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


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.)

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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

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.

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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.


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



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. 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".

Sent from my iPhone

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.

Tuesday Sunrise

Sunrise this morning as the storm breaks. Simply beautiful.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Gift of the Twilight Gods

Tonight's gift for the Twilight Gods as the first true winter storm blows itself out.

A Day Cooking

Spent the day cooking - the apple crumble, the cream cheese chicken above. Nothing quite like a home cooked meal (and the art of cooking) for it's zen soul soothing properties.