Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful

Wow. We hit 104 degrees here on Wednesday. A little thunderbanger blows through that night, and we get not one drop of rain. We wake up to a day with a high of 78 degrees, our first break from 100-degree heat in at least a month. It felt like San Francisco out there (only west coast city I've been to, so that's why I mentioned it), only it was a little bit warmer. A slight breeze, actual temperature variance in the shade. I half expected a Rice-a-Roni cable car to stop and wait for me to jump on board. Wouldn't give my wife the front spot this time, though (see pic). That was taken before we had a digital camera. See more of my San Francisco pics here, categorized. Muir Woods, Monterey Bay, etc.

Ben and I played outside for about an hour after I got home from work. If you're watching reruns or playing video games instead of spending time with your child, then shame on you. If you don't have a child, then stare at a screen if you want. We're not supposed to hit above 90 in the next 10 days, and lows in the 60's and 50's. Okay, enough weather geekery.

I got 27 pages into An American Tragedy, but dropped it like a brick (which it resembles at 800+ pages) when I found a borrowed copy of Ringworld. I'm getting back into sci-fi after a long hiatus. Thanks to Simon of Space and its community of commenters for rekindling my love for the genre. It's one thing to watch it on the silver screen, but quite another to read it. The movies generally sacrifice character depth for number of explosions. Oh, wait, that's not just in sci-fi. ;-)

Plus, I'm stoked about sci-fi again because Ben says "rocketship" as plain as you please. There's one on a set of his pajamas, but we don't know where he heard the word.

Probably going to see the Serenity movie this weekend. It's based on the short-lived but excellent TV series Firefly (Serenity is a Firefly-class cargo ship). I think sticking with the original name would have made it more attractive to the uninitiated than the other. Oh well. As they say on Seinfeld - Serenity now!

Have an excellent weekend, my faithul (if few) readers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Four Car Pileup, My Book, and SCSI

I got off work right on time today, and on my way home I saw a fire truck, an ambulance, and a police car in the opposite lanes. Four cars had managed to smash into each other. Well, the guy in the front didn't do any smashing, so I guess only three. All the cars were in pretty bad shape. Funny thing is that the fourth car back had the most damage, as if it hit hardest. And no, I didn't rubberneck and slow down traffic. The guy in front of me did, so of course I looked while we were going slow.

So, I'm trying to put together in my mind how four cars end up like that on a road where the traffic was not very heavy, and when it is, it's moving very slowly. It is a very flat road, and visibility was excellent. Were three drivers paying that little attention? They had to have been looking at something else. We were between two corn fields, so I'm pretty sure they weren't gawking at a woman when it happened.

I finished reading through my book and making notes of what to move where, what to add, and what to change to a different point of view. It's tricky business, keeping track of a novel-length piece of work. If you can't take time to read it in fairly large chunks so that you don't forget any details, coherent revisions are very difficult. I might post it online in chunks. If you want to see it, then please encourage me in a comment. It will be a great motivator for me to work on this thing once and for all. I wrote it in one month about three years ago-- start, middle, end, and it's time to finish it.

Did I mention that Ben is awesome?

I went back to work at 8 p.m. to complete a couple of scheduled tasks that had to be done during downtime. They actually went off without a hitch.

(computer nerdly passage approaching)

Interesting part? I had to update the SCSI controller drivers and firmware on an IBM xSeries server running Windows 2000 Server. I think it's a 345. After I updated the driver (always do that first), I rebooted onto the ServeRAID Manager Support CD. I was pleasantly surprised to see Tux appear on the screen, and then a Linux GUI. It required only two clicks from me to flash the SCSI firmware. After it was finished doing this critical hardware-level work, it prompted me to reboot, where the server then loaded back into Windows. Oh well, I'm sure it enjoyed the brief time it spent with the penguin.

(computer nerdly passage over. post over. goodnight to me)

Monday, September 26, 2005

They're on Our Side

For the second time in the last 10 years, I went to a high school football game Friday night. I went with my wife and our son, a 26-month old redheaded spitfire (also sometimes a firebrand). My first cousin's son is the first-chair trumpet player in the Pilot Point High School band, and for the second year in a row he was up for Band Beau at Homecoming. They never had such things when I was in school.

