Friday, July 30, 2010

Thanks, Teresa

I just got a call from a wonderful friend. Teresa, you're spectacular. I really do appreciate your call, my dear. It was such a nice thing to call me to check on me. And I won't publish my offensive poem!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Not Fair

Last night and tonight, I've been sitting alone in the house, trying to get used to the temporary state of being alone. My wife went into the hospital yesterday morning for two+ days of observation while a new drug treatment is being tested on her.

This new drug treatment is supposed to change the electrical properties of her heart so that her ICD does not shock her unless she is in serious danger of sudden cardiac death. She's been shocked inappropriately twice as a result of her heart's unusual electrical properties, which causes her heart-beat to speed up dramatically.

It's all scary and I hate it. I want things to be "normal" again. But that's not realistic. Her heart has been troublesome for many years. It's showing its age. So we deal with devices and medications to make it last as long as possible.

I hope we can share a long retirement. I'm afraid neither of us may make it until retirement even begins. And that's not fair at all. That's not part of the plan.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Roadtrip Photos.

Here is a batch of photos from our 2010 Great Texas BBQ Roadtrip. Next time, I'm taking more pictures and a better camera.

The Joy of BBQ!

This is a tiny sample of nirvana. Food from Kreuz Market, Lockhart, Texas. Oh, the joy of spectacular barbeque! The wonder! From the great Texas BBQ Road Trip, July, 2010. My friends and I went to Lexington, Lockhart, and Llano.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Road-Trip Barbeque!

In lieu of doing work that I desparately need to do around the house next weekend, I'm joining a couple of other guys on a hard-driving BBQ road trip on Saturday. We'll drive to Lexington (Snow's), Llano (Cooper's), and Lockhart (Kruetz Market and Black's) before turning to head back home. Lexington's is said to run out of food before noon, so we're heading out early (5:30 am) to be sure we are not disappointed.

There are plenty of other places we could go (Smitty's in Lockhart, Louis Mueller's and Mikeska's in Taylor, City Market and Luling Bar-BQ in Luling, and plenty more, but we have limited time, money, and space in our stomachs.

My target meats are: coarsely-ground, highly spiced sausage; brisket; cabrito (baby goat); and any number of ribs and various cut of pork. The unfortunate fact about having only three guys on the trip is that we won't be able to get portions that are small enough to allow each of us to share small portions.

I hope this BBQ adventure meets my expectations. If not, I'll have to try another food tourism adventure soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Circuitous Route to BlogFest 2011 in Dallas

I spent seven days, last Wednesday and Thursday, trying to testify at a trial in Los Angeles. I had received a subpoena that commanded me to be in Los Angeles for a week, beginning July 13, so I dutifully made my arrangements to go.

The FBI agent who was my contact told me not to worry, I wouldn't really need to be there for a week. In fact, he said, I would only need to get there one afternoon and leave the next, after dutifully testifying in the case against someone the U.S. Attorney said had scammed many people out of many thousands of dollars. I believed the U.S. Attorney. Still do.

ANYWAY, I flew last Wednesday morning on a flight that got me to L.A. at about 12:30 pm local time. After dashing to catch the SuperShuttle, I sat inside said SuperShuttle for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes while the driver wandered aimlessly around LAX looking for marks. A mere hour and a half after we left the airport, after the driver hurriedly dropped off half the population of L.A. who was riding with me, I was the last rider to be dropped at my hotel.

IN THE MEANTIME, my office sent me an urgent email: the U.S. Postal Inspector who was working with my FBI agent friend had called to say go to my hotel and stay there and await further instructions. So, after I checked in to the hotel, I went to my room and sat patiently. Oh, I didn't mention that the flight from Dallas to L.A. was supposed to have "food for purchase." I was actually planning to have my lunch on board that plane. But apparently someone forgot to stock the plane with week-old dry bread and hard, hard, actually brittle salami; there was no food to be had.

Well, I couldn't very well go to the hotel restaurant to eat because I was expecting a phone call from the FBI agent or the U.S. Postal Inspector or the U.S. Attorney or someone of like official capacity. And I couldn't very well order room service because I might be called away before it was delivered or, worse yet, have to leave a perfectly good room service tray untouched in my room. So, I decided to wait.

