Saturday, December 24, 2005

Those Last-Minute Christmas Shoppers are Murder!

Hope you're safe and warm at home.
Happy Holidays to one and all!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hope Despairs

Today I get the lab results from my blood and urine samples to see if my thyroid or something else may be causing or greatly contributing to my depression. For once I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a prescription for an anti-depressant. As much as I’ve disliked them in the past I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my sanity if I keep spiraling downward. Maybe they’ve invented something that won’t kill my art. It’s a hell of a trade-off - selling your creativity to feel ok. Imagine Van Gogh on Prozac.

Friday, November 18, 2005


I’m finding pieces of my life popping up in the oddest places.

My latest enthusiasm is for podcasts. The metal walls and roof of our building at work make it very difficult for radio reception. Listening to baseball or basketball games on an AM station is an impossibility and weaker stations that carry jazz, classical music or NPR are barely audible. Until recently we could get a few internet radio stations on iTunes but the new firewall prevents anything from coming across. So podcasts are a lifesaver. I can get at least an hour or two of NPR via their variety of podcasts and a smattering of music and other stuff that I’ve only begun to explore.

I’m recommending three podcasts this week: LOST, RhinoCast, and Ritmo Latino. Ritmo Latino is, as its name implies, a one-hour program of strictly Latin Music. It may be flamenco, rap, cumbia, or any of a variety of salsas from the Americas, Europe, and beyond. Highly entertaining and energetic – updated weekly and I’ve just begun to listen to the February episodes. You can learn more at

The Lost podcast that I refer to is the “official” ABC podcast, which is mostly discussion by the writers about the writing and production of the show with a few brief appearances by cast members. It doesn’t reveal any secrets, so you won’t miss anything by not listening, but I enjoy hearing about the writers’ creative process. The podcasts started just two weeks ago, and are added each Monday to the iTunes site.

RhinoCasts is, of course Rhino Record Company, notable for re-releasing so much great classic rock’n’roll music that might otherwise have been lost in obscurity. There are ten episodes currently available. The first episode focused on Lowell George, famous for his band Little Feat, and on “Weird Tales from The Ramones”, a new boxed set of Ramones music along with some great comic-book type art. My immediate conclusion was the podcasters were fanatic about their particular subject, so if you like the minutiae of music, this may be for you. I still have 9 episodes to listen to; hope they’re as good. See the Rhino Records site for more great stuff.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

orange peel

I’ve developed a penchant for the color orange and it’s creeping, ivy-like, across my walls and floors. Most of my life I never cared much for yellow or orange, but preferred instead to decorate my home with blues and purples. The house I live in now is dark, and I soon despaired at the dark paneled walls of the living area. I tried painting the wood with whites, then pinks, then ochre, and finally covered it with a medium bright yellow. Maybe I like yellow because it gives the illusion of sunshine. Now the oranges are insinuating themselves in the curtains, in the design of the carpet, in accents accompanied by red. More than the feeling of light, it feels like hopefulness.

The holiday season is here, which means I’ll have no time to enjoy it. It’s the beginning of our second-busiest time at work as we prepare catalogs for spring, easter and summer. It’s a sad and sorry situation. We have to produce a certain number of pages to meet a company-set goal but the work comes in waves; we have a few months of almost no work and then we have a few months where the work is almost insurmountable. The work in the peak period can’t be done without all hands working extra hours and/or hiring temporary personnel to help us but the net monetary gain is lost from money paid in extra wages. We have to cut back on personnel and then we have to work more hours. So the holidays are a humbug for me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

freeze, suckahs!

The flamingos cursed their luck. Having finally persuaded the current homeowners by their pinkness that they should rightfully be kept not in the garage but on display for all the world to see as it trafficked by, the foursome were met with the garrulous winds of the first November freeze and found their pinkness sombered by a thin coating of ice. It had taken months to acquire their feted position but in the garage they’d had no concept of time or seasons. All their pink shrimpness was a waste. Junior stuck his head in a rock, protesting their fate.

Next September they’d eat rotten brown bananas.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

sign o the time

I'm almost always surprised when I see any anti-bush displays in Dallas.

I've just discovered the Al Franken podcasts on the iTunes site. I recommend the recent episode with guest Bebe Neurith. (take THAT, conservative talkers!)

