Monday, October 31, 2005

Lead to follow

At a fork in the road I never know which way to go. I could follow April and chuck it all or I could follow Hooch and check off a couple more lines from my notebook. Tonight the notebook, maybe the other tomorrow.

The notebook is an actual physical book, though it's just a plain, spiral-bound, wide-rule, 70-page (minus 2 torn out) notebook that I scribble ideas into more or less as they come. Dreams, daydreams, weird shit that occurs to me in the shower (strangely, that's where I think up most of my weirdest stuff), book, movie, and TV quotes. Generally I just scribble down a line or two and that's enough to reignite my imagination when I'm writing late at night. The page I scanned is from many months ago. The checkmarks attest that at some point each of those ideas (save one) have made it into an entry at one time or another. Yes, I only write in red in this notebook. No, I don't know why. Yes, this is just scribbling and not representative of my handwriting. No, you can't see the current page.

And now, following Hooch's lead, I'm going to check off three lines which happen to be movie quotes. I'm not, however, going to expand on them or tell you what they're from. It doesn't matter and it's not a contest.

"I'm not the man I dreamt I would be when I was young."
"But Charlie, don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted."
"I fear you'd think less of her because she's with me."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Quick Take

But first, a little peek behind the scenes here:
Most of these entries are written weeks or months in advance, by several different collaborators and edited a few days before being posted. Thus, the highly polished appearance and the general lack of current events that you've come to know and love. It's an expensive and time-consuming process, but you're worth it. (Well, not you *pointing* or you *pointing again* but in general most of you are merely adequate.)

However, I thought I'd break from convention and post a quick take on the professional sports disaster that recently took place or, The Astros Debacle, as it's come to be known. It seems that in professional baseball there is a championship series at the end of the season to determine which team is superior to all others. For the first time in the history of the sport, the Houston team (hence the Astros part of the Astros Debacle, as it's come to be known) was chosen to participate in this contest. At first glance, this sounds like one of those silly teen movies where the captain of the football team invites the homely girl to the prom and we all learn a lesson about tolerance and inner beauty. (If you haven't seen that movie, don't panic, they'll make another one next summer.) But after a 4-game sweep, the World Series folks have got to be pretty red-faced about the whole thing, their friends wondering aloud why they didn't ask Atlanta instead. (Sure, Atlanta's kind of a skank, but at least we know she puts out.) I predict that next year it goes to a system kind of like the old college bowl games where they get to invite the teams based on popularity. It's better for ticket sales anyway and that's what's really important.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

No, lie to him. He likes it.

lie (lī), n.
1. A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
2. Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
A lie is a statement made by someone who believes or suspects it to be false, in the expectation that the hearers may believe it. Thus a true statement may be a lie if the speaker thinks it is false. Fictions, though false, are not lies. Depending on definitions, a lie can be a genuine falsehood or a selective truth, a lie by omission, or even the truth if the intention is to deceive or to cause an action not in the listener's interests. To lie is to tell a lie. A person who tells a lie, and especially a person who habitually tells lies, is a liar. To lie involves intentional deception.

There are some types of lie that are considered acceptable, desirable, or even mandatory, due to social convention. Types of conventional lie include:
  • excuses to avoid or terminate an undesired social encounter;
  • assurance that a social encounter is desired or has been pleasurable;
  • telling a dying person whatever they want to hear;
  • concealment of a breach of taboo.
Most people engage in such conventional lying, and do not apply the usual moral disapproval of lying to such situations. Conventional lies are viewed as a lesser category of lie, similar to white lies. However, a minority of people view them as malicious lies.

The capacity of hominids to lie is noted early and nearly universally in human development and language studies with Great Apes. One famous lie by the latter was when Koko the Gorilla, confronted by her handlers after a tantrum in which she had torn a steel sink out of its moorings, signed in American Sign Language, "cat did it," pointing at her tiny kitten. It is unclear if this was a joke or a genuine attempt at blaming her tiny pet.