You see, I had arranged to meet a fellow blogger and her husband for dinner. So I could wait to eat until dinner. Over the years, I had stored enough energy around my waist, neck, and thighs to sustain me until dinner, I reasoned. So I would wait.

Incidentally, all I knew about my fellow blogger was what I had read and see online. The fact that she and her husband could have been, for all I knew, L.A.'s most fashionable serial-killer couple, did not phase me. I wanted to meet KathyR and the man she claimed to be her husband.

But I digress. Back to the story at hand. I waited. I continued to wait. And I waited more. No calls from the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspector, the U.S. Attorney, or anyone else. It was getting late. I was getting worried that I still would be waiting to hear from the Feds after KathyR arrived to meet me at my hotel. So I called and left her a message explaining the situation and suggesting that, if she would rather not risk being unable to have dinner even after the drive to downtown L.A., that would be fine. (This call of mine was NOT my way of backing out of the date due to my fear of becoming the latest victim of L.A.'s most fashionable serial-killer couple.). She called back to say she and her husband were already on their way and that, if things didn't work out that I could go to dinner, she and that man would just consider it "date night." I felt better.

Then, I waited some more. Just before KathyR was to arrive, the phone rang. It was the FBI agent. He apologized profusely that he had been unable to call me earlier; he had been in court, where, I learned, communication of any kind is forbidden. They still needed to talk to me. Now, please. I explained I had potential murderers, possibly cannibals friends waiting to have join me for dinner and that I would need to meet them downstairs to let them know I needed to visit with the Feds. He begrudgingly agreed to let me go downstairs to meet my doom friends; he would call me back in five minutes.

I proceeded to the hotel bar, where I instantly recognized KathyR. She was sitting with a man I assumed to be her husband. I explained what had just happened and that I was afraid I could not join them for dinner. They bought me a Grey Goose martini and we chatted for awhile, then FBI guy called and I agreed to leave the hotel at 7:00 pm to go visit him at the courthouse. I found KathyR and her husband, a non-blogger who seemed, nonetheless, to be a decent human being, to be interesting people and was annoyed that I could not spend more time with them. However, during our brief chat, she and her husband (I'll call him Allen) agreed to visit me in Dallas, where I would be required to take them to the world's most expensive steakhouse, otherwise known as Pappas Brothers Steakhouse. [My secret plan, though, is to lure them to Dallas, then to take them to a seedy dive or two to demonstrate that "Hidden Kitchens" offer good things to those who risk life and limb.

I have digressed again and again and again. Back to the plot. I loped off to the courthouse, where I was met (after a brief delay) by a Postal Inspector and led up to the U.S. Attorney's office. I waited still more and, finally, was led into an "interview room" to be interrogated. The FBI agent was still a bit miffed at me, I think, because I had not come right over when he called. I soon learned why, though; he lives a two-hour drive from the courthouse and had been working 7 am to 9 or 10 pm for more than a week. ANYWAY, he managed to get out of having to participate in the interrogation, which was undertaken, instead, by an Assistant U.S. Attorney, shadowed by the Postal Inspector. They informed me that they would call me between 9 and 9:30 the next day to tell me when to go to the courthouse. Finally, I left the office for my hotel around 9:00 pm. I then had a hamburger and two more Grey Goose martinis and went to bed.

The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast of miso soup, nori, smoked salmon with capers, and eggs benedict with bacon on the side (I freely admit to being a glutton), I waited in my room for the call. It came as promised and I was told to go to the witness room at the courthouse at 11:00 am. I got there early and waited. And waited. And I waited some more. At 12:15 or so, the witnesses (there were five of us there) were told to go have lunch and return at 1:30. We did. Finally, witnesses started being called. Four of them were called by 2:45 pm. About 3:00 pm, I began to start worrying whether I would make my 6:00 pm flight.

But not to worry! The Assistant U.S. Attorney and her entourage came in just at 3:00 pm, She explained that things were going well, better than she expected. So, my testimony would not be needed! Oh, joy, I thought! She explained, further, that the last witness had addressed most of the issues I was expected to cover and that, had I been put on the stand, the defense counsel probably would have attacked my credibility, accusing me of bias, etc., etc. (this due to the nature of the organization I was representing).

