12.30.2009

Bye, bye, double aughts!

It was a damned tough decade. Trauma Drama Extreme. It was about as unhealthy as you could get. The whole nation was traumatized, and some bullies went for the jugular. Pretty clear connection between abusive behavior and PTSD. America's psyche took a nosedive.

Adele M. Stan writes a smashingly good review of the millennial decade, as she dubs it. Andy Schmookler at None So Blind tackled it mid-decade, inviting comments on how the first Dubya administration really, truly made you feel. Some powerful revelations from Schmookler and others way back in two thousand five.

Does it make any difference how we say it? To the point that we must be clear in our communications. As an agreement on terms to help ensure fairness and justice. As long as we open ourselves to the possibility of peaceful coexistence with every living being.

12.29.2009

Quest for Fire

Lost a plant in the last freeze. Striped, green mush. Goes nicely with the red dye that's seeped from a cheap kitchen rug into a stack of old SXSWi and film canvas bags from over the years. Is that sacrilegious?

Making progress on de cluttering. Unearthing warm clothes, shoes. Junky printer, keyboard, lamp, broken heater, piles of paper, waiting their turn at the door for the next empty recycling bin.

Outdated telephony equipment all in one bag. Schlepped 99% of already sorted books to Half Price, eyeing the bookcases for nipping and pruning.

My touchstones are buried under mounds of stuff. Seeing a glint here and there. Won't be long until I can set up a jewelry work area--clean and repair old pieces and make new ones. Maybe even wear some.


December 25--Texas Hill Country. Plenty of freezing nights this winter. Sleet anticipated tomorrow. Linus has taken to spending the night inside. His fur is extra dense, so it's likely to stay cold for a few months, scattered with 70 degree days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
So how does Quest for Fire fit in? I saw it when it first came out, and thought it was way cool, but then forgot about it in the frenzy of movies in the decades since. Watched it this afternoon, and learned that the director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, worked with the astounding writer Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) to create languages for the four tribes, based on his study of Indo European language. Annaud called in Desmond Morris for the most educated guess of how they used their bodies, mannerisms, clan-gathering, technology. Most of all, it was how fire was THE real and only deal. Had to have it, hard to make it.


That, of course, got me thinking about what it might have been like in the Hill Country 80,000 years ago. The springs would probably have been more active, a gazillion more critters. Heck, there are a gazillion fewer critters just in the last 50 years.

Going through old writing, One binder had a recipe for Flaky Pastry Shell. Not bloody likely. Recycle bin. It's a good thing I have another week at home at the rate I'm going. Actually, I'm not falling into that trap. I'm simply doing a triage and also making sure that I keep up with my regular trash, which can put a big hurt on my lower back. There's at least 1 box of trash bags in every room, and as I let go of stuff, I toss it in the trash.

So, Quest for Fire. The single gas heater in my house won't burn more than a puny quarter-inch high. My 2nd story bird's nest can get breezy in the winter, and I am afraid it will snuff it out. My friend gave me a small electric heater that is perfect. Only run it briefly when it gets below freezing. Back to decluttering.

12.17.2009

Welcome to Austin, Winter


Boston, winter 2008

Winter is wet this year, which is a wonderful thing. Means a good chance we will have blankets of compact, intensely blue bluebonnets in the spring. Ditto for the companion Indian Paintbrushes.Lady Bird's seeds are not dead, only dormant, patiently waiting for rain. Lady Bird's wildflowers connect me  with my good Texas roots. They make Texas significantly more bearable.

Some winters, if we get moisture and milder temperatures, you'll see lots of greenery in one shape or another--the junipers, liveoaks, yaupons are dark, hard green. Mosses are brilliant, so are various bush plants, sage, cacti and succulents. All vibrant green. Until or if a frost comes along.

Other winters, no rain, hard and long freezes, ice storms, all the flora is pruned by mother nature, dead branches everywhere and vigorous spring growth unless the drought persists. Then it's spindly, faded, sparse, pretty much god-awful pitiful.

But that's not what I've been thinking about all day. I think about weather all the time, actually--I drive/bus/ walk to and from work, and drive/walk to and from rehearsals. So I'm out in it. The truth is, even though looking through my last, scarce posts, seeing how many were about people I've lost in the last year, I feel amazingly, vitally, alive. 

Plus the Capricorn stuff. Winter Solstice. That first spark of light. Winter is the Night of the Anticipated Awakening, summer is the Night of the Long Dance. Winter ignites some drive in me to cover ground. Walking, climbing, hiking. New Years Day is to outdoor adventures as the 4th of July is to fireworks. Summer is mostly just freakin' hot. My brain functions best in the 34-70 degree range. I concur with Robert Frost on the ice thing.

And The Christmas stuff. Not Christmas stuff, The Christmas stuff. This winter I am free of old losses that pretty much took the joy out of Christmas for too many years. This winter I sang Messiah for the 39th or 40th time, after taking a 12 year break. It was deeply healing, especially with David Stevens, in Baroque performance style, with the Austin Symphony. A slimmed-down, agile version that showcased the instrumentalists and singers, energized rather than stupefied the audience. Sitting through the complete Messiah can be like sitting through one night of Wagner's Ring (3-4 hours).

Which reminded me of past winter concerts, some with Concert Royale--all baroque instruments, Baroque tuning (slightly lower pitch), creamy-dreamy to sing with. Another endorphin boost. I heart the Baroque.

Savoring all the liquid runs, insanely grateful that I'd walked up and down that pinche hill to and from the Tower long enough to have the breath to pull off those lacy, long sixteenth note passages. Handel didn't slight his altos. Or his violas, or any of the interior voices, vocal or instrumental.

So that's another sign of how winter vitalizes me. I perform best when it's cool. Doing super-hard music is physically demanding. It's kind of amazing to register the mental/physical balance doing music all my life. As a child, it was mentally challenging, physically insignificant. As I age, it's less mentally challenging, but physically difficult (think standing stock still for 30-45 minutes at a time, holding a folder heavy with music, doing mad deep-breathing and sound production, while consummately focusing on a director's every demand).

Lately, the mental/physical has fused into a transcendental state. By now, I have all the major works memorized (that happens if you perform a lot), and I can dispense with a lot of little things that can distract you--the printed music, for one thing. You can attend to tuning, to how your line weaves above and frequently below the tenor line. How you and a soprano become a pair of birds, sweetly swooping and trilling in parallel major thirds (think the duet from Lakme').

Brings us right back around to Rocky Woo-Woo Land. "Support from your diaphragm" becomes "use your core" in today's vernacular. That's the music lesson for today, folks!

12.05.2009

Horns/Huskers game goes burnt orange

As the UT side of the stadium lit up, neighbors ran shrieking from their houses. Guess the kids are bringing home some bling tonight. Defence City. They've marched unbeaten to their championship. Good job. Now let's see all of them graduate.

12.02.2009

Leslie Jarmon, Incendiary Educator--In Memoriam


My dear friend and colleague Dr. Leslie Jarmon passed away last week. Leslie transformed everyone who was fortunate enough to know her. Authentic, compassionate, illuminated by inner peace. A powerful, abundant, active peace. Leslie embodied the concept of namaste, recognizing and acknowledging the divine in each of us.

Leslie and I were hired by the Graduate School and the former Center for Teaching Effectiveness (now DIIA) in the summer of 1998 to work with international graduate student instructors, Leslie as a teacher, and I as a conference coordinator, to support a state mandated international teacher certification program. 

Meeting Leslie is like encountering a supernova. Even in the simple, mundane act of nuking a single corn tortilla with a slice of cheese on top, she was preternaturally*  present in everything she did. My first thought was,

"Wow. This is a holy woman."

And she was.

Leslie's formidable intellect and compassionate regard for humanity are reflected in her accomplishments. She was in the vanguard of thinkers and movers in instructional technology throughout her career. Her recent grant that I write about elsewhere (and scooped Linden Labs) is visionary--her ability to spark visions in everyone she met was extraordinary.