All That Lies - Jason Mraz
Big Lie Small World - Sting
I Could Have Lied - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Lie To Me - Chris Isaak
Lie To Me - Jonny Lang
Lies - Elton John
Lies - Save Ferris
Lies Of A Lonely Friend - Amos Lee
Some Of My Lies Are True (Sooner Or Later) - Huey Lewis & The News
Tell Me A Little Lie - Huey Lewis & The News
True Lies - Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Tell The Truth - Eric Clapton

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Book Review

In lieu of actual content, I thought I'd tell you about yet another book I've just finished reading:

The Engines of Our Ingenuity by Dr. John Lienhard. Dr. Lienhard, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston, is also the author and narrator of the nationally syndicated (NPR) radio program of the same name. The radio program is a roughly 5-minute monologue often about some obscure aspect of technology's impact on our lives, more or less through the historical perspective of technological evolution. The book's chapters are considerably longer, incorporating similar themes from several radio programs. In roughly the same vein as James Burke's series Connections (formerly on The Learning Channel, as well in book form), Engines discusses the art of invention behind the science required to make it happen. This is not a course in how to be creative, however. Readers without a scientific background will find the material easily accessible and uncomplicated. There is, unfortunately, something missing from the writing to draw the reader into that "can't put it down" state that I found with Burke's books.

<memorable passage>
The simple fact is that you and I create our own memorials. If wealth is our objective, then wealth is our memorial. If fame is our objective, fame may very well be all we get. But look around at the memorials of anonymous technologies that have made a better world- leaps of the mind that made the automobile differential, the pencil sharpener, the electric plug, the drop-leaf table, and the lawn sprinkler. I suppose we might find out who invented each of these things, but we are not likely to. Yet the inventions make finer memorials for the quixotic, mentally driven people who gave them to us than wealth or tombstones ever could.
The situation is not much different in engineering and technology. Inventions burst forth when the world is ready to shift under our feet. We may designate this or that contributor as the titular inventor, but that is only a matter of convenience. Most of the people who give us new technologies have no memorial. Rather, we select arbitrary heroes and let them tell of the collective wisdom. We celebrate Edison, Bell, Morse, and Fulton not because they transcend you and me but because they encapsulate what you and I are capable of doing if we choose to. Those arbitrary heroes reflect what countless others (like us) have already done, over and over, to put us where we are.
from Chapter 14
</memorable passage>

Sunday, October 23, 2005


First I want to thank Houston TranStar for their highly informative and helpful traffic cameras which are accessible via the web for people like myself wanting to determine the best route through Houston's disaster of a freeway system.

Photos such as the one to the right are typical of what you can expect from the cleanest, most well-run city in.. oh nebermind, you get it.

Second, although I'm not in the habit of doing it very often, I thought I'd pass along a URL that I thought was just too cool not to share. A friend of mine told me about Google Map Pedometer a few days ago. Google maps by themselves are pretty cool, with the ability to switch back and forth between map & satellite images, but the pedometer overlay lets you click (hint: double-click) on points and it'll tell you the distance between them. As far as I can tell, it's quite accurate as well. Very handy for determining the path you're going to go walking tonight. (In other words, go outside and get some exercise you lazy bastards.)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

More Photos

Another new photo album posted with pictures from today's outing downtown. The weather was about as nice as weather gets. Combined with yesterday's outing and all the top-down driving I've got a bit of a sunburn on my face.

[Ok Ms. Smartypants, which one of these is my favorite?]

Friday, October 21, 2005


New photo album from Friday's trip to the park.

[Bonus points if you can figure out which one is simultaneously my favorite and least-favorite.]

Thursday, October 20, 2005

By Pete

To keepin' silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut
So I went from day to day
Tho' my life was in a rut
Till I thought of what I'd say
Which connection I should cut
I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery
My heart going boom boom boom
"Hey" he said "Grab your things
I've come to take you home.
-P. Gabriel

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Call Guinness

Does anyone know the record for hours spent staring at a blank computer screen? I think I could be a contender for that one. It's not for lack of thinking about it though. I put on some music and find a lyric in EVERY damn song that fits what I'm thinking at that instant. The blank page mocks me.

