Carving a Canyon

Jul 30, 2009

Some conversations are like working your way through solid rock one drop of water at a time. The water wins, eventually. But the rock puts up a hell of a fight.

Not good sales practice, really.

Full to Bursting

Jul 28, 2009

I've been in training all day today and will continue through tomorrow morning. The great news is that this training is pretty great and applies to almost everything I do. The not-so-great news is that (like most other training) we're trying to cram a BUNCH of information and skills into our limited brains ALL AT ONCE.

The upshot is that by 4pm, I had a headache. And now, two hours and two Advil later, I still have a headache.

Ah well.


Jul 25, 2009

Tea & Toast. But not any ordinary tea and toast. English Breakfast Tea, brewed strong and dark and served with cream. And whole wheat toast, buttered and topped with bread & butter pickles.

Pickles. Second only to the best bread & butter pickles on the planet. I'm pretty sure I learned to enjoy these sweet delights on buttered toast from my Dad. And if memory serves, he and I could eat an entire jar all on our own. In one sitting.

My grandmother made the absolute best bread & butter pickles ever. Cut thick and packed into a little pint-sized Mason or Bell jar. The ones I enjoyed this morning were not hers, sadly. But they were made by someone's grandmother, sold a the local Farmer's Market. Unbelievable thinly sliced, light on the sugar, heavy on the celery seed. Good, but not quite perfect.

Nonetheless, a tasty way to start the day.

Love you, Dad. Hope you had a happy birthday and wished we could have shared a meal this morning. Mwah!

How to Clean Out the Freezer

Jul 23, 2009

Place one 750ml glass bottle of Perrier in top shelf of freezer.

Return in three hours.

Remove all contents, including innumerable shards of green glass.

Rinse everything you want to keep. Discard a couple years worth of forgotten, frostbitten food.

Wash out the interior.

Replace contents. And another bottle of Perrier.

Feeling a Little Jumpy

For the past few weeks, I've been experiencing this odd twitching in the muscle just below my left eye. It's completely random. And amazingly irritating.

If I knew what was causing it, I'd make it stop. But as it stands, I'm starting to wonder if something is seriously wrong. Not that I'm neurotic or anything. Or obsessive. Or paranoid. Nope, not me.

News Flash

Jul 22, 2009

If it's after nine o'clock at night and it's dark out and the porch lights are off and no one answers the door bell, then it's a pretty good bet that banging on the door to sell magazines (or get a petition signed or hand out religious tracts or whatever the heck you were doing door-to-door in my neighborhood in the middle of the night) will most definitely get you a seriously dirty look and the most forceful "not interested" you have ever heard in your life.

The Circling Kind of Storm

I pulled Wife extra close to me. I need her extra close. We listened to the booming and then the sheets of rain. We talked about hard things. I wished I could pull her into my skin, so that there would never ever again be anything that could come between us. This is why you have to hold your beloved close, so that nothing divides you, and because sometimes it feels like your heart won’t beat right unless the gentle thunder of her heart’s rhythm finds its way through your flesh.

-Tony Woodlief, Sand in the Gears


Jul 21, 2009

A few movie reviews:

Let's start with the worst, first, shall we? This movie was ghastly. Stupid and confusing plot, followed by a meaningless apocalyptic ending. Everybody dies. Except for some random children who are abducted by aliens (where did they come from) for no apparent reason. It's like the story is moving along just fine but the writers couldn't figure out how to end it, so they march in the stalker extraterrestrials. Yeah, that makes sense. Do yourself a favor and skip this one - even if it does have Nicholas Cage.

Hot Rod
So ridiculously funny, that I watched it two nights in a row. And kept rewinding, so I could laugh again and again. Two weeks later, we're still quote this silly adventure. It's what Napoleon Dynamite wished it had been, except with a fake mustache. This is slapstick humor AND dry humor perfectly combined. Rent it. You won't be disappointed.

Gran Torino
The feel good movie of the year for a reason. Clint Eastwood is at his best - a perfect combination of Josey Wales and Dirty Harry. He's gritty and angry and haunted, and his soul is saved by the very people he initially despises. A riveting story of redemption, sacrifice, and love, and a really beautiful car. And Clint Eastwood. See it.

This one's still in theaters, though you'll have to find the local indie theater to see it. Most definitely a space drama, but really it's a suspense-filled drama about the nature of personhood and identity that happens to be set in space. It's also more proof what an excellent actor Sam Rockwell is. This is one of those films that I'll probably add to the DVD collection, but may or may not ever watch again. Like 2001 or Passion of the Christ - haunting and powerful.