SO, I went to the 12th floor as directed to get my reimbursement vouchers, whereupon I was sent to the 15th floor, where I was made to fill out forms. I asked about the quickest way to the airport. I was advised to take the D-Dash bus to Union Station, where I would then catch the Fly-Away Shuttle to LAX. I wish I had known about that the day before. I spent $7.25 to get to the airport in about half the time and at a quarter the price it took the day before to get from LAX to the hotel.

And there you have it. By far the most interesting part was meeting my blogger friend (my second meet-up with a blogger first was YourFireAnt). You'll notice that I have not included a link to KathyR's blog. That's because she has abandoned two perfectly good blogs (What Do I Know and I've Gone Out the Window) and has steadfastly refused to cave to her blogger friends' insistence that she blog again. You can find her on Facebook, if you look hard enough.

Well, KathyR and Allen have agreed to come visit me in Dallas, maybe next February. So has YourFireAnt, but she hasn't set a timeframe (February might be good). Now, if we can get Phil and Betsy and Bev and Ellie and Robin and Roger and a few others to make the trip, we could have quite a blogfest! If you're interested in Blogfest 2011 in Dallas, let me know!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Burning in Hell

It is 4 minutes shy of 10:30 pm on Saturday night. The temperature in Dallas as of 10:10 pm was 90 degrees. Only the most weather-resistent or craziest lunatics on the planet would live here. I'm not weather-resistent, so I must be an absolute lunatic!

What I am doing here?!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Carpet Diem

We now have new carpet throughout the house, as of today. I wouldn't wish this hassle off on my worst enemy. For that person, I'd wish a thousand through-the-foundation concrete piers.

But I should be happy, right? And I suppose I am. I guess I had hoped carpet would transform the house into a new one with no signs of impending decay. It doesn't work quite like that.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Bacon Blogger

I had a dream last night that suggests I may be spending too much time in the ether.

The dream involved a woman whose blogs I often read for amusement. There's rarely anything deep and solemn in her posts; rather, there's a sharp wit and a lust for life that fairly jumps off the screen and grabs the reader around the neck. It's entertainment and fun. I wouldn't want it any other way.

But in this dream, my blogger friend appears (I know it's her because her photo appears regularly in her posts). Unlike the way I envision her when I'm reading her blog, though, her demeanor in my dream is just shy of the abyss: despondent, disconsolate, discouraged, downcast, downhearted, depressed, dejected, and disheartened to the extreme. I believe her blog way more than I believed the dream. Speaking of which, the dream.

This forlorn woman was riding a ferry with me. Not with me; she was on the same ferry. The wind was blowing, hard, and we were standing at the front, looking toward the shore. We obviously knew one another, but not well. She turned to me at one point and said (this is not precise...I'm reconstituting a somewhat blurry dream): "You can feel the bacon spray, can't you?! They cook that goddamn bacon on the way over and they don't care that the spray gets in the mist and gets all over the people who rely on the ferry to get to work!"

I was not quite sure what she was referring to, but I had an idea because the ferry had a buffet service, inside in a covered central area, that included several huge stainless steel boxes full of bacon, each sitting over a warming candle. At any rate, she kept on ranting about the salt-water spray being full of bacon. She complained that bacon grease, in mist form, was getting all over her dress, shoes, legs, etc.

I wasn't sure whether I knew about her or had dreamed about her, so I was hesitant to ask but I did anyway: "How's it going at the tavern?" In my dream I hadn't been dreaming; "It's OK, but they started making bacon sandwiches over there, too! Ricky (who the hell is Ricky? I have no idea) told me he'd change the menu to fish, but he never does anything he says he'll do."

And that's kind of the way the dream goes. My blogger friend, who in her photos looks bright and happy and all smiles, looks bedraggled and beaten and has nothing on her mind but this bizarre aversion to bacon and "bacon mist." I'll have to ask Ellie (my blogger friend) if there's anything to this bacon thing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth Recap

My niece and her husband joined my wife and I yesterday for a fitting celebration of Independence Day. All but I got up after a LONG leisurely sleep and were treated to the closest thing to bacon my wife allows in the house: turkey bacon. Then, after lots of conversation, we all piled into my car and drove downtown, where we had hamburgers at The Angry Dog.

