Monday, April 29, 2013

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

You're Not In Kansas Any More...

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Calabazas Creek, Santa Clara, CA

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Whistling in the Dark

A bit of a window here at the office as a transition planning meeting wraps up short so folks can head off to answer a few questions, buying me a small window of time.  So far things are going fairly smooth - a lot of meetings around the transition, some of them of questionable value, but otherwise fairly smooth.  I am spending most of my day (and tomorrow) in planning for the cutover validation under my umbrella. I don’t see anything particularly worrisome on the horizon.  It’s going to be a full weekend but it should go okay, at least for my portion of the pie.

I’ve been going to bed early this week, making sure that I am all stocked up on sleep, since cutover’s can be rough on the sleep schedule.  My personal load isn’t stacked but it is spread widely out, which presents its own set of challenges, usually resolved by napping. I stayed home last night and eased into the evening, watched a little TV (Castle, Bones and Defiance) and then curled up to read some more of “The Lies of Locke Lamorra”. I was probably out by nine o’clock and then up at five a.m. and I’ll try and stay on that pattern through the cutover.  There will be a flurry of activity following the cutover as the rubber meets the road for the first time.  Most of it will take place during normal working hours.

At this point I can’t really say what we have stacked up next, or more importantly, I can’t really say what the environment is going to be like in the coming weeks and months, but I am hoping we’ll be out of the chaos of this amazingly idiotic project. We’ve got a bunch of work stacked up and I am hoping we can get into a regular, professional, disciplined rhythm. That may just be me whistling in the dark.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thoughts on Tuesday

The first thought in my mind right now is…how is it that you can make a simple mistake (a typo) in something and stare at it for days, checking it repeatedly, and never seeing the mistake until suddenly it’s there? This thought is prompted by the email I use to update my blog from my phone or any other place where I can’t log directly in. The email address is a mix of letters and numbers and somehow I got one set out of sequence.  I must have checked it a dozen times over the last couple of weeks and then suddenly, there it is.  Alternate universes I swear.

I’ve paused briefly in the working day.  It has been pretty productive.  We’re moving down the path toward cutover and go live and we seem to be moving relatively smoothly.  We are in the pre-cutover phase now, where we are preparing the various things we’re going to us in the tight and frantic cutover window this weekend where we’ll basically be working around the clock.  I have tasks early in the morning and late in the evening and pretty much everything in between, so it is going to be a full weekend.

My plans today are pretty simple, at least for the rest of the day. I have this small break here to reflect and then I am off to pair of meetings that will carry me through to the end of the day.  I am uncertain about dinner tonight, I am hungry for something different, so I may swing down to Tsing Tsao and get some of their wonderful honey walnut prawns, or perhaps I will try a different chinese restaurant.

Before doing that though, the first thing after I leave the office, I am going down to an autoglass store on El Camino Real in Santa Clara to get my windshield repaired.  A chip I picked up on Sunday has morphed into a six inch long crack and the whole windshield needs to be replaced. Insurance covers it but the cost of the replacement falls under the deductible so it’s a wash.  (And I am suddenly wondering if, perhaps, there is a Chinese restaurant on El Camino Real, near the autoglass repair place.)

Chips and Salsa - Mexicali Grill

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Monkey Mind Monday

My Monkey Mind was lying in ambush for me this morning.  Almost immediately upon waking it started grabbing every negative thought it could find and throwing it at me.  I recognized it for what it was and took proactive steps to wrestle it under control, but it was still a chaotic morning.  Recognizing the Monkey Mind in action has allowed me to reach a point of relative tranquility here in the morning, so it that fashion, by launch the ambush early, the mind actually did me a favor.

It ran through the gamut of personal items, unresolved issues, unspoken conversations, unaddressed feelings, and peppered it with the occasional interpersonal items, relationships, disappointments, and such. From there is ran rapidly through all sorts of work related things, big and small, real and unreal.  I think I stopped the flow of the morning three times to meditate and let the feelings arise and fall away.

One of the very real distractions has been set on the pathway to correction.  While I was in San Francisco over the weekend, I caught a rock from somewhere and it cracked my windshield, a nice five or six inch long crack in the upper left hand side.  I just got off the phone scheduling a repair visit tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 PM.  A second real distraction is scheduled to be resolved tonight - I procrastinated all weekend on doing my laundry, so it is all separated and stacked at home, waiting for my arrival.  I will do a quick check of the local laundry machines and if they are busy, I will pop out to the Laundromat, down on San Tomas Expressway.

