the last couple of hours, reading, chatting, writing, and looking, with a dip in the pool and snacking snuggled up inside of there as well.

Now, comfortably settled into the afternoon, I think I will write a few email and then consider slipping out and catching a movie to wrap up the afternoon or evening.  I don't think I have any remaining errands that I have to run, but something might pop intomy mind.  Or, maybe not.

Friday, June 6, 2008

To Sail Beyond The Sunset

One of my favorite poems is Tennyson's "Ulysses".  My favorite lines in the poem are these...

                  … Come, my friends,
     'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
     Push off, and sitting well in order smite
     The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
     To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
     Of all the western stars, until I die.
     It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
     It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
     And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. (56–64)

Tonight, as I sat on the balcony and lingered over dinner and a cold glass of iced tea, I looked into the western sky and saw this emerging against the deepening blue sky.  I just thought I would share it with you. 

There’s Rod!

There’s Rod!

For a long time I have been fascinated by questions of identity.  Who exactly are we?  What makes us who we are? Do we have defining characteristics that, once those characteristics change, we are no longer who we were?

It popped into my mind again today based on a conversation and an event (that were both probably interrelated).  First, I went into the office today, even though it is a scheduled day off, in order to make sure a couple of pieces were lined up for the hard run to the finish line that is going to start unfolding pretty rapidly over the next ten days.  Since I was “in but not in” I took advantage of it to have a nice long lunch with my friend Don. Don is one of my co-workers, a pupil of Adyashanti, and an excellent conversationalist.  We got to talking about the whole concept of the born and the unborn, so it was a pretty lively conversation.

After lunch I went back to the office, wrapped a few loose ends, made sure I had a good idea of the things I will need to do over the weekend so I can line them up and knock them off, and then left to run a few errands.  Stopped at the bank (wire transfer for a niece), stopped at the hardware store (get a coupleof keys cut), stopped at Target (a new circulating fanas my old one crapped out this week), and then stopped in to get a haircut.

It has actually been a while since I got my haircut – probably back in January.  I normally wear it short, but in high cycles, basic things like a haircut start to fall by the wayside.  It was…nice.  I went to a local spa (I know the hair person who works there), so I combined a haircut, a shave, and a massage into one nice hour.  As I walked out I realized that…

For the first time in a long time (five months maybe) I felt like…Rod.  Like the Rod I know.  Like…me.  Centered and whole.  It is a good feeling.  It may only be temporary, as I am sure there are still some spectacular crashes and flying monkey attacks waiting between here and the end of this project.  But until then, it feels…nice.  Good.  And that is a good thing.

Look!  There’s Rod!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Language Or The Kiss

I had this song popping in and out of my brain today...and unfortunately did not have it on my work laptop, so

I had to wait until I got home to listen to it.

Language Or The Kiss, Indigo Girls (E. Saliers)

I don't know if it was real or in a dream
Lately waking up I'm not sure where I've been
There was a table set for six and five were there
I stood outside and kept my eyes on that empty chair

And there was steam on the windows from the kitchen
Laughter like a language I once spoke with ease
But I'm made mute by the virtue of decision
And I choose most of your life goes on without me

Oh the fear that I've known
That I might reap the praise of strangers
And end up on my own
All I've sown was a song but maybe I was wrong

I said to you the one gift which I'd adore
The package of the next ten years unfolding
But you told me if I had my way I'd be bored
Right then I knew I loved you best born of your scolding

When we last talked we were lying on our backs
Looking up at the sky through the ceiling
I used to lie like that alone out on the driveway
Trying to read the Greek upon the stars the alphabet of feeling

Oh I knew back then
It was a calling that said "If joy then pain"
The sound of the voice these years later
Is still the same

I am alone in a hotel room tonight
I squeeze the sky out but there's not a star appears
Begin my studies with this paper and this pencil
And I'm working through the grammar of my fears

Oh, mercy what I won't give
To have the things that mean the most
Not to mean the things I miss
Unforgiving the choice still is the langauge or the kiss.


Fragmentary Thoughts

Fragmentary Thoughts

I woke up from sleep this morning with several fragmentary thoughts. They were not necessarily the remnants of dreams, though they may have been.  Rather they were a quick succession of thoughts I had upon waking, strong enough that I felt compelled to remember them and wanted to write them down.

-The sense memory of spooning, body to body, arms entangled, whispering small thoughts.

-Walking alongside a river and talking.  Knowing that if we walked on this side of the river we talked of light things and if we walked on that side of the river we talked of heavy things.  We were walking on the light side of the river, but we both knew that inevitably we would want, need, have to walk on the heavy side of the river.

