Friday, September 30, 2011

Vexed By Denial

I like the word vexed. I am not sure why, but it has a great ring to it. To me, it designates a certain kind of above average irritation. For the last two days I have been vexed.

I've been vexed by denial. I have a customer at another site who has a computer configuration problem that can only be addressed by there local desktop support. The application throws a very specific error that says "this aspect is not configured for this action, change the configuration". (That is not the actual error message, but rather the meaning of it.) The first desktop analyst correctly identified the problem, but could not fix it. Then, the next point of escalation denied there was an error - and that is where we sit.

Vexed at the door of denial I am resisting the temptation to kick it in, and then go raging about and head butt random people. Fortunately, though vexed, I am more amused by it than anything else. There is one simple action the desktop analyst could take which would fix the problem, but that would first involve him accepting that there is a problem that is within his area of responsibility.

It is right there that he is poised, firmly leaning into the door of denial, keeping it tightly closed. I never really got the point of it, but part of what has me amused is I know that desktop and user support is one of the most difficult jobs in the computer world - it is pretty stressful and thankless. So, I will keep moving forward with as delicate touch as I can muster. Until it becomes
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Evening with The Replacement Killers

I slipped out of the office a little early today, so I could stop at the electronics store and pick up some DVD-RW's for backing up my data. I wandered the store a bit, just looking at things and enjoying the walk, but nothing else caught my mind as either a need or a want.

At home, I made a quick tamale pie for dinner, accompanied by the remnants of yesterday's potato salad, then watched some stuff from my DVR as I slide into the evening. (Modern Family, Up All Night, and Ghost Hunters). Once the sun set and the day started to cool off, I took a long, hot, soaking bath with softened my mood from earlier in the day.

I'd slipped into a mood mid-afternoon, after dealing with a set of problems with a vendor. Two of the three issues were resolved and the third is in the pipeline to be resolved, but there really wasn't any need to have lean on the vendor the extra amount. I often struggle to understand why people and organizations simply don't honor their commitments. Layered on top of that was a personal item that I may write about later, as I am mulling it now. It also has to do with people not honoring their commitments.

My brain pulls to mind that classic proverb ' "Trusting no one, never weep when you are betrayed." It is a little dramatic, since there was no betrayal involved, but it does amply illustrate the problems of expectations. Anyway, that hot bath sure covered a lot of ground in resetting my mood.

After the bath I have been sitting here watching a classic bit of "American-Hong Kong Cinema", the movie "The Replacement Killers" with Chow Yun Fat and Mira Sorvino. If you have never seen it, it is a great little action/drama, in part since Chow Yun Fat is always amazing. I also count "The Corruptor" with him and Mark Wahlberg, as another classic action/drama movie in the same vein. If you are in the mood for a stylistic shoot-em-up, either of those two will do. Personally, I also liked the charming Mira Sorvino in "The Replacement Killers".

My plan tonight is simple, conversation, reading, sleeping. Tomorrow is Friday, my work Friday, so it will be a slow day and I am planning on spending most of the analyzing a large report, the second such analysis in this week. I would have done it today, but I ended up jumping from customer service issue to customer service issue, since they had been stacking up earlier in the week.

Wednesday is Really Thursday

It’s Thursday!

That is a simple thing, but it actually made my day this morning. I woke up and as I moved around in the pre-dawn darkness, getting ready for the day, I was thinking it was Wednesday, thinking I had three days of work left this week. Then, suddenly, as I went through the things I’d already accomplished this week, it dawned on me that it was Thursday. For some strange reason that was a great weight off my shoulders. Two days I can do. Three days would have been a challenge.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chaotic Savoring

The end of the working day is approaching. It's been a bit of an exercise in controlled chaos today. I had crafted the plan for the day around a pair of morning meetings. But, one was cancelled and the other moved into the afternoon, so I ended up doing the things I had planned to do in the afternoon in the morning and the things I had planned to do in the afternoon in the morning.

Then, I got pulled into a pair of unexpected meetings, in between which I weaved the fabric of lunch (excellent enchilada suizas at Mexicali Grill), made it back for my last meeting, and then managed to weave something productive out of the remaining fabric of the day.

Now, I am on the long slide into the evening. It has been an absolutely beautiful early fall day here. In the complexity of the weave of the day, I managed to spend some time sitting outside the building, on a bench, between two maple trees watching a solitary honey bee weave its way in and out of late blooming flowers.