All of which brings us to Monday at work.  This is the start of our cutover week for the big project or at least the two-thirds of it that are actually going to go live.  I have a variety of tasks scheduled all through the week and into the weekend, so I am anticipating it is going to be a week of many long days.  Sure and steady is going to be the watchword to try and make it through the week without getting overwhelmed by the stress.  Most of my tasks are centered around pre-cutover communications and then post-cutover validations.  There are a couple of tasks that I am unfamiliar with, but I have the next couple of days to get a better understanding of the expectations in the particular sphere.  All it all though, I suspect it is going to be a pretty interesting week.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Girl With The Pearl Earring

Today I saw "The Girl With The Pearl Earring" at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.


That pretty much sums it up.

If you have the capacity to reach San Francisco and see this exhibit - do it.  Don't hesitate.  Click the link above, buy your tickets, and go.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April Has Been A Lean Month

April has been a lean month as far as entries have been concerned, mostly due to my travel schedule, both work and personal.  I am, at least for now, settled back into California for the spring and I am hoping it is going to be a relatively easy going spring.  The Fates may have something else in store for me, but for now I am content.  My mother, who has chronic severe back pain, is currently in the hospital in South Dakota as her doctors attempt to dial in the pain medicine. I have my fingers crossed that everything works out there.


I am going to head up to the de Young Museum in San Francisco this weekend to see and exhibit of Vermeer and Rembrandt paintings.  It looks like an excellent exhibit and I have been waiting to get to it for a while now, but mainly I was waiting for the weather clear up and the travel gods to cooperate.  It looks like all the pieces are finally going to fall into place on Sunday, so I am definitely anticipating a nice trip.  The weather is supposed to be beautiful in San Francisco on that weekend, so some museum crawling and then a late lunch will be an excellent day.


I am about halfway through reading “The Lies of Locke Lamorra” and I’ve kind of bogged down.  The book hasn’t bogged down, I’ve bogged down a bit.  I need to pick it up and continue reading as I am enjoying the book.  I am not sure what I am going to read next, but I do have about half a dozen non-fiction books stacked up behind it that I have been neglecting since I’ve been in primarily a fiction reading stage it seems.


This is my short work week, so I am off tomorrow and looking forward to it.  I may go out and see the new Tom Cruise movie on Friday, “Oblivion”.  A couple of my friends want to see it, but we’re (as usual) having trouble coordinating.  That thought alone can send me off on a whole rumination about the observed effects of aging on individuals.  Well, whatever I decide to do, the plan tomorrow is breakfast at Goodies, then I will ease through the day.  I am in the mood for some spring cleaning, so I might tackle that.  Cleaning the stuff at my parent’s house while I was on vacation was pretty inspiring and once more I find myself wanting to drive toward minimalizing my personal environment even more.


I crossed a threshold yesterday, on the 17th, and I will write about it some once I have a chance to think about it for a bit.  But, for now I have to head off to a meeting and slip into the swing of the working day.  Today is meeting heavy - about six hours of meetings on a nine hour work day.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday Evening With Bones and Defiance

Two days back at the office and it is pretty much the same old same old - equal parts progress and frustration.  The go-live day is rushing straight at us, not this weekend, but next weekend and for better for worse it is all systems go.  I am not entirely sure they've done their contingency planning well, but then, it isn't my concern.  I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best (LOL - which may be what they are doing.)

It is a beautiful evening here in California.  I am sitting in the living room, watching an episode of Bones from the DVR with the patio doors wide open, listening to the sounds outside and enjoying the evening scents and sensations.  When I got home from work tonight I watched "Defiance" the new SyFy show.  I enjoyed it and they have me hooked, at least for now.  My friend Tony is also playing the companion game and I suspect some of the others might be as well.

I am going to keep this entry short tonight because I am going to log onto work and do some email, and then I plan on curling up with The Lies of Locke Lamorra.  In short, it is going to be a gentle and quiet evening.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Simple Sunday with a Trance

The last official day of my vacation - a good day, all in all. Breakfast, a walk through Fry's, the movie "Trance", a greast little lunch, then some errand running and finally a quite evening at home.  I have some thoughts that I want to capture, but I find myself a little too tired to write much tonight.  I want to go to sleep early so I can get a good night sleep and get a fresh start on the day tomorrow.  I'm back to work first thing in the morning.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Winters Day

It was a very quiet day here at the ranch. This was mostly due to the fact that we're snowed in. I am supposed to head back to California on Saturday, so tomorrow will, most likely, be the the make or break day, at least for a Saturday departure.  I did build Sunday into my schedule as a slip day and I may have to use it. Fortunately I have the vacation available if I need to spill.  With weather, especially South Dakota weather, unpredictable is the name of the game.