It was a breezy night, not too hot. We had just grabbed some hamburgers and a hot dog from the band's concession stand, and Ben was devouring the Cheetos. He kept leaning on my legs to get a better look at something, effectively fingerpainting cheese coating all over my shorts. I demonstrated licking the cheese off my fingers so he might get the hint. Good thing I love him. He dropped his sippy cup, which then bounced through the Mac truck-sized gap in the bleachers and hit the dirt far below. By the time I got to it, it had been kicked repeatedly through the dirt. I headed to the Men's room to rinse it off.

Through Ben's Eyes

Ben sat in the stands for a while without getting bored. He pointed at the field at one point to say, "Paying sootball," which I think we can all translate if we try. Keep working on those "L" and "F" sounds, buddy.

I walked Ben around a little bit when he got restless. Along the journey we saw an ambulance, a fire truck, and a police car. The fireman opened the door for Ben to look inside with his wide blue eyes. That was a highlight of the night for Ben.

When the inflatable, oversized bearcat the football team uses as its "tunnel" was deflated, Ben said, "Bearcat fell down." He was scared of the mascot when we got close to it. Yeah, son, just you wait until we go somewhere with a Disney theme. Looks like he might be a shrieker.

The Fervor
I got to a point in my life that I started thinking of sporting events as just another form of entertainment. After going to a couple of them live in the same week, I have to admit they are much more than that. At a live concert or a play, the crowd certainly applauds and/or yells in approval of the performance. To an extent, this behavior is contagious. Once a few people stand up to give a standing ovation, for instance, the rest usually follow, whether or not they truly feel it is deserved.

At a sporting event, there is competition, which means the fans take sides, and that makes it alive in a much more dynamic way than other forms of entertainment. High school sports amplifies this effect.

At a high school football game, parents of players are peppered throughout the stands. Some spectators are conscious of this and make an effort not to badmouth the players; some ignore this and complain about them after every down. Regardless, the parents usually do a good job of ignoring these idiots and try to enjoy watching the opposing team knock the living spit out of their sons.

Also in attendance are former students of that school who still feel a connection to the team. They often are more rabid fans than those currently enrolled, perhaps in an effort to recapture their youth, or just in their excitement that there still is a place one can pay $5 for an evening out.

When something good happens, it's more than just a singer hitting a note, or a guitarist firing off a burning solo run. When that happens, a concergoer might lean to another and say, "These guys are amazing!" or "Dude, they are killing tonight."

In sports, though, it's "We scored!" or "I can't believe we're losing like this," followed by high-fives or hand-wringing, respectively. Cheerleaders encourage spectator participation. Some fans can admit when the other team makes a good play; some would not be caught dead saying anything complimentary of the opponent. The players feed off all these forms of energy more than anyone who's never been out on the field could ever know.

I have no doubt that sports are entertainment. They charge admission, there is a stage, and the participants dress up for their performance. The fans, however, make the difference, because sports provide a venue for them to do much more than passively be entertained. They yell and rejoice as if they can make a difference in who wins or loses. More often than not, they are right.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Simon of Space update

The author of Simon of Space has announced that he is in negotiations with a publishing company to have the book published "for real." As in, not paying to have it printed, but having an editor and a publishing company handle his work of art and present it to the world, then send him money.

There's no telling how long all this might take, but it's exciting news for him and all of us who have been following along. Not to mention those of us who also have dreamed of becoming paid published authors.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Simon of Space is over

It ended. Simon of Space, a rollicking ride around an imaginary universe, written over a fourth-month span and meted out to a loyal fan base with typos and plot holes galore (hey, he was making a lot of it up on the fly, and a story evolves), came to an end.

(begin obsolete paragraph)
The good news for those who haven't read it? You can get your own softcover copy of it. It appears in the book almost exactly like it did online, as diary entries of a man who starts life with a clean slate. If you want to buy it, you can. It's an on-demand printing service, so don't expect to pay $5 for it. Besides, it will end up being worth much more than that to you.
(end obsolete paragraph)

As of this writing, you can still read it online, guided by a handy table of contents instead of having to read the posts from the bottom up.

Read it somehow, though. If you remember that it is a 366 page book written in a linear fashion with no re-writes or revisions, and just enjoy the wonderful characters and the amazing worlds they inhabit, you will not regret spending time on this. Matthew Frederick Davis Hemming (writing here as Cheeseburger Brown) is a talent you will hear from sometime in the future.