After lunch, we wandered around the downtown area a bit more, showing them some of the architecture of the city (yes, we do have a sprinkling of interesting architecture in Dallas). Perhaps the most interesting thing was our little foray into Fair Park, home of the Cotton Bowl, the Women's Museum, the African American Museum, and lots more museums and art-deco eye candy. We didn't stop in to see the museums (they're not into museums), but we did stop at the esplanade and took photos of one another (one day they may be posted here). For those who may happen across this blog and don't know it, Fair Park was the site of the 1936 World's Fair and is awash in art-deco buildings, statuary, reflecting pools, and the like.

Then, we wandered around a bit more, stopping briefly at The Old Monk, an old pub for which I have a particular affinity. What I really wanted was a frozen margarita, but one does not order a frozen margarita at The Old Monk and expect to like what one is served, so I got a Stella Artois to cool me down. The others seemed to think alcoholic beverages of any kind were fundamentally wrong, so they got an assortment of tea, lemonade, and water.

Our next diversion was to drive by The Urban Reserve, which is the only place in Dallas that my wife and I would be DELIGHTED to have a home. We love the modern architecture of the homes; we just cannot afford one. And, to be perfectly honest, we'd prefer to have one of those homes in another environment, like the Pacific Northwest or the New Mexican desert.

Back home, the womenfolk took naps, while I futzed around on the computer and my nephew (is that what one calls one's niece's husband?) called friends and family in Paraguay, where he is originally from. During this period, a police helicopter buzzed my neighborhood and four police cars screeched around my neighborhood in hot pursuit of something...but I never learned what.

Late in the day, I made dinner; grilled pork ribs that I'd marinated in my special barbeque sauce, coupled with grilled veggies (squash, red bell peppers, and jalape├▒os) and some tomato wedges. Then we watched the Capitol Fourth fireworks show on PBS, followed by a gut-bustingly hilarious Lewis Black comedy special.

And there you have it. Our Fourth.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Important Thoughts on the "American Experiment"

If every American...or just a quarter of Americans living today...would spend some time reading and trying to understand the Declaration of Independence, I think this country would be a better place. There seems to be a reluctance to show appreciation for the document; I think that's a shame because it is among the best-written political statements ever written.

Here are some things to read, then, blog visitor, that will help you make this country, the United States of America, a better place. Don't just skim; read to understand. I think you, like I, will find it time very well spent:

Declaration of Independence

The Pursuit of Happiness, Then and Now

Song of Freedom

Extending Equality

A Blast

Yesterday, my niece and her husband drove up from Houston to visit. The got here about noon and we immediately went about the process of preparing for the match between Spain and Paraguay (he's Paraguayan...they met while she was in the Peace Corps in Paraguay).

First on the order of business was for my wife and my niece to go get hot-wings from our favorite wings place...a pizzeria, of all places. They make the second-best wings we've ever had though, second only to the Russian River Pub north of Santa Rosa, CA on the river road.

Then, he and I tried to find the best broadcast of the game which, for him, was on Univision. After a quick meal, the three of us (my wife bugged out and took a nap) watched and hoped for a Paraguayan victory, but it was not to be. Spain won the match, 1-0.

I've never had much of an interest in any sport, but I was fascinated by the game, at least enough to watch all the way through.

After the let-down, we went grocery shopping at a couple of places my wife had on her list, then came back home and sat around and chatted. My wife and niece and I stayed the course, but the game was too much for him and he took a nap while the rest of us were unproductive.

Then, we had a dinner of garlic bread and arrabiata (my current favorite pasta sauce) over spaghetti. This was followed by the three of them watching a talent show on television, a show I've never found interesting in the least (but, I'll admit, after hearing (as I sat surfing the net on my computer in the next room) a young woman singing a Sarah McLachlan tune, I was at least impressed that they had some real talent on the show).

To you, the reader, this may sound like an uneventful day. I had a blast. I really enjoy chatting with my niece; she's extremely bright, full of ideas and perspectives that I wish I had, and just extremely pleasant. Life's good.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Declaration of Independence

This is an outstanding piece; hearing it read brings new life and meaning to the Declaration of Independence.

Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Politics and Practicality

Back in mid-May I wrote about my disenchantment with all politicians, even those I worked hard to elect. It was a long diatribe, a rant of almost epic proportions, but no one read it or, if they did, agreed (or disagreed) with it.

Here it is, a month and a half later and my cynicism about politicians remains unchanged. While the level of vitriol running through my veins may have diminished somewhat, it remains high. That is a dangerous thing because such high levels of loathing can turn one into a Republican if one is not careful. The same fundamental disregard for the human race that is a core Republican values can chokingly emerge from those pools of acidic animous.