And she's been doing this for a long time. She was the first person to submit a digitized doctoral dissertation, of which she was most proud. I knew she was in the Peace Corps, but only recently learned that she was regional director for Latin America. I knew she was a spiritual being, because our first conversation was about Pema Chodron, but I didn't know to what extent until she came back from a multi-week silent Bhuddist retreat in Colorado with a broken elbow.

I knew she was musical, but I didn't know that she was part of a virtual orchestra which I had briefly considered joining. I knew she was courageous, because I met her just after her first illness. That she fearlessly and joyously celebrated the last days of her life humbled and inspired me.

Leslie coined the term homo virtualis, and in doing so, described herself, just as she manifested the first dissertation on DVD by describing the world that she created herself.

Leslie gave her passion and energy to others until the end. Mutual friend and colleague Joe Sanchez, co-founder of the Educators Co-op, asked her what message she had to give to the world. She replied, "Tell them it's been REAL."

Tomorrow night I will celebrate Leslie's life with family and friends far and wide, communities expanding exponentially.

Tonight I give thanks for my friend Leslie, who gave me hope and a kick in the awareness pants.

Namaste, Leslie.

Cool stuff about Leslie.
In world here.   Bluewave Ogee



Friends' tributes, interviews, and articles about Leslie's ground-breaking work

here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

*snagged that description from another person who wrote about meeting Leslie for the first time

11.09.2009

Slouching Toward Retirement


As opposed to working. Which I will always do. Wondering if I should chronicle that long, drawn-out affair known as retiring from the university. It can last for years. But hopefully not. Because I have happier and healthier work to do.

I have two "katas" I perform when I can't see the path ahead. I consult the I Ching, and I run a couple of cognitive behavior thought records in my head. With a reading from the Ching and a reality check on my feelings and how to be thoughtful as well as psychic--that's a mojo power combination.

Thing is, I need to keep reminding myself that Rome was neither built nor torn down in a day, and to apply the gris-gris liberally for best results.

I need me some Dr. John. Got to sit in a recording session with him umpteen decades ago, a lovely gentleman, very professional and kicked everybody's ass around the studio with piano chops with lots of red eye gravy. Just so good. Noodled around with classical stuff in between takes. The man doesn't just have good hands, his voice IS the voice of the bayou.

So what do I want to do when I grow up? Pretty much what I'm doing now. Writing, editing, accessibilifying to the limit of my tech skills and tools, rescue a couple of shepherd-type dogs, continue to work with gifted people, to find more gifted people and play with them.

Havi's personal ads have inspired me to revisit the technique. I've been working on what my most comfortable living accommodations would look like. I've written a personal ad or two over the years, one just because I wanted my wonderful Sabine back, and had to make one last desperate call to her in print.Including aging in place. What would my ideal world be like?

Personal ad v.01

Farmette somewhere within 60 miles of Austin cheap enough for me to manage along with dogs, herbs for women, cats, chickens, maybe a goat or 2, an UP TO DATE RIG and decent connection, veggie/companion flower garden. Good thing marigolds are hardy--cheap bug repellant. Doing something on the Internet, blogging, writing, editing. Natural physical/mental therapy for stress from state job and keeping the joints in shape as long as possible. Close enough to drive in comfortably for rehearsals/concerts/mischief. Gets a little misty after that...

My vision changed drastically in two tiny, short weeks.

Personal ad v.02

See above, except with big honkin' add-ons of COOPERATIVE ENDEAVORS. To be perfectly frank (well, not Frank, but, you know), the best part of my job is working with really, really smart people who are FUN TO WORK WITH. Not to mention the awesome technical and graphic skills. So v.02 is .01 on geek power. How to build a good sandwich. How to design a gorgeous, compliant Web site. Brought to you by super-nice folks who'll be sure to give you a good time with a great design... Even considering cooperative housing (a la hippie commune, NOT retirement facility). Time to percolate and come up with a plan...

Just keep writing.

10.24.2009

Walter Miller Rawley. In Memoriam. Big Wheel Keep On Turnin'


AKA O Fortuna. This fall is dense with changes. Lost a dear father-in-law today, watched a daughter follow her instincts and pay her respects and mine and be with him one last time. This after a week of flying down, making wedding plans. I saw the wheels turn in her mind. Truly awesome. Full of grace and love.

Monumental changes. We are steeped in escorial green. We are lush with greenery. For the first time in years, lawns need mowing, chuckling toddlers hold out their hands and look with wonder at the wet. They've never seen rain.

Grandfather. Well-loved and cared for in his later life. I was privileged to spend some time with him in Boston a few winters ago. My nephew posted a photo of himself, his young son, and grandfather, and I've asked for permission to post it. It's a wonderful photo, generational wheels within wheels. [And here it is! Thanks, Jenson, hugs all around.]

Wood carver, sculptor, bronze-caster, artist, sweet man. Loved to carve crosses. Cast crosses. Anywhere. Of any wood. Of any metal. Some of which reside in churches throughout the southwest. His Archangel Michael is stunning. My daughter used to sit in the shop with him and mold puppies that looked just like curled-up, sleeping puppies. I love those puppies.

Standing on the front porch with him, gazing at the mountains across the road. I will lift up mine eyes  unto the hills...of his beloved Ruidoso. Picnics down on the Rio Ruidoso below their house. The molten-hot intensity of a pour. The mold cracking, contents to be lovingly touched, refined to a thing of beauty and devotion.

My last conversation with him. "Walter, what are you carving?"

Slowly, an apologetic look on his face, he raises his open hands, half-puzzled, smiles at me, and says, "I don't do that any more, since June died."

Say hi to June, grandfather. Love you.

9.28.2009

From the Crone's Nest


Wherein transcendancing and paradigm shifts abound. Well, maybe not the bouncing sort of bounding, rather more the comfy old chair way of boundmenting.


Aunt Lura passed away last Wednesday. A cousin called to let us know, and we made plans to drive up to Waco for the service on Friday. As a result, we got to say goodbye to her and spend some time with other family members. We agreed to plan to get together for a happier visit soon.

After the service, I whispered to my sister, "I asked Aunt Lura to say hi to Daddy."

"Me, too," she whispered back.

A few hours after my cousin's call Wednesday evening, a friend called to tell me she was in labor. I had helped deliver her previous babies, and she honored me by asking if I would be there for this one as well. She called at 10 p.m. I got to the hospital around 10:45. The baby was born at 1:01 a.m. As a result of this wondrous event, I got to meet some super cool young women in a mommies co-op who are in to natural childbirth and got me all jazzed up. The next generation of forward-thinking women's health care providers.

I must put in a plug for St. David's Hospital staff and admin for making noticeable progress toward offering the mother choices. Having the opportunity to see their show on three different occasions, I witnessed staff having to delay delivery until a doctor's arrival, to seeing a nurse respectfully ask the mother wanted to have this or that done to her baby...or not. Appropriately timed, of course. They take control when it's necessary.

We absolutely MUST empower the mother to fully engage with her delivery, and health care providers must recognize the mother as an essential partner in her own care. The more choices we have, the more we know, the less we fear the unknown. Fear causes us to tighten up which in turn causes pain. Breathing techniques, relaxation to alpha state and working with the rhythms can help make delivery much more comfortable and enjoyable. It's  just   natural...

The same could be said for the end of life. The more power we have over how to die with dignity, the more society progresses. It's all nature.

Even the part about a full Friday funeral, the sisters and a cousin driving to Waco, joining in the abundant lunch prepared by church members. A sweet service, a gorgeous sunset at the cemetary, and the drive home. Or the bit about catching a bite to eat, going up to the hospital to hold a newborn on my bosom for a couple of hours, in total peace, total calm. Mom, baby, mommy friend, the spirits of all my female family and ancestors, and me. Totally in the moment, auras blending, connecting the earth and the sky like a giant, 300-year old live-oak tree.A sufficiency of time, advent, completion.

Which leads me to the last realization. If I'm not living on an ocean, I usually manage to live by or under an ancient tree. I must have been a druid in a former life.

8.30.2009

Cesar Chavez, Barbara Jordan, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sculpture of Cesar Chavez, West Mall, UT Austin campus

Note the larger-than-life feet and hands, which contrast with the exquisitely expressive face. Captures the spirit beautifully.

