Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Between the Actual and the Imagined

I woke up this morning, took a shower, and then sat for my morning meditation. I need to engage in a disciplined search for my self. It seems like a strange thing to say, since wherever we go we’re always present. But we are present with a lot of clutter. That clutter obscures our self. I feel pretty obscure this morning. Through out my meditation my thoughts kept arising, but they were distracting thoughts.  That pattern continued, though lessened, into the morning commute and actually into the office.  As my computer ran it’s usual routine of morning updates, I sat, facing the wall, and meditated again, for about five minutes. 

I returned fairly quickly to the realization that I need to dedicate some disciplined time to two activities.  First, clearing away the clutter that overwhelms me. Second, finding and returning to my authentic self.  (As an aside, I’ve been reading a book called “Inspiration from Enlightened Nuns”, and I think that is what triggered this sincere sense that my authentic self has been obscured - I would highly recommend the book.  It was recommended to me by TR.)

This search for the authentic self also has a work component. Here at the office I’ve lost myself in the clutter of the day.  It does not help that we are in an extremely cluttered time, but I have been through cluttered times before.  I can define the challenges that obscure my work pretty clearly.  As I become aware of them I am able to move around them, through them, or to ignore them. Part of the challenge though is that I do not seem to be able to resolve them.  They keep intruding. They keep interrupting.  If they catch me in a weak moment, and they often do, then they can throw me off track. Once I have been thrown off track I struggle to get back.  Sometimes I am not able to win that struggle and the best I can do is make it through to the end of the day and go home.  Even the sanctuary of going home doesn’t always help.  I carry the chaos of the working day inside of me. It easily makes the commute home.

I find myself searching for an external solution to an internal problem. I keep looking outward when the solution lies inward. I know this on an intellectual level, but I don’t seem to be able to pull it into that holistic place where it needs to reside. I am closer to it then I was six months ago.  Closer to it then I was a year ago.  But there is still a gulf between my experience of every day life and my interpretation of that experience.  A difference between the actual and the imagined.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back At The Desk

I’ve taken a pause here at work.  Today is the second day back.  Yesterday was completely consumed with two crisis events and several hundred email.  I managed to plow through a lot of email, leaving me with less than 100 to try and get through today. I ran an urgent report and then completed an urgent project related task all in the course of a twelve hour work day.  Today should be a gentler day, work wise.  I have one official meeting and I plan on spending the rest of the day wrestling my way through the ninety odd email I have left over from when I was on vacation.

I slept pretty well last night. I woke up once or twice due to outside noise and then finally woke up for good at about 4:30 AM.  A shower, a shave, breakfast, meditation, a phone call with TR and here I am, back at the desk.



Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Last Sunday As Vacation Ends

My vacation is drawing to a close.  It has been a nice two weeks off and I am looking forward to my next shot at a vacation.  Unfortunately, it probably will not be until sometime in the fall.  I need to let the hours re-accumulate in my vacation bank at work.  Though I can't say I am excited about returning to work tomorrow, I am curious as to the overall conditions I am going to be returning to.  I know, from many years of experience, that though the two weeks passed long and slow for me, at work they passed in the blinking of an eye.  I will have a mountain of email and two or three things in crisis, but other than that it will be mostly business as usual.

Today was a pretty good day. I woke early, had a great conversation with TR, then headed out to an early breakfast at the Hickory Pit.  From there, I stopped at Nob Hill and stalked up on healthy groceries for the week to come, including a lot of spinach and green beans and other vegetables.  One thing that is almost always a certainty when on vacation is a tendency to eat on the rich side.  This vacation was no exception.  I had some great meals, but I also ate pretty richly and I am looking forward to falling back onto an ordinary diet. I may even pay a little closer attention to diet over the next month or so, just to get everything reset in the proper place.

After marketing, I came home and set about preparing my old sofa for its new destination.  Unfortunately, like a lot of sofa's, in entered the apartment in part all those years ago.  So, when it came time to remove it, I had to break it down into it's component parts - a back, two sides and a base.  It was messy and time consuming. A lot of furniture is made to go together, but not necessarily to come apart.  In the end though the sofa surgery was successful, I carried the component parts out and sent them on their way to their new home.  It was hot work though and it reminded me of how little time I spend doing significant work with my hands.

From there, I jetted over to Cupertino Square AMC to meet Tony and see Wolverine, but there was a bit of communications confusion and Tony ended up at the wrong location.  We both saw the movie, just at different times and different theater complexes.  As for the movie, well, it was enjoyable, but there where more than a few eye rolling moments for me.  One of the major action pieces in the film is Wolverine fighting a bunch of ninjas.  All I have to say is, gee, those ninjas seemed awful fond of the tuck and roll because they kept doing it for no apparent reason.  Also, I would think that, as a ninja, if you new you were going to running across snow covered rooftops and fighting in snow covered streets, you might want to dress is some other color than black.  It kind of ruins the whole "we're a sneaky clan of master assassins" vibe.  It was enjoyable to see the always beautiful Famke Jensen in her night gown. Over and over. For no apparent reasons other than Wolverine's inner voice is a wee bit sexist.

Then, home, where I watched a pair of Lost Worlds episodes off H2, took a long hot bath, and am going to fire up tonight's episode of Copper in a few moments.  Then, I am going to crawl into bed early because starting tomorrow I return to the ordinary world. I am not really sure what insight I am bringing back from vacation with me, but I hope I am bring something.  It is nice not to feel like I am under high stress and I think I am going to try and hold onto that feeling for a while.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pizza Soup and Other Goodies

Well, I've been back in San Jose since Wednesday and simply enjoying the time off.  I have one more day off before it is back into the chaos of work.  Did I learn anything about myself while I was on vacation that may help me through that chaos.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I sometimes feel as if I am on the verge of some discover that will bring me to a place of great peace.  But, whatever that secret is, it sure is elusive.