Monday, November 14, 2005


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

---Thank you, Lewis Carroll

Here’s where you can find the original “Jabberwocky.” There are some translations and parodies of the poem, too. Kudos to any translator who can convey the feeling of the original!

phoebe vs the squirrels

I helped Phoebe spy on the squirrels on Saturday and now she thinks I should be out there all the time….. We have red squirrels which seem to me to be more rodent-like than the grey squirrels I’ve seen in more northerly regions. I don’t know how smart they are, but they seem to love teasing my dog, perching on the birdbath or in the leaves, just out of reach and leaping to safety at the last moment. It drives her crazy. She’s almost cat-like in her patience but has only killed one that we know of. She spends most of her waking hours watching and waiting for them.

It’s a poor year for pecans; hardly any on the tree in our front yard (or the rest of the neighborhood) so the squirrels are extra-active in the oak trees. It’s not the bumper crop of acorns that we saw last year but there’s a good supply. We have a single oak tree in the back yard so it’s easy to watch the squirrels doing their balancing acts while they select the tastiest acorns. Often there are 3 or 4 at a single time, pillaging in all corners of the tree. They have defined trails – they’ll run along the low skinny branch over to the wood telephone pole, then up and over the electrical transformer where they scurry along the wires to the next house. Or they’ll take the higher branch which has so much sway that it gives the air of a trapeze artist in motion as the squirrel swings down several feet and leaps over to a branch extending from the neighbor’s tree.

There are a lot of dead squirrels in the streets. Some of them may have fallen from their wires or branches but the majority have probably been hit by cars. During their seasons of high activity you can see squirrels darting back and forth across streets, playing “tag” with other squirrels, chasing off intruders, pursuing the opposite sex. They have a peculiar habit of running into the street and if a car is coming they freeze for a moment, act as if they will keep running, and then pivot and run back the way they came. As someone who’s nearly killed several squirrels, I can tell you this is a driving challenge. There’s hardly any way to avoid hitting the squirrel unless you can stop immediately. Hard to do that unless you’re on a residential street with no traffic.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

what's in YOUR wallet?

Depression brings out the psychic in me…..

I’ve been thinking about the Tarot off and on since I discovered that “Rueda d’la Fortuna” card with the white bear on it and wondered what it had to do with “LOST.” I finally found my old dusty Universal Waite deck and am becoming reacquainted with its metaphoric imagery. What I call “iconography” (or the use of images) was one of my favorite aspects of cultural anthropology. It was so amazing to find that the ancient Paracas civilization on the Pacific coast of Peru used many of the same symbols as the ancient Egyptians. Unless you believe in Atlantis, you might conclude that there’s some kind of universal human interpretation of magical forces.

And reading cards might turn out to be a good party trick, eh?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Here comes another winter...

Of long shadows and high hopes
Here comes another winter
Waitin' for utopia
Waitin' for hell to freeze over

Let the poor drink the milk while the rich eat the honey
Let the bums count their blessings while they count the money

So many people can't express what's on their minds
Nobody knows them, nobody ever will
Until their backs are broken, their dreams are stolen
And they can't get what they want, then they're gonna get angry!
Well it ain't written in the papers but its written on the walls
The way this country is divided to fall
So the cranes are moving on the skyline
Trying to knock down this town
But the stains on the heartland can never be removed
from this country that's sick, sad and confused

The ammunition's being passed and the Lord's been praised
But the wars on the televisions will never be explained
All the bankers gettin' sweaty beneath their white collars
As the pound in our pocket turns into a dollar

--from “Heartland” by Matt Johnson, 1986

Some things never change

info on The The

Friday, November 11, 2005

names & numbers

I’ve been making up little things to do to help get me through my recent bout of depression. I used to carry my camera with me everywhere but suddenly or gradually, I don’t remember, I stopped taking pictures. So now I’m picking it up again a little at a time. Baby steps. Since I don’t have much enthusiasm or creativity right now, I just started shooting what was in front of me, and I’m amassing a collection of address numbers painted on the curbs in my neighborhood. This photo is a one-of-a-kind color combination (so far).

Another idea I had was to list all the nicknames used by Sawyer on “LOST”. I’ve been giggling at them since the day he called Sayid “Mohammed”. Being lazy, or cheap, or clever, I circumvented the necessity of spending money on the Season One DVD and found my project in progress at several LOST chat sites. So I filtered through the discussions and came up with a composite list. I don’t attest to its accuracy or completeness. I also added a few references and links.

