Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The end of October. That's the target. Scary as hell, but exciting, too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

e-Friend Overload?

An online friend (Blogger #1) contacted me today, inquiring about another online friend (Blogger #2), the latter of whom had deactivated her Facebook account and whose new blog was not longer viewable. Having connected with email once or twice before, I sent a message to Blogger #2, explaining that B1 and I both were wondering what was up.

B2 responded that she was just checking out for a bit and was sure she'd be back, eventually. I relayed this message back to B1, who responded with something that struck a chord with me. She said, and I'll paraphrase: Many of my friends are people I've never met in person. We share intellectual commonalities of some kind. I'm always looking for my tribe.

That is so true for me, I'm always in search of people with whom I have something in common deeper than an appreciation for the same types of cars or the same television dramas. I don't find many people who reveal themselves to me as having any depth they care to share with me.

Perhaps it's because of where I live; the fact that open-mindedness here is viewed with suspicion and contempt. Or perhaps it's because I'm not easy to share with, in person. I suspect I'm a much more pleasant person in the ether than I am in the real world. I react to the world. Sometimes...often(?)...I react badly to it.

More likely than not, the truth sits squarely in the middle, borrowing heavily from both ends of the spectrum.

But, back to B1's reference to looking for her tribe. It really struck me. I felt like it described a quest I've rarely articulated. I have been looking for friends my entire life, people with whom I can feel comfortable, and vice versa, and people whose attitudes and sense of morality are in sync with my own, at least on a fundamental level.

Often, I've felt a sense of kinship to people for awhile because of the ideas they express, only to allow that sense to diminish. It degrades when I find that the ideas they express are based on religious imperatives that they think they should embrace. I have no quarrel with the ideas. But then I learn, or come to believe, that they do not embrace the ideas on their own but simply pay lip service to them out of an half-hearted commitment to the church. And it's not even a commitment to the church, but to a belief that something truly ugly awaits them in "the next life" if they don't adopt the concepts. That's where I smell hypocrisy. That's when my sense of kinship leaves.

Interestingly, that sense of kinship does not flee when I deal with people whose concepts of morality are based on religion but who do not rely on religion to justify those concepts. While I would argue passionately with them (and have done) against the legitimacy of their religious doctrines, I don't...always...find them to be offensive. I don't loathe people who are religous; but I do not respect people who are unwilling to question their own faith.

This rant is going all over, isn't it?

Back to my point. I miss my friend who has chosen to distance herself from those of us who value her "presence" on the internet. But I realize that we're not close; none of us are truly close. I don't know that I think closeness is possible without much more interaction than I have with my online friends. I don't doubt that we could become quite close, but I probably won't know it.

Maybe she is experiencing something like the feelings that have come over me from time to time. There have been times in which I have had occasion to interact quite frequently with someone via email, online, or some other form of non-proximal contact and that interaction has become suffocating. I don't know why and I can't seem to find any similarities between the people involved or even the types of interchanges...but I have found myself desperate for a break from the. Maybe that's what B2 is experiencing...e-friend overload.

The e-people with whom I regularly, or at least relatively frequently, interact now are people I find quite engaging. I consider them my friends. So I'm dredging up experiences and emotions, rather than feeling them first-hand, today. But maybe I'm on to something.

Or maybe I'm not. I've driven down blind alleys before, only to be attacked by herds of alley cats.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I came across a private notebook in a pile of paper as I was organizing my office last weekend. I did not recognize the handwriting in the steno pad, so I assumed it might have been picked up in the last-minute clean-up frenzy at one of the meetings we manage. Later, I decided it must have been given to me in a pile of detritus from a desk-cleaning by someone else.

I read through the notes, trying to find an indication of to whom the notebook might belong. Finally, after I'd read through to almost the last page...there must have been fifteen or twenty pages of notes...I found evidence that it belonged to a former employee, someone I'd fired.

