Sunday, May 31, 2009

Daily Life: Two Dreams

I had a pair of interesting dreams this weekend.

Saturday morning I awoke from a dream that my bedroom was full of birds. They were perched all around the room and there were all different kinds of birds and they all had different kinds of books. It was as if I was in a library for birds, or in a bird book club, where they had all gathered at dawn to discuss what they were reading and those discussions where enthusiastic critiques of literature.

Sunday morning I awoke from a dream in sepia! To the best of my knowledge I have dreamt in color and I have dreamt in black and white, but I have never dreamt in sepia. It was a simple dream of a woman dressing.

(If you are unsure what sepia is, here is a link to a portrait of a woman in sepia, portrait by Steve Malcomson on Redbubble.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Daily Life: The End Of The Work Week Arrives

The end of the work week is upon me. It was amazingly fast this week, though if I look backwards I could not say why. I am sure part of it is the stunning beauty of spring evenings in the Santa Clara valley. I had a bit of good news today - the doctor gave me a clear bill of health on my stress fractured foot, so I can resume walking and running (gradually of course). I am very happy with that since this is almost the perfect time for those long rambling evening walks with the Twilight Gods.

It was mostly a quiet day at the office. My company works what is called a 9/80 schedule. You work five days one week and four days the next so you have every other Friday off. There are two tracks - the A track and the B track. Most of the people are on the A track and I am on the B track. The good thing about it is that on the Friday when I have to work all of the people on the A track are off. That means my working Friday is usually pretty quiet and a good opportunity to catch up on those things that are not as time sensitive and that require a little more detail work.

I have a folder in my in-box where I drop the items of that nature and then on my working Friday I work my way through them one at a time. This works well for me with the rhythm of corporate life and I usually end the day on my working Friday's with a sense of accomplishment. Today was no different there.

I don't yet have anything planned for the weekend. I was looking at the events schedule on MetroActive (the web site of the local alternative paper), but I didn't see anything that particularly caught my fancy. It may turn out to be a good weekend to just stay at home and do those incidental things that need to be done. I went into this week with a pretty long "to do" list of incidental personal thing and I have managed to work my way through most of the list through the course of the week, so I will be entering the weekend with a handful of things that have to be done. It might turn out to be a good weekend either go wandering or to simply stay home, read, listen to music, and watch movies.

I am also in a writing mood this weekend. I was partially word-blocked due to the post I wrote on stillness. That post occurred to me and then just took a long time to pull itself together in my mind. I found that I was expending a lot of time thinking about how to express what I wanted to express and it was nudging other things out of the way. I kept notes on the other things so that I could write them later, so I will review those notes and see what inspires me.

I've spent the last two weeks reading a fantasy book, Robin Hobb's "Assassins Apprentice". It turned out to be pretty good and I got invested in the character by the end of the book. Consequently, I bought the other two books in the trilogy and have them loaded onto my Kindle. I started reading the second book last night "The Kings Assassin" and have the third lying in wait behind it, "Assassins Quest". It seems to me that it has been quite a while since I have read a good fantasy novel, so I have been enjoying it.

Whatever I ultimately decide to do the weekend is on me with its sense of anticipation, so I am looking forward to it very much.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Daily Life: California Evenings

A quiet and reflective evening tonight. I enjoyed dinner with nephew Tom at the Super Buffet (a chinese buffet on Saratoga Avenue and Stevens Creek Blvd). One of the things I like about the buffet is the ability to fill your plate with a little bit of everything, which is also one of the things I like about life in general.

After dinner we wandered around for a bit and then I swung home and spent a very nice evening just relaxing. I had a very nice phone call with my dear TR, and then later, while I was online, I googled a video on the shag (the dance). I was pretty impressed - if you want to see something cool, just YouTube or Google "Carolina Shag" and look at any of the many videos of that particular dance.

I then spent some more time configuring this new laptop and probably have some more configuration work to go, but it seems to be "mostly there" now. It is a very nice machine. While I was doing that I watched the auditions on "So You Think You Can Dance" which is one of my guilty television pleasures. It was pretty good and parts of it were very funny.

Now, I am going to let this computer run for a while and install some Windows updates while I curl up with a book and read myself to sleep.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daily Life: The Stillness of Others

We live our lives in almost constant motion - if we are not physically moving we are often mentally moving. It is a swirling complexity interwoven with complications.

It is such a constant current that we are often unaware of it. It remains an invisible force in our life unless we are fortunate to have the time to stop and observe and develop that awareness. Yet, in stillness, resides a quiet and essential part of us. We can move through other people's lives and they move through ours over the course of years of time and layers of intimacy and never glimpse that part of them that resides in stillness.

There are depths in people that you can never know unless you know them in the stillness of their lives as well as the actions of their lives. There are depths inside of us that we can never know unless we find that precious time to know ourselves in stillness.

At the core of quantum physics is Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which says, more or less, "that certain pairs of physical properties, like position and momentum, cannot both be known to arbitrary precision. That is, the more precisely one property is known, the less precisely the other can be known."(Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle)

When it comes to bodies at rest and motion we can know them well in either stillness or motion and their very nature may be significantly different in either state. It can be very difficult to share stillness because something as simple as the presence of another person can alter us in very subtle ways - it can pull us from our inner stillness and put us in motion, if only mentally, due to our awareness of the other person.

