Sunday, April 29, 2012

Movie Review - The Raven

I am a big John Cusack fan. He is a great actor and has turned out some incredible movies over the years - Grosse Point Blank and The Jack Bull are among my favorites.  I went to see "The Raven" today with mixed feelings - the critics have not been kind to the movie.

So, let me start with the good things - I liked the movie, generally speaking. Cusack was good and the conceit of the story was interesting, but the movie was basically muddled. I can give you an example - there is a scene about three quarters of the way through the movie when the heroes have arrived at and are surrounding a church where they think the killer is.  One of the lesser characters, a police man, is sent around the side.  As he approaches a door way he looks up and the killer, all dressed in black, is on top of the arched doorway.  He leaps off and attacks!

Except, uh, what the heck was he doing standing on top of an arched doorway, dressed in black, in broad daylight?  Unfortunately, the movie never tells you why.  Unfortunately, the real reason is the director probably thought it would be cool to have the villain leaping with his cape flapping.  Sadly, there are several other scenes in the movie, some of them fairly long, that are cut from the same piece of film.  Scenes with no foreshadowing, no purpose, and no motivation.  There was a good movie in there, but what came out at the final end of the editing process wasn't it.
I added two more dreams to my array of dreams last night.  Neither of them had an particular narrative structure but I found them interesting due to their themes.

The Old Alfafa Field

When I was young, growing up outside of St. Francis, my family had an alfalfa field just south of the old boys building at St. Francis Indian School.  It wasn't all that big - maybe 60 acres or so, but it was good quality hay.  I dreamed that I was going through that hayfield and I noticed that there was only a week or two before it turned to seed, so I thought that I needed to arrange for someone to come in and cut it.

The Inventory

I dreamed that I was in a mid-sized store, not of an specific brand, along the lines of the modern full service drug stores like CVS.  I was in charge of completing an inventory of the store and we were using a new technology to do it.  The technology consisted of spraying the store with nanites and then the nanites would return with the inventory and log it into the computer.

I think that both dreams ran along the thematic lines of self-inventory and taking care of things that need to be taken care of, regardless of how old they are.  I could be wrong, but that is how I interpreted them.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Dream of Distant Places

Okay, I seem to be developing a dream theme over the last couple of nights.  Last night I had two dreams about travel.

I Dream of Cuernavaca

It the first dream I was midway on a road trip.  I was traveling in an SUV across the Sonoran desert in northern Mexico and had stopped somewhere along the way at a Pemex station.  I had a map of Mexico spread out across the hood of the car and I was figuring out the best way from where I was to my destination, which was approximately ninety kilometers south of Mexico City, somewhere in the vicinity of Cuernavaca. It was short dream, but it was very vivid.

I Dream of a Coastal City

In the second dream, I had relocated (I had no sense that it was permanent, perhaps it was an extended vacation).  In this dream, I was staying in a small concrete block house on a coast somewhere.  I had the sense (from the weather and the terrain) that it was somewhere on the Gulf Coast, as there was an azure sea, warm sea breezes, and expansive beaches.  The house was nestled right up against the beach, in a development of small houses with small yards or sand and weeds. The layout of the house was very clear in my dream, it was a long rectangle, with the entrance into the kitchen, a small living room, two small bedrooms and a bathroom. It was nicely furnished, but the furnishings were old and slightly worn.  There were two metal chairs outside, where you could sit in the shade, gaze out over a run-down park and visit with the neighbors.  The neighbors were a pleasant multi-generational family (four generations) that lived in the house next door.  In this dream, at dawn, I was sitting out on a concrete pad/patio that overlooked the ocean watching dawn break (another clue that it was somewhere on the gulf coast).  It was a very beautiful dawn and as I watched the colors unfold, I also watched the tide come in – and in – and in, until at high tide on a still day it was literally lapping a few inches from the house.  The neighbors confirmed that, during storms and particularly high tides the ocean washed through the entire development, which is why the houses were made of concrete blocks and why the yards were sand and weed.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Hallmark

I wanted to make a quick note of something of a hallmark that passed today. For the last couple of months I have been working on transitioning the daily operations of my former department over to their new management. It was a very involved and detailed process that had about 140 plus distinct tasks on the line item list - each had to be documented, the new direction determined, then transitioned into the new state.  It was a lot of work over those last months - and today I officially declared the end of the formal transition period. Now, we'll go into the informal portion of the transition. So, today is the formal hallmark of the end of that transition. I am officially in the new role now. Fun and joy.