The notes told the story of someone who was trying very, very hard to perform well in her job, but who was experiencing some very tough relationship challenges in her personal life. Many of the notes were short self-affirmation statements, telling the writer that she was a good person and that she could successfully get through the trouble she was going through. But it was clear from reading the notes, and now on reflection, that she her relationship problems were having an enormous impact on her ability to cope, both at home and at work.

I fired her for performance issues that were exacerbated by attitude. When I expressed concern about her performance, again, she reacted by saying she didn't like working for me and that she was looking for a job and would tell me when she found one. That was not the right response to have with me, especially after the considerable performance issues; so I fired her.

In retrospect, having now read the notes, I think I might have encouraged her to open up about what might be causing her performance issues. Many of them really were related to attitude; she didn't like following the processes I'd established, didn't think the rules applied to her, complained that no one appreciated the hours she spent on the job, and did not get along with other employees. But maybe all those issues were related to those personal relationship challenges. She's not a bad person and she was very bright. She had a lot of potential.

Maybe if I'd invested more time in her, and had overlooked the fact that I found her personally not very likable, she could have turned things around on the job. I guess I will never know. But it makes me remember that, sometimes, people can be privately dealing with pretty ugly stuff that can affect the way they behave. I, of all people, should know this.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Not that it matters...

In the final analysis, if there is a final analysis, the conclusion will be that we all took ourselves too seriously.

Even our talk about taking ourselves less seriously is tinged with concern that this very serious societal flaw is wrecking the social order. As if it mattered.

In the final analysis, it doesn't. "It." Code for "everything."

The common concerns about decorum? Way too serious. The strident insistence that our society needs a better social safety net? If our collective will could change it all, maybe...but in the overal scheme of things that are, by and large, outside our realm of control? Overly serious.

What about tsunamis and earthquakes and nuclear holocaust? Surely those deserve to be taken seriously? If we (the collective we...humankind and all) actually mattered, sure. And in the context of our own individual lives as of this evening on this planet, yeah, they deserve to be taken seriously. But in terms of humankind's actual value in the universe as we know it? Probably not.

So, it shouldn't matter, in the overall scheme of things, if I were to decide tomorrow morning to invite an attractive woman I happen to encounter on the street to engage in a hedonistic sex orgy in the middle of the esplanade on Midway Road during rush hour, right? Well, yes. But there is that part about "in the context of our own individual lives." That's where the argument that we take ourselves too seriously gets in trouble.

I still believe we take ourselves too seriously. I just don't know exactly where to find the bright line that divides what is too serious and what is not serious enough. Not that it matters.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I intended to go to my office yesterday to try to finish some of what I started Saturday. Fortunately, I did not follow through on my intent. Instead, I had a truly good day on Sunday, instead.

My day started later than normal. I woke up well after 6:00 am, more than an hour later than I normally get up, thanks to getting to bed much later than usual last night. Usually, if I get up late I tend to have a less-than-stellar day; I feel like I've missed a part of the day, and my life, I can't get back. Not so yesterday, for reasons I do not understand. Yesterday, I just got up, made coffee, and went about my life.

My wife got up before 7:30 and reminded me that we'd talked about going to Hypnotic Donuts, a business that operates only on weekends and then only for a few hours in the a pizza shop that doesn't open until much later. So we went. And it was interesting.

My wife got a Canadian Healthcare donut, which comprises a glazed donut topped with a whipped sugary goo made from maple syrup that was further topped with crispy bacon. I had what they called the Kaye's Killer Queso; fried chicken, cream cheese, pickles, etc. on a biscuit. We weren't as overwhelmed as we'd hoped, but they were good.

Then, we headed toward the Dallas Arboretum, where a friend and former employee had taken a booth to sell her hand-made jewelry in an art show. Before visiting the art show and our friend, we wandered all over the Arboretum, taking in the spectacular display of flowers, flowering trees, bulbs, etc., etc. It was truly magnificent. Then we visited Julie's booth and then took in the other 100 exhibitors at the show.