Let's see if I can hit the highlights of the last couple of days.

Today, I bought a some Feetures (great socks, highly recommended), I bought a new computer monitor (I had an older one that was strictly VGA and DVI.  I needed another HDMI monitor so I could run dual monitors on my various laptops, so I got an Acer that has VGA/DVI/HDMI ports. My computer equipment is of various ages and technology levels, so getting it to all play together can be challenging.

On Friday I picked up a small L shaped desk for my living room.  For the last two years or so I've had my computer desk set up in the spare bedroom and it really hasn't worked for me. It kind of feel like going into a closet to try and work. I can do it, but it lacks the natural feeling that comes from having the computer desk set up in the living room.  It may have something to do with the spaciousness and the light in the living room. We will see if it makes a difference.

I also, finally, bought a new couch.  I've had a loveseat for quite a while, probably close to eight years.  It is okay, but I've wandered to replace it for several years now - it is no longer in style and it no longer fits the layout and design in the living room. It is a tan, overstuffed style of love seat and the room is now pretty much entirely in modern.  I found a nice couch at Jennifer's Convertibles on Stevens Creek that is set to be delivered by Thursday.  So, I have until Thursday to decide what to do with the love seat.  I don't dislike the love seat and I would actually like to see if I could get it into one of the bedrooms, but I am not sure I can get it through the hallway.

I've started reading a book called "Inspiration from Enlightened Nuns", a Buddhist tract.  TR recommended it and I will say - it is a pretty amazing book.  It is a slim volume but it packs a lot of punch.  It's definitely sent my brain spinning and has me contemplating various aspects of  my self.  My self and my environment and my approach to the world.  That sure sounds existential doesn't it?

So, let's turn to the last little thing of the day - pizza soup.  The is the recipe I use and I highly recommend it.

Pizza Soup Recipe

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Searching For Inspiration

It's been a splendid little morning here in California.  I slept well last night.  If I dreamed I have no memory of the dreams.  I woke before dawn and lay there in bed, reading on the iPad, then, a bit later, talking with TR who was starting her day as well.  It was very nice to get up and pad around my own apartment, small and simple as it is.

Breakfast was a pair of waffles and a cup of coffee. I followed it with the latest episode of BBC America's "Copper".  It is a truly outstanding show, brilliantly written and acted.  I wish all television could hit that quality.  Heck, I would be happy if all other television simply aspired to that level of quality.

I wrapped up the night yesterday with a spot of creativity.  Based on a conversation with TR and several books I've been reading, I have been thinking about starting an alternative blog.  Well, an alternative to this one that is.  I want to take a different approach. I want to put together a blog where I tell the stories of the world I live in.  I draw my inspiration from TR (who writes excellent flash and frag*), and some addition inspiration from several books I've recently been reading, including the Tiny Book of Tiny Stories.

So, last night, I spent about an hour brainstorming a potential title for the blog. (Since it's not ready to go I won't share it with you let.)  I found a title I like that wasn't taken and got the site set up on blogger, just the bare bones of it.  I want to go into some more detail in the design and I plan on doing that creative work over the next couple of days.

What I want to do in the space is, very similar to what I enjoy doing here, which is writing about simple and ordinary things, about life itself. Except, I want to do it in the form of small stories. Instead of telling you about the event, I want to tell you a story about the event.  As I envision it, the stories will verge from non-fiction to fiction and all of the space on the spectrum in between.

I enjoy stories.  I enjoy telling stories and I enjoy hearing stories, so the venue will be a natural for me.  I may even revisit some of my older stories, giving them new exposure and a new home.  Every person I have ever known has thousands of stories. I love it when they share them.  So, it is at the fountain of inspiration that I am drinking today.

*Flash Fiction:  A style of fiction known for it's extreme brevity.  It is a complete story (beginning, middle, end) told in anywhere between 300 to 1000 words.

*Frag:  A style of fiction where the author writes a fragment of a larger piece, but the fragment (be it a single line, a couple of lines, a paragraph) reveals a tiny and provocative portion of the larger story, even if the larger story is left to the readers imagination.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It;s Always Good To Come Home

No matter how enjoyable a vacation is returning home is always a great feeling.  We left San Diego about 7:00 AM, drove north on 15 and went out and around Los Angeles to avoid traffic. We drove up through Bakersfield and cut across on 58 to 5.  The Tom-Tom GPS did not know what to make of our cut across and kept trying to route us back north, up 99.  It was about an 8 hour drive, with a stop for lunch in Button Willow.

We got back into San Jose and I started the evening with a bowl of cream of chicken soup. I followed it with a hot shower and then a wonderful little conversation with TR, during which I must have said I was glad to be home a dozen times at least.  Did I mention that it was good to be home yet?  My plan tonight is to stay up long enough to make sure I don't get to sleep too early.  If I go to sleep too early, I will definitely wake up too early.

My plan tomorrow is to take the day as slow and easy as possible.  I will have to, at some point, make a run on the market for fresh produce and other groceries. I don't have much left in the pantry since I tend to eat my pantry down when I am going on vacation.  I had enough for dinner tonight and marginally enough for breakfast tomorrow, but that is about it.

Oh, let me share a little detail with you all.  I mentioned before that I had switched to a safety razor.  I did not take my safety razor with me when I went on vacation.  I took a pack of twin bladed Gillette razors, which I had from before I switched to the safety razor. 

