Thursday, July 30, 2009

Missing Kid Back Home

The kid I wrote about a few days ago, who'd gone missing last Friday morning, is back home, safe and sound. I don't have details, but it appears he ran away. He was recognized by a police officer who saw a poster about the kid's disappearance; the officer made sure he got home. Now, I expect the parents are trying to wrestle with how to successfully combine their emotions into something more productive than a flogging.

Arizona Ash

I was awakened early this morning to explosive cracks of thunder, accompanied by a brilliant lightening show. I have not looked out into my front yard yet this morning, delaying the possibility of seeing a massive Arizona ash, horribly disfigured by the howling winds that roared in with the storm. I only hope the poor monster is still standing. He has lost far too many limbs during the storms of the past two years; something may be wrong with him. I think his life may be nearing its end.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

AT&T: World's Worst Customer Service

In the interest of full disclosure...I do not have an iPhone and I never did. On the other hand, I have AT&T service at my house and, after my experiences with the company, I have nothing but deep disdain for the criminal bastards who screw their customers with abandon. Thanks to Konagod for sharing this on his site so I can share it here. (By the way, AT&T has the worst customer service of ANY company anywhere...you'd be treated better getting phone service from Al Quaida.)

Death Isn't Such a Big Deal Anymore

I think I'm onto something, but I don't know what.

During the past several years, it seems to me that a greater number of prominent figures have been dying than when I was younger. I know, that's what happens when one ages.

That's NOT it, though! No, I believe that there really are many more well-known people dying today than when I was a youngster...many more, as in orders of magnitude more.

As a consequence, the death of prominent figures has grown commonplace and not as jolting as it once was.


I'll tell you why! There are just more of us around and, in particular, MORE PROMINENT PEOPLE! That's right, there are many more people today that command our attention than in the past. When I was growing up, only a select few got to be famous. Today, everyone is; well, almost everyone.

Television, radio, the internet, and all the internet-based streams of information are flooding us with enormous volumes of information, much of which involves "special" people like actors and actresses, musicians, politicians, etc., etc. The simple fact that there are more media with lots of space to fill is encouraging this. Think of Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, the slackards who play on TV "reality" shows, NASCAR drivers, famous dog-fighting football billionaires, technocratic philanthropists with bad livers, and all the others who do not have any predecessors...they are the "new prominents" that are filling up our newspapers, magazines, computer screens, and water-cooler conversations. There are simply more prominent people, people who die and who, because they are well-known, create a media buzz when they "expire."

The result of this mushrooming growth of the prominently departed? Death isn't as big a deal as it once was. Sure, Michael Jackson's death brought about a media circus, but his departure from the land of the living was the exception, not the rule. We're just becoming desensitized to death.

Funerals aren't what they once were. We're becoming immune to the grief brought on by public figures' deaths. We no longer really care that someone like Walter Chronkite died; we muss around a bit and cough out a few expressions of appreciation for his life, but we don't grieve. Not like we used to. Or, I should say, they used to. Somebody used to really care. Now, it's just another adrenalin rush in front of the television or, more likely, a flush of joy at being among the first to get the word by Twitter or on Facebook.

We have a new attitude toward death because there are so many more people we're exposed to who have a 100% chance of dying. If their deaths don't give us chills up and down our spines, deaths of more "normal" people won't even be noticed for long.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Am I in it for the Profit or the Prophet?

I'm growing more liberal with each passing day. This is not a good thing in my business. But WTF. I don't like my business anyway. I'd rather feed the poor than lobby politicians in support of government largesse to support businesses that assign more value to "profit" than to justice. The difficult thing to reconcile in this mix is that I'm definitely a capitalist...and least up to a point. Maybe that's the problem. I'm a socialist at heart but a capitalist at brain, though I do not think it appropriate to turn religion into a money-making endeavor.