When I get my camera back, I'll get photos of the new Barbara Jordan statue, and the landmark statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A power to the people triptych.

Even more notable is that bronze likenesses of these three contemporary American s/heroes exist solely through student initiatives that reflect and define social justice as a cornerstone of democracy.

8.29.2009

Broke that heat wave with two short rains

Karl Umlauf sculpture, FAC, West Mall, UT-Austin


It's been so long since we've seen the underside of 100 degrees, the two evenings of rain was like nectar from the gods and godettes. Think of Lawrence of Arabia. Think Plano Estacado. That monster high pressure system would just not let up.

It was a tough summer, and won't really cool down for a couple of months. If we're lucky, we'll get some late Fall early Winter rains, for the bluebonnets and Indian Blankets they always grow together--lovely contrast. Been without my camera for a week, it'll come home soon.

Autumn in Austin is full of all the studentsfacultystaff returning for one more academic year. Makes me doubly pouty that summer is groovy when the population drops by a cool 75,000 or so. But who could groove for more than a minute or two in 105 plus...

OMG freshpeople get younger every year. And they are the ones who need a little help and guidance, because they are such lost lambs and we rather do have a stern, mega-phallic chunk of land, hardly a mile north of the river. Very Lonesome Dovey.

All of which is to introduce you to War, Battering, and Other Sports by James McBride, Humanities Press, 1995. From the back cover...

In the United States, conservative figures estimate that 1.8 million women are brutalized each year by men who take pleasure in exercizing power over them both emotionally and physically.
And about McBride...
McBride teaches religion and social ethics at Fordham University. Trained in the interdisciplinary study of social ethics, he specializes in the intersection of religious studies with feminist, psychoanalytic, and legal theory.
I would draw your attention to the final following comma, one of my faves.

Those are my kind of interstices, my dendrionic dwelling places. My head has been full of Wittgenstein lately, because for some reason, The Fluent Self reminds me of his philosophies of language and meaning and the naming, of course.

Well, McBride names it. As someone put it, the "Dark Shadow" of the human mind. And this book got named in 1995, so by now, that 1.8 million women will certainly grow in proportion to the return of our service men and women with injured brains. I am more concerned about this than I am H1N1.

For a gripping drama that spanned several years, the movie "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" is all about the music. They are fantastic. What is even more incomprehensible is what life in Baghdad is really like. Stunning.

Coming up: Section 9 and other epiphanies.

8.19.2009

One year ago today

Dutch farmhouse in the rain

I wrote a post titled "What a Long, Strange, HOT Austin it's been." That was the year the electrical wiring in my apartment finally disintegrated, and it was 100 degrees then, too. Found out today that the AC unit that was put in last April can't be replaced until Friday, which means emergency and/or alternative living conditions. If this isn't global warming--set to break the hottest summer on record--it's on a tall tree on a high hill right next to it. On the other hand, summer of 2007 was unnaturally verdant.

Not a day goes by that I don't completely relate to the fact that the average life span for a woman in Texas as late as the 1940's was only 40 years. I would not survive if I had to do hard labor these last few summers.

Oddly, Havi Brooks at The Fluent Self (who lives in rainy Portland, OR, and even they are having startling heat), threw out a single-cell writing exercise. Which began with Naming The Moon, and progressed to Naming The Rain.

Triggered a frenzy of surfing. Havi helps and attracts incredible creative people, and one comment on rain hit me between the eyes. It was from Barbara J Carter, an artist who creates divine dot paintings. Now, having become as one with the Aboriginal culture as was humanly possible while I was in Australia, I resonated most with the Mythical Dreaming and dot paintings. She must be a Gemini, because she does two styles--brilliant organic landscapes, and soft abstract geometrics. Her work evokes the ancient Aboriginal form on a spiritual level as much as a visual one.

Back to the rain bit, in the middle of gorgeous outpourings (sorry!) of wonderful wetness, Barbara says, (and I hope I don't commit a serious electronic faux pas by copying it here)

Southern California is the State of Perpetual Drought. What is this “rain” that you speak of? Water falling from the sky? How odd.
Well. Confluences abound. Me sitting here in the Texas MegaDrought, beseeching La Lluvia to bring us relief. Memories of living in California--my daughter was born in 1976, a historical drought. We had to stop using our well water--fecal count goes way up in a drought. The positive side is that 1976 Northern California wines are exquisite. A drought produces higher concentrated sugar in the grape.

That's the comment that took me to Ms. Carter's Web site and to the magical dot paintings.

Tonight I am going to dream about rain. And gather all my writing about rain and give it name.The Blue Gum Rain in Australia. The Rain of 8,000 Lightning Bolts, Sydney Harbour. The Rain of Fourteen Lashings. Kettle Drumming with Rain Sticks. A Frog-Strangler Rain. And a Texas favorite, It's Raining Harder than a Three-Pizzled Bull on a Flat Rock Rain. The Let's Throw Out a Little Light-Weight Shit and See What The Rain Washes Away. My First Hurricane Rain. Southwestern Double Sun Dog Rain. Rocket-Shaped Hail Rain.

There we go with memories again. I am quite sure I could fill a chapbook with the Names of Rain. Thanks, Havi! I desperately need rain, and your game is the Rain of Redemption and Refreshment.

Go read those posts and see what I commented. Hint: it's about Wittgenstein, language, and meaning. Oh, yeah, about Naming, too.


Polder in the rain near Edam, The Netherlands

8.17.2009

Fifty-six days and counting

So. Entonces. Looking like the hottest summer in recorded Texas history, and the air conditioner in my bedroom starts blowing air. Outside air. Cheap funky ass bargain AC. Thinking about sleeping in my car with the motor running. It's the coolest place around.

Failing ACs are rampant. A friend lost her truck AC. Now that's brutal. There are not the usual throngs of runners, bikers, walkers on Ladybird Hike and Bike. Those who are braving it look pale, peaked, and about to pass out.

They're shutting down Barton Springs for six months for maintenance. It's gotten to the delicate balance of Salamander vs. The Drought. The little guys and gals suffer when the water gets low, full of nasty stuff, and as if that weren't enough, they have to drain it to clean it. Sometimes at night before I go to sleep, I think about those shy critters only a few hundred yards away, and how precious they are. We're losing, what, 50 species of bio a month? A year? Most of the remaining are on a steady decline, except maybe for deer, nutria, 'roos.

1969--Velasco Street, Dallas Texas

Traveling in the early morning up the east coast of Australia, carcasses of gray 'roos, wallabies, wombats and other assorted marsupials strewn on the sides of the road before the clean-up ute comes through.

Picture this: dozens of grackles scattered around the yard, beaks all agape, every single one of them facing in the direction of a silent water sprinkler, faucet turned off, birds yearning for the source, as if their beaks were magnets drawn by the metal of the sprinkler head. I didn't get a photo, but the vision is engraved in my memory.

Sometimes I get sidetracked in a demanding job and am too exhausted to write. Or too depressed to write. Usually within six months or so I revisit things I've written and see a few patterns weaving together. Which in turn usually gets me going again. Seems the last 6 months I wrote mostly about the past. Subconsciously thinking back to more supportive, meaningful times in my life. I guess this is the definition of "reliving your memories." Thank goodness there are some good ones! We seek the comforting, energizing, creative times of our lives, which could be one definition of the word "love."

There are a lot of people and things that I love. The ever-changing but always there sussurration of the waves on the beach below Uncle Tom's Cabin at Dillon Beach. Whispering when becalmed, thundering like Thor's hammer in a storm. I even wrote a piece for 20th century composition class, with an ostinato bass that mimicked the eternal breathing of the sea. "In my little house overlooking the ocean, the waves never stop in their ceaseless clamoring to possess the beach." I felt the pull of the tides and the waves in my whole being. I love that.