I am looking forward to the evening. I am looking forward to getting home, opening the patio doors wide, grilling a rib-eye steak, tossing together a simple salad, and savoring what remains of this day. I guess, in the sum of it, as the afternoon winds down, it was a day for savoring. Chaotic savoring, but savoring none the less.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Until There Is No Simplicity To Seek

Lunch was a bowl of split-pea soup and an unsettled mind. Due to the change in seasons I’ve been sleeping later into the morning. My body is tuned to the rhythm of the setting and rising sun. With the sun rising later in the day during the fall and winter months I tend to go to sleep earlier and rise later. I try and cultivate what I see as that very natural sleeping pattern. Now, I am not sure that the change in sleeping patterns has anything to do with having an unsettled mind, but there may be a connection there somewhere.

When I am speaking of an unsettled mind, I mean a mind that does not want to settle on a single subject. It is different than a lack of focus. When I speak of a lack of focus, I mean the inability to focus clearly on the one thing that your mind has settled on. An unsettled mind may be a very focused mind, it just doesn’t want to spend too much time, or too much focus, on one thing. It moves from thing to thing, from thought to thought, through the day, as if it was searching for a specific thing or thought that it wanted to settle on. It is almost as if the mind is doing an inventory of its thoughts.

Currently, I am searching for some thought around the subject of simplicity. Externally, the last two years of my life have been a journey toward simplicity. The internal journey has mirrored the external journey. Somehow, in the preceding years, I had become incredibly cluttered in both my physical world and my psychological world. With each layer of complexity that gets peeled off, I see the underlying layer of simplicity. Then, in time, I come to see that as “not simple enough”, peel it back, and find another layer underneath. I am not sure if there is a bottom to the layers. If there is, I am not sure what lies underneath the last layer.

One of the parts of the journey that I have found particularly interesting has been this layered effect. You take the complexity of life, you take all of the component parts of that complexity, you contemplate them, try and understand which is which, what purpose they serve, what value they hold and it seems that in each successive iteration you find that any purpose or value is largely illusionary.

As you delve into things you discover the necessity of them and you discover that many of the things are simply not necessary. On my level, I am not sure you can put the horse before the cart. Let us say you have ten complex things in your life. I find that you have to spend a certain amount of time contemplating them, coming to understand them, before you can separate yourself from them.

That process of contemplation allows you to truly let them go. If you reverse that order, if you discard the complexity prior to understanding the complexity, then it is going to sneak back into your life. Your mind isn’t ready to let go of it yet. First comes understanding, then comes release.

This process of seeking simplicity continues until there is no simplicity to seek.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Get Low With The Killer Elite

The season has scarcely turned to fall and we were given our first shower today. It didn't amount to much, gray skies, cool wind, a few raindrops, but it was the promise of the California winter to come. This weather is great for sleeping in, which is what I did this morning. I lingered in the cool grayness, curled underneath the blanket, and enjoyed the simple pleasure of it.

I was lazy through the morning - breakfast of oatmeal, Greek Gods yogurt, toast and black coffee. I watched a couple of television shows off the DVR - Haven and Nikita. Both of them were enjoyable. I went out and played a few games of pool, then done to the movie theater to see the new movie "The Killer Elite" with Robert DeNiro, Jason Stratham and Clive Owen. I'd like to tell you it was better than it was, but it wasn't.

After the movie I came home and took a nice long nap. Dinner was a bowl of chili and I am currently watching, for the second time, a very good movie - "Get Low" with Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek. I will give it the hearty recommendation that I would have liked to have given "The Killer Elite". It is just a great little movie, well worth your time if you Netflix or come across it on cable. I grabbed in on my DVR from Starz. Of course, you can rarely go wrong with Robert Duvall.

My Kindle is on the charger and tonight my plan is to spend a quiet evening reading some more in "The Clash of Kings" before I call it a night, then tomorrow I get to start the work week all over again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Spider Bite - A Poem

we slept
in the darkness
beneath the coffee trees
and thousands of spiders
bound us in webs
Gulliver's kin
a poisonous one
bit me
on the inside of my right thigh
fever corrupted flesh
hospital bed
a scar there
where the surgeons knife
lanced the wound
and blackness poured out

Friday, September 23, 2011

Photo Set - 2011 Highland Games

This is a photo set from the 2011 Pleasanton Highland Games. Enjoy!

2011 Highland Games

A Jazz Ensemble Morning

It is a slow and quiet morning here in California. The sun is rising, but the morning clouds haven't quite burned off. It is a cool morning, with the promise of heat later in the day. I am starting my three day weekend as lazily as I can. On waking, I lingered in bed and watched the morning unfolding, listening to the street sounds outside the window, the floating voices of the people walking by. Snippets of conversation rose up through the windows and bounced around the room, disconnected sentences, discordant voices, all combining for sort of a jazz ensemble effect. It was a good way to start the day and the weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Beggar Girl - A Poem

she sits on the curb
outside the restaurant
where the old bososuku come
on Saturday nights to
drink beer and recall their
thunder days
she plays her Martin
classic songs from another world
and as they leave they pause
to listen and to drop small
folded bills into her cup

Data Analysis, Traffic, and Dinner

So, I went to work today with three tasks. I needed to do a mock-up of some design changes to a website, which was pretty simple. Then, I need to run a pair of reports for analysis. The requests were moderately complex, but the data was there. I ran the reports got the data and went to work on the analysis portion of it. That is where things started to go awry.