Toothbrush and Nose Honk

Just a couple of things this morning before I start working.

On the way in this morning, a driver in front of me at a red light was brushing his teeth. I wasn't sure at first, because all I could see was his head moving back and forth. When he tilted his head back just enough for me to see his mouth in his rearview mirror, there it was, the toothbrush, going back and forth across his pearly whites. That was a first for me. I've seen people doing all kinds of things in their cars, but not that. I held off trying to share the song I had learned as a youngster and that we sometimes sing to Ben. "Brush your teeth, round and round. Circles small, gums and all."

The smog was particularly heavy to the south, above Dallas, and it looked like the wind had carried it our direction. Gotta love living in an urban megaplex. Not LA mega -- heck, not even Houston mega, but pretty big nonetheless. We moved Ben from the fresh air of the Ozarks to "air pollution caution level red." There, son, a gift from us.

After I got to work, I heard a co-worker blow his nose. You know how on TV and movies, when people blow their nose it makes a big honking sound, almost like a Canadian goose? Well, this was one of those. I rarely hear those in real life, so it gave me a good chuckle to start the day.

Here's hoping Hurricane Rita doesn't give anyone, much less Katrina survivors, as much trouble as some are predicting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Have to share a dad thought (or more).

Ben loves to say new words, and often will repeat one until someone else says it in recognition. He always has had a bit of trouble with the word "placemat." We have a few that only Ben uses, because they do not soak up spills like our more decorative placemats. That's a great feature when you consider that toddlers often do not keep food within the boundaries of a dinner plate.

The word has gone through an evolution of sorts, but Ben's latest and most confidently pronounced version of the word is, as you might have guessed by the title of this post, "spacebat." It isn't muddled at all. Sitting atop his booster seat eagerly awaiting whatever we've managed to concoct for him, Ben repeats "spacebat" as clearly and crisply as a finely tuned radio announcer. More often than not, he keeps saying it even after he gets it. It's very hard for my wife and me to keep a straight face, so we are constantly turning our backs to laugh.

It's tempting to repeat back "spacebat," just as many parents repeat back mispronounced words that sound funny. It's better than just any mispronunciation, because in addition to being terrifically cute, it actually forms a real word -- well, real in a science fiction sense. Being a science fiction fan myself (as is my wife to some extent), I will hate to see "spacebat" go.

Trying our best to encourage proper speech, we just repeat it back, "Yes, placemat, that's right. You like to use your placemat," or some similar phrase that in most contexts crosses the line into corny.

Another one, which he comes by honestly, is his slight mangling of the word "magazine." Whenever he sees one of us reading any type of thin, floppy publication with color print, he proudly identifies it as a "mazagine." It has meaning for me, because I said it as a child. Again, we repeat it properly and know that the sad day will come when we'll never again read a "mazagine."

There are many times that Ben says something, and we can tell he really means it, because he will repeat back the same sound after it's clear to him we have no idea what he just said. Once we realize what we think it might be, and repeat it back in English, he gets an excited look in his eyes, nods, and says, "Yes." If we're wrong, he repeats himself until we get it right, or until it's clear that the situation is hopeless and that there are more important things to accomplish.

Things like throwing his milk cup.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Wherefore Art Thou, NFL?

First, a little translation, because I'm surprise by how many people do not know this.

"Wherefore art thou" does not mean "where are you?" It means "why are you?" Juliet said it to Romeo not to find him in the dark, but to lament the fact that he was, in fact, Romeo, a member of the rival family Montague, yet she was falling for him. So, why are you Romeo Montague, whom I am sworn to hate just by being born a Capulet? Oh, and Shakespeare didn't dream up the story. He adapted it from a poem first published two years before he was born.

On to my original topic, and why I think maybe I'm just not an NFL fan anymore.

I went to the Dallas Cowboys game last night. I first became a fan of the Cowboys back in the first grade, when Roger Staubach was still taking the snaps. Tony Dorsett was the superstar I remember best from those days, because I was only 9 when Staubach retired, yet Dorsett had his best season two years later, and I saw (on TV) his record touchdown run of 99 yards. In my second-grade picture, I am wearing a shirt that says "I'm From Cowboy Country," even though I was from Arkansas.