There's a well-stuffed folder of dangerous memories in my head, too. Some I can write about, some I can't. The time the wind was so strong that it sucked out a window. My daughter was sitting on the table right by the window when it shattered, and I had a moment of panic thinking that she was so small she would be taken along with the glass. And the too-often times when my mind sank deep into the San Andreas Fault, which we lived right on top of. I would lie down with her for a bit when she went to bed, and feel the wall rhythmically and gently bump my head. Or sit by a table, leaning on the sturdy oaken top, and watch my arm move.

There's a lot that I love about the glorious and scary adventures of life in juxtaposition with intense maternal instincts.

Then there were the heart-dropping utter fear moments when someone else put my child in harm's way, and the heart-breaking despair that I could not protect her from all of it. Those memories are difficult to write. When I do, the intensity can sometimes be cathartic, or annealing, or a relief.

My memories help me define many words and ideas. Vastness: the Pacific Ocean as experienced on the western shores of California and the eastern shores of New South Wales. Diversity: the evolutionary distance among the flora, fauna and people that inhabit a land half-way around the globe. Took up nearly a decade of my life--seven years in northern California, two years in Australia.

The mythological creatures--Kokopelli on one side, the Bunyip on the other. I just hope we don't blow it in my kid's lifetime.

7.28.2009

Enough. With. The. Heat. Already.

I love my treehouse. It's in a '30's quad with the original kitchen and bathroom tile floor and counter, and a fossil-pocked limestone exterior. I'm on the second floor, no outside faucet close enough, nor sufficient shade to keep more than a few plants alive. I have 2 spider plants and a cactus that I water by hand. A friend rescued my begonia, and keeps it in her shadier yard, among her jungle of plants, which she waters at least daily. Twelve hours at most. Fifteen, and the tenderer leaves are supper.

Yam is doing fine, because confined, and because she lives inches from the kitchen faucet, so I have no excuse whatsoever to not keep her and Ivy topped up with water.

There's a stubborn high-pressure center squatting over central Texas that just will not budge. We're going into our third month of century-plus temperatures, and the asphalt actually melts. At the end of the summer, there will be tire-shaped wells of black gunk at every traffic light and stop sign (which means "slow down and look for cops before you punch right through" in Texas).

The North and East get potholes--we get the La Brea tar pits. Walking to the parking garage this afternoon I was buffeted by 104 degree winds, squinting to check for vehicles, glad I had my Oz umbrella. Constantly seeking shade, suspended in searing air, thoroughly grateful that my car was under a roof all day, and that it will take only a few blocks to cool it down. As opposed to several miles if it's been parked out in the sun for even a few minutes. And I have a white car. With a honkin' big dashboard reflector.

Stuff cooks in your car. For real. Cans and bottles can explode, water jugs bloat and pop their lids. Years ago, I forgot a 48-count Crayola box in the back of my old Toyota station wagon. A gray, mottled pool of wax flowed from wall to wall--a clump of paraffin saturated, multi-colored wrappers embedded at gound zero, proclaiming the names of the late departed cylindrical inhabitants, like Burnt Sienna, Charcoal Gray...did they envision their fiery end? We could have excised the carpet intact and entered it in a science fair as a pretty darn good model of Mount Vesuvius.

People get downright pugilistic over the few shady parking spots on the street. It's a known fact that Texans will willingly walk for blocks in the heat rather than return to a half-ton oven hot enough to roast barbecue, and that's with the windows down. You hear horror stories of babies and dogs perishing in cars--all true. It can happen within minutes, especially if they are already dehydrated. Never ever ever leave any tender living thing in a car unattended.

This is the kind of heat that they warned me about in New Mexico--it is critical (as in a matter of life and death) to hydrate to the max BEFORE you go outside. Drink a quart of water as you're getting ready to leave. Carry 2-1/2 gallon containers of water at least, two are even better. If you don't need it, your radiator (or someone else's) might. Drink BEFORE you feel thirsty, and continuously throughout the day. Toss a solar blanket in the trunk. Make sure your car's fluids are topped off. Wear a hat, sunscreen, long sleeves.

There's a scene in the movie "Jarhead" where the lieutenant lines up his men in formation, then orders them to unscrew a bottle of water and drink it down. He does this every hour on the hour. It is imperative to think of water as necessary as breathing.

Heat exhaustion warning signs: dizziness, black spots in your vision, parched skin and mouth--if you're not wet with sweat, you've used up all your water. Loss of limb control, difficulty speaking, confusion. Oh, wait. That's me on a normal day. It can come over you quickly--get to shade and water immediately.

OK, yeah, yeah, I know you know all this. Guess what? We forget. We indulge in wishful thinking, that it's really not that hot out, we're acclimated, what's the problem? By the time you realize there's a distinct possibility that you maybe should exercised precaution, you're taking a swan dive off a curb into oncoming traffic, the maniac behind the wheel tossing his steering wheel like a hot potato, because, well, it IS like a hot potato, and it's burned through a couple of layers of skin. To top it off, his buns are seared because he's wearing a nylon Brazilian bathing thong, which is melting into the plastic seat covers of his pickup truck, legs jerking up and down like a demented drummer. It can happen.

A typical Texas summer heat wave--not! Weather records are falling like clockwork--each day emblazoning a new record in the annals. Think I'll go check the water level in the Britta, feeling a bit dessicated...

7.13.2009

Blast from the '60s and '70s

Prelude to a Blast

Photo was taken '69 or so, by Larry (Lars) Davis, hiking Topanga Canyon Highway to or from The Corral, the Post Office, or Decker Canyon. Lars, me and John Martin, Spinner Martin to some.

Or maybe a bridge...

By '70, John, Lars, and Green had moved back to Dallas. I stayed behind with Pammie and Diane until Will was born, then they moved back. Rann was my roomie for a while, then I had the idyllic place to myself. Some of the most peaceful and entertaining years of my life. Bucolic Topanga and the Sylmar earthquake--shaken out of bed at 6:01 a.m. Hanging with jazz and rock musicians at rehearsals, recording sessions, gigs--hearing all kinds of phenomenal music. Working with Diane Hilderbrand at Colgems, ScreenGems/Columbia with Michael Murphy and Boomer Castleman doing demo tapes. In and out of the Integral Yoga Institute, blissful and creative times.

We're getting closer, I promise

At some point, I moved back to Dallas. The reason why has it's own story. Lived with my old friends from NTSU, Kathy (Kelsey Kelly) and Jay Pruitt, and Karyn, my goddaughter. Got a job right away--muse-0 friends suggested a rock and roll sound/light company called Showco. I was the shop secretary for a year or two and met the Bad Ex there.

Years pass...College Station, Dallas, Northern California, New Mexico, Greenville, Commerce, Austin. On my 40th birthday, we invited the whole world to a huge gathering at a friend's hilltop house. Of course we invited old friends from Showco. Chari and Bob drove down from Dallas, and in an early "six degrees" enactment, revealed that Bob had taught the son of the friend in whose house we were, indeed, partying.

Decades pass...Princeton, Sydney, Austin.

The Blast!
(finally)

I was surfin' tha 'net and had what is now an only "two degrees" epiphany. Tripped over the word Showco and clicked through to the listserv. Of course I had to sign up. Lo and behold, Chari sent me a warm welcome and a date for an upcoming get together, plus the fabbo news that she and Bob, after how many decades? got married--good on ya, mates!

Stories and photos are flying to hundreds, maybe thousands of monitors around the world. Camilla related attending a rock ('n roll) thingie and seeing Showco t-shirts, some of which are bringing money--limited editions, even fewer exist. I wore out all mine, but had my denim jacket for years--I think I know who appropriated it.

Surely someone somewhere sometime will collect the history and put it on the site. In the meantime, this particular Blast from the Past is a Gas.

6.30.2009

Yam vine

I found yams, as opposed to sweet potatoes, at Fiesta, a local international grocery, and brought some home. I'm a sucker for plants that sprout on their own. Life resonating with life. It's practically impossible to keep anything green alive in the Texas heat, and I can only manage to keep a modest few watered, so when I spotted embryonic leaves seeking light, I sliced off the end of the tuber and stuck it in a votive candle holder. It sent out roots instantly.