Jul 20, 2009

A: i just had an...interesting... protein shake
A: I made 8oz of my bananna stawberry smoothie stuff
A: 1 scoop of the protein mix
A: what ever was left of your silk
A: and 8oz of orange juice

B: omg
B: you didn't
B: and?

A: I think the OJ was where I messed up


I'm probably going to be castigated by everyone in this town who's trying to Keep Austin Weird, but I'm going to say it anyway.

Barton Springs is overrated. So there.

It's cold, crowded, and filled with algae. And if I have to swim with plants and fishes and other unknown objects in the water, I'm going to swim in the sea. Thank you very much.

The Austin Parks & Rec website says the place "attracts a diverse crowd of people." And that is most definitely, visibly, horrifyingly true. I did not know you could put a tattoo there or grow that much hair there or wear such tiny little speedos that show off both the scary tattoo and all that hair. Definitely keeping it weird.

Suffice it to say: I will be skipping the Springs. For the rest of my life.

Heat Wave

Jul 19, 2009

After about a billion days of 100+ degree heat, Central Texas finally cooled off yesterday. Cooled off to a chilly 99. And you know what's sad about that? This:

"Wow, it feels great out here. I'm so glad the heat finally broke."


"What?!?! It's like ten degrees cooler today."

"Yeah, but it's still hot as hell."

"Well, at least we can enjoy our patio without melting."

"Sweetheart, that's because the sun is going down and the sprinklers are running."

Jury Duty

Jul 16, 2009

So, I spent yesterday (and Monday too, actually) at jury duty. Yesterday was voir dire, which wasn't much fun.

I've been on the opposite side of the rail for voir dire, many years ago, assisting a defense attorney as we scrutinized the answers of twenty unsuspecting citizens. Being one of those citizens was . . . unsettling.

Because, I know what goes through the minds of those interviewing the prospective jurors. It's not really jury selection at all; it's a process of eliminating jury candidates who you think might not agree with your prosecution or defense.

So, should you find yourself impanelled and participating in voir dire, here are a few tips:

  • Be vocal. Answer the questions, give details and examples and your honest opinion. Neither the prosecution nor the defense wants to select someone with strong opinions who would question their evidence, witnesses, and arguments.

  • Admit your biases. Everyone is biased, in varying degrees. This is one of those times when you want to be honest with yourself, the counselors, and the judge. If you can't put aside closely held beliefs, say so. You do a disservice to the defendant not to be honest here.

  • Tell stories. Each attorney will have time to gently interrogate the jury pool. They'll ask general questions about your experiences and those of family and close friends. If those questions apply to you, speak up. Tell them what happened, and let them know if those experiences color your judgement.

  • Answer yes or no. Maybe doesn't count in a court of law. Both counselors will ask hypothetical questions. Imagine the situation and answer honestly. Either you can or cannot do something, there is no try. And if you say you'll try or hope you can or offer any other vague statement, the judge will insist you pick a side.

  • Ask questions. But be careful here. You can ask questions about the definitions of legal terms, the requirements of the prosecution or defense, or about the process. You cannot ask specifics about the case, individuals involved, or evidence to be presented.

The upshot to all this: if you are a vocal individual with strong opinions and biases, who asks a lot of questions and refuses to answer the hypothetical in a satisfactory way, you'll likely NOT be picked for the jury. On the other hand, if you are mild, unbiased, provide short one-word answers, and are generally agreeable, you chances for the jury box increase significantly.

And if you sound like the crazy lady who thinks all crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, that the police are generally right, that almost everyone lies to the cops, and that you cannot be fair based upon a past experience . . . you'll be the first person on the list who both sides want to eliminate. And that's why I'm at work today and not suffering through a trial.

In the Face of Tragedy

Jul 14, 2009

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.

- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Perhaps God grieves as we do. Inconsolable, helpless, heart shredded without hope of repair, the future a yawning chasm of despair.

I don't have words to comfort the loss of a child. Maybe He doesn't either.

On Fire

Jul 12, 2009

The sifted light of dawn had already strengthened as summer blew on the coals of yesterday's heat, ready to throw a new day on the forge.

-Eileen Wilks, Mortal Sins

Voice Mail

Jul 10, 2009

Know what I hate? Voice mail messages that just say "call me."

This is fine for family and friends. Unless it's an emergency, of course. But that goes without saying.

But in business, give me a hint? Help me help you? Please?

Drugged Chickens in Prison

Poignant and true:

Consider two eggs:

If I go the local diner, I can get a high quality diner egg, over easy. The egg is a standard manufactured egg, created in quantity by drugged chickens in prison.

If I make an egg at home, I'll use a free range egg from the farmer's market, which I'll happily pay 39 cents for. This egg tastes like an egg, and the extra money pays for a local farmer and a (slightly) happier chicken.