We can sometimes get a glimpse of that stillness when we observe a person and they do not know that we are observing them. When we watch their small actions, not their larger actions, when we watch the little things that comprise the most of us, those small things that move just at the threshold of our interactive awareness, we can then see glimpses of that stillness.

The examples that popped into my mind were - the subtle ways a person treats a pet, the small interactions with a child, their expressions as they read or sleep or eat. The twinkle in the eye at the taste of chocolate or the contented sigh at that first morning cup of coffee or the lazy tracing of fingers on fabric. The things that make them spontaneously smile or frown as they go through them. The dignity and grace they exhibit while folding laundry or the Zen of washing dishes or the sublime grace of solitary prayer.

None of these of course are stillness - stillness, true stillness, simply cannot be observed. In Zen they say the moment you are aware of your awareness you are not aware. That applies to stillness as well - the moment you are aware of your stillness you are no longer still. But there is moment just before the process of being aware kicks in when we are not aware but we know and in that moment we can know our own stillness and the stillness of others. It is an astounding moment. It is in that moment that we can truly know another being. Of course, being human, we will then promptly clutter it up with the complications and the complexities of life and that is perfectly fine. That may be what being human is about.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Photography: Inside A Palm Tree

Daily Life: FJ&L

I am stopped for dinner with my nephew at Frankie, Johnnie & Luigi's
in Westgate West. He is having a cheese pizza and I cheese ravioli in
a bolognese sauce. It's a beautiful California evening, with a warm
and bright sun.

Daily Life: The First Reason - Technical Breakdown

I have been word-locked for the last couple of days for a pair of reasons. The first reason was purely pragmatic. My laptop had been giving me fits - assorted crashes and errors. It made attempting to do almost anything on it frustrating. On Sunday I made sure my data back-ups were current and accessible and let the old laptop give up the ghost. I'll spend some time over the next week cleaning the old thing up and then decide whether or not I am going to donate it. I hate to donate a laptop with problems - and the old one had the worst kind of problems, which were intermittent ones mostly related to hardware. So, Monday I went out and bought a new laptop. I spent most of Monday evening setting the recovery disks up, configuring it, and loading select programs. It is a Sony Vaio FW300 and is very nice. It is about four times as powerful in many aspects at the old one was and is a beautiful machine and I am looking forward to many a happy computing hour on it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Daily Life: A Note At The End Of The Day

Well I was just wrapping up the day and thought I would write a quick
entry. It was a very good day, all and all. An excellent start to a
long weekend, spent with the simple pleasures of good food and good
company, capped off by a wonderful evening call and now I am planning
to read myself to sleep with "The Assassins Apprentice", which has
turned out to be a very good tale. I suspect the distance from here to
sleep may only be a chapter or so.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Daily Life: Lunch and Not Stillness

I am paused for a bit at lunch (split pea soup and a salad). It's been
a bit of a busy morning, which is at least making the day move by
quickly. One of the things I tend to catch at work are the odd
problems that have stumped other people. They can be very rewarding
chances to use out of the box thinking or unusual solutions. They can
also be frustrating. Today has leaned a little bit to the frustrating
side, so lunch time is being appreciated as a chance to reset the day
and then go back in and see what productive things I can wrangle from
the afternoon. I am looking forward to the upcoming weekend. It is
going to be a four day weekend for me, due to my 9/80 Friday off and I
plan to enjoy it to the fullest extent possible. I have no idea what
that means and I am sure it would mean different things to different
people, but that is the plan. I seem to have a bit of a writers block
- I still want to write about stillness, but I haven't quite made it a
high priority and set aside the time to write, so the subject of
stillness is sort of standing patiently at the start of my writers
gate and it is blocking anything else that might be waiting behind it.
So perhaps this weekend I will find the stillness to write about
stillness. For now though, it is time to head back to the "not
stillness" of the office.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sharing: Neruda on Books

"The books that help you most are those which make you think the most.
The hardest way of learning is that of easy reading; but a great book
that comes from a great thinker is a ship of thought, deep frieghted
with truth and beauty." Pablo Neruda

Sent from my iPhone

Photography: Timothy Lector

Daily Life: Crankies

I woke at dawn this morning into a cool and beautiful day. I came into
work and crashed into some minor technical issues that functioned as a
speed bump in my morning mood. They helped set me on the threshold of
crankiness that I am battling to overcome.

I've got three hours of meetings to get through and I am hoping I can
pull out of the crankies some time soon. Right now I am sitting on a
listen only teleconference, in a conference room, wondering why some
people think a monotone speaking voice is "professional".

That is the principle danger of slipping into the crankies - I turn
hyper-critical and focus on the ten percent of things that strike me
as being "constantly stupid".

As I am sitting here I am thinking of something the business writer
Deming said..."the majority of management seems to do nothing more
that get in the way of productive work". It is not a direct quote, but
it does paraphrase the sentiment. I very often sit on management
meetings and wonder at that.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, May 18, 2009

Daily Life: A Whirlwind of Thoughts Today

I am having whirlwind thoughts today. My imagination is spinning around a very wide variety of subjects, moving rapidly from one to the next. I slept with the windows open so the cool night air could replace the hotter air from the weekend in the apartment. Consequently I awoke as the dawns light crept into the room. It's always a very pleasant way to wake up.