And to complicate things even more, I am not a vegetarian but could support nibbling their fingers and toes in situations of severe famine and social unrest.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Time to Retire Go to Sleep

I've been awake since 2:30 a.m.; actually, a bit earlier than that, I think. It's now 4:30 a.m. Why am I awake at this hour? If you know the answer, please write it on the deed to an island in the Pacific and send it to me, along with all necessary travel documents to get me there...and it would be helpful if you'd include sufficient cash to cover all my retirement expenses for the next 30 years.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Missing

I received a message tonight on Facebook from a friend. A colleague of his wife reported that her 15-year-old brother-in-law had gone missing yesterday. He arrived at his instructor's house for a violin lesson around 9 am, then went outside to retrieve something he had forgotten from his van. He never came back. This occurred only about 6 miles from where I live. And the kid is still missing. His family is frantic. All their friends are frantic. They have organized search parties to scour the area. I don't know anyone in the mix except for my friend and his wife, and we're not particularly close. But the fact that this kid is missing just tears me up. I can only imagine the pain his family and friends are going through. I hope it works out.

Self-Discipline

My efforts to lose weight and improve my physical condition are at odds with my lack of discipline, genetically embedded laziness, and fanatic devotion to food of all kinds and in unreasonably large amounts.

Today's feeble attempt at physical conditioning, a 1+ hour walk with my wife, was sabotaged after we got home by deciding to get a "breakfast snack" consisting of a sausage patty and cheese made into something of a sandwich with two thick halves of a roll.

If I'm going to slim down and get more stamina, I need a personal trainer, someone whose relentless insistence that I exercise cannot be quelled except through my following the prescribed regimen. How can I become my own abusive and commanding personal trainer? How can I berate myself into doing what I know I must do? Even when I try the other tactic, praise for my own performance and productivity, I fail. I need a partner who will insist on following a daily regimen, someone who will do the same thing. My wife is not up to it, especially with her heart condition causing her to tire far more quickly than I do.

It's not just the need to exercise and cut back on unnecessary food. I need to stop swilling alcohol in all forms and replace it with water or low-calorie cranberry juice or something else that will not fill me with empty calories.

I cannot be so weak as to unable to find sufficient self-discipline to do this! I will succeed in bludgeoning myself into submission, one way or another.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fragility?

This stupid little blog of mine is too important to me; I won't let it die of neglect.

That's not to say I won't neglect it. But not forever, not for so long that it will wither and degrade into dust and grease and pain that didn't see the light of day. I will continue to embarrass it with words that have no real merit, save that they come from an old and fragile heart.

And here is my fragility for today. I'm feeling abandoned by people who never even knew me. The poets who could have taught me, the writers of narrative who could have shared their skills with me, or at least been gentle with me as they openly acknowledged that I have no skills to share and no emotions that haven't already been explored by writers who not only were closer to them, but who felt them in a visceral way that sometimes evades me. This is my fragility. The fragility of an aging geezer who remembers listening to writers who had something to say, something bold and emotional. I couldn't simply cry and let my tears fall as the may!

I'm not a writer. Never have been. I've wished I were a writer, someone who could translate into pen and paper or even computer screen. That's the way it was. And it's becoming the same.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Everyone Else

I read a book several years ago, no idea the title or author, that suggested that people grow to accept their own mortality as they grow older. Well, of course, that makes sense. But I'd never really thought about it.

Last night, though, I had a dream in which I had been trying to catch someone who had been doing something to me, or to someone I knew...not quite sure. Apparently, I caught the guy and had him in a box with a little opening where his head was. I opened it up and thrust some utensils down into his eyes and he started screaming. I then closed the door over his head and called the police, saying I had shot and killed a man.

All the people around me knew that I hadn't shot the man, but they did not know (nor did I) what condition he was in. At some point, I opened the little door and discovered he was gone. And then I called the police again and told them I had killed a man but that his body was stolen.

Soon, the police came and they looked inside the box and found no blood, no signs of a struggle, no evidence I had done anything to anyone.