They did not do the job. They didn't even come close.  After my shower tonight I shaved.  So, I am sitting here, clean shaven for the first time in days.  Switching to the safety razor was an amazing thing and next time I travel I am going to make sure I take it with me.  I am even looking forward to shaving again tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Walking La Jolla

It was another easy day here in San Diego, though it was the last day of this portion of the vacation.  Tomorrow we've got the homeward drive ahead of us.  In between here and there is Los Angeles, the capitol of bad traffic, so we'll have our fingers crossed and hope we make it smoothly through the city.  Our plan is to leave early, but one persons early is not necessarily another persons early.  So, we will see what early means.

We had breakfast, stopped at the laundromat, then headed out to La Jolla, where we spent some time wandering La Jolla Cove and the beach area.  It was a nice way to spend the afternoon. There were many pleasant things to see, both at the beach and walking on the beach.  If you've never been to La Jolla, it is a very pretty place and worth a visit. (Of course, I say that about almost every place because I do believe that almost every place is at worth at least one visit.)  The visit ended with a nice uphill walk back to the parking garage.

We popped by the Hilton, rested for a while, and then headed down town to meet the boys at the Old Spaghetti Factory in the Gaslamp.  The company was good and the food was good.  It was a pleasant dinner and odds are we'll do it again next year.  A quick commute back to the hotel and, for me, a nice flowing conversation with TR while Tony settled in right next to the television so he could listen to it.  (It was amusing to watch.)

I am looking forward to getting back to San Jose and my own place.  I am looking forward to wrapping up the last four days of the vacation in the ultimate lazy mode.  I plan on at least one full day, perhaps two, of doing absolutely nothing. Of parking in front of the DVR and watching show after show after. Of settling in on the couch with a small stack of books and reading, reading and more reading.  I think, in short, I am looking forward to some pretty serious me time.

Off On The Side - Self and Success

I am sitting here in the hotel and I thought I would kill a little space of time by jotting down some thoughts I have concerning success.  You can relax, it is nothing magical, as a matter of fact it is a reinforcement of something thousands of other people have said.  Let me try and see if I can express it succinctly.

Success, however you choose to define it, is a matter of the choices you make.  You can directly influence your attainment of success by consistently making the choices that take you closer to it.  That is pretty straight forward and I think most people would agree with it.  But there is a massive stumbling block that sits right in front of many people and it is that stumbling block they can't find their way around.

I understand how to attain success in regards to any specific goal or outcome - however, I am completely stumped by a single question.  "What do I want to do."  I think a lot of people do not attain the success they want to attain because they don't have an object of focus. They are not stumped by "how to", but rather, they're stumped by "what to".  Now, I admit, that is one heck of a stumbling block.  It is more than just a stumbling block, it is the thing that prevents you from ever getting started.

For me, the answer to that question is "know yourself".  The journey to know yourself is a difficult one, full of strange challenges that arise without warning, but it is not an impossible journey.  I wouldn't even say it is a difficult journey.  It is a journey that you're on whether you want to be on it or not. So relax, take a deep breath, open your eyes and look around you.  The answer is there, you just have to see it.  Or learn to see it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Followed By An Easy Day

The sun is sliding toward the horizon, painting the hillside south of the hotel in shades of dry green, typical of the Southern California hillsides at this time of year.  After a weekend of cool and gray it remained cool, but the gray vanished and was replaced by blue skies. 

We did next to nothing today.  We had a late breakfast at the Broken Yolk here in Mission Valley. Then, we went to the Mission Valley AMC 20 to see REDS 2.  It was an excellent movie, a great way to unwind after four days on my feet.  It was easily as good as the original. It has an exceptional cast for an ensemble movie, started with the immensely talented Helen Mirren, and then flowing smoothly into John Malkovich, Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta Jones, David Thewlis, and Brian Cox.

From there, we walked the shopping center, mainly to stretch the legs, and I picked up a few odds and ends.  Then, back to the hotel where the afternoon was spent as lazily as possible, watching Forrest Gump on HBO and napping off and on.  I wrapped up the afternoon with a call with TR.  Then, we popped out for dinner at Joe's Crab Shack, where I had an excellent dinner followed by a simple piece of cake to indulge myself.

We've got one more full day here in San Diego, so tomorrow we're planning on a trip to either the Zoo or Sea World, just to spend another easy vacation day. On Wednesday, we're going to start back north.  The plan is to come up the coast highway (Highway 1) for the view.  That will make the return trip longer, perhaps adding an extra night onto the journey - all depending on how Tony, who will be doing the driving, wants to take it. I'm actually looking forward to the drive.

One of the nice things about actually having two weeks of true vacation is - today is only the first day of the second half of the vacation and I can say that I am sliding deeply into relaxation.  That is a great feeling and one of the reasons I think people should always try to take as long a vacation as they can. It gives you a chance to relax and set down some of the things you carry in the working world,

An Easy Morning

I was sound asleep by about eight thirty last night, slept pretty much the whole night through, and woke in the early hours of the morning.  I had a great little call with T.R., then splashed through the shower and started the morning catching up on the news from my Kindle Fire. Then, I watched a couple of Game of Thrones parody videos from YouTube, having followed a link down the rabbit hole. Now, I am savoring my cup of coffee and waiting for Tony to get out of the shower so we can head out and get some breakfast. My plan today, if I have a plan, is to take it as easy as possible.  After four days of the convention, there comes a day of just doing nothing.  We'll probably do some incidental wandering and then catch a movie and have a nice relaxing dinner somewhere.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sleep Beckons