I know now that there were coked-up players throughout the 70's, a fact my grade-school self was oblivious to as I stared in wide-eyed wonderment at America's Team. I'm sure there also were ridiculous sums of money being paid, when adjusted for the value of the dollar. Again, I never remember the topic coming up when I watched in the 70's (or most of the 80's, for that matter).

Fast forward to the early 1990's, when millions of other fans and I watched the Cowboys suffer through a 1-15 season, then rally to win three Super Bowls in a four-year period. I was happy for the team, but I wasn't crazy about Jerry Jones, and I kind of resented the "bandwagon" fans who wear the jersey of whatever team is that year's champion. Also, I've always been a bigger fan of the humble gridiron warrior than the braggarts who seemed to be taking over. No, not Troy Aikman or Emmit Smith. They were my style. Irvin and others, great as they might have been, grated on my nerves. Abuse of substances both legal and illegal made the NFL news a lot, and some documentaries about past teams revealed that the Cowboys teams I had idealized in the past were riddled with the type of people I would never care to meet.

Once I finished college and started working in the real world, I found that time spent watching football on TV felt like time wasted. My weekend time was precious, and football got knocked down several pegs on the priority pole. In fact, it pretty much got pushed completely off. There I was, married, trying to find an affordable place to live, watching the stars sign multi-million dollar contracts and whine when they didn't get what they "deserved." Yes, I know many of them work very hard to maintain their physical condition, but we're talking about millions of dollars. Yes, I know that there are many guys on the bench making a lot less than the guys starting. Again, we're still talking about a lot of money and pretty much no financial hardship for these guys unless it's self-inflicted.

When we lived in northern Virginia for a while, and the local TV stations gave us a steady diet of the Washington Redskins, I tried again to be a football fan so I could root the Cowboys on in a hostile environment.

It didn't work.

I again dropped the NFL and stopped thinking about it for the most part. If I heard or saw a Cowboys score, that inner child would say, "yea," or "aaaugh," but then life would go on with no more than that small blip on the radar.

Several years later, I was invited to be a part of an online fantasy football league. I liked and respected the guy who asked, so I signed up and formed a team. Evidently it was a bit different from the others, in that everyone participating could have exactly the same lineup. There was a salary cap, but everybody playing could have the same running back, quarterback, etc. Also, no points were taken off for anything, and I could have a different set of players each week if needed.

I don't like to do things unless I do well, so I spent some time on this. I paid attention to the strengths and weaknesses of teams opposing my players, so that I could adjust my lineup. I was in a close second place in my group of about 15 all season long, until one week when I stuck with my same players, not realizing my running back's team had a bye. Oops.

After that season (maybe 2000 or 2001?), I again lost interest in the NFL and never really picked up again.

That is, until I moved to the Dallas area. Here I was, in a place where the local team was my childhood dream team. The local paper had huge sections devoted to them. Former players dotted the media landscape and the car dealership billboards. The nearest NFL game was less than an hour's drive away, instead of six, and it was not just any team. It was the Cowboys.

So, last Thursday when a co-worker announced via e-mail that she had an extra ticket for the upcoming Redskins game, I jumped at the chance. Not only were we playing the rival Redskins, but the "triplets" Aikman, Smith, and Irvin were being inducted into the Ring of Honor. I pictured myself truly caring about this while sitting there watching it live, at only my second Cowboys game in person. I had nothing Cowboys-related to wear (this should have been my first hint that I'm probably not a fan anymore), so I went with a generic blue-ish T-shirt.

While waiting to pick up my car after its repair Monday afternoon, I heard an interview with Troy Aikman, in which he affirmed my belief that he was a genuinely good guy, and I thought what a shame it was that these days he seemed an exception to the rule in the NFL. I'm probably not being fair to the players who don't make headlines with date-rapes and general abuse of women, but it's hard to ignore the other things I don't like about professional sports. Namely, that the players are paid ridiculous amounts of money while the average fan can barely afford to attend a game. On this topic and others, David Letterman made a fool of NFL super-agent Drew Rosenhaus. Apparently, Rosenhaus does that pretty well himself. I admit, Letterman is another entertainer getting paid tons of money. However, he charges nothing at the door.

It's getting to be work time, so I have to sum up (are any of you even still with me?), in exciting present-tense.