Dreams of Luggage

Okay, I in the last three days I have had two dreams that involved luggage.  Now, I admit to being something of a fan of a well made piece of luggage but I think this is the first time that I ever dreamt about it.

The Dream of the Yellow Duffle

I dream of a big, yellow, waterproof duffle bag. It is sitting on an oversize conference room table. The contents of the bag are arrayed over the table in neat rows. There are approximately fifty or sixty items. The table is surrounded by FBI agents.  The lead agent is telling them “If you understand the contents of this bag, you will understand the man.” It is as if they were attempting to construct a psychological profile from the contents of the bag.  I am in the dream – I am one of the FBI agents – and I am also the owner of the bag.

The Dream of Packing

In this dream I am somewhere on a trip with multiple people that I know.  We are getting ready to head to the airport from the hotel where we are staying and we are packing.  As we are packing there are multiple objects that do not belong to anyone.  Among these objects are several large containers (bottles and glasses) of change, the water pack portion of a Camelbak, a kayakers dry suit, and a rain suit (an anorak and a pair of pants).  All of these items are in excellent shape and don’t seem to belong to anyone in the hotel room, so the dream mainly consists of me trying to figure out how to get them into my luggage.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Murakami on Meaning

“It is not that the meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.”

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

Monday, April 23, 2012

Objects in Space

I was at work today, dealing with the usual Monday morning chaos, when I thought I would break my pattern, so I put Tolle on the iPod and settled in to do some transactional work.  Tolle was talking about objects in space for about an hour while I essential reset the day.  It worked very well.

I was thinking about how much our work is just that - moving objects in space.  Why do we allow them to bother us? Why do we allow them to get into our minds?  Why do we allow them to build up the stress inside of up. All they are is objects in space.  All they do is move.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Movie Review - The Cabin In The Woods

Another easy going day here.  A leisurely morning, breakfast, a few errands, then "The Cabin In The Woods" at AMC 14 in Saratoga.  I am generally not a fan of that type of movie, but Joss Whedon put a nice twist on it and made it enjoyable. I would recommend it for an afternoon of entertainment - and by all means if you consider yourself a Joss Whedon fan.  It is a clever and amusing movie with a different take on the genre.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Settled In For A Hot Day

We are supposed to hit the low nineties here today - and we are already well on the way.  A morning spent online with T.R., the breakfast with the guys at Hickory Pit.  A walk-through of Fry's where I picked up "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" for the Blu-Ray collection (the always entertaining Simon Pegg).  Then, a stop at Nob Hill where I picked up baby lettuce, sweet grape tomatoes, Greek God's yogurt, Silk Almond Milk (vanilla, unsweetened) and some organic chicken breasts.  While in Nob Hill I got my banking done at the Wells Fargo kiosk. Then, Petco for an additional bird feeder, a copper topped lantern style one, and some bird seed. Finally, the short drive home (84 degrees at 11:50 a.m.).  Once at home, put the groceries away, poach the chicken breasts, and now settling in to watch "The Guard", which may be followed by a Simon Pegg mini-marathon.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Patio Days

I spent the day cleaning and getting the patio set up for spring - then, it turned out to be one of the hottest days yet this year and I couldn't take advantage of it!  Ain't it the way it seems to go...

However, it was a very nice, relaxed, quiet day.  I spent almost the entire day just lazing around the apartment and cleaning the patio, intermixed with the DVR watching and reading.  Dinner was pizza with Tony, then home for a quiet evening with TR and finally, winding the rest of the night with a bit of DVR, then some Christopher Moore.