First, at some point in the history of the data, two fields had been retasked - but behind the scenes the retained the names associated with their old task. So, as we dug into that, looking to relabel the fields, we discovered that about twelve percent of the data fields had been re-tasked at some point, so the data dictionary was out of kilter. I documented the findings, inserted some temporary labels on two of the fields I needed, and ran the associated reports.

Then, the second problem rose its head. Each field is supposed to be single sourced - an exclusive one to one relationship between the parent and child. Except - they weren't. Only, we didn't figure that out until we were deep into the analysis and things simply wouldn't add up. It took some trouble-shooting to figure out what was going on and it opened a can of worms that will require engineering to fix, so come Monday, I will document that one.

Meanwhile, now that I know what is wrong with the data, I can output it into an ad hoc Access database, establish some imaginary relationships, so I can key off something, and then do the analysis from there.

So, that was pretty much the sum of my day (other than a nice mushroom and tarragon soup for lunch.). It did make it a long day, with its own share of frustrations - but the day is done, I've bought a few more days to do the analysis, and I am looking forward to it, now that the hurdles have been overcome. I've always liked the analysis portion of my work.

I drove home in the middle of the rush hour, which meant that my usual twenty minute commute was an hour of stop and go, but I was listening to the Indigo Girls "Swamp Ophelia", which is in heavy rotation in my CD player, so the time passed quickly enough. The long commute was also much more easy to tolerate since I knew that I was sliding into a three day weekend.

At home, I had a dinner of grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches and watched the opening episodes of this seasons "Modern Family" - a good way to start the long weekend. Tonight, my plan is to keep it simple, spend some time with T.R., and then spend some time continuing to read George R.R. Martin's "A Clash of Kings". I am in a good mood and the three day weekend is about to begin.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Simpleness of the Day

It was very nice to just move slowly through the day, to stay home, to tinker around, and to do those incidental things that arose. I split the day between light cleaning, incidental re-arrangement purging, and watching either the DVR or On-Demand. I loved the simpleness of the day.
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A Rare Day Off

I am pretty good about taking vacation. I try and take three or four weeks a year and only carry a minimal vacation balance at work, but I usually take one or two weeks at a time. I often struggle to take just a simple day here or there. I always encourage the people who work for me to take a spontaneous day off. I tell them "if you have the vacation time and you wake up one morning and don't feel like working, just take the day - that is what vacation is for". But it is something that I struggle with.

I woke up on Monday and seriously considered taking the day off, then for a variety of reasons (or mental excuses), I ended up going into the office. Almost immediately after doing it though, I regretted it. It was pretty much just an ordinary day at the office and I could have very easily taken it off. So, I resolved then and there to take a day off this week and glancing at my calendar, I landed on Wednesday. My meeting schedule was mostly routine and I had no pressing tasks that I couldn't finish on Thursday. So, I blocked the time out, send the relevant email, and here I am.

I started the day by sleeping in about an hour and a half, then met Tony for breakfast over at Goodie's II in Campbell for their excellent Heuvos Mexicanas. From there, I made a quick stop and the grocery store and then circled back home. My plan today, if it can be considered a plan, is to simply relax and ease my way through the day. I'm going to alternate between DVD watching, reading, and getting the spare bedroom set up as an office. It is a rare day off for me and I intend to savor it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Dream The Suddenness of Violence

It was a simple dream, almost just a fragment. I was sitting in a comfortable chair reading. A man stepped from the next room. I saw him in my peripheral vision. He had a pistol. He raised it and aimed. I twisted to the right to try and get out of the chair. He fired. The bullet struck me in the left side of the throat, just under the jaw line. There was no pain, just a sudden sense of shock. I closed my eyes and fell deeper into sleep and at the bottom of sleep I woke into this world.

I've often said, only half joking, that the only thing I fear in this world is that God is Just. Though I live an entirely different life now, in my youth I had an intimate acquaintance with violence. Like an old friend those days come back now and then to haunt my dreams, to haunt me.
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

The First Battle of the Books

Okay, I have paused to take a breather, having run up and down the steps several times with boxes of books, bags of papers, and a desk. I've reached the end of "The First Battle of the The Books". As I continue down the path toward a simplified lifestyle, in fits and starts, I periodically find myself struggling with my possessions.