Yesterday being the first day of Spring, the Arboretum was packed, as was the parking lot. The Arboretum had arranged for parking at a lot several blocks (maybe a mile) away, with shuttles getting the inhabitants of the newly-parked cars back to the Arboretum. As we pulled in to the parking lot from which we soon would be whisked away in a bus, we noticed an old, beat-up-looking bar across the street, a place called The Goat. I suggested we try the place out after visiting the Arboretum...something about its uttlerly unpretentious face made it attractive to me.

After the Arboretum, my wife needed food and, from what we could tell, The Goat did not serve food, so we drove off to the Lakewood area, where we had a late lunch at Matt Martinez' Rancho. After lunch, we were stuffed and decided to take a walk. The short walk enlivened us and convinced us to really go back and try The Goat. Which we did.

The Goat is a neighborhood bar. Really. Everyone in there (it wasn't crowded) knew everyone else. The bartender was super friendly and jovial. She invited us to have Nathan's hot dogs and cucumbers...she said they wanted to keep their patrons sober and coming back. But we'd already eaten, to no hot dogs for us. Yet. We drank a beer and observed. We liked what we saw...or at least I did. It's a very friendly, very casual tavern. The owner's (?) dog wandered around, nuzzling up to whoever was in the mood to pet it.
After an hour or so there, we jumped back in the car and headed toward home. As we wandered in that direction, we made up a list of "to-do" items, including getting my wife's car washed, going to the greengrocer and the grocery store, washing sheets and towels, etc., etc. And so we did those things.
Now, my wife's car is clean as a whistle. We are stocked up on tomatoes, onions, celery, cucumbers, tangerines (or some relatives thereof), etc. We have clean sheets and towels. And I grilled a long-frozen New York strip steak that should have been grilled many months ago but turned out OK, anyway.
My wife likes her steak very basic. I like mine jazzed up. So I ground some coffee beans and mixed them with lemon pepper and some hot chile power to serve as a rub for my half of the steak (after I drizzled lemon juice on it). I let it sit for an hour before I grilled the steak. At the same time, I grilled calabacitas (Mexican squash) that I'd sprinkled liberally with Vegetable Magic, a seasoning blend associated with Chef Paul Prudhomme. It was very, very good.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being spectacularly wonderful beyond words, I'd give yesterday an 8.75. It was a damn good day!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aristotelianism is the Devils's Philosophy

This has been a productive, if strange, day. I spent just over six hours in my office. My time was spent cleaning out files, going through piles of paper on my desk, and "filing" reports and such by scanning paper documents into PDF files, which I then put in the proper folders on the server.

As we (my wife worked, too) emerged into the warm air (it hit 84 here today!), I got the urge to have some ice cream. But first, I wanted a hit of architectural energy, so we wandered through some neighborhoods that have begun to be "upgraded" after 20-40 years of getting stodgy. Fortunately, we saw few new behemoth mansions constructed after "tear-downs" and, instead, saw some very nice updates to bad old design.

But then we found a frozen yogurt place, not an ice cream spot. (Dallas is horrifically unsophisticated when it comes to ice cream appreciation; Boston has it all over us here.) The stuff (and various toppings) are charged out at $0.40 per ounce; apparently, between the two of us, we got a lot of ounces. Our two modest-looking paper bowls came to over $9.00. But it was good...espresso, orange, pomegranate, and vanilla flavors in my bowl.

Then, we went into Borders Books, which is shutting all their stores and, therefore, is having a sale. So I bought a book, of course. It was cheap and seemed to be entertaining. It's called 50 Big Ideas You Really Need to Know. It has 3-4 page "treatments" on a laundry list of "must know" topics, ranging from Aristotelianism and Relativism to Secularism and Liberalism to The Social Contract and Quantum Mechanics. I read about four topics tonight and decided this is not, despite its looks and implicit promise, "easy reading." You have to be deeply interested to follow each summary clearly. Comparative altruism and the Golden Rule are not easy topics to digest, even in bullet form.

But I have to admit I'm very interested in reading Plato's The Republic and learning more about the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas now that I've read a few chapters of this book. And, scanning the book, I have decided I really do have an interest in learning about the divergent views of Keynesians and monetarists and the reasons for their adoption of their divergent approaches to economics.