Yet another of those ordinary days that I love so much.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Reluctant Day

I am having a reluctant day.
I slept late and was reluctant to get out of the bed.
I took a long hot shower and was reluctant to step out of it.
I lingered into the morning and was reluctant to go to work.
I'm at work and reluctant to go back to the office.
Just a reluctant day.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Question of Support

Following a couple of incidental conversations today a thought occurred to me.  Why is it some people have such challenges in supporting other people? 
The brief scenario - a friend of mine has a friend who is contemplating a radical career change in support of a desire to lead a different life.  They are contemplating abandoning career and relocating across the country and essentially starting over. 

My friend keeps raising up all the reason not to make such a radical change, as opposed to offering unqualified support.  Which would you do?

If a friend of yours came to you and said "I want to travel to the ends of the earth."  Would you be there for them? Would you back them up? Support them? Help them? Go with them?

 I don't have an answer myself - today wasn't the day for answers - today, I only have the question. 

Why do some people have a hard time supporting other people?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sleep With Dave

Okay, I wanted to write about a strange work related dream that I had last night. I've been having my share of troubles at work, including having entered the year feeling very ambivalent about my job. But, the following is NOT a true story, it was just a dream:
I dreamed that I was at work and in a large meeting when they announced a new employee development program, the purpose of which was to provide entry level employees with an upportunity to spend time with a senior executive. The program was to allow the employee to shadow the executive day and night, and stay in the executives guest room for off hours access.
And the program was branded:
"Advance your Career! Sign up for the "Sleep With Dave" program now!"
In the dream no one at work thought that it was a bad all! That was one strange dream.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Perfectly Ordinary Day

It was a supremely easy day today.  I slept in. I had breakfast at the Hickory Pit. I wandered Fry's Electronics and bought a pair of movies for my collection - "In Bruges" and "The Guard". From there, I did a couple of loads of laundry, stopped at the market and then wandered home.  The afternoon was spent watching "Hope Springs" on the DVR, followed by an alternating afternoon of napping and reading "The Elephant Vanishes".  Dinner was a simple ham and potato salad, followed by an easy evening online and a few pleasureable hours with T.R., during which I learned a lot about computer keyboards and the quest for a silent keyboard. All in all it was a perfectly ordinary day. Sweet.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Movie Review - Lockout

So, we went and saw "Lockout" this morning at Cupertino Square theaters. It fell into the category of movies that I call "pointless but amusing" - and that is actually a positive thing.  Sometimes people take film to seriously, they can forget that one of the main purposes of a movie is to entertain.  It doesn't have to have deep meaning, it doesn't have to rock the foundations of your world, it simply has to entertain you.

Lockout, with Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace certainly fell into that category.  The plot was simple and entirely contrived as a vessel to amuse you with likeable stars and a full array of special effects.  The basic story is - the President's daughter, played by Maggie Grace, goes on a humanitarian fact finding mission to an orbital prison, but there is a prison riot and consequently she is taken hostage.  Guy Pearce's character is the wise-cracking and cynical super-soldier with a heart of gold, trapped in a government conspiracy. He sneaks onto the space station. He shots people and blows things up.  He rescues her. He wisecracks. He finds his heart of gold. They escape.

Just sit back, enjoy the popcorn, and watch the entertainment unfold.  If you are up for a movie that is pure entertainment - this one delivers all across the board.

The Legion of Chicken

Saturday morning is starting low and slow. The plan today is breakfast with friends at the Hickory Pit, followed by a trip to Cupertino Square to see the movie "Lockout", starring Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace.  I have my expectations set at the appropriate level and I am looking forward to the movie.

I slept well last night, it was the last of the rain storm that has been flowing through the area and the weather today is supposed to be cool and pleasant, so I am looking forward to some successive days of sunshine. 

I had one of those strange dreams last night.  You know the ones?  The ones where you wake up and think "what the hell"?  Well, last night I dreamt about a chicken restaurant on 8th Street called "The Legion of Chicken".  They has a very simple menu of roasted chicken and three or four sides and the place was decorated in a faux Roman style.  What I woke this morning one of the first things that ran through my brain (after thinking that it was a strange dream) was "What the heck do the Roman's have to do with chicken?"