For those things that I am fond of, like my books, it can be a real battle. There can be a real back and forth. I am trying to pull my book collection down to the books that I routinely use and read, with minor exceptions for collectors items or items of significant value. A few weeks back, when they put the new carpet in, I moved all of my books from the shelves onto the kitchen table. I was pretty impressed that they all fit on the table. All told, there were about two hundred and forty books.

Well, fits, starts, and weeks later I've cleared the books from the table - some of them made it back to the shelves, perhaps too many. Others make it to Goodwill. Still others ended up in the recycle bin. What remains is back on the shelves, though not in any specific order. "The Second Battle of the Books" is forthcoming. As I re-order the books on the shelves, I am hoping to make another cut - again, I hope to cut it in half.

This is a struggle for me because I can look at almost any book and think "gosh, I need to re-read that" or "I may need to look something up in that one" or "that was a good one, I think I will hang onto it." When, practically speaking - probably less than twenty of them get routine looked at. So, this is just a breather between the First and Second Battle of the Books.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Language or the Kiss

I have always found this to be one of the most touching and heart-breaking songs I've ever heard. I have a copy of it on the Indigo Girls "Swamp Ophelia" album, which I was listening to today as I drove around town. I thought I would take a few moments tonight and share it with you as I wind into the end of the night.

Language or the Kiss

I don't know if it was real or in a dream
Lately waking up I'm not sure where I've been
There was a table set for six and five were there
I stood outside and kept my eyes upon that empty chair
And there was steam on the windows from the kitchen
Laughter like a language I once spoke with ease
But I'm made mute by the virtue of decision
And I choose most of your life goes on without me
Oh the fear I've known
That I might reap the praise of strangers and end up on my own
All I've sown was a song
But maybe I was wrong

I said to you the one gift which I'd adore
The package of the next 10 years unfolding
But you told me if I had my way I'd be bored (I'd be bored)
Right then I knew I loved you best born of your scolding
When we last talked we were lying on our backs (lying on our backs)
Looking at the sky through the ceiling (looking at the sky, looking through the ceiling)
I used to lie like that alone out on the driveway
Trying to read the Greek upon the stars
The alphabet of feeling
Oh I knew back then
It was a calling that said if joy then pain
The sound of the voice these years later
Is still the same

I am alone in a hotel room tonight
I squeeze the sky out but there's not a star appears
Begin my studies with this paper and this pencil
And I'm working through the grammar of my fears
Oh mercy (mercy) what I won't give
To have the things that mean the most not to mean the things I miss
Unforgiving the choice still is
The language or the kiss

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jennifer Lopez - The Cell

This is a follow on to the previous post, I just thought I would share an image of Jennifer Lopez from "The Cell". If you've never seen the movie, odds are that you have seen one of the many images of Jennifer Lopez from the movie.

Watching "The Fall"

After a longer than expected day I took the slow route home, grabbed a salad on the way, and then spent a bit of time this evening watching "The Fall". It is a movie about a story. Rather than mangle the plot, this link will take you to Wikipedia, which does a far better job explaining it than I can - "The Fall" by Tarseem Singh. I very much enjoyed the movie.

I have a deep love for a good story, and since this is essential a movie about two people telling a story, I was hooked early on. If you are unfamiliar with Tarseem Singh, in addition to "The Fall", he also did "The Cell" with Jennifer Lopez, and he has another movie coming out "The Immortals" (about Theseus). He has a tremendously vivid visual style and his films are highly stylistic. "The Fall" was no exception. It was nice to just sit there and be dazzled at the end of the day.

So, if you are up for a feast for the eyes, I'd recommend "The Cell" or "The Fall" equally, if you haven't seen either. The poster is one of several versions that supported "The Fall" when it was out in movie theaters.

Tonight, with a minds eye full of the vivid images of Tarseem Singh, my plan is a quiet evening with reading and some time with T.R.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Fine Vintage of Poetry

I can get drunk on the words alone
they get inside me and intoxicate me
fermenting to a fine vintage of poetry

The Things I Carry

As I was preparing to go home from work last night, after a fairly long day, I was joking with one of my coworkers that I needed to start carrying a purse or a man-bag. In the morning, as I prepare to drive into the office, I sometimes think I need to have a checklist so I can make sure I've got everything. Because I thought it might be a little insightful, I thought I would take a few minutes this morning and list out "The Things I Carry".

Other than the occassional incident where I accidently put on two pairs of underwear*, the clothing is pretty routine. From the bottom up - shoes, socks, pants, underwear, a t-shirt, a shirt, a belt, and a jacket of some sort (depending on the day it might be my tan Weatherproof, a Columbia fleece, or a Calvin Klein sport coat).