Yams are a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Low fat and sodium mean that there is an excellent potassium/sodium balance, which protects against heart disease and osteoporosis. Pretty good deal, huh? They're easy to prepare, and I spied a recipe for crispy yam and goat cheese wontons that sounds lovely. The true yam is found widely in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Yam, June 18.


Yam as diety

If you are a big fan of Tom Robbins, as I yam, you read Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. My sister and I read it in the cardio waiting room in Houston while our dad had bypass surgery. It was the perfect book to read. I know from the author's bio that Robbins has a degree in theology, which informs each of his novels in a...well...novel way. No religious group or sect is exempt from his brilliant and humorous writing. Again, life resonating with life. The mega-alive Cissy and The Chink and the sprouting tuber are all divine. Sacred and profane. That's what happens when you're a preacher's daughter. You read a lot of theology.

The yam is the major food source for indigenous people in many countries. Some groups worship the yam as a god, holding annual festivals to purge the old and ensure success in the new year. So it makes perfect sense that Robbins collected the Eastern mystic with the iconic yam in a cave (yoni!) and crafted a memorable character as Cissy's spiritual/venal guide. If Robbins isn't writing about existential metamorphoses of various dieties, he's writing about sex. Frequently in a Shiva dance or similar yin/yang manifestation. It's challenging to write about Robbins without fumbling for abstractions to describe a very solid state of being. Even if that state is wildly creative. Or changes without notice. no(w)here.

Back to the tuber. I'm fascinated by root crops, probably the Capricorn thing. I love them. Beets, carrots, potatoes of all kinds, yucca root (my fave), turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, you name it, I scrub the dirt off and bake them or eat them raw. The only ones I don't like are licorice-flavored ones, that means you, fennel. I do like fennel seeds. I've eaten sweet potatoes all my life, a staple in the southern US. Mamaw would grow sweet potato vines in the triangular nook by the window over her sink. Which originally looked out onto a roofed/screened back porch the length of the house. When Papaw died and our family moved in with Mamaw, daddy re-plumbed and finished out the porch into a bed/sitting/bath area. This meant there were windows in the living room that looked out onto the sitting area, window connecting bedroom to bedroom, and the kitchen window. Wow.
Sweet potatoes are one of the south's staples, along with myriad greens, tomatoes, okra, and other hot weather crops. On special occasions in the Latino tradition, you'll find a delectable sweet potato tamale that's a super veggie dish, if you make your masa without lard. No southern Thanksgiving table is complete without sweet potato casserole or sweet potato pie. Props to the Texas A&M extension-service-style fact sheets for a superb information about any type of agricultural biounit in existence. Served up as friendly tidbits from A to Z--history, nutrition, culture, husbandry, and tasty, simple, economical recipes. No flash, no promotion, just the facts. Eeeeeeasy for a screen reader to read, thus accessible. I give them an A+.

Yam, June 30.

Crystal, The Purloined Angel, and Mamaw's Thimble Collection nearby bestow energy along with Sun and Water.

6.23.2009

Maternal instincts



I'm missing my mama right now. Miss working out complex ideas and playing with words 24/7. Lengua Familia. And the way she endlessly called my attention to anything of the least interest in every environment--books, newspapers, TV reports, nature, people. Her elegant, thought-provoking writing was so beautiful it shone. She was fearless in what she wrote about, I realize now that it was because she was following her passion, and used her formidable command of the language, its nuances, its music, its justice, its ability to describe and reach the soul. We laughed a lot.

I miss her brilliance. Even though I was completely overshadowed, and preferred it that way, I learned so much about writing from her. I was thoroughly imprinted. Except for a disastrous three months at Texas Instruments, I entered the work force as a librarian.

So why now? Where's my moon phase widget? I don't know where people get the idea that women don't respond to cycles after menopause. I'm even more aware of cycles I didn't even know I had. So maybe this is just a broader cycle. One of those 5--10 year ones.

I am in a half-my-lifetime cycle with my sister and niece right now. My niece's father passed away Saturday, and spirits are on the move in this corner of the universe. I'm paying attention. O Fortuna, Velut Luna--Status Variabilis.

So the wheel is multi-layered, multi-dimensional. Not 24 hours earlier, my daughter announced that the wedding will be in Austin. This is a rare experience. To examine joy and grief as fully as I am able and learn from both. My trusty Z-Coils will help me keep my balance.

6.17.2009

Thimbelina--Mamaw's Thimble Collection

These are some of Mamaw's thimbles. Duh. But so utterly 19th century. Sewing was Mamaw. Made our family's clothes growing up. Whipped up frothy cream and crocheted confections. An amazing cook and seamstress.

I'm sure I've told this story before. My sisters and I would dream up outfits and painstakingly color in the details. A few months later, we'd get a box with Papaw's fudge and the real life incarnations of our drawings.

Wedgewood, abalone, petit point, plain, exotic...these and the crochet needles Papaw would make for her out of pecan, cedar, or oak, some cool wood. In all size hooks. Some of her pieces are quite large--bedspreads, tablecloths, hooked with a tiny needle and web-thin string. Woven as fine as linen.

Papaw also made incidental tools for her--knives she used in the kitchen, always cutting and paring vegetables and fruits, meats. Sometimes he collaborated on a crocheted piece that became a tote bag. He carved handles, drilling holes along the bottom edge of 2 matching pieces, which Mamaw incorporated to whip up and attach the crocheted bag part. I think was silk thread--it made an exceptionally strong and flexible carryall. I accidentally left it in Sedona, with two jars of Daddy's honey inside, in 1969 or so. I still miss it. I guess it wanted to stay close to those monumental Kahlil Gibran drawings.

The sophistication and complexity of her work made her one of my first sheroes. The sheer volume of creativity completely eclipsed the fact that she had only a third or fourth grade education. I never snapped to that growing up. It was only after I reached my 30's that I began to understand the implications of how she lived on the earth. Rural Arkansas transplant to Texas@1900.

Art that has totally gob-smacked me over the years

Gibran's work, only one of the many reasons that Sedona is a spiritual touchstone.

Picasso's Guernica at the MOMA. My mom took me, and purposely didn't tell me it was there, wanting to see my reaction. It was displayed on the landing between the 1st & 2nd floors, and we were chatting as we started up the stairs. When I turned, the physical and emotional enormity was In My Face. I stood riveted to the spot for at least fifteen minutes. She said I wailed. I think I only whimpered.

Rembrandt's The Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Immense in size and sensitivity. You can smell the canals, the testosterone, the ponderance of wealth and power. Exquisite detail in the faces--a gravitas that assures us that the gentlemen are passionate about defending the gates of the city.

The Fantastic Viennese Realists. The best exhibit I've ever seen. Bar none. Will have to do a deep search for the ones I'm thinking of.

6.11.2009

Twyla Tharp is Working For Me

Twyla is at work in my subconscious. One of her exercises suggests that you look to other creative people for inspiration. She looks to the masters for the musical backbone of her choreography: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. You can elevate your own skills by investigating other forms of creative outlet. Prepare an esoteric meal. Pick up an instrument. Describe words using only your body.

Something that opens your senses, puts you on alert for bits and pieces of loveliness in your life. Ritual habitual. Wasn't that a song?

We have all known pretty much what she's saying, she just says in an organic, firmly-tethered-to-real-life way. Some of that is her writing person, but the ideas are hers.

My lovely daughter cleaned my kitchen and bathroom while she was here, and I have lovingly reconnected with another creative refreshment that delights me--taking photos. With the camera she gave me for Christmas. Yes, she's that sweet and thoughtful.

The kitchen is where I keep collections of shells, artwork, stuff, junk. It gets the late afternoon sun which 1) makes it the hottest room in the joint, and 2) gets fabulous light. But now that aforementioned AC/fan reduces energy consumption, said kitchen is considerably more comfortable. The light is heartbreaking, the camera has rechargeable batteries, and twinklies are bouncing around. Using any creative skill replenishes your life passion, whatever that may be. The result doesn't have to be beautiful--it is the wholistic involvement in what moves you that exercises your creative muscle. Think of it as a tune up and tune in.

I did not consciously remember reading the Tharp exercise. Marvelous how she planted a seed that grew toward the light. The discipline of making a regular, habitual place in your life to create, in balance with the other bits that mean most to you.