I went to a lecture this evening given by the executive director of a company for whom I'd love to work. This company has been around for 70 years or so, and although it's not a household name it's been near the top of my shortlist for a while now. So I was quite excited to hear about this lecture and it lived up to my hype (no, you would have been bored). This executive's story is not unlike my father's, or even my own as-yet-incomplete story. It just made me want to work there all the more. I grabbed his business card after the talk, so maybe just maybe I can start something. When things seem too tough to bear, I have to step back and remind myself that this is what I really want. Sound advice, but it doesn't get me from here to there.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Karma for fun & profit

Yesterday (Sunday) was my birthday. I don't tell you this so that you'll wish me a belated happy birthday. No, I'd be just as happy if you didn't. I'm cool with it if you want to mark your calendar and try again next time, just not this year. I don't like my birthday, since it has always marked the beginning of the holiday season for me. The holiday season that brings everyone else such joy and happiness signals the beginning of my seasonal depression. It's a reminder of all the things I have yet to accomplish as time ticks steadily away. I don't have much time left though. Well, none of us do. Don't waste your time. Be vigilant against those people and things that distract you. Do the things you want to do, say the things you want to say, be with those you want to be with. Get each other drunk and dance in the light of the full moon.

I got birthday cards in the mail from my grandmother and my insurance agent. I got emails from one of my cousins, her mother, a former-coworker/groomsman, and my ex-wife. I got phone calls from a different aunt and Allie, the best friend a guy (or gal, for that matter) could ever have. I got a very nice steak dinner and the other $100 to pay for my tires from mom & dad. But I still think about what I haven't got. Didn't get.

I feel guilty for writing this, because you might feel bad (or sorry) for me. But you didn't know and I'd have to be a ass to hold that against you. If anything, I kept it from you. It's over and done with now. I'll be done with the seasonal depression by February or so. Maybe check back with me then.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Sorry for the delay folks, just thought I'd give you extra time to think about that last entry. Right? Believe me? Good. Moving on...

It was a rough weekend, starting Thursday night with a blowout on the freeway coming home from school. Good thing (actually, yes) that it was 9:30 at night or the "Safe Clear" nazis would have been forced to tow me. As it was, I got the spare on in less than 5 minutes without Ralphie-boy expletives. But this is my Carson Daly karma - I won $100 online two weeks ago, so I spent $200 Friday morning on new tires. $208, if you include treating myself to BBQ since I was practically right next door. The BBQ will show up as an auto repair expense when I balance the checkbook because of the sauce.

So with Friday ruined (except for a nice evening walk) I figured to try to go to the park on Saturday. I love to sit under the trees on the edge of the duck pond and watch them maneuver like toy boats for tiny scraps of bread. Unfortunately Saturday is when everyone else goes to the park, so parking was horrendous. I got into a bit of a scrap with a man who thought it was ok to stand in a parking space to save it for his wife who was driving around elsewhere. He relented and I got the spot, but he loitered around my car after I got out and went into the rose garden. I watched from the other side of the fence as his wife walked up (presumably having parked elsewhere) and the two of them loitered around my car, going so far as to write down my license plate number (to have me towed?). When I stood up and walked to the fence the wife approached me, but I avoided talking to her as I had my headphones on. She tried to pick a verbal fight with me, but when I pulled my camera out of my bag her expression fell and she turned around and walked away. I thought about following them and taking pictures of them anyway, but the whole mood was shot. The park was far too busy to enjoy a little peace & nature so I got in my car and left.

So with Saturday ruined, how much worse could Sunday be? If you only knew. No, I'm not going to complain any further. I'll look for the good. Well, I did 34 laps today, my personal best. I vacuumed and watched "Must Love Dogs" (Predictable yes, but I'm a huge loser sucker for the romantic comedy. Plus Diane Lane? Hubba hubba!). Had a nice dinner with the family- steaks & lamb chops *drool* at Capital Grille seated next to Raul Chavez (some kind of professional athlete, I'm told). Key lime pie AND creme brulee (well, shared), since I'm not getting any younger and I intend to enjoy it. Double desserts and a full moon, you should have called- I would have invited you all along.

[Ed. note: ZXQ is when you're playing scrabble and those are your tiles. You got nothing.]

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Defeating the porpoise

[Ed. note: He went kind of nuts with the italics tonight. Blame the changing seasons.]