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Bit of Wisdom, A Bit of Strangeness

A Bit of Wisdom, A Bit of Strangeness

“Time weighs down on you like an old, ambiguous dream. You keep on moving, trying to sleep through it. But even if you go to the ends of the earth, you won't be able to escape it. Still, you have to go there- to the edge of the world. There's something you can't do unless you get there.” –Haruki Murakami, “Kafka on the Shore”.

“You know those thundering sounds you get when it rains, what are they called?”  “Uh, those thundering sounds are called…thunder.” – (From a real conversation at work this morning.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Tranquil Rain

There is a tranquil rain falling tonight.

I can hear the quiet hush of it on the roof, hear the soft drops and streams as they cascade off. It has been a good night, rich in conversation, rich in contemplation, rich in the experience of life - which is never anything less then dazzling in its beauty and mystery.

So, tonight, amid the tranquil rain, I am seduced by the dazzling beauty and mystery of life.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Stream and The Lake

I often find it challenging to slow down.  There seems to be an inner drive that keeps me moving forward, so of like a shark. (Okay, granted that would be a rather harmless and lazy shark, but let me have the metaphor!) I have a real tendency to fill the days with stuff, while at the same time I am struggling to fill the days with less stuff. It certainly creates its own form of dynamic tension.

Today is a classic example. I’ve had a highly productive day at work.  I should take the quiet afternoon and try and work on some of the long term things that I need to pay attention to, but I keep finding myself drawn to the endless stream of small things. What I need to do is turn my back on that stream for a while. I need to focus on those items that require deep thinking, as opposed to just shallow and reactive thinking.

But, for reasons known only to the universe, that is a much harder challenge for me than it should be. Phones, email and instant messages always draw me back to that shallow stream that bubbles along, full of turbulence and air, when I desire to spend time at the edge of a great, vast, and still lake. Well, as difficult as it is, I am going to give that a try right now – I am going to step away from the stream and focus on the lake.  Wish me luck.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Movie Recommendation - The Perfect Game

I saw a great little movie on cable this weekend.  If you haven’t seen it, see if you can find “The Perfect Game”, about the Little League team from Monterey Mexico that wins the Little League World Series with a perfect game.  It is a wonderful little drama.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Semi-Rambling Morning

Friday turned out to be an efficient day.  I started the day lazy, made it a point to linger in bed and then linger around the apartment watching a few programs on the DVR.  As I watched the TV, I started a running list of all the things I needed and wanted to do for the day, then simply worked my way down the list.

It turned into a good day, including a visit to optometrist for my yearly exam and a new supply of contacts. The appointment was originally scheduled for later in the week, but since I was in a productive mood, well, I did my best to be productive. The exam went smoothly, no problems, no changes in my prescription.  They did dilate my eyes for a check, which meant I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering around wearing my dark sunglasses and with no close in vision, which made it tough to read labels when I was trying to differentiate among products.

I had lunch at Sushi Boat in Westgate, then spent part of the afternoon looking for a small table or desk to fit in one corner of my living room, so I can use it for my work laptop. I want something that is highly stable - one of the problems with a lot of the smaller desks in they are not the most stable platforms and any sort of wobble can be irritating when you are trying to work.  We have some small desks at work, which are heavy L frame computer desks, that would be perfect in size and stability, so I may take the opportunity today and stop at a used office furniture place up on Kifer, in order to see if they have that particular type of desk.  There were some near misses at OfficeMax - most of their small desks and incidental tables were just a little too wide or not quite stable enough.

Last night was a quiet evening at home, which I split between watching the Finder and Fringe (both among my favorites), and then writing well into the evening. I wrote a little over 4,000 words, which was a pretty good output for a single evening.  I think, for me at least, it proves the importance of having the imagination and creativity engaged and having a plot. Because I knew fairly well where I was going with the writing, what all the necessary elements were, it was smooth writing.