A rare, drenching, kettle-drum thunderstorm is pounding its way over Austin. Time to open the door and savor the rain.

Soon: Mamaw's wonderble thimble collection.

6.10.2009

Summertime in Austin

With temps nearing 100 it's time to protect from the sun and stay cool. Two new ACs and two new overhead fans should help with reducing consumption and cost. So far, it's running about 20-30% less than this time last summer. That's a start.

My brain grew some righteous folds over the last few weeks. Planning the work flow for porting Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 with a large group calls for lots 'o B vitamins, processing, and mapping. Now we get to train. Then we get to edit. Lots 'o pages.

Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit" is a beautiful piece of art. It is beautifully laid out, all text, no photos, but the use of font size, minimal color, gray tones, and clarity reminds me of "Zen Bones." What she has to say is equally true no matter what you are doing, doesn't have to be art. Her exercises are fluid, natural, and evolve from living authentically in the real world and loving what you do. It's a luscious treat on a number of levels. Read it.

6.05.2009

Post Concert Season Doldrums


Singing is a lot of work. Good exercise. AVAE is dark for the summer. Noticing a pattern here. After the last concert, unless I have other work lined up, I get a little down. It's nice to have a little break, but then I want to get back to practicing, rehearsing, whatever, to keep the pipes open and oxygenate.

This year was different. More than a little down.

There are other circumstances which are really getting on my nerves that are making it harder to focus on recent changes in my body. Namely, I can now see the cataract in my left eye, or rather, there is a tiny line that is out of focus right in the middle.

Damn. When I close my right eye, I see double, just ever so slightly. There's the line of type, and a faint offset line just below it. Damn. Time for the eye doctor.

Of course when one thing starts to change, it's easy to fall into fear-of-being-a-bag-lady mode and it becomes a little more tedious to turn the thinking around.

A trick that sometimes works for me is heaping gratitude upon the universe for making progress on other fronts. Things I am grateful for: Z-coil shoes that make walking relatively pain-free. My friend Darnelle who transformed my living room over the Memorial Day weekend. My wonderful daughter who sends me flowers every Mother's Day. Vicariously enjoying her travels to Tokyo and Dusseldorf. Fabulous neighbors who trade kitteh-sitting and are great cooks and take my trash out when my back is out.

That's barely scratching the surface. Haven't even gotten to my sisters and the Rat Pack at work.

The other trick I do is make myself write about it--sooner or later. If I keep meeting resistance, I throw the I Ching. In the forty-two years since a mystic English professor introduced the Ching to me, after an evening locked in the zoo, witnessing the animals come to life, I have never failed to find a key to gather my wits.

So this weekend is planned. Pick up Z-coil sandals, never-ending laundry, and maybecatch Star Trek at the Alamo South. Got a taste for the "Wild at Artichoke Heart" pizza there--roasted garlic, goat cheese, chokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and excellent fresh-brewed iced tea...and it's in walking distance.

I feel better already.

5.17.2009

John Slatin AccessU 2009

Building on the incredible experience of John Slatin AccessU 2008, the 2009 conference keeps on giving. I ran across a comment by a colleague from the UK who was a little puzzled about accessibility in the US. This gave me the opportunity to synthesize the phenomenal amount of information from the conference.

Hmmm. Little Conscious Awareness Seeds planted in JSAU 08 focused my complete attention on how we live in the world. I found myself evaluating everything in my path for that year on the basis of "will this meet my needs as I age?" By the time JSAU 09 rolled around, I was in full-blown, cataclysmic paradigm shift. We have to meet the communication needs of every human being to preserve freedom and quality of life for as long as possible. I want that. I need that, and so you. We all need that. And "that" is a basic human right.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973 addressed accessibility in the analog age. When the Internet came into being, the act was amended to include equal access to electronic communications (Section 508).

The really cool thing about equal electronic access is that it benefits persons with learning disabilities, ADHD, traumatic brain injury, the elderly, et al, AS WELL AS people with physical disabilities. That extends the benefits to a much broader population.

Here's the kicker: if you design for accessibility--alt txt, good headers, skip to nav--it also boosts your SEO. Not only is output from assistive devices such as screen readers infinitely more listenable, Google, for example, crawls sites just like a screen reader does. Two birds with one stone.

Think "curb cuts for computers" as well as "curb cuts for sidewalks," and you get a better idea of how useful accessibility is for everyone. You can design for both beauty and accessibility.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 came out last December--incredibly useful, encyclopedic tool.

Not to mention Plain Language. Say it clearly, concisely, and you just hit a third bird with that stone.

Note to self: ditch "incredible" or find a more interesting word.

Off to visit Mr. Meno.

5.03.2009

Mama is not happy

For three reasons: my dear Kay from Kay's Thinking Cap still could not comment. That's a knot to unravel. I also would like to have had the $ and time to road trip to Dallas to see my old friend Richie Gardzina, jazz sax/flute extraordinaire, and other long-time pals this weekend, but I have my austerity armor on to get finances in shape so I won't be a bag lady.

Most of all, I'm unhappy about the lack of authenticity in part of my life--a big part. I'm not known for being a smut mouth. Circumstances have burst a dam of frustration, anger, disappointment, and cussedness that I don't need at this juncture of my life.

I've been in the work force for 43 years. I have a lot of experience with good and bad supervisors, good and bad employees. It burns my freaking ass that in all that time, not a lot has changed in how people treat each other. Business is business, but business is not the be-all and end-all. What counts at the end of the day is what kind of a human being you are.

I've fought all kinds of injustice in my life--gender, race, age, physical looks, intelligence, bullies, pure cussedness. I had hoped that things were getting better. Unfortunately, just as I'm trying to see my way clear to providing for what lies ahead, with no inheritance, no retirement to speak of, and no significant other, I'm facing the same freaking issues I faced 43 years ago. We have NOT come a long way, baby. We've only managed to slap a veneer of compliance just so the offenders can stay below the radar.

I'm drowning in a sea of patronization, elitism, indifference, control freakism, yuck, I wish I could just come right out and say what I mean without being dooced. I love the new social media, but when you're working for the man, it's a beeyotch. I hate that I can't say right up front what I want to without endangering the quality of what's left of my life. To think that one can't be honest and authentic without fear of getting slapped down at work is mortifying and humiliating as a supposedly "liberated" woman.

"Transparency" is a travesty when higher management throws a hissy fit when people tell the truth. I'm working in the wrong place. It feels like sandpaper that I can't say up front what's happening, but there's a legitimate chance that I'd face truly dire consequences if I spoke the truth.

I've worked hard all my life, tried to do the best I could, swallowed bitterniess, ignored outright insults, clawed my way up out of victimhood to be a high-functioning, intelligent, caring human being. At a huge price. Worked my way out of a dysfunctional personal relationship only to become embroiled in a stupid, sick work situation.

Yeah, I hear you--why don't you do this, or that, or the other? When you're up to your ass in alligators, it's easy to get sidetracked from figuring out how to drain the swamp.

What ticked me off: Besides annual performance evaluations, a thread on WOW about abused women and what they should/should not do in the opinion of other women who have no f**cking idea what they're talking about. Take a look at this post and the comments thread: no wonder things are so bad. It's not just men--some women have no earthly idea what they're talking about. They blame the woman and perpetuate the abuse. Our society is so backwards in so many ways--we eat our own. Walk a mile in any abused woman's shoes and you'll be at least humbled, if not annihilated.

It's not just domestic abuse, it's human abuse. Getting the totally skewed idea that it's OK to torture, maim, devalue, patronize, de-humanize, judge, on and on in an attempt to subjugate, control, abuse another human, just because they are slightly and superficially different than we are. And we call ourselves a "Christian" nation. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus would be totally appalled at how we treat each other. The Pharisees in the Temple come to mind.

For example: H1N1 (erroneously labeled "swine flu") came about because of disgusting, filthy agrobusiness. Get yourself informed.

The Iraq War: lies and greed, hubris and insanity.

Hate, race, and sexual identity crimes: pure f**cking meanness.