I can't get in touch with the guy whose wife sold me the ticket, so I drive to the game by myself. I already paid $49 for the ticket and find out when I get there that it's another $15 for parking. After walking a brisk mile to the door (this is not exaggeration) in 93-degree heat, I get in the door about 10 minutes after kickoff, where the score is 0-0. I introduce myself to my co-worker's husband, who turns out to be a very nice guy. Two ladies behind us manage to spill their beer on the seat next to him, and then his seat. Really slosh it good. I go to the concession area to buy a water, and to grab some napkins for beer cleanup. For 16.9 oz. of bottled water, I pay $3.50. Ouch.

Back in the game, it's 13-0 Cowboys in the fourth quarter. Until, that is, they start playing not to lose and give the 'Skins all the opportunity they need to score 14 unanswered points for the win.

Now, the loss notwithstanding, I didn't find myself enjoying being there, besides the camaraderie with my new acquaintance. We knew quite a bit about each other before it was all over. As far as the Ring of Honor thing? Even with my binoculars to see it better, I didn't get caught up at all. It was nice to see a couple of good guys (Troy and Emmit) join the ranks of Staubach and the other few Cowboys greats in the Ring, and I didn't mind Irvin getting in, too. I found, though, that I would have been fine just watching it on TV, and maybe even not seeing it at all.

I think my interest in professional sports died when I moved from being a child to being a man. I'm not saying that pro sports fans are not adults. I'm just saying that, for me, with my perspective and my personal interests, pro sports have lost their foothold. Despite the fact that now I really am from Cowboy Country.


On a note separate from the NFL, when I stopped to get gas on the way home, the pay-at-the-pump feature was not working, so I went inside. The cashier was just pulling a beer out of the front pocket of a would-be shoplifter, asking him why he was stealing from him. The boy didn't answer, but replied by pulling out a five-dollar bill and saying, "I'm paying for my gas." That seemed little consolation to the cashier, who said he was going to call the police. I could tell it was getting a little heated, so I took my business elsewhere. Good thing, too, because instead of $2.69/gallon, I paid "only" $2.61. Thanks for shoplifters.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bratwurst, a Cop, and a Marshmallow Gun

Lunch time post. Enjoy.

We went to Oktoberfest in Addison, TX on Saturday. Turns out we probably should have just skipped it… also, my first time in years to get pulled over by a cop…

The weekend started off well enough. We ate, in-laws’ treat, at an Italian restaurant in Plano called Paparazzi. The food was great, but with chef-prepared quality comes time in preparation. Ben got a little restless after he spooned all the delicious marinara sauce from around his tasty ravioli. We had run out of things to keep him busy, but we didn’t have a separate car to make our escape. Luckily, they had a kids’ table and a VCR in the back of the restaurant. I walked Ben over there, where two little girls had put in a tape for rewinding. Guessing their ages to be about four and about six or seven, I introduced them to Ben and asked if it was okay if he joined them. They acted excited to meet him and said that would be great. We easily could see them from our table, so I wasn’t too worried about him.

By the time we left, the older girl had lifted Ben into her lap twice and our waitress had taken Ben a milk refill. The little girls loved the way Ben said, “Yes,” when they asked him questions. I introduced myself to the little girls’ parents and let them know that the girls had been very nice to Ben.

Saturday, we took my car in (remember in that previous post when I mentioned an oil leak?), and then took Ben to something called Trade Days. It’s a huge gathering of merchants that can’t seem to decide whether it’s a craft fair or a flea market. As it was getting hot and we were finding few vendors worth a look, we packed it in and headed home, but not before I got my mini marshmallow launcher. Mine is mouth-powered, similar to this one. Later I discovered a more polished-looking model powered by pump-action. I’ll stick to my cheap version, which shoots the little white sugarpuffs about 40 feet and is easy to clean. I tested it strictly to make sure it would work well for the kids in the family. The kids old enough not to choke on mini marshmallows, that is.

Saturday night we went to Oktoberfest. It is huge, complete with carnival rides and live performances – much bigger than the Tulsa event we’ve attended in the past. There were lots of things for kids to do, but it was still about 93 degrees and unmercifully sunny when we got there at 4:30 p.m. We sat inside the air-conditioned main tent for a while, where it was obvious Ben hated the loud music, had no interest in dancing, and would not try our Bratwurst. Sitting still was not an option, either, so we took turns walking Ben around outside until it got cool enough for us to stay outside a while without baking.