Well, we've reached the end of another Comic Con. A good time was had by all - or at least by me.  Today, I spent the day walking the floor, picking up pieces for my collection, trying my luck on some of the independents, and in short - walking, standing, walking, standing, walking and standing and finally, walking.  The end result is I am dog tired here at the end of the day.  So, I am going to write more tomorrow - tonight, I just wanted to give you a quick example of how tired I am.  We stopped at the cafe near the hotel. I ordered a bowl of clam chowder and an ice tea. I went to put the Equal into my iced tea and....poured it straight into my chowder.  Then, sat there and stared at it.  I fixed the sweetener out, ate the chowder, came back to the hotel, had a quick call with TR (who is also just home) and now, sleep beckons.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Here There Be Dragons

Another good day here in San Diego. We decided to head out into the desert and see something that had caught my eye when I read about it a while ago. In the desert near Borrego Springs, California.  There are a set of iron sculptures scattered through the desert - pretty amazing works and well worth the drive.  I only took a handful of pictures, but I thought I would share these two.  The first is a dragon like sea serpent that is over 300 feet long and appears to swim underneath the highway.  This is simply the head of the creature.  The detail is amazing.

Pretty incredible detail isn't it. Now, courtesy of Tony, here is the same image, a slightly different angle, and in scale.

The scale just makes it all that more impressive.  I have other pictures that I will share as well, once I get them scrubbed a bit and load them into my Flickr account,

Thoughts on A Comic Con Saturday

Today is zoo day at San Diego Comic Con.  The lines will be off the charts - you will literally end up standing in line longer then the presentation you're standing in line will last.  The exhibitors floor will be packed, wall to wall, and simply moving from one aisle to another will be challenging. However, it is also the best time to see all of the truly amazing Cosplayer's, since the Masquerade is tonight.

Tony was not able to get a ticket for Saturday in the madness that is ticket sales (computer problems on his end), but I did. So, today, I am going to take the shuttle down at some point in the morning and just kind of ease through a couple of hours of floor walking and people watching.  I might try for one of the lesser panels, but I know from experience that, on Saturday, you're lucky to be able to get into two or three panels that might interest you, simply because the demand is so high.

There are plenty of things to do though - besides being crushed on the exhibit floor and taking pictures of any interesting cosplayers, I think I will hit the art show and prowl artists row, maybe to pick up something for my collection.  Then, I may see if I can get in over at the blood drive and make a donation.  Finally, I may make a wide sweep of the downtown area, once again, just to see all the cool costumes and strange people.

There are times when I cannot do crowds.  I kind of ran into it yesterday in the afternoon - I was a tired and feeling hemmed in, where simply moving from one place to another was a difficult thing.  Small things were starting to irritate me and get under my skin.  I always take that as a sign to have a light snack and take some time off, since it is primarily a dance that is going on in my own brain.

So, I am approaching today with the attitude of just take a deep breath, go slow, and ease through the day.  Then, I am sure the day will pass smoothly.  I plan on only spending four or five hours downtown, and then maybe come back out to Mission Valley and catch a movie with Tony, if he is up to it.  I definitely want to see Reds 2.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Enter Sandman

Just going to call it a night and curl up and read for a while. It was a good day at the Con - though I walked about six miles and the Hall H line was off edge of the earth, I made a pair of good writing panels in the morning, then had lunch at the Defiance cafe (at the Hard Rock Cafe), and spent a couple of hours wandering the floor until the crush of the crowd got to me, then we headed out.  Dinner was home style cooking at a cafe right next to the hotel.  I thought I would share this picture before I called it a night.  This is the "Sandman" version of the official t-shirt.  Awesome.

Thursdays Panel List - San Diego Comic Con

Okay, let me run down a quick summary of Thursday at Comic Con San Diego.  We were a little bit slow getting started on the day, so where just a little bit into the wave of humanity.  We parked at the Petco Park garage on 10th and ended up all the way up on the roof, the 9th floor.  So, we're going to try to get be a little earlier today. (I worry about not being able to find convenient parking and ending up on the far side of the moon.)  We'll see if we make it. 

Then, breakfast at the Broken Yolk (good food), which had been taken over by TruTV for one of their programs.  Their marketing people were pushy and aggressive, so it almost made it a negative experience.  I don't mind the marketeers, they are just folks trying to make a living, but in the last two years here at Comic Con I have seen them approaching Tijuana levels of aggressiveness, which is kind of irritating. 

After breakfast, we headed over to Comic Con itself and started the day.  In short order, this is what I did all day:

Panel 1 - Room 2:  "Don't Tell Your Story, Show It", a panel for writers, with a presentation by Maxwell Alexander Drake ( which was a pretty good panel (good enough that I took notes).

Panel 2 - Room 2: "Point of View: What's The Point?"  Same room, same presenter, same quality.  I would definitely recommend this author as a teacher - good presentation style and good information.

Panel 3 - Room 5AB: "The Pitching Hour".  Bad panel.  I managed to stay for about twenty minutes, during which I strained to hear them as no one was talking into the microphone and the people running the room had the doors open.  Then, what I heard was basically crap - not all panels are created equal.  In this panel, for the portion that I was there, three successive speakers basically told the attendees not to try pitching because they had already heard everything and any ideas that the attendees might have, well, they had already had and their ideas were better.  Too many good panels at Comic Con to waste time, so I ducked out.

Panel 4 - Room 9: "Insights for Independent Creators" - This was exactly what I expect of a panel - six presenters, diverse points of view, explaining difficulties to be encounters and encouraging folks to try anyway, good attendee interactions, including the panel listening to attendees when it was apparent the attendee knew the subject matter.  Well spent time.