The Mighty Huntress
Boar Expert
The Belle of the Ball
Naval Gazing no-fun mopey type

Dr. Quinn – Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
Dr. Do-Right
Saint Jack

Captain Falafel

Mike (he’s the only one who calls him Mike)

Short Stack
Short Round – Indiana Jones & Temple of Doom
Opie - The Andy Griffith Show
Tattoo – Fantasy Island - “de plane, de plane”
(some argued it wasn’t Tattoo but instead was Gazoo – the little green genie from The Flintstones)

Mr. Miyagi – the Karate Kid
Bruce – Bruce Lee
Sulu – Star Trek
Kato – Green Hornet


Stay-Puft - marshmallow man from Ghostbusters
Pork Pie

Pregnant Girl
Missy Claire


Reject from VH1 has-beens
Limey little runt
Has been pop star
MTV has-been

Baby Huey – comic book duck

Han and Chewy - Star Wars


Mr. Ed – the talking horse

Rambina - Rambo
Ponce de Leon – fruitless exploration to find the fountain of youth

What he calls the “bad guys”
ETHAN -Jungle Boy
PIGGY – the boar
GUY ON BOAT that took Walt - Bluebeard
AUSSIE COP – Croc Hunter

Thursday, November 10, 2005

off key

in the
of day

Take this
learn to play

All your life
waiting for this moment led astray

(apologies to the Beatles)


a broken life led astray; that's how my depression makes me feel. It had been dogging me for a few years but I kept it at bay with a large stick and my camera. When I wasn't looking, when I laid down my arms, it crept in and wrapped around my heart. Now just getting out of bed is a difficulty. Almost the only interaction that doesn't feel forced is with my dog. I'm so glad she came to live here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Maybe my sense of humor is re-growing itself. I couldn't suppress what almost turned out to be a giggle at the "yes-no-yes-no" juxtapositioning of signs outside my local polling place. Dallas is run by a city manager and for several years the current mayor has lobbied for a "strong mayor" form of government to replace the city manager form. This was the second time in six months there's been a proposition on the ballot. Last time it was soundly defeated. This time there are two predictions by political analysts: it will either be soundly defeated or will win by a hairsbreadth. I know I was debating the issue even as I signed in at the polling place. It wasn't til I got my pen on the ballot that the decision was made.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

three piece band

A day late, but here are three of my little esquelitos celebrating Dia de los Muertos.

I’ve been told this Mexican Holiday demonstrates that the Mexican culture is much more accepting of death as a normal part of the life cycle. Anglo Americans tend to want death out of the picture, sanitized with an embalmed and made-up corpse reposing in an expensive silk-lined mahogany casket. Our Puritanical forbears, now present as conservative Christians, have converted the once scary rituals of Hallow’een into a cute and festive cakewalk at the local elementary school.

Friday, October 28, 2005

hallow e'en


We had a pumpkin decorating contest at work. The Pirate and the Screamer were my personal favorites though neither one received recog-

Most of us were puzzled by the judges’ decisions. It’s always interesting to see how people will interpret an “assignment” like this but the reaction to the artist’s effort is often more curious than the work itself. Our judges were the people we work for (our customer). In the case of the Screamer pumpkin, the judges appeared to be slightly miffed and they asked the artist if that was how he felt when he was at work (Yes, of course he does; it’s how most of us feel there). The wolf was nicely rendered and was effectively spooky when lit by a candle. It was the first time I had seen Wal-Mart’s jack-o-lantern kit in action. The kit of tiny carving tools comes with a booklet of paper patterns that you tape to your disemboweled pumpkin as a cutting guide.

This pumpkin is mine. My premise was that jack -o- lanterns are supposed to keep away evil spirits and I wanted a really tough battle-scarred veteran who could handle the job. He’s out working on my front porch as I type this.

At work I was awarded the prize for “The Person Most in Need of Therapy”, a slim tome called The Portable Therapist, which I have no doubt will aid and abet me on my way to the insane asylum.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

20 things

I've been inspired by Hanna and Maria to be braver about telling my own story, so in that vein, here are 20 random things about me:

I’ve been a vegetarian for ten years.

I never get tired of listening to the Beatles or to Mozart.

I love detective stories.

I’ve battled clinical depression for most of my life.

I’m tone deaf.

I was part of a "Jesus Cult" and lived in their communes for two and a half years.

I rarely make up my bed.

Next year I will be the same age as the year I was born. (53)

Freeway driving terrifies me (I have to do it every day).

I lived in Mexico City for 2 months; spent 2 whirlwind weeks in England, Paris, Scotland and Wales.