I woke up in a very good mood and that mood is moving with me through the day today. Little things have popped up that conspire together to pull me off center, but I have so far refused to fall into the temptation of letting incidents and accidents pull me from my core.

With my whirling imagination I have thought about a wide variety of subjects today. I've pulled them up in my mind's eye, looked at them, turned them around, twisted them this way and that, before setting most of them aside.

I did have one thought that I wanted to explore a little more. At one point this morning the thought occurred to me that we never really know another person until we know them in their stillness.

Maybe it is a desire inside of me for stillness, maybe it is a reflection of what I need, or perhaps a glimpse into where I think my core resides. I am not really sure, but I am going to be turning the thought around today and see if it becomes something more coherent. If it does, I will share it here. If it doesn't, then I will let it slip away back to the universe from which it came.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Daily Life: Wings of Freedom Exhibit

Today, my friend Pierre and I went up to the Wings of Freedom exhibit at Moffett Federal Air Station in Mountain View, California. It was an exhibit of three classic WWII era aircraft – a P-51D Mustang*, a B-17 bomber and a B-25 bomber. Moffett Field is actually just down the street maybe two or three miles from the festival we went to yesterday, so it was a trip into familiar territory. We got there about 10:00 and watched the B-17 coming in for a landing and then the P-51 taking off. Once they had completed their flights (you could actually buy a flight on either aircraft, though the price was decidedly not cheap, the funds do go to support the aircraft and the exhibit). It was well worth the trip and I’ve posted my “Best Of” pictures over on Flickr.

You can see them at this link.

Best of Wings of Freedom 2009 Moffett Field

They include a picture of me standing in from of the “Witchcraft” – if I look wilted, I am. It was one of the last pictures taken at the end of our visit and it was hot (probably mid-nineties there on the on the tarmac at Moffett). Wings of Freedom is a traveling exhibit that is circling the country in various incarnations. If it comes near you I would definitely recommend it as it is very much a piece of living history and a relative bargain.

Then, to dodge the heat of the day, I circled home, ordered a pizza, and have been spending the afternoon snacking, drinking iced tea, and watching movies. I watched an old classic that I had not seen in quite a while – “The Sand Pebbles” with Steve McQueen and Candace Bergen. It is an excellent movie and one of those classics that can be watched over and over, in my opinion.

*One of the coolest P-51 Mustang movie scenes ever is in Steven Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun”. A young Christian Bale is a prisoner of the Japanese in China. In the scene, a long shot, a P-51 is strafing the airfield the Japanese are using forced labor to build. The young Bale runs up onto a wooden tower and watches the P-51 fly by, screaming “P-51 Mustang, Cadillac of the Skies”. It is a powerful movie and a great scene.

Daily Life: Italo Calvino and Dreams of Periwinkle Blue

I lay in bed this morning and watched the first rays of the sun splash through the trees outside the window and turn into a golden dapple pattern on the curtain. A symphony of birds sang a triumphant morning ode to the dawn.

I woke from strange dreams of a small town in an anonymous heartland and the writer Italo Calvino and the long and graceful curves of a woman draped in periwinkle blue. I lay sprawled in bed and stretched out, reaching as if I could embrace the entire morning, feeling the morning in my muscles, drawing it into my lungs.

I rolled out of bed and padded through the apartment, adjusting the windows and the blinds, trapping the cooler night air inside, bracing for the later heat of the day. I stopped in the kitchen long enough to start the coffee pot and pour myself a large tumbler of cool water.

I contemplated the stereo but decided I could not find another song as appropriate as the singing of the birds outside. I slipped quickly through the shower, toweled dry, and dressed in blue jeans and a sandy tan polo shirt. I found my way to the computer and started writing. Sitting here, I rub my hand over the morning stubble and think...not yet. Plenty of time to shave.

It seems that I woke inclined toward poetry this morning. I will affix the responsibility for that to Italo Calvino and my dear T.R. who set my mind toward dreams of periwinkle blue.

"Myth is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored because there are as yet no words to enable us to get there. Myth is nourished by silence as well as by words." -Italo Calvino

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Daily Life: Post Ala Carte and Art

It was a good time. The weather was a tad on the warm side, probably about ninety when we left - it was enough to drive us into the shade in the later part of the festival. I wandered around and took some pictures and then was amused when I can home to discover that my favorite pictures - really were not of the festival, but rather were of small things seen at the festival.

We had lunch at an Italian place in downtown Mountain View, on Castro Street, and I am remiss because I have forgotten the name of it - I eat there intermittently so I am sure the name will return to me in time. Helen (my friend Pierre's charming wife) picked up some odds and ends of gifts, but other than that we mostly just people watched, wandered around, listened to the live music, and had some cool drinks.

Here is a link to my "Best of..." pictures from today, over on Flickr.

Best of Mountain View Ala Carte and Art

Daily Life: Ala Carte and Art, Mountain View

A very good morning so far (other than some intermittent laptop problems this morning that almost drove me to the impulse purchase of a new laptop). I had breakfast, then stopped at Fry's Electronics to look at the new technical toys, then ran a few errands, stopped to get gas, and circled home to meet some other friends of mine so we can head up to the festival.

Here is where I am going today - and it is a perfect day for it.