For there, I wandered around a bit, looked at the various throngs of people, and then headed down to join Tony in Hall H.  The line was very reasonable and I got it with minimal delay and only a thousand yards of yellow rope row hiking. 

Panel 5 - Hall H: "Entertainment Weekly: The Visionaries."  Excellent panel.  Three directions - Alfonso Cuaron, Eric Webb, and Edgar Wright.  Very enjoyable, very engaging.

Panel 6 - Hall H: "Divergent, Ender's Game".  A pair of excellent movies and good panels with the cast and production people (including Harrison Ford during the Ender's Game panel).  I definitely want to see both movies and the panels were very enjoyable.

Panel 7 - Hall H: "The Zero Theorem".  The next movie by the genius that is Terry Gilliam.  Terry was not there, but had a video presentation and was represented by members of his team and his daughter.  Followed up with a ten minute clip.  This is going to be yet another awesome Terry Gilliam movie.

Panel 8 - Hall H: "Trailer Park".  Typical trailer park fare, enjoyable, but mostly trailers that I had seen before. Honestly kind of felt like it was just thrown together as an after thought.  The room was mostly in turmoil at this point as people came in, so it was interrupted constantly by people with the flashlight app walking up and down the aisles and having poor light discipline.

Panel 9 - "Showtime: Dexter".  The end of an era.  I remember the early panels of Dexter, off in smaller rooms (as did some of the cast and production people). Now, they filled Room H with some great memories and some heartfelt thanks and emotional moments.  It was great to be there and, just for the pure connection and emotional content, this is exactly where Comic Con excels.

Well, that was the day - it was a long one - dinner was a convention center hot dog (not recommended by the way).  We closed Hall H out and then headed by to the hotel, where I had a spot of room service (an excellent corn chowder and a sandwich, with onion rings).  Then, I crawled into bed, read a bit and fell asleep.  Now, Friday morning, we're up - Tony is just coming out of the shower and we're going to make a run back down to Comic Con for another day of fun.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Single Picture

A good day here and I am about to wrap it up with a full night sleep, but I thought I would upload a picture before I hit the hay.


Thursday morning, and I am practicing patience, eager to get to Comic Con and downtown San Diego. I wonder how much time in our lives we spend waiting for other people? In this case, waiting for Tony so we can head downtown and wait in line at Comic Con. There is a bit of black humor in that one I guess. The first order of the day will be breakfast at the Broken Yolk Cafe in the Gaslamp.

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Wednesday in San Diego

It was a nice first day down here in San Diego. A fairly good nights sleep, with only those interruptions typical of sleeping in a new place. Then, breakfast at Janet's Montana Cafe in Alpine, CA. 

From there, we went up to Balboa Park and walked the area, including the Botanical Gardens.  I've got a bunch of great pictures from the gardens that I will share a little later.  From there, we met Toby for lunch at the Chicken Pie Shop, and then swung over to Town & Country Resort to pick up our badges for the convention. 

There was a bit of a line, but in comparison to other lines we're destined to stand in over the weekend, it was nothing - maybe fifteen minutes, all total. From there, a stop at Target to grab some odds and ends, then back to the hotel for a nap, a great conversation with T.R., then out for a simple dinner of chicken noodle soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. 

Finally, back to the hotel and settling in for a simple and quiet evening.  I am planning on getting a good nights sleep and looking forward to a full convention day tomorrow.

Lately, T.R. and I have been talking about being authentic (in the Buddhist sense). So, that is when my contemplation is turned of late.  Questioning whether or not I am an authentic person, questioning what it is I am missing and why.  It is an interesting internal question. I don't have any answers tonight, but I am comfortable living in that question.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Traveling Day

We were a little late getting out of San Jose this morning, but nothing significant.  We got rolling about six thirty and then Tony had to stop at Kaiser Permanente, then a quick stop at McDonald's for the dreaded sausage biscuit and OJ, which is actually not bad. From there, we were off - there was a bit of fog as we passed east on 152, but nothing too serious.

 By the time we had reached the central valley, the fog vanished and we hopped on 5 South for the bulk of the trip.  We made excellent time all the way, including through LA itself.  It was one of the fastest and smoothest drives to San Diego that I have ever had. 

We stopped at Ricardo's Place in San Juan Capistrano for lunch and the food was truly excellent.  The salsa was incredibly fresh and the enchilada's Capistrano I had were incredibly flavorful.  I followed it up with the flan which was also excellent.  I would highly recommend it if you're in San Juan Capistrano.

From there, it was quick jaunt down into San Diego.  Dinner was a bowl of clam chowder soup, followed by about an hours long nap. Then, I had a great conversation with T.R., during which, as usual, we discussed many things and focused, at the end, on the Mind and the Cosmos. It is an interesting thing to be thinking about as the night slides to a close.

The hotel room is nice (we're at the Hilton in Mission Valley), there is a view of the mountain behind the hotel, which is actually a verdant and lively view, so I am enjoying it.  The beds look comfortable and I am hoping to get a long and sweet nights sleep.  Then, tomorrow, breakfast at Janet's Montana Cafe in Alpine and, hopefully, a quiet and easy day.

Tonight, as I slide into the last part of the evening, I am going to focus on just relaxing, just breathing, and just being.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Simple Journey

I've written before about my ongoing journey toward simplicity. I've discovered some interesting things during that journey, things about myself, things about my world. That journey toward simplicity comes in waves.  Each wave carries more and more unnecessary stuff away.  With each subsequent wave I feel that there really isn't a lot left that can be carried away, especially in terms of physical possessions.  Then, time passes, and the next wave begins building.  It seems that there is always stuff that can be moved on. I mention it this morning because I feel another wave coming.