I like The Three Stooges.

I have documented part of my family tree to the 1600s – I’m still working on other branches.

I use my cell phone about 3 times a year.

I appeared on a local weekly radio program for eight months as “Desert Rose,” sidekick to “Ranger Rita,” queen of the cowgirls on the “Texas Folk Music Show.”

My last three dogs have been rescued strays.

“Memento” is one of my most favorite movies.

I graduated summa cum laude from college.

I want to move away from the big city, maybe live on a couple of acres, maybe raise a few goats and chickens.

I’ve never bought coffee at Starbucks.

I am a first generation native-born American on my dad’s side.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Autumn is the bite of a harvest apple - Petrowsky

Fall has FINALLY arrived. The monarchs have moved on. The sidewalks are littered with acorns, pecans, and sundry tree droppings. After two months of watching cold fronts being deflected by our unnaturally hot dry weather a front finally burst through to North Texas earlier this week. We have had to turn the furnace on the last two mornings and I am consuming gallons of tea to warm me. Of course we’re wimps here. Forty-four degrees is hardly “cold” but coming so fast on the heels of ninety-plus temperatures it feels cold.

While searching for an appropriate quote about Fall I foundElaine’s Autumn Page, which has some nice poems about autumn. Fall’s my favorite time of year, I think, even though we don’t have the wonderfully colored leaves you see in northern climes. It’s a welcome respite from summer’s inferno and always seems like a beginning to me. Winters are short and not too cold except for those times when a “norther” may blow through and chill us for a week or two. People are preparing their gardens and trees for the brief dormant season because when it starts getting warm again they’ll have to work like crazy to get their seeds planted before the sun comes blazing back.

Monday, October 17, 2005

anatomy of a floor

After five years in this dingy old faux-ranch house I decided I couldn’t stand the carpet in the living area any longer. The key word to describe these houses is “DARK”. The walls of this room are paneled in wood so dark it makes the fireplace the lightest part of the room. I’ve put at least six coats of paint in varying shades of white, pink, or yellow over the paneling in attempts to lighten the room. The floor was another source of irritation. Beige carpet showed all the dirt and anything else was too dark. And so much work to vacuum. It had to go.

Underneath the carpet was the original linoleum that had been glued down almost 50 years ago when the house was built. The yellow sun pattern, which can never have been anything but atrocious, made me wonder what people who built and bought these houses could have possibly seen in it. It had become deeply gouged from innumerable furniture legs, had faded unevenly and was beyond cleaning. I wanted to buy some of those snap-together planks of Pergo or engineered wood to cover the ugly mess and maybe install them myself to save money. (My bad back was protesting at the thought of all the bending that would be required.) Unfortunately the linoleum had been affixed to particleboard, a sure sign of crappy American workmanship. It was deteriorating badly along the door from water that had been tracked in over the years and none of the manufacturers would guarantee flooring installed on top of it.

So I’m having real hardwood floors installed by people who know how install them. A week ago two guys ripped out the old particleboard. What a job! It had so many big nails they had to cut the board into 3 foot square sections as it lay and then pull up a section at a time. When you start ripping out stuff you start finding out what your house is really made of. I got to look at the subfloor and it seemed to be much more poorly done than the “cheap” 1940s tract house I used to live in. This neighborhood was built during a time when pier-and-beam foundations were being phased out in favor of slab foundations and the uneven spacing and wide gaps of the subfloor show how builders in the early 60s had begun to prefer quantity over quality. My floor installers left the original tarpaper or “builder’s felt” on the subfloor a

Sunday, October 16, 2005

monarchs of the fall

My spirits have lifted a bit this week with the coming of the butterflies. We are lucky to be on the flight path the monarchs take each year as they journey to Mexico for the winter and many of them stop here to snack & rest on their way. One of my two abelia shrubs was still blooming this week and each morning there were six or eight monarchs and a couple of painted ladies sipping nectar. The little white flowers emit a wonderful fragrance which I imagine to be something like lilacs. (It's been so long since I've been near lilacs in bloom I wouldn't swear to it.) As the coolness of the day dissipated the abelia became host to honeybees and some fuzzy yellow bees about twice their size which I haven't yet identified. The lantanas planted on the other side of the house are currently being frequented by dozens of yellow folded-wing skippers, gulf fritallaries, and pipevine swallowtails.