So, most of the day was spent in lazy pursuits, with an interval for napping, and then another spate of lazy pursuits.  Tonight, I am planning on going to bed after Archer's season finale and reading my way deeply into "The Lies of Locke Lamorra". I have enjoyed the visit, but I am anxious to get back to my own bed, in my own apartment.  There is always something about curling up in your own bed at the end of a long vacation that makes it all worth while.  I wish I'd hit better weather this trip, I would have liked to have gotten out and done some more visiting.  I brought my camera with me and other then the handful of pictures I've shared, I really haven't used it much at all.  There are limits of what you can take in a snow storm without freezing your camera.

The whole vacation has been an exercise in zen releasing. I am in an interesting position. My nephew has his illness, about which I can do nothing except offer my best advice in a very difficult circumstance.  There is a larger lesson there about the importance of building relationships and perhaps I will reflect upon that later, but it will be a difficult thing to do without putting on my judgement pants, which I always find uncomfortable.  Then, there are the additional issues associated to my aging parents, about which I can do next to nothing except offer my best advice.

I could relocate to help them, but they are not yet at that point where it is necessary. They enjoy my company of course, but largely as a visit, and as a visit it must have an end. Though they are both getting older and frailer, with all of the issue associated with aging, they still remain capable of making their own decisions.  Whether or not they make good decisions is one of those things that would, again, require me to put on my judgement pants.  Oh, how easy life would be if we could just make all the decisions for all the other people.  But, it doesn't work that way.  As John-Rogers says, we must allow other people the dignity of their own journey.  That is not always an easy thing.

The Ranch In Winter

The storm continues, but it is supposed to break today and, with my fingers crossed, I am going to make it out on Saturday for the journey back to my beloved California. Meanwhile, I just thought I would share a few pictures for the heart of the storm.

The Ranch In Winter

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Settled in for a Winter Storm

I seem to be in the rhythm of posting every other day while on vacation.

Yesterday was spent cleaning the den, a daunting task. In my parents home the den is the most convenient room off the living room - as such, over time, it turned into the general "catch everything temporarily" room, except that temporarily turned out to be, as near as I could tell by the dates on envelopes, about six years. 

It actually wasn't that bad - it was a jumble of stuff and a lot of half-filled boxes that had to be gone through.  There is still another two or three hours in there, but it is shuffling and organizing hours.  Figure two hours there and another hour to sweep through the living room and that will make a big difference.  I've already made a big difference.

Today however was pretty much a day of rest.  As you can see from the pictures, snow is the landscape of the day.  We are in the middle of a major winter storm that has half the state shut down and the other half creeping through the ice.  It is not really a bad storm in this part of the state, it is cold, heavy, wet snow - but the wind is not to bad.

I took a nice long nap mid-afternoon and right now I am sitting in front of the TV watching "The Outlaw Josey Wales" with Bill, waiting for the lasagna to finish up in the oven.  Other than the aforementioned cleaning, I don't really have anything special planned tonight.  When you are in the grip of a winter storm here in South Dakota, you just kind of settle in and wait for it to pass.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Doctors and Dust

I confess that, over the course of the last few years, I have made major stops toward living a minimalist lifestyle, striving for simplicity in many things, including interior decoration.  Simple put, my folks don't embrace that same ethic.  So, on the first day, I did as much simplification in the bedroom I am sleeping in as I possibly could, if only to make it more comfortable for me. Off and on over the last couple of days I've been cleaning the folks place, as much as I can get away with.  So far, I've gotten away with about 12 bags of "stuff" and I have permission to take out even more.

Today though was a day that was initially consumed with errands.  Tom had to start the day by running down to IHS in Rosebud to get his medications lined out.  Fortunately, he was successful and he now has his prescription filled for the next 30 days, with one automatic refill for the 30 days that follow after that.  He has to get his medicaid approved so he can schedule another surgery due to a growth on his pancreas.  IHS (and CHR) currently lack the resources to schedule it for him.

With Tom headed off to IHS, I headed into town with Mom and Bill.  First, I dropped Bill at the tax preparers, then I took Mom up to see the PA at her doctors office.  She is attempting to get more pain killers, but she is at the limit of what they are willing to give here.  She is having trouble managing the pills.  They renew them on a weekly basis, but she tends to run through them and come up short. The dynamic of helping her manage her pills is difficult. Tomorrow, a home health nurse to going to come out and visit with her and discuss the issue with her, though we're not real sure that is going to make any significant difference.