It was a nice morning. I started it with a conversation with T.R., followed by breakfast and a hot shower, and, incidentally, "The Blues Brothers 2000" on cable.  I thought the original was a truly great movie, and the sequel, though amusing, was not as iconic. It is still enjoyable though - and it features the always beautiful Nia Peeples.

I am currently drinking my second cup of coffee and procrastinating my way into the morning.  I still have those two work tasks ahead of me and I am going to dive into them shortly. I reckon that will be a couple of hours of work, so I should wrap it up by noon and have the window to grab something for lunch. Since we're starting the vacation trip tomorrow morning, my plan is to simply move as easily as possible through the day today.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Shower Is To Be Savored

I've moved briskly into my vacation.  Alas, it has not been a clean movement, but it is movement so that counts.  On Friday, I ended up working about six hours, trying to wrap up a pair of reports that needed to be done.  Tomorrow (Monday), I plan on working a couple of hours to wrap up two other items and then, hopefully, I will get a clean break.  At work I find that I dislike the fact that we are not adequately staffed, it irritates me constantly.

So, let's see - on Friday I saw Pacific Rim, then on Sunday I saw The Way Way Back.  I have to say - the first was pretty bad and the second was pretty good, so I guess the universe balanced out, movie wise. If you have to make a decision between the two, I would definitely recommend The Way Way Back.  Unless you are in to giant robots, monsters and explosions.

I ran a spat of errands on Saturday and then spent most of the afternoon napping. The evening was a quick and simple Chinese dinner, then a wonderful little conversation with T.R.. Sunday was an early  morning walk in John D. Morgan park, then breakfast at the Hickory Pit with Tony.  We followed that with The Way Way Back, then lunch at Pasta Pomodora in Santana Row. A quick run up to the Sports Basement on Lawrence, then off to the laundry, then home, a long hot bath, and now an episode of Copper.

All told, it has been a nice little weekend and a good start on vacation.  Tomorrow is a free day here in San Jose, to be spent on a spot of work and then preparing for the trip.  One of the things I picked up at the Sports Basement was a heavy duty duffel bag. I have an older one, but it is cheaper and the handle tore off for the second time the other day.  I figure it is time for it to give it up and buy a good one that should last me for a decade or more.

I think my plan for the rest of the night is an early bed and reading a bit in Red Seas Under Red Skies, another novel in the Gentleman Bastards Sequence by Scott Lynch, the author of The Lies of Locke Lamorra.  Then, a good night sleep, an easy going day tomorrow and finally, on Tuesday, the start of the trip to San Diego for Comic Con.  I am excited for the trip, the Con, and the wonderful city of San Diego.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Two Days to Vacation

I have two days left before my vacation starts and to say I am in a state of high anticipation is an understatement.  I've got a sizable stack of tasks ahead of me at work, things that I want to try and wrap up, try and get into a good place, for the vacation.  I will make it, I am just not sure what sort of form that is going to take.  I'll actually spend Thursday afternoon trying to put together a single control document for our team to use while I am out. 

Since I tend to be a process driven person, I wish we have a better process for handling vacations and vacation related transitions.  In large part, because of the frenetic work environment that our director sets, it is very difficult to maintain high professional standards and of course, as I have vented before, we have no process discipline.  Normally, I try not to let work intrude too deeply in my morning thoughts, but since I am in the final run to vacation, I am comfortable with it today and probably tomorrow.  As much as  I dislike it, work will probably spill over into the vacation, but I will try and keep it to a minimum.

So, life does exist outside of the work environment, so let me write about that for a few minutes - in no particular order.

I talked to the ranch last night.  (Okay, actually, I don't talk to the ranch, I talk to my parents and nephew who are living on the ranch.)  Things are going well enough there.  My parents are advanced in age (77), so they have many of the challenges that come with age, but all in all they seem to be doing as well as can be expected.  Their spirits are good and they move through the ordinary days in ordinary ways.  My nephew seems to have his medication under control and so has a some what ordinary life going on. So, all and all, I would say things are going well at the ranch.

T.R. is in NC where they've been going through 40 days and nights of rain.  She is doing well, always charming, always beautiful, always engaging. (Okay, I freely admit to a bit of bias there, LOL.)

My brother Dusty in Arizona is moving into his new house now that he is retired and is in the middle of that whole process, which he seems to be enjoying very much. That is always very cool and it is an exciting time for him and his family.  My sister Bea is moving as smoothly through the world as she can, though she has an over-sized share of drama going on right now. One of her sons in sitting in jail, waiting a preliminary hearing and charges that have the potential to send him away for a long stretch of time. Life is always unexpected. My heart goes out to her, as I am sure that is a very difficult place to be in.

Tony continues to play the Game of Thrones at work and he seems to be in the process of doing a good Ned Stark imitation.  (If you are not a fan of Game of Thrones, let me simply say that - things do not end well for Ned.)

As for me, on a personal level, things are going well. I am healthy, I am centered, I am moving smoothly and learning more each day.  Oh, I have a new toy, a Kindle Fire HD, which is an awesome little device.  I have the 7 inch version, which I like for its size and portability. I've only had it for a couple of days, so I will give a full review a little later in the process.  I do think that it is a niche device, and it fits that niche very smoothly.  (I also think the iPad is a niche device.)