Domestic abuse: misogyny and bullying.

Racial discrimination: fear and bigotry.

Sexual, verbal, and psychological abuse: sociopathy and toxicity of power.

Every once in a while I am compelled to rage against the inhumanity, even in the face of peril to life and limb. One can only take so much for so long.

It's time to apply force of will--or relinquishing of will through meditation--to turn these black Sunday nights around to gird myself for the daily grind...

Maybe it's just America. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's just life. Maybe it's the truth.

4.30.2009

Yay 'cause I'm baaaaaack!

I didn't know how much I relied on FOP for all kinds of things until my computer crashed. A (somewhat) creative outlet, a nexus of communication, geeky puttering, colors! and much more.

Now if someone will do me the favor of commenting, I'll find out if that feature is working again. New photos to upload, new bookmarks, catching up with friends, answering 45 days worth of e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, lots and lots to occupy my mind and time, especially since AVAE is dark for the summer.

That flat line was beginning to get me down. I don't have a big subscribership, but I cherish those intrepid, constant souls who kept me company post after post.

I have been working out on the DIIA Blog, and was astonished at the exponential number of page hits we got when we live-blogged SXSWi. Of course I had a lot of help there, we've got some gifted geeks posting there, which takes much of the burden off me. Sigh...I can't help but wish that I were as engaging as SXSWi.

I do want to express my great thanks and appreciation to my friend who not only un-crashed my computer, he optimized it to the max. Runs much more quickly and smoothly than it has since I got it. Plus, he saved me a big bundle of greenbacks. Thanks, JF!

My computer deserves a name. Even at its advanced age. I had a friend who finally came up with a name for her VW van a week before she sold it and moved to India: McBus. Maybe it's time for a poll...or a name contest.

3.11.2009

The Comments Gremlin

Thanks to a helpful colleague's strategy to address the comments glitch, I'm a little closer to figuring it out. Removed all...well, most... of the widgets, which I'd been meaning to prune way back for yonks anyway. I woke up this morning mortified at the thought that sloppy blog housekeeping would not look too swooft at SXSWi.

But there it is, and by process of elimination, it doesn't seem to be the widgets. Restraint is called for when I can find the time to reinsert a few. Any votes on what to keep? What to remain in the dust bin? And how would I know, if nobody can leave comments?

I have a hazy memory of problems with changing my e-mail address at work, after I got messages from friends that their posts to my old address bounced. The university is no longer supporting the old, and I was reassured by the help desk person that there was a forwarding to the new address, but I wonder if that fragile link was a tasty morsel for the gremlinkin.

So even if comments are still looping around in the net, at least I can formulate the next question to ask. OK, so maybe I'm not so mortified. Just impatient.

3.07.2009

Mercury in retrograde did me in

You may have heard the astrological term "Mercury in retrograde." It's the perceived sensation of Mercury going backwards when it isn't really, or the expectations of planets going a little wobbly, or just maybe my own klutzyness. As to what that does to us wee humans scurrying around on a dirty, crowded planet trying to make it, M in R manifests in every machine you use breaking down.

The hopeful bit is that this cataclysmic zig-zag is brief, to the Universe, at least, because it only lasts about two weeks before we convince ourselves that the ol' Winged Messenger has made a U-turn and headed back toward the hometown goalpost.

Two weeks is an incredibly long time to turn your electronics and tools of the trade into lumps of dead plastic and obscenely expensive rare metals. This particular interim it took down my blog comments, HD converter, VCR, DVD player, hot water heater, and I turned my TV off in frustration because all my favorite programs (I don't have cable/satellite) are on the ONE freakin' channel in town that flipped the switch and went totally to digital.

These little challenges don't normally get me down when they behave and present themselves in an orderly fashion, one after the other, fixing one glitch and moving on to the next. But this dime-gracing, zippy god of communications didn't give me a chance this time. They all happened at once and pretty much shut me down.

Still haven't solved the issues, but it's a gorgeous evening in Austin, and I'm taking some tuna steaks down to my neighbors grill for a little Armadillo Arms potluck dinner.

Good thing Merc's playing nice for the moment. I'd think twice about eating tuna if he weren't...

2.23.2009

Dave Barry, eat your heart out

If you're over fifty, your de rigeur baseline colonoscopy is probably on the books. It is also probable that you laughed and winced through Dave Barry's hilarious and highly accurate account of his own experience. This is fair warning that when you read the following response y0u will do at least one of the following

1) laugh so hard you can't breathe and have to punch your "I'm fallen and can't get up" button repeatedly until help arrives,

2) spray your keyboard, monitor, speakers, wall, photos, papyrus with coffee, &/or

3) blush scarlet and faint at the potty-mouth language.

The Good Ex, one of the funniest writers I know, goes ol' Dave one better--da conzz was awake for his.


And lo, my response:
OMG (snap snap)!!! This is like so freakingly accurate, it should be printed, bound, and entered into the Library of Congress. You'll remember (maybe) that I've had this procedure, and it is exactly as Davey Boy explains it, with one major exception...there's no description here of the Volkswagon that is driven up your ass hole.... Oh, wait. Now I know why...it's because I WAS FREAKING AWAKE THROUGH THE WHOLE DAMN THING!!! Now, knowing that I could have been saved from a lifetime of recall, I'm seriously considering a malpractice suit.

So, after the VW (farfignutten) went in, the nurse basically poured, no... pushed, one of those 32 gallon liters of something milky-looking into me.

Ever feel so full you're sure you're going to throw up if you bend over and get your head below your belt line? Now imagine that feeling going in both directions! But behind that Volkswagon is a fire hose that's at least 18 inches in diameter... and yet... yes, and yet... I had to clench as hard as I've ever clenched anything in my body in my entire life so that I didn't become a horizontal, fifth grader's school volcano project. The term "seepage" is appropriate here, I think. I suspect I wasn't alone in this effort or fear, since I was lying on a steel tray with a full 3 inch wall around the four sides: barely enough volume in this baking pan to hold the "liter" of milk my body consumed... backwards.

You think this is nearly over, don't you. Well not so fast my frisky little used car salesman. Next, the doctor comes in while I'm gritting my teeth and turning beet red in the face...remember the clenching? Now, Doctor Sade proceeds to roll me back and forth...presumably to make a milkshake inside of me (gawd, I'll just bet if Dave Barry knew what he missed while asleep, he'd ask to do it all over again!). I full well expected him to put me on a trampoline next, but instead he put me on TV! There I was, internally exposed, for all to see. Nurse Ratchet, Dr. Sade, and the 2 really cute little interns watching all of this...yeah, I know. I neglected to mention them. I figured the rest was sufficient to describe my eternal embarrassment and degradation...why overdo it? Eh?

But yes, the Pettycoat Junction was there. Actually, now that I remember, I don't think we (author's note: Bonnie and I) were dating yet because their perception of me actually mattered!

So, here I am now, no longer being rolled from side to side, lying flat now, on my right side next, now on my left side, then back to my back... still clenching like I'm holding the fate of the entire world in my... butt.... beautifully projected on a video screen, avoiding eye contact with everybody in the room, and praying... like I've never prayed before or since that I don't go from seepage... to full on colon blow!

Finally, and I don't want to stress the extreme moments when I thought this next moment would never come, the good doctor said "I'm through," and I could go use the rest room. What a freaking euphemism... never gave that one much thought before that day.

The next event is the backing up of the VW Bus... out the sphincter that is now a garage door waiting... no hoping... to slam shut immediately as the vehicle departs. I wait while the "beep, beep, beep" of the backup alarm goes off, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum look at each other and giggle under their candy stripes, then POW! Damn... now I'm a wet grenade with the pin pulled, and I've got to get up off this steel trough, do a half gainer over that 18 inch wall, skip delicately toward that "Rest Room" door where relief awaits.