After her appointment, we picked Bill up and then took him up to the clinic as well, so he could also talk to the PA.  They discussed the difficulty of controlling her medications and the need for her to keep to the tight schedule of them.  We will see what the home health nurse has to suggest tomorrow.

Then, we stopped at Jolie's cafe in Winner for lunch, followed by a stop at the bank, then, finally, the drive back to the ranch (twenty six miles from Running's at the edge of Winner to the ranch).  Once we got back I moved all the cars in the big garage and shut the doors.  We are sliding into a winter storm warning, starting tonight, and running through to Wednesday morning - so, I am bracing for snow and ice. 

After we got settled back in, I helped Bill search for some tax documents (he had them earlier in the year, but could not locate them).  We didn't find them, but we did manage to sort through a lot of stuff and take it off in bags.  Then, I cooked dinner - a nice, hearty, potato cheddar soup that was very well received.  Following that, I tackled cleaning the kitchen counter - and let me tell you, that was a daunting task.

First, it was piled high and deep with several years worth of incidental stuff - and worst yet, incidental small stuff.  So I spent a good deal of time sorting through it, figuring out what was what, and throwing it away or putting it into it's proper place.  The kitchen is still a fairly daunting place, but the worst of it - the counter, was cleaned to the board.

Then, a call with my brother (and ruminations on the difficulty of communication).  From there, I did all the dishes, including a lot of miscellaneous containers that had been stuff with miscellaneous "stuff" on the counter.  When that task was done, I settled in here to watch a spot of TV, make an entry here, and settle in for the evening.  With the storm blowing in, tomorrow should be a good day for more cleaning - the big hitter ahead of me right now is still the den - but, on the plus side, the den is more junky then dirty and what is in there tends to be big boxes tumbled together, not necessarily with anything in them. (I made a foray into the den earlier in the day and scooped some of the out).

With that note, I am going to settle in for the night and enjoy a very quiet evening.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Vacation - Quiet Days in South Dakota

I am enjoying the quiet days here in South Dakota.  Today was a particularly easy going one, especially it involved a late afternoon two hour nap.  That was a nice treat. So, outside of napping it has been a series of easy days here at the ranch, visiting with Mom, Bill, and Tom. 

I was teasing them the other day that, between the three of them, they have the health of a whole person.  In the case of Mom and Bill, it is the effect of their age. In the case of Tom it is a result of his illness, which has him up and down and up and down.

Each day is easy though and I have been gradually making a dent in their junk.  I didn't do much today, but it is a slow and steady challenge. Tomorrow, I am going to hit the Bedroom Number 2 hard, and then from there pivot and attack the Den.  The Den is actually far more disorganized them it is junky. 

I think, because the den is easy access off the living room it is very convenient to just open the door and temporarily drop things in - consequently, it is more of a space occupying pile of stuff, as opposed the prepackaged density of Bedroom Number 2.

Tonight, I am currently sitting here writing this entry and watching Lawrence of Arabia on TMC.  That is one of my favorite movies.  I've seen it several times on the big screen and I try to catch it each time it comes out.  It is an amazing piece of film in so many ways, each time I see it, I see something in it that I haven't seen before.  Within the movie the desert itself is an astounding character.

I am of course concerned about the various health issues, but there is a bright spot in the midst of it all - with Mom and Bill, their principle challenge remains age and the effects of age, as well as their assorted chronic conditions. Tom is far more acutely ill and how he manages his illness, if he can, is going to effect his morbidity. The prognosis for him, absent some fierce discipline, is going to be very rough.

It has been very nice to be quiet, to move easily through the day without any special schedule, free of the mad calendar of the work day, and in a state that I would call about 95% off the grid. The world definitely moves at a different pace here and that is very enjoyable.  Given the hectic nature of this particular trip, I am glad I took the full two weeks, even though I suspect I am going to pay for it when I get back to work - it is always so nice just to step out of that world and into this one.

And, in lieu of that, I hope you're having a good day, whoever you are and wherever you are.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Vacation - Day Six, Seven, and Eight - South Dakota

Let's see if I can provide a quick summary of the intervening days.  Tuesday was a very long travel day.  My alarm clock went off at 4:00 AM, I splashed through the shower, then called a cab for the ride to the airport. A smooth pass through TSA, a bit of a wait in the departure lounge, then a Delta flight to Salt Lake City.  A quick turn around in Salt Lake City - a scant thirty minutes to change from one plane to another.  Fortunately, it was only from the D terminal to the E terminal, so I made it. I was the last one on the plane and shortly after I boarded, the door closed and off we went.  All in all it was a smooth pair of flights though and I landed on schedule.