But I insisted that I had killed him and that I should be arrested and executed. In this dream, I knew that the decisions on those matters would come fast. For some reason, it felt very good to insist that I be killed. I had a sense that it would be a welcome relief. I said something to myself, out loud, to the effect that "it's going to be so good to just get it all over with. I won't feel anything, but just knowing, that's going to be good enough."

And then I started thinking about what it meant to be dead. In my dream, I tried to imagine what it was like, but I kept coming back to the realization that it wouldn't be like anything. It would just be over and my consciousness would have been extinguished. And my death would be noticed by a few people, for a short time, and then the memories would fade and it would be like I'd never been here. It was very clear to me. And I was perfectly comfortable with it.

And then I woke up and was very disconcerted about the dream all day today, though I don't know why. I guess I realized in some especially strong way that one day I'll be dead and it won't have mattered, at least for long, that I lived. And that was disconcerting, but it was equally disturbing to realize that so it would be for everyone else.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Incompetent, Lying, Thieves, Anyone? AT&T

I know, you feel happy if you tell yourself you feel happy. Well, that's happy horseshit. It may work on the easily manipulated, but it doesn't work on me.

The reason? AT&T. If AT&T would just disappear, I'd be happy. I'd tell myself to be happy and I would gladly accommodate my wishes. But that's only if AT&T would disappear. Here's the reason; it's something I wrote on another blog to which I post occasionally. This is the story of my experience with AT&T. The blog post doesn't end it. After the blog post, I finally got some relief and a promise that I was finally back to a zero balance on my account. Until today. They have cut what they claimed I owed, but not enough. And now they say I am not only in debt to them to the tune of more than $270, they tacked on a late fee. This is AFTER I paid them the legitimate balance by credit card and was PROMISED it was all taken care of. Bastards.


I almost never make international calls from my home. There's just no need. But on May 27, I had to participate in a very long telephone call with a group of people who were meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. Because their meeting began at 9:00 am local time, I had to call in at 3:00 am local time. I was not interested in going to my office to make the call, of course. I didn't think anything of it; I just dialed in on my home phone and got on the call.

The next day, or the day after, I arrived home from the office to a voice message from AT&T's fraud department, asking me to call right away. When I called, I learned they wanted to verify that I made the call. I said I had and expressed appreciation that they would double check to make sure my phone service was not being abused. Toward the end of the conversation, though, I got a shock. The representative to whom I was speaking said, "You should get an international rate plan. That was a very expensive call." I asked how much; "about a grand," he responded.

I gasped and said that was preposterous. He agreed and suggested I call another department to get an international plan. I made the call as he suggested.

After a lengthy call that made me feel for all the world that I was being extorted into paying a monthly fee to avoid such absurd charges, I finally felt that the problem had been resolved. (The actual charge was $1,013.20; I was told the call would be about $35 under the international calling plan.)

The woman with whom I had spoken had assured me that the international calling plan would be instituted and would be made effective May 26, one day before the call. She transferred me to a third-party "verifier" who confirmed that I wanted the service, that I wanted AT&T to be my domestic and international long distance provider, etc. I obediently said "yes" to every question, as the woman had instructed.

About ten days later I received a letter from AT&T saying my attempt to get a new service had failed. The letter, dated June 9, said, "On June 9, you called us to request a change in your AT&T telephone service." It went on to say they could not verify the order and further claimed to have tried to contact me by telephone "today" but could not reach me. (Apparently they don't leave voice messages...I had received none.) Because I could not be contacted, the letter said, the order was cancelled.

So, I got back on the phone and started the entire process over. I gave the representative my confirmed order number, but they could not find any record of it. The only choice was to go through the entire process again. This time, I made a record of exactly what was said, what questions I was asked, etc., etc. The person I spoke to said I should call AT&T as soon as I received the phone bill that included the expensive call to Lisbon and that they would take it right off and replace it with the newly-rated call.