There was a petting zoo, where I wondered for about two seconds why they always have farm animals in petting zoos. Because they’re domesticated and generally do not bite your face off, was the answer I gave myself. A tented area featured a clown who held Ben’s attention for about five minutes. Ben’s favorite activity was just walking around amongst all the people, and he fussed only when we tried to keep him in one spot.

Once when I had him outside by myself, I sat him on the edge of a local radio station’s inflatable advertisement and bounced him gently. He loved it. I asked one of the onsite DJ’s if it was okay, and he wasted no time telling me that, no, it was not, but my kid could have a sticker. Can he bounce on it? Didn’t think so.

By the time we decided Shannon’s uncle must be waiting at the car (he was), we left at about 9 p.m., an hour after Ben’s bedtime. He fell asleep in the minivan before we got home, despite that his belly was no doubt underwhelmed by the few bites of soft pretzel and lots of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish (they’re the snack that smiles back, you know).

Later, fading in and out of sleep, I watched the Razorbacks get trounced 70-17 by USC. I kept hoping it was just a dream, but then woke up enough to realize the nightmare was real and the defense was that bad. Anybody who knows me will tell you I generally don’t sacrifice other things for football, so I had skipped a watch party thrown by the Greater Dallas Razorback Club. Besides, it would have made me late for work…

I got to go to work at about 2 a.m. for a scheduled upgrade that took three hours. On the way there, though, I got pulled over for speeding. After watching me fish around in the glove compartment for the proof of insurance, the policeman let me off with a verbal warning. I got a ticket for exactly the same infraction – 46 in a 35 – back in the early 90’s. Maybe a minivan got me the benefit of the doubt more than my two-door Dodge Shadow of yore.

I slept 5:30 – 12:40, waking a couple times to hear Ben asking for me, and then his mommy telling him, “Daddy’s sleeping. Daddy had to work really late last night.” I spent lots of time with Ben the rest of Sunday, and we all just tried to enjoy the last fleeting moments of the weekend. Gotta love the IT field.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Getting to Know All About You

On my drive into work this morning, three people caught my attention, each in a very different way.

The first was a lady in a shiny black luxury sedan of nondescript styling that matches about any late-model luxury car. As I headed down a connecting street at about 35 mph, two lanes going my direction, she pulled out from the left. Within a second it was pretty clear she intended to come into my lane. Still, I realized it too late.

Fortunately, the lady saw me and tightened her turn to get in the left lane, just barely behind me. She would have plowed right into my rear passenger door had she not woke up from whatever stupor had possessed her mind. Maybe the child in the backseat had alerted her. Whatever the reason, she had made my list of memorable characters. When we had to stop and wait to turn onto the main road, I turned back, waited until she looked my way, then held up two fingers an inch apart to indicate she had come that close to hitting me. She seemed to look right through me, expressionless, so I just smiled and turned around.

Next, as I waited in line at a red light, came my other two characters.

Now, I like to sing in the car when something good is playing and it’s in my range. I also slide my windows down when I’m stopped, to let in fresh air. Except, that is, for the front passenger’s window, which will not come back up on its own. Normally I run the vent during the morning drive, because I can bear 75 to 80-degree heat without AC. I run the vent only when moving, because otherwise the smell of the leaking oil that gets blown onto the exhaust system fills the cabin. Combine open windows, full-volume singing, and two lanes full of other commuters with their windows down? Well, you have yourself an audience.

As I approach the waiting cars at each red light, usually I survey the crowd to see what kind of audience I have. This morning was no different. This is when the other two-thirds of the triumvirate entered my awareness.

As I pulled up on her left, I noticed a woman in a Nissan Altima, or something similar. She had her left hand on her forehead, so that her arm blocked my view of her face. The driver’s sun visor was flipped down and Altima stared into its mirror as her right hand moved repeatedly back and forth. I couldn’t see well enough to tell, but I’m pretty sure she was applying eyeliner. Her driver’s window was open, so I could have asked her through the rear right passenger window. I didn’t.

Next I checked my rear-view mirror.