Ala Carte & Art Festival

Friday, May 15, 2009

Poetry: The Dream of Summer

Each day brings with it the dream of summer
The promise of the suns embracing warmth
Sliding through our skin to reach our bones
Filling us with that need for indolent pleasures
The scent of tall trees mingling with the musk of earth
The sounds of distant water babbling over stones
The soft cushion of grass beneath our feet
The golden shafts of sunlight spiraling through leaves
The song of doves, the burr of cicadas, the quarrel of crows
The rich continuity of today and the memories
Of the rambling days of our youth when
Without the complexities of today we could simply
Run until we could run no more and then
Lie in the grass and watch the clouds spinning
Through our imagination rich with the dream of summer

Sent from my iPhone

Daily Life: Wounded in a Dream and A Confused Morning

I woke up from a particularly graphic dream last night. In the dream I had a series of wounds on my left leg. Two of them were long and shallow. The third was a deep wound in the lower left leg, from the front, an inch or two to the right of the shin, penetrating deeply into the calf. It was about four inches long and bleeding badly in the dream. I was sitting on a bench, it seemed like in a hospital, and pressing gauze compresses against it. They were instantly soaked through with a dark red blood. Someone was standing next to me and handing me a new compress as each one in turn became saturated. In the dream I was not in pain, nor was I particularly worried. The bleeding was serious, but not yet life threatening. Pain was present, but not overwhelming. It was a strange dream - but it was a very "matter of fact" dream.

From there, I woke into a beautiful California morning. I had slept last night with the windows in the bedroom wide open, so the morning sky was just turning that pale shade of blue that heralds dawn. I took a shower and had some breakfast and then drove into work. For some reason there was heavy traffic at the coffee shop where I stopped for a Danish on the way in. It was one of those things where I noticed the high volume of customers after I pulled in the parking lot - otherwise I would have just thought about it and kept going.

The morning commute was mostly quiet. I was listening to Melissa Etheridge on the CD player and just thinking about the day. My monkey mind was dancing along between random imaginary and unrelated things pretty much all the way into the office. Once in the office things settled into an unusually confused and chaotic morning. I went through a series of morning meetings where the participants were trying to recall the answers to questions asked and answer some months ago. The answers were found but there was just a general sense of confusion to the questions, largely due to the complexity of the questions themselves. At one point I joked that we needed a giant white piece of butcher paper and crayons and that might help us keep track of all the decision trees we went through. I like computers, I think they are great information and data processing machines, but there are times when a picture drawn on a piece of paper conveys the sense of something far more quickly that all the data points and diagrams in the working world.

After the mornings meetings I went over the Sneha, an Indian buffet, and had lunch with my friend Don. We had a good lunch. Sneha used to be Sneha, then it was the Grand Indian Buffet, and now it is back to Sneha, but as near as I can tell it is the same restaurant with the same staff and the same food. The main entre for me at lunch was chicken Marsala and a cold noodle dsih with green onions and peppers that was excellent. I had a few other bits and pieces from the buffet. Then, I drove back to work.

The afternoon has been mostly quiet, which was excellent, as it enabled me to work through my backlog of requests and pull it down to the sum total of eight outstanding items - and I think I will be able to take a couple of more off the list before I wrap the day up in about two hours.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Poetry: The End of the Day

Every day ends
Some days end with
A soft whisper
And that
Is a very good thing

Sent from my iPhone

Daily Life: I Dream on Two Nights

Let me recount the dreams of two successive nights.

Tuesday night I dreamt of a hotel. It was a new hotel built in the
Beaux Artes architectural style, near Westgate shopping center, on the
section currently occupied by the Hometown Buffet. It was an
impressive structure of red stone, five stories tall, built around a
four square courtyard. In the dream it was late at night and I was
going to the hotel for a formal reception of some sort. It had the
feeling of either a premiere party or a gallery opening reception.

Then, last night, after a round of parasomnia, I tossed fitfully in
and out of sleep, woken intermittently by loud noises, I dreamt there
was a very large, very blue box in the center of my livingroom, tied
shut with a wide ribbon of blue silk. I did not open the box in my
dream, but I recall being very excited about what was in the box. In
my dream I knew what it was and I knew it was something I had been
expecting, but upon waking the contents of the box remains a mystery
to me.

So, in the shadow of the two dreams I am moving through today on about
four hours of sleep, now fortified by a nice hot bowl of white bean
soup and a bottle of Ginger ale. I have one meeting remaining in the
day, a short conversation with my boss to consider some possibilities
regarding workload distribution for one of my analysts. The day is
already over half way done, so I am going to lose myself in
intermittent tasks through the afternoon.

My plan tonight is a nap, a light dinner, and then my nephew is going
to stop buy with some movie he wants me to watch, and we'll watch it.
Then I hope to let my imagination fly and slip into the land of sleep.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Daily Life: The Power of Lunch

I spent all of the morning in teleconferences and my tolerance
threshold was slowly creeping downward. Small things were starting to
slip under my skin.

Fortunately I had a window for lunch. A quick walk in the sun, spicy
tofu, tuna salad, and an iced blackcherry smoothly later, with a few
minutes to slow down, think, contemplate, daydream later - back to
being mostly human.

Two more meetings to go, then an hour or two of actual work and I will
be able to call it a day and wander out into the sunshine of a
California afternoon.

I have a follow up visit today regarding the stress fracture in my
foot. I am anticipating a clean bill of health and then the ramp back
up into walking and running.