Then, I start to fill my pockets. Wallet. Car Keys, Change, Flash Drive, Pocket Knife, Watch (depending on the day it's a wrist-watch or a pocket watch), Pen, Employee Badge, Blackberry 1 (personal), Blackberry 2 (work), Bluetooth headset, Reading Glasses, Sun Glasses, Eye Drops, Mints.

Then, my briefcase, laptop, Kindle, notebook, and assorted things in the briefcase that only very rarely actually come out. USB cables (3 different kinds), Blackberry charger, Blood Glucose test kit, incidental mail or paperwork for the day, iPhone 3G**, headphones, extra medications, Rosary, nail kit (file and clipper in a little leather case), extra pocket knife (because you never know when you're going to need one), contact lens case, travel bottle of contact lens cleaner, extra pens (2). heavy duty envelope with blank checks, regular envelopes, stamps, and address labels.

Then, finally, I will grab my commute coffee and any CD that I am planning on listening to during the commute.

*Some years ago, when I was in a particularly frantic mood, I had gotten to work and midway through the morning went to the bathroom - only to discover that, for reasons only know to the universe, I was wearing two pairs of underwear - a pair of boxers over a pair of boxer briefs.

**Wait, I have three smart phones? Uh, yes, I do. The "main phone" is my personal Blackberry Curve 8900. My company does not allow us to receive company email on personal devices and my group supports a mobile application, so I also have my company issued Blackberry Torch. I usually just toss it in a jacket pocket, or my briefcase, for the morning trip. I have the iPhone 3G because, like a pocket knife, you never know when you are going to need another cell phone. Additionally, having owned both the Blackberry and the iPhone, I have differentiated them in this way - the Blackberry is rock-solid tool (with both phones on AT&T my Blackberry drops a call maybe one in a hundred. The iPhone, mythology aside, gets physically hot and routinely drops calls with heavy phone use. The iPhone excels in non-phone or email related tasks - it's a music player, it's a great little camera, it's got the coolest toys and apps. So, until they have the chimera-like iBlackBerry, I have one of each. Next, I want to get a Droid - uh, I'll have to make up a reason to have four cell phones, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beneath the Sumi-e Painting

I lay upon the couch
Beneath the sumi-e painting
The slowly spinning fan washing
Over my sleep like a water-dream
While you rise above me
In your white silk robe
That is washed against your body
With each passage of the fan
You wake me with your hand
Pressed against my chest
Holding me in place until
Like the water-dream you
Wash over me
Beneath the Sumi-e painting

(For T.R. after reading Li-Young Lee "The Winged Seed")
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Like Otters, Slippery From The Water

On the drive into work this morning I thought about the difficulties of staying inside the moment. According to Google, that fountain of semi-infinite knowledge, I live 11 miles from the office. On an average day, using Lawrence Expressway, it's about a 20 minute commute. You would think that pulling yourself into the moment and staying relatively focused for twenty minutes, while engaged in the fairly complex mechanical task of driving, would be fairly simple. But, as I drove up the expressway, I repeatedly watched my thoughts simply take off.

I would be driving down the road and suddenly solid thoughts would turn fluid and flow across the landscape of my imagination. I came to the conclusion tha t thoughts

were slippery things. Just when you think you have them in your grasp, they will suddenly twist and turn and get away from you. By consciously observing my thoughts I became aware of them as they escaped the present moment.

When I saw the thought had dashed away, I would simply say "Gone!", then try and consider the thought and see what insight I could gain. I would try to find that point where I lost them, where they left the moment. I would look at why they left the moment. I would look at what took them down the path that led them to wherever they were going. I would let the thoughts that escaped go and I would pull back into the current moment.

In that twenty minute drive it would not be an exaggeration to say that those slippery thoughts of mine took off in different directions at least twenty times. They did it in some pretty amusing ways. I would have a trigger thought, somewhere in the present moment, and it would unleash an entire cascade of thoughts that went flowing out of the moment. Sometimes they were slow and subtle, a quiet stream meandering through a mountain meadow. Other times they were a sudden raging torrent that went tumbling over the rocks, all wild coursing and dancing spray. Like otters, slippery from the water, they would pause and then with a flash, be gone.