-Seth Godin, Quality, scale and the regular kind

Now, Seth's post is about the minor cost of major improvements in subjective quality. But I'm going to pretend he was writing about the chickens. Drugged chickens in prison, specifically.*

And it's not just the chickens. It's the cows and the pigs and every other food animal that somehow finds its way to your grocer's fresh meat department. UNLESS you happen to shop at an HEB or Central Market or Whole Foods or specialty grocer or a local farmer's market, where you can purchase free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, pork, poultry, and eggs.

Yes, it's more expensive and more difficult to acquire, but only slightly. It's also more humane and generally tastier. It doesn't contribute to the drugged torture of some defenseless animal, but rewards conscientious farmers who care about their product, their environment, and our health.

Learn more:
Farm Sanctuary
Factory Farming on Wikipedia
Sustainable Table
Food Inc.
Free Screenings of Food Inc.

*side note: is that not the funniest turn of phrase you've heard today?

Home Cooking

Jul 9, 2009

There's not much that beats leftover barbeque smothered in Rudy's Sauce and served with okra & tomatoes and potato salad and baked beans.

Just wish I hadn't run out of potato salad a couple days ago. Or had a spare can of Bush's baked beans in the pantry. But the okra & tomatoes are always a favorite around here.


Chowing Down

Ever been to that place where you're so hungry you take a bite out of the inside of your cheek? And you're bleeding. And your cheek swells, so that you're now eating your cheek every single time you chew. And the next morning, it's still swollen and painful.

Yeah, that sucks.

Olfactory Stimulation

Jul 8, 2009

And all these memories come rushing
like feral waves to your mind.
Of the curl of your bodies,
like two perfect circles entwined.
And you feel hopeless and homeless
and lost in the haze of the wine.

-The Airborne Toxic Event, Sometime Around Midnight

Enough Already!

For the past week I have consciously avoided any and all news outlets in silent protest of the non-stop eulogizing of some washed-up drug-addicted pedophile pop star whose family and friends and fans don't have the decency for a quiet, private memorial service. In death, as in life, the hangers-on and users are doing their best (or perhaps worst?) to profit from this man's fame. It's a three-ring circus complete with clowns and trained poodles.

And this I learned: idolatry comes in all shapes and sizes. In my righteous indignation, I say "look at me, I'm not like those crazed fans begging for tickets (!) to a funeral. I'm not like them. I don't worship any musician."

Oh, but I might indeed. Perhaps not musicians, but maybe politicians or business leaders or preachers or individuals with other talents I covet.


Yes, covet . . . idolize . . . admiration gone awry.

Handsome explained it thus: there is an art to dealing with others as equals. We are not equal due to some cosmic least common denominator; we're equal thanks to a divine greatest common denominator. The president, the CEO, the preacher, the pop star and me and you - we're all unique, exquisite creations of a loving God. We can deal with one another with humility and grace, rather than superiority or groveling.

And when we finally realize and internalize that lesson, we are set free from the trappings of idols.


Jul 7, 2009

The external world is remarkably consistent, and yet we blame it for what's going on inside of us. People who think the world is going to end always manage to find a new thing that's going to cause it to end. People itching to be bummed out all day long will certainly find an external event that give their emotion some causal cover. The thinking happens long before the event that we blame the thinking on.
. . .
[W]e spend money on external forces in an attempt to heal internal pain. Marketers want the equation to be, "if you buy this, everything will be all right."

I wish it were so easy.

- Seth Godin, The Confusion

Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Jul 1, 2009

gregarious (adj) - fond of the company of others; sociable; outgoing

loquacious (adj) - talking or tending to talk much or freely; talkative; chattering; babbling; garrulous

capricious (adj) - subject to, led by, or indicative of caprice or whim; erratic; fanciful

Lessons from a Weekend in the Garden

Leave the heavy lifting to the men folks.

Buy twice as much potting soil and plants as you think you need.

Plan on more than one trip to the home improvement store. (For more potting soil. And plants.)

Save the receipts and labels. (Something will have to go back . . . probably on the fourth or fifth trip.)

Wear sunscreen. And Off.

Don't spray Off in your face. You'll get a rash.

Don't get Off in your eyes. Or your mouth. Your mouth will go numb and your eyes will sting.

Don't wipe your forehead or nose with the back of your dirty garden gloves. (Sweat plus dirt = mud. Snot plus dirt = sticky mud.)

Wear gloves and a hat.

Keep the Neosporin and Band-Aids handy. (The rose bush has plans for world domination.)

Drink lots of water. Lots of cold, cold water.

Enjoy yourself, even if you're doing manual labor in 106 degree heat.

Reward your husband for all his hard work and patience and the seven trips to the home improvement store. With barbeque on the patio, where you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.