I was going to micro-vent in this blog entry, but as I enjoyed lunch I
realized I really had nothing to vent about. Today's irritations were
the ordinary irritations of life in a complex world and they quickly
fall away as we move through the day.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Daily Life: Dawn & The Amazon Kindle 2

Dawn was a thin ribbon of lighter blue on the horizon when I woke up this morning. There were birds singing outside, as if their songs were summoning the sun. I left my apartment and walked through the quiet courtyard. The moon was hanging over the Santa Cruz Mountains, a brilliant white orb all alone in a pale blue sky. It was an excellent start to the day.

I had a reason for waking up early this morning, for coming into the office almost two hours early. I had something I wanted to do this afternoon, so I was planning on flexing out two hours early. But, now, as I am sitting here, I cannot remember what it was. I checked my ubiquitous list of things to do and I don't see anything on it that sparks my memory. (I do see that I need to stop at a furniture store and look at getting two new kitchen chairs, but I am pretty sure that one is not it.) I am trusting that the reason will come to me as I move through the day. It wasn't something that I had to do - it was something that I wanted to do, so it didn't make it into the list. I hope it doesn't start to bug me.

On a different subject, a few weeks ago I bought an Amazon Kindle 2. Reading is a huge part of my life and my book collection tends to grow until it starts to crowd me out and then I purge books by donating them to the Friends of Library or another charitable organization. On top of that, I am a bit of a technology buff - I like to have the new technical toys. I am not of the opinion that whoever has the best toys wins in the game of life, but I do think that whoever has the best toys probably has a lot more fun on the journey.

Since I tend to read I lot I usually have three or four books stacked up in the hopper, waiting to be read. The same was true when I bought the Kindle - I had a couple of other books already stacked up waiting their turns, so I had to move through them before I got to actually sit down and read something of substance on the Kindle. I finished the last of the books in the hopper the other night (Gibson's "Spook Country") and started reading my first novel on the Kindle Sunday night.

I started reading "Assassin's Apprentice" by Robin Hobb, a fantasy novel. As a novel it is pretty good so far and so that might be influencing my impression of the Kindle. I have to say, I am fairly dang impressed. Up until now I had mostly read magazines, blogs and newspapers on the Kindle and found I liked it (no messy stacks of magazines and newspapers).

There are a couple of things I really like about the Kindle 2. First, the size and heft of it are, for me, almost perfect. It is light, but it has just enough heft to have substance. The screen is very easy to read, grayscale, and clear. Navigation is easy, a few clicks and you are on your way. Turning the page is simply pushing a button. I like very much that you simply stop reading, turn the device off (or set it down and it turns itself off), and then when you turn it back on - you're exactly where you left off. That is cool. I always used a bookmark before and sometimes the bookmark would slip out of the book and then I would have to figure out exactly where I was. With the Kindle 2 there is no doubt as to where you were, because you turn it on and you're there. So, for that first crucial novel reading experience on the Kindle, let me say - I am duly impressed.

The only drawback with the device I have found so far is the finish - I would like it if it had a more rubberized feel, more of a texture to grip onto. It is (like the I-Phone) just a little on the slick side and it has slipped out of my fingers a couple a couple of times. Of course, I take that in context of once, lying in bed, reading, I dropped Edward Rutherford's "The New Forest" right on my face as I nodded off and managed to give myself a bloody nose. Yes, we are injured for the things we love!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Daily Life:A Quick Sum of Things

It was an excellent weekend. I sincerely enjoyed the trip to Sacramento, to the Crocker Art Musuem, to see the Maxfield Parrish Exhibit. For those of you who may be scratching your head wondering why that name seems familiar, the picture above is what many consider to be his magnum opus - "Daybreak".

As is often the case with art let me just say that in my opinion so much art can only be appreciated in person. There are so many telling details that the best copies of photographs of the art works simple cannot capture. Art, in itself, has a presence. When ever I am in the presence of art the latin phrase "ars longa, vita brevis" always resonates in my mind.

I am going to write more about the trip to the Crocker Art Museum over the coming days - I really enjoyed it and immediately upon return to San Jose have begun enlisting my friends for a return trip. In addition to the Parrish exhibit, they have an excellent gallery in the French Salon style that is in itself worth the visit.

Tonight though, I cooked a simple casserole for dinner, followed it with a piece of German Chocolate cake, and then spent a very enjoyable evening in the company of my dear T.R., wandering the web and looking at various photographs in galleries like Deviant Art and other places online. The internet is truly an astounding place.

Daily Life: Three Dreams

I woke this morning from three consecutive dreams about writing in my
online journal. I had thought about writing last night, but my
thoughts were not fully formed, so I opted to wait. It would seem that
my subconscious mind objected to that decision! So I thought I would
write a quick morning entry to calm that part of the need to write at
least as this morning unfolds.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Phtography: The Crocker Art Museum

Daily Life: Parrish at the Crocker Art Museum

I'll write more later, but a wonderful exhibit at the Crocker Art
Museum. Well worth the drive up from San Jose.

Daily Life: I Wake Rebellious

Last night I dreamt of Orisha's, the iPhone, and the Guadalupe of the
Eastern Mountains. I awoke rebellious.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, May 8, 2009

Daily Life: One Minute Writer Award

Oh, and I am very proud to have won another award from One Minute Writer.