So, it is time to saddle up and head into the Evil Company to try and move as smoothly through the day as I can.  Since my brain in on the Game of Thrones, let me share a picture of one of the great characters in the series - The Mother of Dragons.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Collection of Morning Thoughts

I woke up at 4:45 AM this morning.  It was simply beautiful outside.  At that hour dawn is only a  faint hint on the horizon, everything is very still and quiet, and after our heat wave it is blessedly cool.  I lay in bed for a while and contemplated sleeping in, but I found I was already wide awake.  I woke up and padded around the house in the semi-darkness and just kind of savored the moment of the morning.

I discovered that at 2:11 AM my Blackberry had locked up.  That was the first time it had done that, so I did I forced restart by popping the battery and then putting it back in.  I hope that is not a trend, because otherwise I happen to like the Z10.  It is a sweet little phone and the only complaint I have is that the ring tones and message tones are on the soft side.  Since I usually carry my cell phone in my pocket, I like them to be a bit louder.

A nice hot shower, clean clothes, a cup of coffee, a bowl of Special K and I find myself moving smoothly into the morning. I have three days before I start my two week vacation, which will include my annual pilgrimage to Comic Con in San Diego.  I am looking forward to both the two week vacation and trip down to San Diego.

I've got a fair load of work to try and get wrapped up before I depart, but, I am feeling pretty confident that it is going to be a relatively clean vacation.  Now, I am sure that, at several points during the vacation I am going to peek into my email just to make sure nothing has totally exploded.  I would rather spend a few minutes of my time on vacation then come back to something fully engulfed in a work fire frenzy.

My monkey mind kind of skittered around this morning.  I am always amazed at the ability of the mind to pull me out of the moment and off into something that really has nothing to do with me, something I cannot influence, something I did not cause, something that only peripherally effects me because I am aware of it, or because it effects someone I know.  My mind really likes to solve puzzles and problems, so I think sometimes when it has none, it will quite happily borrow them or invent them. That is not necessarily a good thing.

Over the weekend I did a lot of cleaning in my living room, basking in the Zen nature of the simple and repetitive tasks, with an end result of a clean, neat and uncluttered living room. I love the feeling when I come into the living room and the clean lines of it inspire me to try and keep the same clean lines in my life.

When you read about simplicity, one of the things you'll read about is that your stuff, your environment, has a direct impact on your mental condition. I find that is very true. When my environment is simple and clean, my mind is simple and clean.  It's a great combination. I've mentioned in previous posts that my drive toward simplicity seems to move in waves.  I think I am about to enter another wave of simplicity, another wave of minimalism. I am looking forward to it over the upcoming vacation.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cicero on Reading

“Read at every wait; read at all hours; read within leisure; read in times of labor; read as one goes in; read as one goes out.” Cicero

Saturday, July 6, 2013

An Alternate Day

I walked a slightly different path through the day today.  Though I did the ordinary sort of things that I always do, I was just slightly off to the side as I did them, which was the intention.  On waking, I started an ordinary day - but about an hour into the day I realized that I wanted to have a different day - so I changed my pattern.  I fired up the iPod, hit some Van Morrison, and started the day with a round of incidental house cleaning.

I had breakfast over at the Hickory Pit with Tony, then we went up to the big Fry's in Sunnyvale to walk around and look at the technical toys.  I picked up two boxes of coffee for Gort, my Keurig coffee machine. Then, I swung home, dropped Tony off and threw myself into the process of house cleaning.  I moved the entire contents of the living room into the kitchen (one of the advantages of minimalism) and shampooed the carpet.  It was slow going in part because there was a persistently difficult stain near the front door.  It took several passes to get it cleaned up.  After I shampooed the floor, I went out to grab a bite for lunch.

I stopped at Sushi Boat at Westgate, one of my favorite sushi places, and had a nice and tasty selection of roles with a bowl of Miso soup.  I've been considering getting a new computer desk, so I stopped down at Office Max to see what they had for options, and though they had a couple that came close, in the end, I didn't select any.  I stopped at Orchard Supply Hardware and replaced from cleaning supplies that I had used up during the day, then swung home.

For a while I had the couch, alone, in the middle of the living room floor, and sat on it while I contemplated how to configure the living room. I have an interesting things - I am feeling the need to simplify some more - but, each piece of furniture in the living room gets used routinely.  The only piece that does not get routinely used is the love seat, though that is more out of habit.  I am going to consider donating it, but I am going to consider it carefully. It is a good love seat. After a spot of contemplation, I approved it on a very linear design - we'll see if I like it.

Then, as I slowly put the living room back together, I watched a movie called "Botched" off the DVR. I had recorded it from Showtime and I recorded it because of the cast - Stephen Dorf and Jaime Murray. It was a strange movie and quite literally all of the performances were phoned in.  The entire thing appears to have been shot over the course of a week or two, with minimal sets.  It was not unwatchable - you could see that there was the spark of a good movie in there and, if you like cheesy comedic horror films, you might like it.  My expectation was set very low going in, so I can honestly say I wasn't disappointed. I was entertained and of course, Jaime Murray is always a pleasure to watch.

The Hickory Pit

Hands down, the Hickory Pit is my favorite place for breakfast. This morning I had the vegetarian eggs benedict, a pair of biscuits, and a cup of coffee. It's a great way for start the day. From there I took a leisurely walk through of Fry's Electronics, and then a slow drive home that ended in this moment. I am contemplating catching a movie out there, but there really isn't anything new except the new Lone Ranger and I am struggling to bring myself to see it, which is probably a sign that I shouldn't go. It might be the perfect day to kick back and alternate between house cleaning and DVR watching.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Authentic Sleeplessness

I slept fitfully last night.  It was, according to, the last day of our sweet little heat wave.  By the time I went to bed, about 9:30 P.M., it was still 80 degrees inside and outside.  I slept with all the windows wide open and both heavy duty fans running.  As the night progresses they slowly, gradually, pulled the temperature down. 