Depression is a funny thing. It seems like you can't win no matter how you fight it, and then a little something like butterflies can make you feel that just for now everything's ok.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

wheel of fortune

OK, the tv show "LOST" is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

I was looking through some boxes of stuff and found this image: a reproduction of an old Spanish/Gypsy tarot card and it struck me that the writers of "LOST" might have got inspiration from it. I found two of Hurley's numbers: there are 15 spokes in the wheel and 23 lines in the zigzag across the top of the card. But it's really the White Bear that gets me. I wonder what it meant to the people who designed this card.

For more weird LOST stuff check out EGOPLEX, J.M. Berger's web page.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rain in Ragtime

Rita's Ragtime Rain Raged,
a Purgatory of Rags & Rafters

ragtime: syncopated American popular music

Was is reading Farenheit 451 at a tender age that engendered my loathing for the destruction of books? Or is it something that was engrained in a non-internet generation? I went to Half-Price Books determined to find a book worthy of mutilation and settled on a sturdy compact dictionary published in 1978. It has a hard cover and the signatures seem to be nicely sewn together. I spent part of last weekend methodically ripping out pages according to the method set down by Lisa Vollrath on her web page.

You can see my dictionary after I tore out about half the pages. It turned out just Lisa’s book and I have a stack of pages full of word definitions I can use for many projects. The book seemed to fall open naturally to the letter “R” so I dedicated the two facing pages to Hurricane Rita. I found a number of words that I tied together into sentences and gessoed out the rest. Then I started glueing, stamping, and coloring. I think it has a ways to go before it’s done.

I think I’ll call this book “word play.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Dontcha hate seeing one of these in your mailbox? I've been looking forward to this day (ha!) for over a month. I was listed as a "standby juror" on the summons; instead of reporting to the Central Jury Room at 8 a.m. I was supposed to wait until 11 o'clock, call in, and find out at that time if I was needed. I called the number and the recorded message shouted, "You Are Needed Today! Please Report By 1 p.m.!" So I headed downtown through Level Red Pollution and traffic backed up by who knows what. I had to exit at Reunion Arena and was hoping I wouldn't get caught in worse traffic amongst the busses of Beaumont evacuees (I didn't).

I parked in the County Garage, rushed across Industrial Blvd. and climbed the 50 steps to the doors of the Court Building conveniently located next door to the Jail. Winded and sweaty, I thought if Rita had only veered west, this whole neighborhood might've gone under when the levee on the Trinity River failed, and I would have been spared this ordeal. (After the hurrican passed the newspaper published a report detailing this very scenario - a possibility that had conveniently been kept from us citizens prior to the storm.) This was my first visit to the courthouse since 9-11 and the summons had warned me about bringing weapons and explosives into the building so I left them at home and passed through the checkpoint without incident. There were only a dozen or so people in the Central Jury Room and no one at the front desk. A Bailiff beckoned me into an adjoining office and told me they had fulfilled their requirement for standby jurors and I was free to go. I was happy to go, but it cost me $3.00 to park for 30 minutes (reduced rate after having my parking ticket validated), a half gallon of gas, and a day's pay. Justice doesn't come cheap these days!

Monday, September 26, 2005


The Houstonians are winging their way back although from the looks of southbound I35 yesterday it looked to be slow going through Dallas. It's one thing to see the hordes of suitcase-packed vehicles on the newscasts, quite another to see it first hand. I'm glad I was going the other direction.

I'm wondering if life will ever get back to being "normal" again. Will the TXDOT signs that ring the city's freeways ever go back to announcing "Ozone Alert - Try Ride Sharing" instead of "Shelters Full"? We got no rain from Rita and yesterday's high temperature of 102 belied the fact that there had even been a hurricane within shouting distance of the county, yet the repercussions of Katrina & Rita are sure to be felt for a long time. My neighborhood lost electricity for about an hour Saturday when gusty winds sent a tree limb crashing into a power line down the alley, but power was quickly restored thanks to the Dallas Fire Department and TXU. It only takes a few minutes without power to realize how bad the situation is for the folks southeast of us. I had to get back to work yesterday and was worried there might not be any gas but luckily I found some and at a pre-Rita price. At times like these, when I see the long lines of SUV's and 4WD's sucking down 20 or more gallons at a time, I can't help but gloat over my 38mpg vehicle.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

waiting for the big one

Were the inhabitants of Galveston blissfully oblivious of the approaching dome of water in 1900? Did they know it was a storm to end all storms as the wind picked up and the sky darkened? Until that hurricane hit, Galveston was equally as important a city as Houston. After nearly being flattened, and losing 8,000 to 12,000 dead from the hurricane, the city never recovered. Of the ten deadliest storms listed at CNN, two have hit Galveston; the big one of 1900 and another in 1915. Both of those are listed as “only” Category 4 storms.