The moment, this moment, is a challenging place to stay in, even though it is the place where we naturally reside. Our restless imaginations are filled with slippery moments that pause and are gone.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Dreaming Waltz

I wandered through most of the day today thinking about the most simple of challenges. The challenge of "being here, now". Far to often I find something that pulls me out of the moment - pulls me into the past, pulls me into the future, pulls me physically into a different space. Then I focus and pull myself back into the here and now...and the dance continues. Sometimes it is a stately and elegant waltz. Other times it is a mad jig danced to a furious fiddle. Once in a great while it is both at the same time. It seems like the only time I am in the here and now is when I'm sleeping - and then, often enough, I am dreaming as well.
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Torchwood - Miracle Day - Outstanding

Well, I just watched the final episode of "Torchwood: Miracle Day". I have to say that was an astounding piece of television. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it and the finale episode knocked the ball out of the park. Kudos to BBC, Starz, and then entire cast. A truly enjoyable piece of television. If you should happen to find it on re-run, or buy or rent the DVD's when you get the chance, you will not regret it - especially if you are a Science Fiction fan, or a fan of the Torchwood series. Simply outstanding television.

John Barrowman - Captain Jack Harkness
Eve Myles - Gwen Cooper
Mekhi Phifer - Rex Matheson
Alexa Havins - Esther Drummond
Kai Owen - Rhys Williams
Bill Pullman - Oswald Danes
Lauren Ambrose - Jilly Kitzinger
Arlene Tur - Dr. Very Juarez
Marina Benedict - Charlotte Wills

Three New Books

Yesterday I came home to find a small pile of Amazon packages on my doorstep. Inside of them were three new books, each slightly different then the other, each with their own attraction.

This is the cover of the first of the three - "The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Onono Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan" by Jane Hirshfield. T.R. recommended this one - I love the simplicity and directness of Japanese poetry, there is a spare elegance to it that dazzles me.

The second book is "The Winged Seed: A Remembrance" by Li-Young Lee. This one was also recommended by T.R. If you're not a fan of Li-Young Lee you're missing out on a brilliant and articulate poet whose work is the work of a master artist. I have several of his connections of poetry and this is his memoir, a poetic work in itself.

The third book is "The Ending of Time" by J. Krishnamurti and David Bohm. I am a huge fan of David Bohm's "Wholeness and the Implicate Order", and recently I have been semi-obsessed with time, so this book seemed like it would be a good read.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Career in Offices

It is very quiet at the office here today.  In the normal cycles of the corporate world it happens sometimes, just like you have days of chaos and confusion.  Sometimes the stars align and you have days of quiet and contemplation.  Today has been one of them.  I woke up and started early this morning.  One of the advantages of being a "knowledge worker" is you have flexibility.  If you work for the right organization you can exercise that flexibility by starting early or finishing late, by working when the muse is fully upon you, or when you've managed to find that point of silence where you can concentrate.

A short while ago I walked outside intending to bask in the sun a bit.  Unfortunately, there was no sun for basking.  The morning fog and cloud cover is just now burning off. I stood there near the back door for a while anyway, sunglasses on, basking in the cloudiness. I've mentioned before that my work area, my office area, has no natural light.  After a while in such an environment you start to crave it. When Dame Fortune spins the wheel of office relocation again, and I am sure she will, I hope I land near a window. I was just sitting here thinking about my "journey in offices" with this corporation.

My first office was a shared cubicle.  I started here as a temporary worker doing data entry while I was in graduate school.  I shared the cubicle of an analyst, but the cubicle was so small that we basically had to play Tetris to get in and out of it.

My second office was a single cubicle, shared with two servers.  It was an improvement from the first cubicle, but only marginally, since people were continually in and out of it to tinker with the servers, a pair of old Suns.

My third office was a great big cubicle right next to the front door.  It was spacious and well appointed, with lots of room.  No one wanted the cubicle because of its position next to the door.  All day long people went in and out and given the proximity to the door, people just automatically assumed you were the receptionist.  I liked it because of its size and because it was right next to the door, so I could slip outside and sit on the picnic bench in front of the building.

My third office was yet another cubicle, in a different building.  The building of the first three offices was sold and torn down.  This was actually a double-cube that faced a glass wall that opened on a very large central atrium.  It also had a pair of racked servers in it.  In this case, no one else wanted it because it was wide open.  Anyone walking by could look right at you through the glass wall.  I rearranged the furniture so I was facing the atrium and then made it a point to vigorously wave at anyone who looked at me, mostly because their startled looks would amuse me.  It was always interesting to me who would enthusiastically wave back and who would suddenly look away.

My fourth office came with a promotion and I landed against the opposite wall from the third office.  It was a regular sized cubicle that fronted on a glass brick wall, beyond which was a hedge, a yard, a street, and a parking lot.  That was probably the most ordinary cubicle I had and it was comfortable and normal.

My fifth office was a move up one floor, into a small cubicle in a shared area.  Not a very pleasant work circumstance, given the cubicle was very small and it was a heavily trafficked area.  The cubicle was so small that in order to go from the computer desk to the office desk all you had to do was spin around and be careful you didn't bang your knees on anything.  The best part of that location wasn't the cube, it was that you could enter and leave the building via a back stairwell that let out behind the company cafeteria. For exercise I would walk up and down the five floors of stairs.