I had trouble falling asleep last night, for no real reason that I could think of. This morning I wondered if it might have been a side effect of the drug used to dilate my eyes, because that is about the only thing different that I can think of from yesterday. A hot shower and a cup of coffee and I feel pretty good today, but we'll see if I suddenly run out of energy midway through the day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Spring Evening

Tuesday was pure chaos.

Wednesday was simple and productive.

There is a lesson about balance wrapped in there somewhere.

It's Wednesday evening now and I am settling in, watching Once Upon A Time on the DVR and planning a quiet evening reading and, hopefully, a conversation with T.R.. 

I like the simplicity of it all.

Having spent the first quarter of the year attempting to be more deliberate and observing the flow of things, one of the things I was coming to understand was that I needed to make the choices that would slim my life down - make it more simple, make it more slender. 

That is not always an easy thing to do.

But, it is worth the effort.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Four Dreams in One Night

I slept well last night. During that sleep I had four vivid dreams.  In the order of occurence:

1. Why I Don't Play Lacrosse

In this dream I was in a heated discussion with a friend of mine.  We were in high school and my friend (who was not a person I recognized, but in the dream I knew he was a friend) was trying to convince to go out for the lacrosse team, applying the varieties of peer pressure, ranging from convincing to shaming. I was adamant in my refusal that I simply didn't have time to play lacrosse, since I was involved in football, basketball, baseball and boxing.  It was not a question of will or desire, but simply a question of not having enough time.

2. I Dream of Elevators

In the second dream, I dream that I am traveling for work. There are a whole bunch of work related people at a hotel in Washington D.C., where we are all attending a meeting to go over some design issues for a new system.  The people the dream are a mixture of current co-workers, past co-workers and, for no apparent reason, my friend Dean Yellow Hawk from St. Francis. In the dream, Dean is their as a consultant on the user experience.  We are doing an assortment of pre-meeting type of things, dinners and discussions in the hotel lounge.  Besides the presence of Dean, there is also one other unusual thing.  The elevators in the hotel do not have doors - and they do not stop.  If you want to use the elevator you have to wait and then step in and onto the moving elevator.  The same thing to get off the elevator, you have to time it.  The elevators are not traveling too fast, so it is not a difficult task, but it is still a question of timing these elevators that never stop.

3. I Dream of An Escaped Psychotic

I am not sure if this dream was a different dream, of it it was a continuation of the business dream.  In this dream I am with a bunch of people and we are sitting in a restaurant with glass walls, on the second story of a building (possibly the same hotel from the previous dream). Across the street, about sixty or seventy feet away, is some sort of institutional building. In the dream, I know that is it a mental institution. Suddenly, there is a commotion and a giant man in a hospital gown runs by (his is over six foot and three hundred pounds) and is pursued by multiple people in scrubs. He gets so far and the people in scrubs are closing on him, when he suddenly pulls a small silver revolver and starts shooting people.  I distinctly recall that he kills at least one person by shooting him in the forehead over the left eyebrow at point blank range.  Then, he shoots two more who are running (both fall to the ground and I cannot tell where he has shot them).  Then, he wrestles with a fourth person, throws them to the ground, and presses the revolver into their diaphram and shoots them. About that time he is swarmed and overwhelmed.

4. I Dream of Apocalyptic Snow Storms

In this dream I am with a group of refugees walking down a highway somewhere on the great plains.We are traveling west.  Across the plains we can see a rapidly approaching snow storm.  It is a turbulent rolling mass of blowing snow, similar to the vast sandstorms that you see sweeping the Middle East. We were racing into the storm, toward a farmstead.  We arrived at the edge of the farmstead and everyone rushing into a small abandoned house.  We got the women and children in first, and then the men were going in. There were still three men outside just as the wall of snow came cascading over the house, but we were able to reach out and pull them in.  The storm did not last very long, thirty minutes or so, but it dropped about three feet of snow.  As the storm stilled I went outside to look around - and discovered the other buildings on the farmstead were occupied.  An older man came out to talk to me and tell me that we needed to move on.  As he was telling me this he pointed out a bunker on the overlooking hill.  Several people in the bunker stood up so I could see them.  It was pretty clear that we had to keep moving on.