Here is my entry, about a talk show.

I get a lot of enjoyment from the One Minute Writer contests. I enjoy participating and I enjoy reading the submittals by the other participants.

Daily Life: A Beautiful Friday

Today was simply a beautiful day. I woke to a beautiful dawn and the symphony of birds, all riding on a cool breeze. I moved smoothly through the day. I lounged in the morning. I went to lunch and a movie (the new Star Trek - very good, I was actually impressed), then a light dinner with my nephew. A quiet evening at home, a simple phone call, then an episode of Myth Busters I had stored on the DVD. I am going to watch Doll House in about twenty minutes and then curl up with a book and read into the night. I am planning on heading up to Sacramento tomorrow AM, then back to San Jose in the mid to late afternoon, with a planned dinner with friends on Saturday night. The weather is perfectly beautiful California spring here in San Jose and the night is equally as beautiful. I love this kind of day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Photography: Thea Mediterranean - Santana Row

Poetry: All I Know

Sitting in the darkness
Inside the coolness of the night
Watching the clock spin down
Gleaming in the stereo light

I hear the sound of a voice
Rising into a simple song
I remember the taste of her lips
Has it really been that long

The memories we carry with us
All the things we recall
The glory of the rising
The pain of the fall

Sitting in the darkness
Inside the coolness of night
Watching the clock spin down
Gleaming in the stereo light

Sometimes love is a tangle
Equal parts rose and thorn
Sometimes love is dying
Even as it's born

The best that we can do
Is let love softly flow
Over the stones of the river bed
It's all I know

Sometimes love is a tangle
Equal parts rose and thorn
Sometimes love is dying
Even as it's born

The best that we can do
Is let love softly flow
Over the stones of the river bed
It's all I know

Sitting in the darkness
Inside the coolness of night
Watching the clock spin down
Gleaming in the stereo light

Daily Life: Anticipating A Timeless Weekend

It has been a very good week, all in all. It has been quiet and productive and now the day is spinning slowly down. I came into work early this morning, precisely so I could leave in the middle of the afternoon and start the weekend a little early. I just wrapped up my last formal meeting of the day and I am now spending the time cleaning up those odds and ends of bureaucratic life that are always necessary. They are as pointless to rail against as the weather - like the rain, like the sun, they just are. You learn to adapt to them or they make your days miserable.

It is my three day weekend and I haven't quite decided what I am going to do. I am mulling over a run up to Sacramento (about a two hour plus drive) to see a Maxfield Parrish exhibit that opened up today at the Crocker Art Museum. If I do I think I will probably spend the night up there and drop over to the Indian casino at Cache Creek and make a donation to the local tribe. I downloaded a little video poker game to my iPhone a couple of weeks ago and it has been a constant source of amusement in those quiet moments of the day that fall in between other things and has made me want to go spend some time sitting in front of a real video poker machine.

I am contemplating dinner but I haven't decided which direction I am going to go. I was thinking about going out, over to Thea Mediterranean or one of the other restaurants in Santana Row, but then my brain started swinging toward opening the apartment up wide and ordering a pizza. I have Yojimbo on DVR and I have been waiting for a window to watch it and tonight might be the perfect evening.

On the technical front I may have finally figured out what has been causing my connectivity problems at home. The personal laptop was acting up over a couple of days this last week, with intermittent connectivity problems. I was blaming my personal laptop so last night I fired up my personal desktop, which I rarely use except for big things, and that sent me in the direction of a bad router configuration. So I fired up my monitoring tools and my network monitoring tool couldn't pick up my wireless router (even though the other tools said it was up and running properly) so I purged the router, restarted it, and reconfigured it and as of last night - it was working like a charm, so I suspect it was a corrupted configuration file somewhere along the line. Of course, sometimes, with all computer equipment , you just have to reboot everything.

I am nearly to the end of "Spook Country" and it has been excellent - William Gibson at his finest. (He has written a couple of works that just did not impress me. "Virtual Light" was basically a movie treatment and way too Hollywood and "Idoru" was basically incoherent.) I see Clive Cussler has a new one coming out for the summer markets, so I am looking forward to that. My step-dad Bill turned me on Cussler a couple of years back, so I enjoy reading him.

I'm enjoying going into the weekend with all my options open, with nothing outside of a load of laundry or two that has to be done. I could be really lazy and bag the laundry and drop it off at the cleaners, but I happened to enjoy the Zen aspects of doing laundry. That timeless sense you get when you are doing an essentially simple task and can concentrate on the task itself. I think it is going to be a Zen weekend, just going with the flow.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Observations: Pocket Change & The Necessity of Reinvention

I think it is periodically necessary in our lives to reinvent ourselves. As I was wandering through my morning rituals I remembered one of my favorite lines from Shakespeare:

"Oh, for a muse of fire that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention!
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act,
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!"
-Wm. Shakespeare, Henry V

As we move through our lives we are often changed by those experiences. Think of each experience of life as a coin of change. We have many pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars* that we accumulate and put in our change jar.

In time, that jar becomes heavier and heavier with the coins of our lives. It can begin to weigh us down. Since it is a gradual process we often do not even notice it at first, but we eventually reach the point where we realize the weight of life that we are carrying.