Enough for tonight. I promise not to do any nude pole-vaulting tonight.

Friday, March 18, 2011


This is not a new thought, but it's one I probably haven't shared, at least not here and not in quite this way.

I wonder if my professed desire to record my thoughts and ideas and concerns here on Blogspot is less a desire for privately recording my thoughts than publicly seeking connections. The same questions arise over my use of Facebook and my less frequent use of Twitter.

Am I doing this for myself, as I think (or say) I am, or am I writing here and there in the hope I will make a significant connection without someone who will become an intimate friend? (No, not intimate in that way.)

It is embarrassing even to ask these questions of myself in private, much less in a public (though not very) forum like this. (I don't get much traffic.) But, at least for now, I'm of the opinion that, embarrassment aside, I need to know the answers more than I need to know my privacy is my own.

Am I a disconnected guy who's looking for some kind of connection with someone else, someone with whom I can share my thoughts and feelings and beliefs and from whom I can expect honesty but not in a brutal way? Or am I just stumbling about, looking for a one-off communication with someone I can call a "friend," if only for awhile and only through a lens of impersonality?

And why the hell does an old guy nearing 60 have such questions? Weren't they supposed to be resolved during my teenage years? Have I reached adulthood temporally only, leaving emotional maturity to come (or not) much later?

Here's a poem by James Kavanaugh, who died in 2009, that I find exceptionally compelling and powerful. Are we all looking for friends?

Will you be my friend?
There are so many reasons why you never should:
I’m sometimes sullen, often shy, acutely sensitive,
My fear erupts as anger, I find it hard to give,
I talk about myself when I’m afraid
And often spend a day without anything to say.
But I will make you laugh
And love you quite a bit
And hold you when you’re sad.
I cry a little almost every day
Because I’m more caring than the strangers ever know,
And, if at times, I show my tender side
(The soft and warmer part I hide)
I wonder, will you be my friend?

A friend who far beyond the feebleness of any vow or tie
Will touch the secret place where I am really I,
To know the pain of lips that plead and eyes that weep,
Who will not run away when you find me in the street
Alone and lying mangled by my quota of defeats
But will stop and stay-to tell me of another day
When I was beautiful.
Will you be my friend?

There are so many reasons why you never should:
Often I’m too serious, seldom predictably the same,
Sometimes cold and distant, probably I’ll always change.
I bluster and brag, seek attention like a child,
I brood and pout, my anger can be wild,
But I will make you laugh and love you quite a bit
And be near you when you’re afraid.

I shake a little almost every day
Because I’m more frightened than the strangers ever know
And if at times I show my trembling side
(The anxious, fearful part I hide)
I wonder, will you be my friend?

A friend who, when I feel your closeness, feels me push away
And stubbornly will stay to share what’s left on such a day,
Who, when no one knows my name or calls me on the phone,
When there’s no concern for me – what I have or haven’t done-
And those I’ve helped and counted on have oh, so deftly, run,
Who, when there’s nothing left but me, stripped of charm and
Subtlety, will nonetheless remain.

Will you be my friend?
For no reason that I know, Except I want you so.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nothings Makes Sense

There are days I question whether my appreciation for intelligent people makes any sense. Is it their intelligence I appreciate? Or it is what I perceive as evidenced by a person's alignment with my beliefs or opinions?

I am more likely to like/appreciate/value/respect a person whose opinions and values and philosophies of life parallel mine. But I find, so often, that someone who shares my political perspectives, for example, doesn't share certain particularly important, fundamental, values I hold to be vital to a person's humanity.

That just goes to show that we're multi-dimensional beasts. I can overlook disagreements in some areas. I can't overlook them in others. But the measures of whether I can or can't overlook disagreements are moving targets. I think those measures depend, in part, on a complex mix of philosophies and their interactions with one another.