Behind me was a man in a dark blue Ford F100 pickup, just finishing some type of prayer. I couldn’t see the whole movement, but in finishing up, he moved his left hand back and forth in front of his chest before he balled it up and kissed his thumb. Then he closed his eyes just a second as he bowed his head. He raised his head and then gazed out the driver’s window to squint in the morning sun. I thought I saw a hint of the morning breeze in his hair.

That last detail meant that at least two people would hear my singing. A track from Paul Simon’s “Graceland” was playing, and I’ve listened to that CD so much since it came out that I know pretty much every word to every song. That along with the fact that I love the tunes so much tempted me to belt it out. So, with all manner of abandon, I did.

I figured now that I had been given such a personal glimpse into their lives, why not share? I wonder now, would that woman whip out her makeup at her desk at work and start touching up? Would the man pray in the break room for everyone else to see? I certainly would not sing out loud as everyone gathers for a meeting.

Look around the next time you sit in traffic. You might end up knowing those people better than you know your co-workers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Latest Comments

We're back from vacation, and after two days of work, real life is back in full force.

Typically, I come home from work, and then spend time with Ben until I bathe him and put him to bed. We don't even turn on the TV until after he's in bed. It's just a distraction from time with Ben. I have friends and family who are not as fortunate as I am when it comes to family time, and I know that one day I would regret plopping down in front of the great brain sucker instead of living life.

(begin brief foray into computer geekery)

I got a new gadget before our vacation, and tonight was the first chance I had to play with it. It's a wireless router, but I've set it as a wireless access point, since I already had a wired router with all my customizations. It was cheaper to do it that way, as a kit with the wireless PCMCIA card, than to buy just a wireless access point. After the mail-in rebate, I'm only paying $26 for the kit. That's a crazy good deal for an 802.11g router and a PCMCIA card at 54Mbps. Now I can't use the hot computer room as an excuse not to continue revising my novel. I'll use the hot laptop as an excuse instead.

After using a random key generator and turning on the WPA encryption (couldn't get WPA2 going yet), I was connected as securely as I know how. I also cranked my subnet numbers up so that my router only allows the number of computers I have in the house. I'm pulling the plug on the wireless unit when I'm not using it, since our main PC is still connected directly to the wired router. I'm sure I can turn on some IP filtering, too.

(computer nerd speak over)

It's way too late for me to be up.

I live in the Dallas metro area, where reportedly about 50,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees now live, either in churches, makeshift shelters, or individual homes. Many of them want to stay, and I believe that with time our local job market can handle those who do. I only wish we could give them back what they lost.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Laughable Celebrity Effort

Sean Penn attempts to aid Hurricane Katrina victims. This is too funny to describe with a summary. Read on...

Drunk, or Just Tired?

In college, I was a part of two very different scenes (well, not as different as I thought, but stay with me). I was a member of a fraternity, and I was active in a religious group called TNT. It was a non-denominational protestant Christian group. I say they aren't all that different for two reasons. First, when joining a fraternity, a majority of the young men have one unmistakable goal in mind -- to meet young women. I joined TNT for a similar reason, and I'm sure other guys did, too. In fact, I think I joined the Arbor Day club, or some such thing, for the same reason. Oh, and the Biology Club. But I'm getting away from my original point here.

My point is this. While alcohol obviously melts away inhibitions, I'm pretty sure the lateness of the hour also makes a huge difference.

At fraternity parties, where much alcohol was consumed at late hours, inhibitions tended to fall by the wayside. Any emotions, whether elation, sadness, anger, sexual attraction, whatever, tend to come out more.

Go with me now to a nighttime activity during a weekend getaway with TNT. No alcohol was consumed, and yet by the time it got late and they were passing around the mic for folks to share their experiences, the responses were much more emotional than they were earlier in the day. Finally, after a couple of people had become teary-eyed blubbering bags of flesh, the guy leading the session stopped the sharing and suggested everybody go to their respective sleeping quarters.

By the time one has a full week of classes, work, or a combination of both, then feels the stress of social situations, the night can find that person severely fatigued physically and mentally. That mental exhaustion causes one's capacity for resistance to fall. Self-discipline often takes a backseat to self-expression and acting on a whim. Why do you think infomercials are played mostly late at night? Because marketers know that the consumers' resistance is down at that late hour. I've never read a study on it, but haven't you ever ordered anything late at night, or written a heated e-mail (or blog post) late at night, without having had anything to drink, only to realize after waking that you had made a mistake?