Of course, with it being the 4th of July, it was hardly a tranquil night outside, with a rather astounding and diverse array of fireworks rattling the neighborhood, ranging from tiny strings of lady fingers to some pretty massive explosives - large enough to rattle windows and set off car alarms.  They kept up the show until probably around 11:00 PM, when they fell silent.  In the distance you could hear the deep booms of the commercial grade fireworks at the variety of shows around the valley. Then, most likely due to the heat, I seemed to sleep in about two hour blocks through the night.  Two thought threads ran through my dreams and my waking moments during the night. 

First, I dreamed about work, but it wasn’t really work.  In the dream, I was trying to advance forward on some project and I was waiting on three photographs - the photographs had to be specific dimensions and compositions - and (this part actually relates to the real working world) - I could not adjust them myself, even through it would be a relatively simple thing.  Consequently, I was caught in a circle where I kept having to go back and request that it be done over and over.  Two of the photos were corrected relatively quickly, but the third one was very problematic and required many iterations of rework.

Second, I thought about and carried some of the weight of my friend Tony’s work troubles. Now, here is the simple truth - there is nothing I can do to influence the outcomes of his whole dramatic arc there at work.  All I can do is provide him with encouragement and support.  Which I cannot do in the middle of the night as I muddle through waves of fitful sleep.  But, aparently, it is pretty deeply engrained in my nature that I worry about things, including things I simple do not have the ability to influence.  Tony has been playing The Game of Thrones at work - and he stumbled - which means, well, as Cersei Lannister says “When you play the game of thrones, you win, or you die.”  He is not going to die of course, except perhaps metaphorically.  He is, at least in the initial stages, not going to win though.  I carry it in the middle of the night because he is my dear friend and I wish him all the best.

So, yesterday, as I was moving through the day - and then into the evening and night and early hours of the morning I was thinking about what in means to be authentic, in the Buddhist sense.  Of course, religously speaking, I am not a Buddhist, I am a Catholic, but I do find many things in Buddhism to be of value and the whole concept of being authentic is one of them.  The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa has this to say about it:

“So maybe the point is to confront ourselves with the question: am I really a good person, a good human being? Because that is what characterizes being an authentic Buddhist.”

To me, the whole concept of being an authentic anything hinges around first, being in the moment, and then second, being the things you value in that moment.  If you value compassion, then being compassionate is being authentic.  If you value generosity, then being generous is being authentic.  Every time you do not live you values, you take a step away from being authentic.  Everything you live your values, you take a step toward being authentic.  It is a pretty interesting concept, at least to me, and I am sure I will be thinking about it for a while at least.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Next To Nothing

I woke this morning sometime around dawn.  I laid there for a while and just listened to the sounds of the world unfolding. If you're not a morning person, well, there is a certain symphony of life at you can only here if you wake up in the hour before dawn.  It is a piece of music that I love.

A morning conversation with TR, a shower, a shave, a toast breakfast and I just kind of eased into the day.  I didn't have any goal today, I didn't have any objectives today.  It was nice to be mostly purposeless.

I grabbed lunch with Tony over at the Cheesecake Factory. Then, we drove over to Cupertino Square to see if we could catch the new Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp, but with the combination of heat and holiday, the theater was packed and the showing we were angled at was sold out. The next wave of screenings was around 3:00 and 4:00 PM, so I passed.

I came home. I watched a spot of TV (Mysteries of the Museum), then curled up in bed to nap.  When I nap I often use a timer on my iPad to wake me up.  I napped for an hour.  Then, I napped for another hour.  Then, another thirty minutes.  When I finally woke up it was about 5:30 PM.  Dinner was left over chicken enchiladas from the Cheesecake Factory and a few more episodes of Mysteries of the Museum, some time spent on

As the day ends, as the sun winds toward the horizon, I think I accomplished what I set out to do today.  Next to nothing.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Beast At Bay

Well, it has been a bit of a chaotic week.  Here at work my boss and several additional team members are all on vacation, which they needed and deserved. But, when other people are on vacation, whoever remains in the office ends up catching things that they normally wouldn’t have to deal with.  Most of this stuff is incident - it really doesn’t have anything to do with anything. 
In any work environment there are a lot of “lazy questions” that make the rounds.  A lazy question is where, when someone has a question, rather than seeking the answer to the question they seek a person they can pass the question off too.  One of the ways you learn to deal with this deflecting behavior is too simply and honestly respond with three words.  “I don’t know.”  I often joke that most companies don’t know how to deal with the answer of “I don’t know”, so the overall impact on a system can be pretty amusing.
To my own surprise I’ve made a bit of headway during the week. I had previously anticipated that the entire weekend would be a loss, more or less, but it slowed down yesterday afternoon. I managed to get a few things off the list.  I am still behind the eight ball, but I think description covers pretty much everyone I know here at the Evil Company, at least in our extended group.  We seem to struggle with some of the very basic things. I think a lot of that struggle originates in our lack of process discipline, but that is my interpretation and may not be shared by other people.
However, tomorrow is the 4th of July, and then I will be back to work Friday, but that will be an exceptionally slow day (knocking on wood as I say that).  Then the weekend, then four days of work - and two blessed weeks of vacation.  I am almost desperately hoping that I manage to get a clean break when it comes to vacation - it has been a long time since I have had a clean break and a vacation for myself.  I think that is one of the areas of this job that I consider to be high cost - the constant pressure to allow the working world to move into and take over your personal time.  It’s a daily or weekly struggle to hold that particular beast at bay.