Rather than allow myself to transmogrify into another Karl Rove, I've decided to take the only logical course of action and that is to acknowledge that I helped elect an administration that is not nearly as glorious as I had hoped. While the people of the Obama administration are not nearly as bad as those in the Bush years, they do not hold a candle, from bottom to top, to the people in charge during the Clinton years. Yes, even with all the ugliness and arrogance of those people, the collective "people of the Clinton administration" remain the gold standard, in my book.

Did Clinton's policies help lead to the housing fiasco of the last couple of years? Yes. Were egregious mistakes made that should never have been done? Of course. But the Clinton years were marked by growing prosperity and a generally positive direction for the country. Clinton, himself, was largely responsible for a massive right-wing religious backlash when he couldn't keep his pants zipped and he will always be remembered for those blunders and subsequent lies. But despite all his flaws and his administration's screw-ups, Clinton led the country through a recovery from Republican idiocy.

Back to my acknowledgement. Yes, I supported Obama. And when compared to McCain and Palin and their cronies, I still do. In spades. But he's fallen far short of my hopes and expectations. I now cringe when I hear him speak, knowing I will hear him give bald-faced lip-service to one thing or another that won't get done, or done well. I find his entire administration to be lackluster, dull, and generally full of impractical and uninspiring zealots who have a rough idea of the dreams they'd like to achieve, but have no idea how to achieve them.

But just like Republicans who have made plenty of bad choices of their own that they regret (to wit, Shrub), progressives (I choose not to use the term Democrats because I firmly believe the "party" at large is equally as screwed up as the administration that leads it) should find a replacement who can help to rebuild their hopes. We need to identify people who share a passionate belief in our ideals and a fierce commitment to practicality in acheiving them and then do all we can to get them elected. And when we find that some of them fail us, and we will find that some do, we should move them aside and replace them until the visions are achieved.

I can't stress enough that practicality is vitally important. For all their failings, Republicans tend to have a better appreciation of what's practical than do progressives. For example, it was the Republicans who, almost from the beginning of the BP fiasco, pushed for allowing the State of Louisiana to build sand berms to keep oil from flowing into the marshes and wetlands along the Louisian coast. The reasons for the delay were, ostensibly, to evaluate the potential ecological damage that would be done were the berms permitted. There was no TIME for evaluation; an immediate decision, based solely on instant-best-guess was required. So, instead of protecting the environment, the government effectively guaranteed that a flood of oil would wash into fragile coastal ecosystems. If President Obama had issued an emergency order temporarily staying some environmental laws, he could have helped mitigate what became an unparalleled disaster. Instead, he used his power to stop deep-water drilling, which was, in terms of immediacy, a far less important issue. While I happen to agree with the deep-water drilling ban, I think it was short-sighted and impractical and, ultimately, environmentally irresponsible for the administration to prevent creation of berms.

That's what I mean about practicality. There are times when core values conflict so utterly with the needs required of the situation at hand that a decision to suspend adherence to them must be made. This was one of those times. Lest you argue that I am a proponent of situational ethics, I ask you to consider this (assuming that one of your core values is that it is wrong to murder another human being): The person you love most in life is threatened with death at the hands of someone who appears poised to kill your loved one. Your options are to wait to see if your loved one is killed or to kill the one threatening him/her. If you suspend your core values and kill the one making the threats, I forgive you. It's OK with me. Call it situational ethics if you will, but call it the right choice.

I think the same can be said about very, very tough decisions that the President can and should make. Even if the decisions go against his grain and his beliefs, if they will have far greater long-term value than short-term pain or embarrassment, they must be made.

I've drifted from my original position. I forgive myself. Will you forgive me?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Another Shock

My wife experienced another shock tonight...her ICD shocked her much like it did recently. We ran the "diagnostics" and sent the data off and tomorrow will call her doctor's office.

Even though the doctor told us this is not something that should cause the shock, it's done it again and it's scary.

She's not scheduled for the alteration in her medication until the end of the month; I'm not sure I want to wait, but I'm not sure I want the change either. I'm worried and feel like I don't really know who to ask for advice, other than her doctor. Depending on one guy who I don't know well and whose accolades have come from his immediate colleagues is worrisome.