As I was writing last night, the conservative, logical side of my brain flickered to life for a bit, though I managed to stifle it long enough to finish writing. What briefly flashed through my brain was the question of how to get home? I thought maybe I'd just show up in either LA, Chicago, or Boston where I suppose I could just turn around and go back the way I came. I've got frequent flyer miles. I could get on a plane to save time.

But then that side of the brain shut down again. I was left with questions like-
What's my hurry to go home?
What does home even mean?
What's the purpose if I've already worked out the way backwards?

It occurs to me that I don't even like the sound of the word home. Does that make me a home-o-phobe? (HA! I easily amuse myself.) Seriously, I don't like that long-O sound. I could substitute my place for the h-word, but I think you see to what kind of trouble that could lead. (From HA! to Aha!) Does owning a townhome, with responsibility for a mortgage, insurance, utilities, a car (and so on) mean that I have a place. Clearly, none of that stuff makes it any less certain that I don't. Would a job? What about a wife/girlfriend? Kid(s)? No, not necessarily, no idea. I can think of a dozen places I'd rather be, but simply being there doesn't make it my place.

So I ask you, dear reader, what's your place and how did you get there?

[Interesting related article at]

Monday, October 10, 2005

Still here

Yes, of course I'm still here. Where would I go? Rhetorical question, perhaps. Maybe not. I went for a very long walk the other night, trying to clear out the little snippets of conversations not fit for blogging and regrets of having said the right thing at the wrong time to the maybe person. At first, it was a conscious effort to clear my mind, which of course is the surest way to singlemindedly focus on those things. At the end of the block the perfect rhythmic blinking of a yellow traffic signal hypnotized me and it was all gone for a while. Other things came into view, like the sliver of a waxing moon, Venus and Mars following me around- an appropriate symbol I just now recognize. But I was in the walking zone and I found myself wishing I could just keep going, heading west out of town with no particular destination. At some point I turned around, my mental autopilot finding the route back. I heard all sorts of things in the music that night. Lyrics I know by heart but never paid attention to. I'm not sure who surprised me most, because it's not automatically a certain guarantee that everybody here would know exactly what I was talking about. Those were happy endings though.

Back at home and a day or two later I still feel the wanderlust, a desire to just look out the window and watch it all stream past. I'd throw my toothbrush and a blank spiral notebook into my backpack, Kerouac-style, without the drugs & booze (not that I've ever read any of that stuff). No cellphones, no laptops, no mp3 players. Maybe my camera. The Texas Eagle would get me to LA if I drive to San Antonio first. In the other direction it would take me to Chicago and I've never been up there. I'd like to someday see the Field Museum and the Art Institute. From there, I'd be willing to bet that the Lake Shore Limited is a beautiful trip right about now. In any case, it would be a long drive after class Thursday night, but the alternative is sitting around here waiting for adventure to happen to me? The timing isn't great but it would give me a means of escaping this weekend, that's for sure.

Sometimes you just know: 0-6-1.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

An idea

You're still just an idea in my head, not yet flesh and bone.
We can, and do, talk about things that are important to each of us. Sometimes we don't talk about anything important, avoiding certain topics. We listen to the same songs, watch the same shows, laugh at the same jokes. That's the idea anyway.

But you're still just a grain of sand, yet to become the pearl. Coveted.
A precious stone that shines brighter in the sun than locked away behind fortress walls. You're far, far away still. Even if I squint I can't see you. But I'm not sure which direction to go from here. I don't even know if you're real. Because you're not yet real.

I can't tell if the sound is real or imagined, if it's you or my own echo.
The shadows are indistinct as well. Damn that's frustrating. There's even an intoxicating fragrance, but that could be the jasmine outside. Are you sure you're not a figment of my imagination? I'm not. I've got a pretty vivid imagination, but your reality is beyond my wildest.

I guess it doesn't matter, reality that is.
I'm going to wrap my arms around the idea of you.

Monday, October 03, 2005

New chapter

It's late. Something soft and soothing (aside: good word) is playing. Sarah McLachlin, I think. I feel like I've been stuck in this chair forever. It's only been a few hours. I need a new chair, one that doesn't twist my back into knots. I've got a ton of work to do for tomorrow which means no time for chit chat. Well, there's always a little time. If I don't stop every once in a while and take a break the tension just builds up faster and faster. The tune has changed.