A few days later, toward the end of the week, the bill came. I waited until early the following week to call about the adjustment. Both calls from my office to AT&T that day were unsatisfactory; the customer service representatives could not find any records; I was told the "system is down" and they could find nothing. They asked me to call back; I responded by asking if they could call me back, instead, since I had made a number of calls already. No, I was told, we cannot. Period.

A later call reached a young woman who finally agreed to mark the amount of the Lisbon call as "in dispute." But the "systems" would not allow her to find anything of use, either. She advised me to try back later that evening and talk to the long distance unit. That evening, I called and spoke first to "Jude," who could find absolutely no record of any international calling plan on my account, any record of me calling, etc., etc. Then, he put his supervisor, "Tash," on the phone.

Tash said that what I had described (all of my calls heretofore) was impossible and, moreover, than there is "no way" that any AT&T representative would have ever told me an international calling plan could have been backdated to May 26. He then tried to explain that there are multiple AT&Ts and that what someone from another of the AT&Ts may have told me was not valid for his AT&T.

I was getting nowhere with him, so I asked to speak with his supervisor. He claimed he does not have a supervisor; he insisted that he reports to no one that I could speak to. He finally relented and said he did have someone who conducts his performance appraisals, but that he was under no obligation to give me that person's name.

After quite a lot more back and forth with him, he said the best he could do would be to cut 50% off the bill. I said "fine," fully intending to dispute any bill they sent my way. And we said our goodbyes. By this time, I though I had reached the peak of anger at the organization's customer abuse.

And then he called back and said his offer of 50% off was good only if I agreed to the international calling plan. I screamed into the receiver that I had ALREADY ORDERED THAT SERVICE TWICE! He said he just wanted to be clear about that.

I have not received a follow-up bill yet. But I have no doubt I will. And I have no doubt that, the moment this quagmire of customer abuse and torture is finally over, I will completely and irrevocably cut my ties with AT&T and will heartily recommend the same to anyone who will listen. Or who will read this blog.

My experience with AT&T in this incident demonstrates, I think, why customer service matters. Wouldn't it have been more to the company's benefit to make it easy for me to be rid of what I think any right-thinking person would agree is an indefensibly high telephone bill than to repeatedly go to the mat with me? Incidentally, that same call for which AT&T decided to charge $1,013.20 would have cost me $26.82 plus tax with the carrier I use in my office.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Food Frenzy on the Open Road


Today was another one of those blow-off days, during the majority of which we got nothing of any consequence done. I like those kinds of days. I want more of them.

Well, we started off rather early and drove first to McKinney, where each of us had a breakfast of tacos de huevos con chorizo (sound familiar...like yesterday?), with a side of Mexican rice and refried beans. Unlike yesterday's breakfast, today's was the real deal, made by people who have a stake in the place. Whilte they weren't terribly concerned with the way it looked, they paid attention to the ingredients; it tasted extremely good!


The thing is, this place in McKinney couldn't quite decide what to call itself. Here are the three separate signs that are posted to lure in customers:
























After breakfast, we found ourselves wandering around north Texas and we stumbled onto a large old tree. As the sign says, 1916's parents were pioneer residents.... I would like to change the sign to read: "Set out here in 1916 by Mr. John T. Ballard, whose parents were pioneer residents..."













And then later we had lunch at the Longhorn Ranch Store and Grill, an obnoxious-looking tourist trap on Texas 82 just outside Whitesboro. When we drove up, we assumed it was primarily a restaurant with lots of Texana knick-knacks for sale. In fact, the Texana "stuff" is far more extensive than I would have thought. Lots of metal sculpture, house bling, and vast amounts of knick-knacks. Even a couple of very nice looking (if overly urethaned) mesquite rocking chairs.


The place was not packed, not by a stretch. We were among the few there. But despite the fact that it was nearly empty, we had a nice meal there. We both ordered chicken fried steak, which was one of the better ones I've had in quite awhile. It was not overwhelmed with batter. Instead, it was nearly all meat that had been dredged in flour and then not deep fried but simply pan-fried (at least that's what I think). Tasty stuff.