My sixth office was another standard cubicle in a very nice area, with adequate space, natural light, and an AC that was set permanently on cryogenic freeze, regardless of how many times the HVAC folks tinkered with it.  I'd often come in and find my analysts covered in blankets, wearing stocking caps and gloves, inside, in the summer.

My seventh office was about ten feet from my sixth office.  When I was promoted to management, they decided to move me into a managers cube, which they constructed partly by tearing my old cubicle down.  It was spacious and was very close to a traditional office. (This company is not big on offices, preferring cubicles and shared spaced.)  I had privacy, space and a great view out a floor to ceiling window that looked out, past another company building, at the Santa Cruz Mountains in the distance.

Alas, all good things come to an end, and I landed in my current office.  Office wise, it is not bad.  It's small, but I am now a minimalist, so I have ample room.  (People often think it is larger than it actually is because I have four pieces of furniture and mostly bare walls, which creates the illusion of space.  There are two main drawbacks - first, there is no natural light, which is what prompted me to start down the path of remembering other offices, and second area itself is decorated in strange blues and browns.  Not-really-blue.  Not-really-brown.  But, other than that I have no real complaints here - it is off the beaten path, relatively private, and conducive to working.  But, oh, light - give me light!

So, that is seven offices in fourteen years, so I am moved, on average, once every two years. Ah, the wonderful world of facility Tetris!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

All The Way Wild Baby - A Poem

I was sitting in my chair listening to the
drone of yet another teleconference when
suddenly I realized I was dancing to
Morris Day & The Time you know the dance
the one from Purple Rain I tucked my thumbs
into my belt and stood up and went full out
back and forth across my office in silence
except for the music in my head was I finally
driven insane by teleconferences or was I always
prone to dancing without reason and what
would the difference be (and I'm all the way wild baby)

Jungle Love - Morris Day and The Time 1984

The Suddenness of Life

In the last few months I've often found myself commenting on the suddenness of life. As human beings we tend to like our stability and certainty, so when either is called into question it can be anything from vaguely irritating to major stress inducing and life changing. There is a simple truth underneath it all and that truth is the suddenness of life. Life changes, without warning, without explanation, according to its own secret timing. Any dream you have of stability is just that - a dream. However, you'll find that once you've truly accepted this, you can easily roll with most of the things life sends your way.

Recently a friend of mine, who has lived in the same apartment for 20+ years, came home to find his complex had been sold and he was being evicted at the end of the month so they can do a major remodel and jack up the rent (which, as a ruthless capitalist, I fully support). It came as a great shock to him. But, in perspective, on the very same day, an condo complex in Cupertino burned in a gas leak and fire. On the same day, tornadoes blew apart entire neighbors in the south. On the same day, fire burned entire neighborhoods in California and Texas. It's all about perspective, it's all about the suddenness of life. My friend is going to have to find another place to live, but he’ll be moving rather intact.*

So, if you want to have some peace of mind, cultivate a benigh acceptance of the fact that the entire world can and does change on a dime. In the course of your life, your life, your environment, everything around you is going to change, multiple times, in the blink of an eye, for better or for worse. There is an old Chinese proverb that says "in the course of a long journey, a wise man is prepared to abandon his baggage several times". (I have also heard it as "...a long life...", both are correct).

*We did have a long discussion on how it might actually be better to move with nothing, as in the result of losing everything, because essentially it’s a far easier move, logistically speaking.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In the Land of the Blind

I often read with amusement the political diatribes that flow across the vastness of the internet. From the standpoint of a "slightly-to-the-right-of-center" person who has at one time voted for candidates from both parties, I’d like to comment on two things that tend to rise in my mind as I read.

First, we paint the "Other" with a demon's mask so we can destroy them with a clear conscience. I often think of that when I see scorched earth rhetoric that both sides routinely display. It is not enough that our opponents be wrong, it appears necessary that they must be evil as well. I picture two cartoon characters with sharp sticks passionately engaged in alternating bouts of eye-poking. If you would like to play an affirmative and compassionate role in the vast drama of politics, I would be willing to suggest the first step is to stop, take a deep breath, and acknowledge the basic humanity of people who hold belief's or belief systems other than yours.

Second, once you've acknowledged the basic humanity of the opposition, take the time to try and understand what they actually believe. What is the adage? Seek first to understand, then to be understood? A long time ago, when I was in college, I had a professor who taught me a very simple and powerful thing in the search for knowledge. "You should be able to argue with equal passion and conviction those things you do not believe in as you can those things you do believe in." If you are astounded by the things the "Other" believes, it is not because they believe astounding things, but because you have an imperfect understanding of what they believe. No one ever sees themselves as the villain of the play. In their own hearts, everyone is a hero, staunchly defending their deeply held convictions.