Once in Rapid City, I headed over to Walmart to pick up a pair of shoes and a pair of socks, then drove on over to Regional Hospital to pick Tom up. There was bit of a wait at the hospital while they cleared him. Then, we began the long days dance trying to get his medications approved (he is indigent) and issued.  We ultimately gave it up and were told to come back tomorrow. I did not feel like spending the money for hotel rooms, so we drove across the country to the ranch, got in, visited with mom and Bill, then created a nest to go to sleep.

We were up in the morning and returned to Rapid City.  We worked the phone and were able to make sure that one access point was temporarily closed, so we took another route.  After a few more hours of waiting and a bit of dance, he was able to get seven days worth of medication and he was directed to go to IHS on his home agency (which he has needed to do all along, but he has resisted - oh, the struggles our ego puts us through).  From there, another drive across the country and we arrived at the ranch at almost the exact same time we arrived before.  Two days gone in a very long blinking of the eye.

So, last night, I managed to get a solid night sleep.  I woke this morning and was in the bathroom washing up and I heard Bill on the phone.  However, by the time I got out, he was gone - he'd had a doctors appointment that he thought was this afternoon, but it turned out that it was during the morning, so he dashed off to see the doctor.  Then, after the appointment was over, he has stopped for gas and ran into an old friend, one of the other local ranchers, and they ended up spending two hours visiting and drinking coffee.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I spent most of the day cleaning up what I will call Spare Bedroom Number One.  It took a while, I ended up throwing away two bags of incidental junk, then folding a lot of sheets and spreads and putting them away in the proper drawers.  Once all the straightening and folding was done, most all the stuff fit into the appointed places.

We then made a quick run into Mission to pick up some groceries, so it was a pleasant drive across the country side and we saw the tribes buffalo herd grazing off in the distance. It is a dry spring here, which is not a good portent for the summer to come. It is shaping up to look like a drought.  The grass is dry, pale green, and short.

I got back to the ranch and cooked up dinner for the folks - breaded home-style pork chops, fresh cut green beans and scalloped potatoes.  It was a tasty treat for dinner and was well received.  I am just now settling into the ranch and because of the two full days of travel at the beginning of the trip, I am actually pretty tired.  This is sort of a working vacation, as I intend to spend several hours each day (maybe more) cleaning and straightening   We will see how it goes.

As the evening settled in, I was sitting out on the porch with my mom, and we watched a flock of wild turkeys settle into the trees below the house, roosting for the night. It was a cool sight and not something that I see all the time in California, that's for sure. A little later, I was out in the front yard and I could hear coyotes howling in the distance.  It was also very cool.

So, at the end of the day I am waiting to watch an episode of Archer, then I am going to curl up and read myself to sleep.  It is nice being ninety percent off the grid, though it is not without a melancholy moment or two.  This is the first trip I have taken home in a long time where I did not close each night out with a conversation with T.R.  That has a melancholy feel to it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Vacation - Day Five - About Day Four

Sunday was enjoyable at Wondercon.  We started the day with breakfast at Norm's in Anaheim, on the recommendation of the parking lot attendant at the Marriott's.  It was good, solid, dinner food - with above par biscuits and gravy. The place was very crowded and very popular, judging from the crowd.  After breakfast we scooted back to Wondercon...

The first panel was in the Arena, which is a great venue for the large scale panels, and it was with Joss Whedon and the cast of "Much Ado About Nothing", Whedon's take on Shakespeare and, from the sounds of it, a bit of a vanity project. However, based on the clips they showed and the delightful cast, it looks like it is going to be a thoroughly enjoyable film.  I am looking forward to it.

We then wandered the floor.  I picked up an autographed copy of Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book" from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a charitable organization that does great and necessary work here.  If you believe in freedom of speech, I would recommend them as a vital agent working in the defense of that right.

One thing that was cool at this years Wondercon was the Cosplay was quite impression, both in the quality of many of the costumes and the very numbers of people who were participating.  If you can imagine a genre, there were people engaged in cosplay from that genre.  These three are just three representations.

I think this particular bit of cosplay was brilliant - the person was on stilts, presenting a spider-woman.  It was brilliant.

From the con, we headed back to the airport and had a fairly smooth trip back to San Jose, sharing the plane with what was, apparently, a very large high school cheerleader team that had been in some competition there in southern California.