Of course, it was gawdy. No matter how you do it, you can't present such a vast selection of Texana crap without looking gawdy. After I got home and checked the place out, I found some comments about the owners; the commenter asserts that the owner is abusive to the staff and doesn't know much about customer service. Here is said review.












OK, this is unrelated to today's adventure. It's a photo of the fish tacos my wife had yesterday at Kathleen's Sky Diner in Dallas yesterday; that place is fantastic!

Smoked Cameraman

It's official; it wasn't that my camera was not working properly, it was the operator.

I took my little Nikon Coolpix S6 (it's a couple or three years old now) to the high-end camera store because lately it has taken lousy photos, particularly of indoor or low-light scenes where there is any action in the shot.

Most recently, I was trying to capture the ambience of a barbeque place, a place where patrons are greated not by a host or hostess, but by a huge "warming grill" complete with grillmaster. The patron points to the sausage links or brisket or steaks or ribs or chicken of interest, then the grillmaster starts slicing off meat until the patron says "stop." That's where the camera problem comes in. I could not for the life of me take a shot that crisply captures the way the place looks. Instead, I got fuzzy moving images. I was quite annoyed that I could not get the shot I wanted...not even when I tried to stage it.


What I wanted to capture was a shot of the grillmaster. The grillmaster behind the warming grill is the first thing that gets your attention when you enter the huge open-air (but covered) cooking area. Behind the warming grill are a dozen or more enormous smokers where the brisket or ribs or steaks, etc. are actually being smoked to, we wish, perfection. The scene is reminiscent of a place in Central Texas that I love to visit: Cooper's Barbeque in Llano.


This place, though, is a much larger, much more upscale place. Unlike Cooper's, this place has an enormous, cavernous seating area...I suspect 400-500 people could be seated in this place. And, unlike Cooper's, the money that must have been invested just to build this place had to be in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Unfortunately, unlike Cooper's, the meat and the sides and the atmosphere just don't do it for me. It's bigger and newer and flashier, but it's not authentic; it's a businessman's vision of what a barbeque place should look like, not a grillman's vision of what a barbeque business should look like. But, to the credit of the people who built this place, it is attractive to a large and growing audience in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that doesn't give a shit about what I like or don't like about the place; they want an experience that has the look and feel of assembly-line authenticity without the gritty reality and the long distance drive.


What I learned from the upscale camera store is that the idiot camera operator apparently had fucked with the camera's controls beyond his competence. He had selected a scene mode and a shutter speed that virtually guaranteed a crappy photo. I had, of course, tried to adjust all the settings back to "normal" but had failed miserably. So, the photos I was taking were roughly equivalent to photos a 5-year old with ADD would have taken with a Brownie camera. Hence the quality of the photos above. I guess I'll have to suffer through another meal at the inauthentic BBQ spot.






All photos here are of Hard Eight Pit Bar-B-Q, and NOT of my beloved Cooper's. As always, click on any shot to embiggen it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Turn Off the Questions

I read an interview of Leonard Cohen by Jian Ghomeshi, which was published in the Guardian. The interview was done in anticipation of another of Cohen's concerts in Weybridge, UK, perhaps tonight. The interview was interesting as much for the questions asked as for the answers given. Ghomeshi seems fixated on Cohen's views of and beliefs about death, asking questions like "Is there a way to prepare for death?" That's just one of several that struck me as odd questions to ask of a performer, even a 74 year old performer.

But then it occurred to me that so much of Cohen's music deals with life and death and emotion and depth of experience that it's no wonder some people expect him to have answers that he simply can't have. But they ask anyway. And I can't blame them.

I've often wished there were someone with whom I could have a conversation about questions to which there are no answers, someone who wouldn't consider the questions nor the ensuing conversations morbid nor self-indulgent. I can see how Cohen comes across as just such a person, someone who's approachable and non-judgmental and extraordinarily intelligent to understand that those questions bear discussing.