Forgive me. I'm on my third shot of high-end tequila. Nothing makes sense right about now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


It's not doomsday thinking to consider how we might react if we were faced with a catastrophe of the proportions faced by Japan as a result of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunamis. No, it's a natural reaction to horrific events that are happening half a world away.

In my mind, it is prudent for us to consider how this nation might respond to a major catastrophe. We ought to do it, I think, as much to make us wonder whether we're on the right path as to help us prepare for a horrible event. We ought to wonder whether we need the power that nuclear plants provide. We ought to wonder whether the infrastructure we've been building is as fragile as our own lives. And then, when we inevitably conclude that our infrastructure is weak and fragile and subject to collapse, we should ask ourselves why we are building and building and building.

The answers, whatever they are, will tell us a lot about what's important to us, as individuals and as a society.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Today is starting out at 44 degrees, with clear skies. The high today is forecast to reach 67 and they're saying clear skies all day.

This weather typifies my ideal climate. It's the sort of weather that makes starting the day by sitting outdoors with a cup of coffee and a warm sweater so very inviting. The high, just under 70, is perfect for feeling fresh and alive and energetic.

Where can I expect such weather virtually year-round? That is the place I want to investigate as a permanent "get away" place. There are other factors about "place," as well, but weather is a good place to start.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I wonder if anyone has ever named a child Inebria? I'll have to look it up.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I am not star-struck by Hollywood types. I don't find their lives riveting. But occasionally I will find myself intrigued by some actor or actress or other high-profile media-type. But Charlie Sheen? Not bloody likely. He impresses me only as a self-absorbed, arrogant asshole. That's always been my assessment of the guy. Even though I have no interest whatsoever in his addictions or whatever, I'm really not thrilled that he got fired. It just doesn't matter one way or the other to me.

So, on to something else, OK?

Recovering Alcatholics

Something I read this evening made me think about all the recovering alcatholics out there. Not sure why that neologism appeals to me, but it does.

Drivel, drivel, peri-peri

So, here it is; another week in the office. I spent quite alot of time this weekend physically in the office; six hours on Saturday, and then, yesterday I got up at my usual time and spent about four hours working from home. I needed to do it, but it does tend to color my perception of my life, and that color is dirty grey at the moment.

Yesterday, I spent quite awhile out and about, having lunch with my wife and a friend and then wandering around being utterly unproductive. First, we went to an open house to view a house that's for sale in an old, attractive neighborhood. Then, we drove quite a distance to a little British store that sells After Eight mints. I bought some African peri-peri hot sauce there; it is manufactured in Atlanta, Georgia so I am not sure whether it is what I would get in Africa.

I'm not sure I'm writing this drivel. Nothing else to write, I suppose.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chip Butty

I have a habit of writing notes to myself about things I find interesting. This is, I suppose, in the hope that at some point in the future, I will revisit the item of interest and will be able to refer back to my notes.

Unfortunately, my notes are not well-organized and I haven't the foggiest idea where to look for a note on a particular topic. But, occasionally, I stumble upon an old note and I follow up.

Such was the case last night, when I came across a small spiral bound note-pad that I had used to record and end-of-year trip in 2008. There, on the same page I recorded my appreciation for Joe's Seafood in Galveston was a brief note about the Bayview Duck Restaurant and Pub in Bacliff, Texas. I had written about the Bayview Duck in my post of December 31, 2008.

But I had not written about a menu item there called the Chip Butty. And I had never followed up on my note to myself that said, "Chip Butty was on the menu; what is it?" Well, tonight I found out. A Chip Butty is a French fry sandwich, usually on white bread and usually accompanied by a tomato-based dipping sauce. It sounds horrible to me, but I just read a review of Chip Butty on an upscale website geared toward good food. The review was positive.

The Chip Butty was not the thing about my notes that gave me pause this time. Rather, it was my cryptic note to myself on the next page: "Better enjoy life while there's time, laddie."

Bayview Duck website.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Occupation of the Throne

Confusion reigns. Right here, right now. I used to predict the future, but that's all in the past, now. Reigns. Rains. Whatever.