It seems to me that both sides have taken sticks, sharpened them to fine points, wrote the word "truth" on the side of the stick, and are now vigorously eye-poking to their hearts content. When you look down at your hand, what do you see? An open hand of friendship and compassion extended to "the other"? Or a sharp stick? Then, you can ask yourself a simple question - which would you rather be doing? (I don't doubt for a moment that some really want the sharp stick - so I have my safety goggles on and I am prepared to be King in the Land of the Blind).

Monday, September 5, 2011

The September Crows

On a branch inside the old Spanish oak
their black feathered cloaks glistening
sullen eyes watching through the window.
The September Crows arrived overnight
to escort out the falling days of summer, the chill
in their eyes, shimmering on their feathers, sung inside
their raucous promise of all the
sorrows of October waiting.

Rambling About Three Days Off

I fell asleep very early last night and paid for that indulgence by sleeping through the night in three hour shifts, with an hour to a half hour laying away and staring at the ceiling between them. Fortunately, it was the holiday, so I slept in until about 8:00 AM, which is late for me. I normally rise around 5:00 AM.

Through the night I dreamed, but I do not having any sharp and specific memories of the dreams. Part of the dream was about Texas. Part of the dream was about boats on a flowing river. Part of the dream was about a warehouse in a water front district. But, they are just flashes, there is not coherent narrative attached.

It has been a good weekend. I went up to the Pleasanton Highland Games at the Alameda County Fairgrounds on Saturday with friends and spent the whole of the day wandering the fair in the beautiful California weather. It turned a little hot toward the end of the day, but I have been there on hotter days.

We wandered the fair, listening to the Pipe Bands, watching the Marine Corp band play at the opening ceremonies. I had a moment at the opening ceremonies though. They were playing the national anthem and asked everyone to rise. went kind of like this...:

"Please rise for the national anthem of Canada....please stay on your feet for the national anthem of United Kingdom....and now the national anthem of the United States of America...and finally, the long version of In A Gadda Da Vida."

Okay, that last part isn't true, but it was starting to feel like it. We also saw a could of other musical groups - The Golden Bough, Tempest, Wicked Tinkers, Isla St. Claire, the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh. It was a nice day at festival I always enjoy.

Sunday was breakfast with friends, then a trip to Fry's Electronics where Tony ordered his custom gaming PC tower. Once he has it in hand, which should be later on Monday, I will get the specs from him. It looks to be one sweet game playing machine. After that, we grabbed a quick lunch at Togo's and then scattered in different directions.

I went out and did a couple of loads of laundry, a little bit of marketing, and then wandered home where I spent a very quiet evening with T.R., did some reading, and fell asleep way too early. Today's plan is pretty simple - after lingering in bed, I am going to go out and get something for breakfast, then meet my friend Don for a couple of games of pool, and then a late lunch and probably another early evening.

I am looking forward to this work week. Because of the way the B schedule falls at work, I have today off as the holiday and then Friday off as my B Friday. So, this week will be a three day work week, which I plan on completely enjoying.

The summer is slowly drawing to a close here, the hot days falling off into the cool nights. On Saturday, I saw geese gathered down at Starbird Park, and then a little later in the day saw small flocks of them orbiting around, preparing for the next step in their southward migration. There is one festival left that I want to attend and that will be the Renaissance Faire down at Casa de Fruta, which is always the end-stone of the summer pathway for me.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Corn Creek - A Poem

last night I dreamed in snow and wind
the long road to my grandfathers house
on Corn Creek
a small wood frame house
on a bluff overlooking the springs
which never iced over
the trail up the bluff
the wire fence
the back patio
the back porch
the back door
and inside playing cards in the kitchen
by the Franklin stove
my grandfather and his brother Paul
the warmth of that stove
coming up from the creek bottom
out of the dreaming snow and wind

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Movie Review - Colombiana

Over the weekend I saw a pair of movies, one of which was "Columbiana" with Zoe Saldana. It was a very enjoyable action-adventure film. It is basically an extended revenge tale, with Zoe in the lead role as the beautiful, intelligent, and deadly title character.

It moves crisply along and is a good example of several of the things you need to do to make a successful action film - first, have a charming, likeable, and talented lead. (Ultimately, all movies are about the relationship between the observer and the star - one question alone answers whether or not you like a movie and that is did you relate to the lead actors?

A good relationship with a lead actor can redeem a bad movie. Fortunately, in this case, it wasn't a bad movie. So, if you have an afternoon to kill and you want to watch a friendly little tale of revenge and violence, what better way to spend it than with the charming, talented, and sexy Zoe Saldana.