One of the questions that didn't deal with death that was equally intriguing was "Do you regret not having a lifelong partner?" I like Cohen's response: "Non, je ne regrette rien. (No, I have no regrets.) I'm blessed with a certain amount of amnesia and I really don't remember what went down. I don't review my life that way."

I wonder how many people who do have lifelong partners wonder how different their lives would have been had they not married or not lived in a single committed relationship? Is wondering equivalent to regret? I don't think so, but maybe it is.

Sometimes I do regret that I don't have a switch that will allow me to turn off the questions I constantly ask myself. It wouldn't be so bad, except for the answers or lack thereof.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Not a Fan of P.F. Chang's

We ate at P.F. Chang's last night. My food was only barely edible; my wife's was a bit better. Overall, though, it was extremely disappointing. And horrendously overpriced! Fortunately for us, we had an old but still-valid $20 gift card from the place...I don't recall exactly where we got it.

If you have a hankering for Chinese food, my advice is to find a small family(Chinese)-run restaurant that is full of Asians who appear content with the food.

P.F. Chang's was populated primarily by people who look like me--but are younger, more in-tune to fashion, and inexperienced in the real world---and who probably would feel uncomfortable in a place where the menu wasn't designed by a menu-design pro.

Despite my frequent protestations to the contrary, there are some decent chain restaurants that serve good food at good value. In my view, P.F. Chang's isn't one of them. And there you have it. If it matters.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What's Next

I wasn't expecting it today. It came as a shock, a surprise, a baseball bat from around the corner.

The day started off just fine. My wife whispered to me, "get up, time to go for a walk." I wasn't looking forward to it when I first got up and threw on my walking shorts, dangerously ugly t-shirt, and gym shoes, but less than a block on I started to feel good about it. I started enjoying it so much, in fact, that I got a little snarly when we had to head back. "We ought to just change our hours," I said, "and start coming in at 9 o'clock. That way, we could walk as long as we want and not have to watch the clock." My wife responded by suggesting that I should do that; that was her not-so-subtle way of saying she was not interested.

Back at home, she showered first while I made lunch; a salad of canned tuna, green onions, and strips of roasted poblano peppers, topped with a couple of tomatoes I cut into sections. Then it was my turn to return to the "go-to-office" routine: shower, shave, brush teeth, put on uncomfortable long pants, short-sleeved shirt, and casual but not even close to flip-flop-casual shoes.

By the time we were both ready for work, it was just after 7:30. And I was allowing my loathing of the trip to the office and the day soon to be spent in it to drag my mood into the cellar. I cursed loudly at a psychotic little witch who refused to give an inch to let me merge into freeway traffic. She was far too busy talking on her cell phone and putting on eyeliner to give me any courtesy. And then the hotshot in his Mercedes convertible, also busy on his cell phone, roared around several cars in two lanes behind me, then passed me and swerved into the tiny space in front of me and behind the dump truck I was following. If my wife had not been in the car, I would have given myself good reason to replace my car by slamming his little money-pit into the dump truck that was now in front of him. But, my wife would have slashed my throat before I could have fully relished the glory, so I simply sat on the horn and shot him the finger. My wife finds that childish behavior EXTREMELY annoying; I may have been better off with blood squirting from my neck.

By the time we pulled into the parking lot of my office, I was ready for a lousy day. Well, ready is not the word. I was resigned to it. I didn't want it. I wanted to go to the beach or for a drive in the country or to an animal shelter where I could pick up a pug-mix that really liked me!

The brief "cool" spell of the last two days, with temperatures getting only into the low nineties, has disappeared. So when we got out of the car, the humidity and heat struck us with the force of a board smashing against our chests. We limped inside, where the temperature was more hospitable, but only mildly so. And then we entered our office.

I struggled through the first hour of the morning with some mild degree of success, so when it happened, it was completely unexpected. Nothing of any consequence precipitated it, though a few things had gone "wrong" already this morning. But nothing earth-shattering. But then when I realized that I had to send out two board meeting agendas and found that the financial reports that ALWAYS must go with them had not been completed as they should have been...the 20th of last month...I just snapped.