I thought this was interesting: the definition of clever, especially the regional note at the bottom. It's a perfectly acceptible compliment here in the South - He's such a clever boy - I had no idea that it isn't universally so.

It appears that I may be getting a roommate. A renter, actually. A friend of mine has signed a contract to sell his house in the 'burb and would like to rent out my downstairs room for a couple of months while he looks for work in Austin. While it'll be nice to have a little help with the bills, I can't say I'm terribly thrilled with the prospect. I've lived alone for far too long, so it'll probably be good for me. Still, I need to figure out all the rules I need to impose. All of my cookware and cutlery is good stuff- handwash only, which is a lot to ask of someone else. I'm sure he's got all of that stuff himself which can probably all go in the dishwasher, so we either need to use all of his stuff, or keep everything separate. Plus, I'm a no-shoes-in-the-house person. Just the tip of the iceberg, really...

What are your best roommate rules?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Book Reviews

I've finished a couple of books I thought you might like to know about. The first is Pendulum, Léon Foucault and the Triumph of Science by Amir Aczel. Although the debate about whether or not the Earth revolved around the Sun (or vice versa) was pretty much resolved in the 18th century (despite protestations from the Church), by the middle of the 19th century it had yet to be conclusively proven, mathmatically or experimentally. Enter Leon Foucault, an extraordinarilly bright and largely self-educated man. Foucault was outside the educational elite, which at that time meant he was not to be taken seriously. In the basement of his mother's Parisian home he hung a pendulum from a nearly frictionless pivot and very carefully set it into motion (via a burning string, so as to avoid the influence of a human push). His pendulum, when begun with a north-south swing, deflects ever so slightly in a clockwise motion (i.e. on the north-to-south swing it moves ever so slightly to the west, while the south-to-north swing moves ever so slightly to the east). Eventually, the accumulated deflections will cause the pendulum to precess through 360-degrees, the speed at which it does so is proportional to the lattitude at which the pendulum swings. [The deflection would later be named after another Frenchman as the Coriolis Effect, which is also responsible for the rotation of hurricanes and other weather systems.] Aczel's book is a pretty easy read, but it helps if you agree with him right off the bat that Foucault was unjustly "shunned" by the academic community. Foucault is the underdog throughout the book, and while it might seem like it makes a good story, I personally would have preferred more insight from the minds of those who likely had good reason (at the time) to doubt him.

The second book I recently finished was Time by Alexander Waugh. This book is a fairly detailed explanation of nearly every aspect of the human perception of time. From the origins and definition of a second (currently, 9,192,631,770 oscillations of the electromagnetic radiation corresponding to a particular quantum change in the superfine energy level of the ground-state of the cesium-133 atom) to millenia, eras, and eternity. Waugh writes with a subtle, clever humor as he winds through history, science, folklore, and philosophy. Always in search of a quotable passage, I rather liked this bit from the final chapter on the end of time, himself quoting William Hazlitt (1778-1830):
Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not. This gives us no concern - why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be? I have no wish to have been alive a hundred years ago, or in the reign of Queen Anne: why should I regret and lay it so much to heart that I shall not be alive a hundred years hence, in the reign of I cannot tell whom? ... To die is only to be as we were before we were born; yet no one feels any remorse, or regret, or repugnance, in contemplating this last idea. It is rather a relief and disburthening of the mind: it seems to have been holiday-time with us then: we were not called to appear upon the stage of life, to wear robes or tatters, to laugh or cry, be hooted or applauded; we had lain perdus all this while, snug, out of harm's way; and had slept out our thousands of centuries without wanting to be waked up; at peace and free from care, in a long nonage, in a sleep deeper and calmer than that of infancy, wrapped in the finest and softest dust. And the worst that we dread is, after a short, fretful, feverish being, after vain hopes, and idle fears, to sink to final repose again, and forget the troubled dream of life!

My last post was entitled "Deprived of Oxygen", which I chose after a particularly sad episode of ER. While I don't claim to have the same powers of suggestion as one reader, it was an unlucky omen for a friend of mine. It seems that his cousin and an uncle both suffocated to death at the bottom of a well in St. Louis friday evening. I accept nor feel blame, though my deepest apologies and condolences go out to the families.