Each of those coins represents the sum total of us and each holds some value - but, clearly, some hold more value than others. We reach points in our life where were need to sit down and sort out our coin jar, if for no other reason than to lighten our load a bit.

But we tend to save memories and experiences for a rainy day, for a "just in case", and as we sort through them we can often think of more reasons to keep them then to spend them and let them go.

It would be nice if there was a CoinStar** for our lives, where we could take the change jar of experience, pour it in, listen to the whirring and the clanking, watch the experiences get totaled up, and then the device would return to us a slip of paper (light, convenient) that was the sum of us, that we could then take to the cashier and restart the entire process of refilling our coin jar with new experiences. Just simply cash in the old experiences and start over gathering new ones.

I am a huge advocate of the necessity of taking a personal inventory periodically. In my case, I do it very literally. I will take a month of time (for me, a month is sufficient detail to truly look at my patterns and habits) and then keep a very detailed running journal of what I am doing, usually in hour long increments. Do it for thirty days and it will give you a surprising view of your life. (At least it always seems to surprise me.)

Then, once you have your personal daily inventory in hand, you can compare "what you do" and "what you want to do". If you can close the gap between those two, you will find you have reinvented yourself and have moved much closer to the core of happiness that resides in all of us.

*I think I am the only one who really likes the dollar coins. I like them so much I will often buy a roll of them at the bank, just so I can have dollar coins.

**CoinStar fascinates me. If you think about it, it is an entirely successful business model built on one thing. We are basically to lazy to count and roll our own change.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Photography: Brooding Storm

Photography: Flagstones

Daily Life: Sin Nombre

Sin Nombre, popcorn with butter, Cherry Coke and Junior Mints at
Cinema Artes in Santana Row.

Sent from my iPhone

Daily Life: A Mystery Vegetable In My Soup

Lunch was a chicken and rice soup that was rather short on chicken. That is one of the drawbacks of eating soup deli style, there are always people who will go into a counter soup and fish out all of this or all of that. Sometimes they will go to great lengths. I have seen people standing at the soup pots using the ladle like they were panning for gold, carefully selecting individual bits of floating this or that for exclusion or inclusion in their bowl.

All in all it was a good soup though, flavorful and containing only one mystery vegetable like substance that I was unable to identify - I suspect it was overcooked cauliflower from the general texture of it, or it may have been corrugated cardboard that fell into the soup. I am not really sure, but it carried the flavor of the soup well, so I didn't worry about it too much!

Since my day started early this morning it has been passing relatively quickly and I should wrap things up at about 3:00 PM, maybe a little sooner. I have been meaning to get out and see the movie "Sin Nombre" and given how things have quieted down this afternoon that may be my plan. It is playing at a couple of different theatres, so I have some options as far as time is concerned. It is supposed to be a very good drama and I just really have not been in the mood for a drama the last couple of times that I have gone out to see a movie. Today I am kind of in the mood for a good dramatic movie. I've also got a couple of movies stored up on the DVR at home that would fall under the category of "dramatic movies" and I might elect to watch one of them instead.

Daily Life: Morning

I woke an hour or so before dawn this morning. As I padded around the apartment brewing coffee and making breakfast I opened the patio doors to hear the sound of a morning symphony of birds and to fill the apartment with the lush scent of rain. Unfortunately, a neighborhood skunk had other plans, so the door was closed as quickly as it was opened! Off to a rolling start here in semi-rainy California.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Daily Life: The Hallways of Life

It appears that in addition to being introspective today I am also inclined toward writing. I was walking down the long hallway at work and I saw one of my friends at the other end of the hallway. We waved and turned down different halls long before we ever met. I thought - what an apt description of our journey through life.

We are all walking down a great maze of intersecting hallways. Sometimes we walk together. Sometimes we pass each other. Sometimes we make the same turns. Sometimes we make different turns. Sometimes we glimpse each other in passing. Sometimes we move down the same hallways and because of the influence of time and timing, we never even see each other. Sometimes we recognize friends in the distance, wave, and then make the turns we are inclined to make.

Sometimes we will change our paths to walk different hallways with our friends. Sometimes they will change to walk with us. Sometimes we double-back and cover the same ground we have already covered. Habit and choice can often send us down the same hallways day after day. I think the nature of love and friendship is that we should encourage each other to go down those hallways we are inclined to go down, even when those hallways separate us.

In the end, we are all walking the same hallways, just as different paces and at different times. Somewhere in those hallways we meet. Then we meet again and again and again as time flows inexorably past.

Daily Life: Paperwork, Teleconferences and Gravity

I am feeling a little guilty that I didn't do anything over the weekend. I kept it a quiet weekend, stayed close to home, and other than some incidental errands the only thing I really did over the weekend was go out to the movie.

I knew it was the right choice this morning when I woke up. I was bright-eyed and bushy tailed and fairly leapt out of my bed. There was definitely a spring in my step as I started the day.

If I were to describe my mood today it would be "centered and slightly introspective". There is a sense of the deliberate in my mood today, as if I were walking on uneven ground and carefully placing one foot after the other. Not in the sense that my footing is uncertain, but in the sense that each step is very certain. I am not sure that analogy makes any sense, but I am sticking to it for now.

I was looking at my work calendar today and I noticed that I currently have 10 hours worth of meetings on the books this week. That is an extremely light meeting load, so I am taking that as a portent of good fortune.