Consider whether you think a party at noon, with alcohol, would result in as many one-night stands as does a party that goes into the wee hours of the morning? Likewise, do you think that as many Ronco products would have sold if the infomercials for them would have played during primetime?

I'm no expert, and I'm sure someone will dispute this (if anyone's reading it). I'm just sayin'. Tha's all. Then again, I am writing this late at night.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

On Another Blog for a Week

While we're on vacation, I will post on this blog, mostly about our vacation, including pictures. I may not post here at all until after we return. You may now subscribe to either blog by using the Bloglet service on the right side of the page. First post with "meat" probably won't come until Saturday night. Thanks!

Friday, September 02, 2005

President Bush and trucks arrive

When I went to get my haircut at SportClips today (hey, they really do a great job, and fast, okay?), they had the TV’s tuned to CNN instead of ESPN. It was kind of interesting, because while trying to check out some news about my home state’s college team, I read this, which includes a pretty good perspective from an LSU sports figure whose team ended up helping move fully body bags instead of preparing for a game. I’m not a rabid football fan, but keeping up with sports news back home is one way to feel connected.

So, I also saw that President Bush is in Biloxi, Mississippi, talking to victims as he puts his arm around them to offer comfort. I don’t point out that last detail because I’m a blinders-on Bush supporter, or even a Bush supporter at all. Even in his final term, his party wasn't about to let him sit down there in Crawford on vacation. I'm not saying he would have, but that his own interests would not dictate his actions. Much of his appearance was for show, and I know that all politicians do that.

Sidenote: Why do so many reporters I hear call him “Mr. Bush” instead of “President Bush.” Like him or lump him, he’s the President, and I think they should address him as such. It’s just another thing that makes the media get labeled as anti-Republican, whacko liberals, and it frustrates me. I was a part of "the media" for a while, and nobody I worked with was anything but fair and even-handed when reporting news. I hate it when the decent folks get characterized by the actions of the ones who get the attention.

The TV also showed convoys of military amphibious trucks carrying huge payloads of meals ready to eat (MRE) to folks in New Orleans. It was about time.

Hurricane Katrina comes to Texas

A woman whose family evacuated from Jefferson Parish, Louisiana (just west of New Orleans) is visiting our site today. Her company is a customer, so it’s not just a personal side trip.

She and her husband, currently staying in Conroe, TX (just north of Houston), do not know whether their house is still standing, and have not heard from anybody who's been back to the area. While we were talking to her, a loud mobile rang several times before she realized it was hers, because she had to get a new one.

Her brother-in-law got shot, she said, while riding in a boat giving out water to New Orleans flood victims. The idiots shooting people sure make it hard to focus on the folks who are helping, and that kind of behavior seems to be all the media wants to report. I hope someone nearby was armed and shot the idiot on site.

I heard a report on our local NPR station this morning that interviewed a volunteer at Dallas’ Reunion Arena, the site of at least a couple thousand Katrina refugees. She said when she arrived this morning to help, there was nobody there organizing or in charge of anything. She just rounded up a group of volunteers, set up a couple of tables, and started addressing people’s needs. For one thing, they are trying to find job opportunities for those who need work.

This search for employment, and possible permanent relocation of these evacuees, will impact the Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio areas. Each city has said it can take 25,000 people. How many of those do we think will never return to New Orleans? On a criminal note, how many of those are members of New Orleans gangs who will end up not getting jobs and settling down to become contributing Texans, but instead add to the crime rate those cities already battle?

Houston already has about 11,000 refugees in the Astrodome, which officials say is more than they can handle, even though they originally said they could take 24,000. I guess 24,000 sports fans just there to watch a game is a lot different from the same number there trying to make sense of their desperation, get food, water, and jobs.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans mayor has lambasted the federal government for not responding quickly enough, and I can’t say I blame him. That’s one of the things our government’s for. Some say narrow-minded things like, "Well, those people had warning and should have got out before the storm." Yeah, and the people saying that have no idea what it’s like to not own a vehicle, or to not have family who can take you in since you can’t afford a motel. I get aggravated when I hear things like that because the folks who have no tolerance for people who can’t afford a car or the gas to run it tend to believe that we need people who will take low-paying jobs, because not everybody’s cut out for college. You can’t have it both ways, chum. That was a terribly structured sentence, but I'm leaving it.