Now I want you to imagine this veeewy, veeewy cawfuwwy... there is approximately 7,236 foot/pounds of internal pressure on my internal digestive track... and the inside of that garage door is doing it's very, very best to stay shut; I can barely crunch or otherwise bring my knees up to my chest, or otherwise get into any position that will allow me to high jump that 42 inch steel wall on my new steel bed; I'm cross-eyed with the pain of trying to stay... clenched; and seepage is beginning to seem like a heaven-sent notion to consider. Nurse Ratchet finally shows some humanity and helps me by taking one hand and pulling me toward her (doesn't she know I'm now a weapon of mass destruction?). I consider, briefly... no, I probably shouldn't go into that. Let's just say I say "thank you," and with an excruciating cocktail of pain and embarrassment, manage my way over that 5 foot wall around that stainless steel horror chamber, and run with nothing in my consciousness except that door... that beautiful, hard wood, oak veneered, magical, "release chamber" door!

That so-called gown they give you to clothe yourself while undergoing procedures, which we all hate more than the concept of a wool thong, has at least one, exceptionally convenient, event-based feature... easy access to the garage door! With one Olympic-class leap, I closed and locked the door, turned and landed butt down on that heavenly ring of brilliant, comforting relief.

Five minutes later, once the Niagara ceased to run, I was able to get up, dress, and exit the building... again without eye contact... with a single human being... for 19 days.

We will never speak of this again! Go forth and prosper.

da conzz



2.21.2009

SXSWi is shaping up

It's exciting to see who of my favorite bloggers/writers/educators are coming to SXSWi. I'm a fan of the quickie, one-question interview. It fits into the lightning-fast environment of the conference. There are so many people, so many sessions, so many planned (and un-) demonstrations and activities. It would be folly to resist the swirl and flow. Think the most wired you can be. Think Tron.

Our man back-stage at SX says that all the developer sessions will be in the Hilton, the other tracks in the convention center. Thank You, Thank You, O Wondrous W. That helps tremendously. The Austin Convention Center is huge, AND it's neither continuous nor contiguous. You can only get to some of the floors by schlepping to the opposite end. Some escalators blissfully bypass whole floors as if they were on another planet. It's a little like walking through a dozen airports for five days, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It's easy to miss a 30 minute session when it takes at least that long to walk to the room.

All in all, they handle the massive, high-maintenance, techie crowd pretty well.

Lists about how to prep for SXSWi bloom like mushrooms in a field of cow patties after a rain (that's a GOOD memory, Cowtown Pattie!). Colleen Wainwright at Communicatrix has some great tips, and a fabulous blog. As a matter of fact, I'm working on #2 this weekend--SXSWi-specific business cards. That's what I'm talking about. I have some cards from work, but they don't have my personal info, and my job title has changed. Not suitable for the aforementioned lightning-fast environment. I'm so experimenting with the 2 on-line vendors she recommends.

I'll be searching for more helpful hints to share...

2.14.2009

Axelrod, Jesus, and the Cognitive Dissonance of American Politics and Religion

I'm a preacher's daughter. When you grow up next door to where your dad works, and when he works from home a lot, and when you work in the church a lot--loading the communion trays, ditto-ing and folding bulletins, choir practice, the quotidian tasks of a church mouse--you can say you've been "baptized," "washed in the blood," as it were. Every part of my life was honest-to-god Christian. Poster-family quality. It was great. Until I figured out that some people who also said they were Christian were very mean and hurtful, for no reason I could discern.

1954 Mtn. Grove, Missouri. On the way home from Cabool one night after the movies, we rounded a curve and came upon a wreck. It was pitch dark, and we couldn't see much, but Daddy pulled over. He told us to stay in the car, and ran to the wreck to see what he could do. It seemed like a long time before a state patrol car came along, while we sat paralyzed with dread. My first real tragedy. I later learned that it was truly a tragedy for my father--one of the little boys in the wreck died in his arms, and it may have been the first time I saw my father cry. He was a real life example of a Good Samaritan.

Daddy grew up on a farm, so he was pragmatic about most things--hunted, fished, comfortable with the laws of Nature. But he had a soft spot in his heart, which helped me create an impression of THE Jesus. A man who cared about other people to the point of taking on suffering himself. Who helped others.

At the very same time, this was NOT what I saw some folks doing. Like the whole damn state of Arkansas threatening a few young people who actually WANTED to go to school to learn and grow. I couldn't see Jesus standing on the steps to the school spitting on any child, red, yellow, black or white. Because I learned in Bible School that we are all precious in his sight. Is this not the perfect Jesus all Xtians believe in?

As I grew older, and learned more about the stories and musings behind the daily structure, I found my dad's text from divinity school for New Testament Greek. In Greek. Aha. Coupled (literally) with my mom's influence with words, this propelled me into researching the general topic of religion, especially other peoples' religions. After years of study and reflection, I still believe that Jesus was a man to emulate according to the teachings we've received, no matter how shaky. I have believed since I was around 15, that Buddha and Allah and God are pretty much the same idea, with Jesus, Mohammed, and Zarathustra as the comm link, all swirled around with various colors and flavors of the Holy Ghost, ghospodi, spiritum sanctum, cavorting in Valhalla, Paradise, a sunny beach in Mexico.

Which brings me to what set off this rant. David Axelrod in an interview with someone from the WaPo. Thinking that he is just the person to be where he is right now. Kinda reminds me of Bill Moyers back when he was in politics, LBJ's press secretary, et al. Bill has that Jesus/Buddha-like quality of calm, open-minded reason, willing to do the heavy lifting into researching and reporting the truth. David Axelrod speaks the truth. I think the new administration in general is speaking the truth. Time to act more like Jesus and less like the obliterating Old Testament God of Hate that some self-styled "Christians" like our former VP and other twists to their own ends. It's a hard parallel to make, but it's stunning how politics has become so in service of a wrathful deity to practically self-immolate. At the least, to polarize politics right along with this Christian dichotomy of cognitive dissonance. At least in Hinduism, there is a pantheon of gods and goddesses to more closely mirror the human condition. Even the duality of Buddhism is a cyclical reminder that we are all one, it's all connected.

However, the destructive example of Christianity found in this country doesn't look that different to me than that of Sunni vs. Shi'ia--similar ideology--my god's better than your god, and I'm going to kill you. We're better than that.

Not an especially Christian thing to say. On the other hand, I don't advocate bombing, starving, torturing, or surrounding them with that wretched depleted uranium, or giving all the money to buddies instead of the people who it's supposed to help. I do wish that people would stop listening to them and putting any kind of Jesus-loving link to what they're saying. Jesus is better than that. Don't feed the animals.

2.11.2009

SXSWi list time

This March, several of my colleagues will be learning, networking, interacting with old friends, and generally absorbing emerging information at SXSWinteractive. TechieU. I learn so much in a fairly short, very inexpensive (since I live in Austin), and the whole experience is one gigundidas, intensely brain-stimulating, immersion in the internet and those who are expanding its horizons. This is the place to go problem-solve, find new solutions, "get under the hood," in the vernacular.

So. First things first. What do I need to prepare? Here's a sloppy list:

  1. Collect and secure hardware
  2. Initiate communications links, especially with my peeps
  3. Group blog the shit out of it
  4. Groceries: boxed soup, hardy fruits/veggies, h2o bottle, nuts, power bars
  5. Conference in a Backpack stuff for work
  6. Living in the Austin Civic Center for 5 days in a Backpack stuff for me
  7. Laundry
  8. Make sure there's enough cat food for the duration
  9. Make sure everyone is once and for all down with the fact that this is a grueling, deeply-focused marathon that will assault all your senses and nerves for what will eventually become an extremely long week, because it goes over the weekend, and it wears me out
OK. That's a start. #2 will involve a lot of coordination, to do what I'd like to do: videotape it, blog it, Twitter it, lens it, live interviews--it's like The Matrix. You are totally plugged in. Even if you (personally) aren't. They splash the SXSWi live blog on the big monitors. You see what everyone is commenting simultaneously. They text you updates to the programs, reminders to be at this or that session. You get your own page on the site to keep track of all your stuff. There are hundreds and hundreds of sessions. This is the most concentrated pool of internet biz folks there is.

"Coming to you live, from the Internet Cafe!" Whoa. Totally. Everybody get their friends together and introduce them to folks at work. Wonder if we can carry in camera equipment? Put it on the list...