A long time ago, when I was a child, my father was the foreman of a construction company in Rapid City, SD. I can remember going to pick him up from work and being fascinated by his office. He had an average sized office that had a round window. Inside the office was his desk (covered with paperwork), a big table (covered with blue prints) and assorted shelves and file cabinets.

In later years I learned that there is far more to being a construction foreman than paperwork, but at the time I was terribly impressed and I remember thinking "that is what I want to do when I grow up - sit in an office and do paperwork". I had other dreams and visions of what I wanted to do when I grew up as I grew up (most folks do I think), and I often refer to the last ten plus years of my life as my "accidental career".

The advent of the personal computer of course mostly transformed paperwork into the realm of electronic media, but paperwork is still paperwork, whether or not it involves paper. If you were to ask me what I do for a living - the functional aspects of it - I do two things - I go to meetings and I do paperwork.

It all centers back on the task of managing people and projects, but if you were to sit in my office with me you would notice two things that are prominent. I am almost always reading or writing something, and I am quite often on the telephone - either in an individual call or in a teleconference. My day consists almost entirely of two very basic things - writing and talking.

The biggest challenge in my day is dealing with the wide diversity of personalities that make a big corporation move. It is navigating my way through a hundred complex relationships, rich in history and detail, and finding two distinct points and connecting them. I think there is a secret that good managers know and bad managers never truly grasp. Success or failure in any organizational task relies on people, and a managers true job is managing people. All the rest of it is just paperwork, teleconferences and gravity.

Sharing: The Summer Day - Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Daily Life: Notes from a Simple Sunday

It is about three thirty in the afternoon here in San Jose and I've just circled back into the apartment. The sky is a very deep gray, the breeze smells of rain, and all of the birds are singing up a storm. I just put dinner into the oven (roast chicken with rosemary, thyme, and seasoned salt), so it should be ready in an hour of so. After deliberating half a dozen chicken recipes, I ultimately decided to just keep it simple. I'll cook some rice to go with the chicken before to long.

It's been a pretty simple and enjoyable weekend. Saturday was a supremely lazy day - the only reason I left the apartment was to run down to the bank, make a quick stop at the drug store, and then swing through the book store. Other than that I spend the day relaxing, reading, listening to music and watching incidental shows on television.

Today started out pretty much the same. I went to an early mass, then circled home. I played on the computer for a while, then cooked a chili omelet for breakfast. I ate the omelet while watching a DVR'ed episode of "Lie To Me", then went out to meet Pierre and Helen at the movie theatre to see the new Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman. It was visually enjoyable (try not to think about the plot, try not to think about the plot). I would recommend it as a pleasing two hours worth of eye candy.

After the movie I stopped at a russian deli for tea and a sandwich, then swung over to Target to pick up a new flour sifter (mine was on its last legs) so I can try a coffee cake recipe sent by someone dear to me who tormented me with visions of coffee cake for an entire week. From there I drifted home.

A few minutes ago the rain started to pour down - the fast popping as it hits the awning outside the open patio doors is a wonderful rush of white noise. I slept very well last night and I had one of those dreams where I woke with a phrase in my head. (My dreams have been surprisingly literate the last couple of months - I wonder what that is about - perhaps it is because I am not writing enough.) The phrase was:

"Incidents of Insight and the Mechanics of Meaning"

It seems like it would be a good book title. Perhaps it is a very good description of the type of dream that I seem to be having lately. I am aware that I am not writing as much creatively as I like to - other than a few, I have not written a lot of poetry or short fiction in the last month or so. (Just like that the rain has stopped - that is how it has been all day - a little bands of showers, enough to raise the scent of rain and leave it slightly muggy.)

I need to start doing writing exercises to get those creative juices flowing and to that end I just took one of my favorite little writing prompt books out and I will page through it a little later in the evening. It is not that I do not have anything to write, it is more that I have not gotten around to carving out the time to actually do the writing - and that is something that is entirely curable.

One of the highlights of this weekend has been a lot of very satisfying incidental conversations and with incidental people. Though slow and simple I have moved through the weekend so far with a sense of being very much alive - and that is a very good thing.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Daily Life: Quick Quick

Two days passed very quickly. If I look back at them I couldn't say, in great detail, what make them pass so quickly. Work with productive and quick. Personal life was productive and quick. I was thinking earlier about one of my New Year's resolutions, which was to try and keep things simple - specifically, to focuse more on what I was doing in the moment that I was doing it. It has had an interesting side effect of making time pass more quickly, or so it seems to me. More likely, what it has done has made me lose track of, or perhaps stop paying so much attention to, the flow of the hours on the face of the clock.

I have been enjoying it - nights seem to truly belong to me, to spend as I wish to spend them, doing the things that bring me simple happiness. I think the trick to happiness is pretty simple - pay attention to what makes you happy, and then do those things that make you happy. Enjoy a good movie. Listen to a CD. Read a book. Talk to a friend. Write a letter. Take a walk in the park. Enjoy dinner with friends. For each of them, when you are in them, be in them. Very zen, all in all.

For some reason I am looking forward to this weekend very much. I don't really have anything special planned. The weather channel says cloudy with rain. I think I will just move through the weekend and enjoy the cloudy with rain part. It will be a good weekend for cleaning, writing, reading, talking and movie watching. Hope to share some of it with you.