-Someone burrows into the green to find a place of peace.*

Going to head into the office soon.  Going to focus on lining one thing up and resolving it, then lining the next up, and the next and the next.  Keep circling back around to a focused and disciplined approach.  The end of a project can be compared to a maelstrom - there are many small things that need to be resolved and many problems that need to be solved and the presence of the ticking clock is always very heavy. 

Just like moving through any storm you pull your coat tight, you put your head down, you take one step at a time, letting the wind buffet you, letting the rain lash at you, and you just keep moving forward.  The vast majority of the times you make it through fine.

*I've had two recurring images in my dreams or at the edge of my dreams for the last several weeks, maybe a little longer.  The dreams and images seem related, but have no specific meaning to me yet. 

One is of a person meditating in the lotus position who is envisioning (or is) themselves sitting in the center of a pure green light.  They are happy, almost to the point of ecstatic joy - a moment of sublime peace, emanating joy. 

The second is of a person, perhaps the same person, curled up to go to sleep.  They are using their imagination to still the day so they can fall asleep.  They are imagining they are in an old bed, in an old house, surrounded by lush green vegetation, the air full of the scents of greenery and flowers, the coolness of the night stripping away the heat of the day. This mental image that they are creating is their sanctuary of sleep.

So begins the morning, with the fragments of thoughts had upon waking, that might or might not be related to each other, or might or might not be related to anything.  Sometimes our thoughts are just fragments.  But, usually, I find them to be small peices in an ever evolving mosaic, unfolding beneath our feet as we walk.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Just Slow Down

Well, my saga of work stress continues.  I slept through most of the night, waking twice, once for who knows why, once when there was a pretty sizeable crash outside.  Consequently, I woke up feeling the bite of stress.  We've got nine working days before go live (and two days on the weekend), so we are in the final lap of this project.  This is the part where everyone should be kicking it into high gear for the finish.

We've still got some challenges though - not the least of which is the classic that Deming identified years ago.  People will perform to their perceived reward system.  If you structure your reward system to measure and make decisions based on boxes checked on a project chart, people will bend heaven and earth to...check the boxes.  Not necessarily to actually do the work that the boxes represent, but to check the boxes.  So, my job, in part, is to make sure no boxes are checked until the work is actually done and validated.

That puts me squarely between some hard working folks...and their perceived reward.  Of course, I wouldn't be in that position if I wasn't good at it, so don't consider that a complaint about my work.  I like what I do, I am good at it, I am rewarded accordingly, both formally and informally.  None of which makes me immune to the flying monkey bites and the flying poop.  Those just keep me on my toes.

So, after waking up stressed this morning, I deliberately...slowed...the morning down.  I took a nice leisurely shower.  I am lingering over breakfast.  I took the time to shave carefully and closely with a good razor.  I ironed my shirt for no reason other than ironing relaxes me.  Soon enough, I will slip back into the fray. 

But, for now, listening to the morning birds singing is peace enough.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Odd Hours

Odd Hours

Another day on the roller-coaster at work.  I now bear new scars from the flying monkeys.  Why didn't anyone tell me they bite?  Or was that one of those things you all just thought I should know! 

It was a challenging day at the office, but I made it through, then went out and grabbed some sushi for dinner.  Came home, stared blankly at the wall, played guitar for an hour or so, now I am online staring blankly at chat.  I seem to have that staring blankly thing down.

However, there is one bright spot that is transporting from this world to a different world - I am deeply enjoying the fourth in Dean Koontz's series about Odd Thomas "Odd Hours".

Additionally I have...converted the wonders of Odd Thomas.  My nephew, Tom - who is his own sort of Odd Thomas.  He has finished the first (Odd Thomas) and have the next two stacked up to follow (Forever Odd and Brother Odd).  He is...engrossed.  If you haven't read Koontz - or have read Koontz by not Odd - I highly recommend it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Deirdre of Sorrows

Deirdre of Sorrows

When I am under a lot of stress one of the methods I try to work with it is focus on the purity of a specific time or event - find a magic hour to lose myself in.  This weekend was a challenge - I was crashing up and down with stress on Saturday, as I journaled about earlier. 

Today was much better and it was in today that I found the magic hour that transformed the weekend and settled my soul.  As often happens, I found it in music.  While I was looking through my CD rack I found three CD's that I had bought at a clearance sale a few months ago. 

It is not unusual for me to take advantage of deep discounts to try music I would otherwise not pick up.  The CD's were celtic themed classical collections.  In my experiences with the specific genre I've had some good finds and some...not so good finds.

I have always been partial to the story of Deirdre of Sorrows, so I am sure that was what influenced me when I picked this up.  If you are unfamiliar with it, here is a wiki link to a summary of the tale (and from there, you can link to other versions of it).  Deirdre is a tragic heroine from Irish myth (the Ulster Cycle).

The album, a classical composition by Patrick Cassidy is very good.  It was perfect for the weekend.  Listening to it was my magic hour.