I got up, pulled my keys from my pocket, and headed for the door. "I'm out of here," I said to my wife and anyone else within earshot. And then I added, not as loud, "and I'm not coming back." And I left. I went straight down to my car, started it up, and drove away. First I headed east, then south, and then just drove with no particular attention paid to the direction I was going. I passed two or three police cars and only after I passed each one did I look down to see that I was going at least 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. But I didn't even slow down. I just kept driving.

It was an hour or so later, I think, that I started thinking about what I was doing. And that brought me back to the office, eventually. And I walked in to the suite, past the offices up front, and into mine in the rear corner. And the rest of the day was pretty normal; dull, annoying, upsetting, occasionally interesting. But I just can't get it out of my mind that I had decided, on the spur of the moment, to leave. And when I walked out the door, I intended it to be permanent. I even thought of what I would tell my clients and my staff and how I would deal with the business.

I suppose my little episode was a warning to myself. It wasn't a warning that I need a vacation. I just took one. It was a warning that I better get serious about what's next.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Promise of the Statue of Liberty

This poem by Emma Lazarus should make us remember who we were, and who we should always be, as we celebrate our independence this Fourth of July:

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset fates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Fourth of July

Today's plan was to have included an early morning walk.

But my wife could not sleep last night, and so was disinterested in waking up when I alerted her to "walk time."

I awoke last night at 1:30 to find her side of the bed empty; she was in the family room, reading. She had not been able to get to sleep.

Sometime thereafter, after I had gone back to bed, she came in and tried it again. She kept alerting me to the fact that I needed to clear my throat, turn over, or otherwise take action to stop my snoring. When I woke up, her side of the bed was again empty. I found her in the family room, again, this time fast asleep with a thin blanket over her. When I inquired about walking, she mumbled something about "in a while" and audibly snarled at me. She did not bother to open her eyes; I think she was not awake.

An hour passed and she was still asleep, so I decided to wash lasts night's dishes and make breakfast for myself: turkey bacon, "fried" eggs that I cooked in a no-stick skillet with a little butter-flavored Pam, and some slices of tomato and jalape├▒os. I just finished it and it was exceptionally good.

Now, she's up. But I haven't spoken to her. Let's see if her mood matches the fireworks of this Fourth of July! Happy day, incidentally!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Disconcerting Conversations

I think it's odd that I find Bill Moyers' Journal more interesting as time goes by. I find it particularly interesting that I'm intrigued by programs dealing with faith and religion, inasmuch as I have neither.

Tonight, he had a conversation with Cornel West, Serene Jones, and Gary Dorrien about America's fundamental ethics and values and what they say about our society. The conversation was presented as, and acknowledge to be, an inherently "biased" conversation, since Moyers himself and his three guests are committed Christians.

They talked about what our society and the way it operates says about America’s politics, our policies, and the appropriateness of democracy in a society that describes itself as being based on morality.

West, in particular, made it a point to say that many of his personal beliefs are well-aligned with those of many devout atheists and agnostics, though the others seemed to be in agreement.

I found it intriguing that all three are connected to the Union Theological Seminary, a nondenominational seminary based in New York City. I did not even know there were any such things as nondenominational theological seminaries. Serene Jones is president of the seminary and the others are professors.

What always surprises me about Moyers and his guests is that they almost always speak about morality, right and wrong, and guiding philosophical principles, the justification for which they always attribute to Christianity or, at least, religion. His religious guests always wear this badge of "faith" on their sleeves with great pride; that is the only thing about them I find offensive and, frankly, blind.

That not withstanding, I find these conversations very interesting. I agree more often than I disagree with their almost universally liberal worldviews. Their sense of justice mirrors mine almost perfectly. It's their damn insistence on believing in supernatural beings that I find disconcerting.