Here’s hoping the folks of Houston fare better than their New Orleans counterparts. Many of us here have friends and family in the Houston area, and so far they seem to be getting out of the area. I’m thankful to be this far inland, away from a direct hit, though we may get flash floods and some tornados. Yesterday it felt like Saturday was an eternity away in time; today it’s rushing towards us. I don’t know if the continual coverage is a blessing or a curse.We’re obsessed with the weather. Everyone’s becoming an expert on hurricanes. Each of us specializes in a peculiar examination of minutiae of the lore of the storm.

Yesterday the weather gurus were citing Matagorda Bay, just south of Galveston, as the likeliest place for Rita to make landfall. Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle made unplanned landfall there in 1684. He was looking for the mouth of the Mississippi, but charts and maps being what they were in those days, he overshot his destination by a good 400 miles and landed instead in Texas. He wasn’t the first to make a great navigational mistake. In 1528, 156 years earlier, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca landed the remnants of his ragtag crew on Galveston Island. Cabeza de Vaca thought he was much further south and that it would be a short hike to reach a Spanish outpost. Instead it took 18 years traveling west across Texas mostly in bare feet before they met Spanish soldiers in the area of present-day El Paso. (I don’t know why all the movie reviewers thought his sojourn took place in Florida; he spent some time in Florida but his long trek was through Texas. It’s a good movie albeit confusing if you don’t know the history behind it.)

It’s uncertain whether or not La Salle knew where he was, except he knew he was lost. In 1687 he went looking for a French outpost, leaving behind a settlement called Fort St. Louis whose inhabitants disappeared from the annals of history. La Salle was finally murdered by his unhappy followers when he refused to ask directions of a native met on the northward trek. For many years the myth went that he was killed in the area now occupied by the city of Arlington, about midway between Dallas and Fort Worth, but historians more recently conclude his demise actually occurred in Navarro County, some miles southeast of the area. Sorry, Dallas, your history’s just not that interesting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

dreaming of a rainy day

Some more practice from my art journal. I was prepping some pages with crimson and bright yellow and experimenting with ways of washing the pages. I liked these drips that were flicked from the end of the brush; they reminded me of raindrops on windowpanes. I want to learn to draw better, just to be able to sketch a few objects or identifiable landscapes. I'm really taken with Paul Madonna's All Over Coffee. I have been looking at dozens of books at Amazon trying to find one to help a rank beginner. It's probably time for a trip to the bookstore!

I was dreaming of a rainy day until I got the news this morning. The fallout from Hurricane Rita was supposed to bring some much-needed rain and cooler weather to North Texas but Rita is becomingly increasingly sinister with each passing hour. They’re saying Houston’s levees probably won’t withstand a direct hit. At least Houston’s not in a bowl below sea level like New Orleans. Galveston is already evacuating hospitals and nursing homes, the National Guard has been called, and water, supplies, and rescue personnel are being “pre-positioned” across Central Texas. People are taking this hurricane much more seriously than they normally would. I hope this will turn out to be a practice run.

If I ever decide to live along the Gulf Coast, somebody, please whack me in the head with a baseball bat.

In the meantime, these dog days drag on. We just missed the 100 degree mark yesterday but we may get there today. The calendar says the autumnal equinoxe occurs this Thursday at 5:25 pm our time. Every other day I get a catalog from Pottery Barn, which is a sure sign of fall. But these signposts are for some world I don’t live in.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

do you believe...

The gray-haired hippie waylaid me just ten feet from the vending machine. After quaffing that too-sweet Dublin Dr Pepper the other day I was craving the bite I knew I could only get from a Diet Dr Pepper. “Do you have just two minutes? I want to ask your opinion about my new bio.”

I looked at the change in my hand and jingled it a few times. This “asking my opinion” was a ploy, I knew, to cut me away from the herd, and it was sure to take more than two minutes, but I could spare five minutes, and the Dr Pepper would be my reward for the politeness.

Alas, it would not be so brief.

“Did you know there’s only one soul?” Oh, no, here we go again with the never-ending proselytizing for some all-time religion culled from endless reading of every bestseller from the last forty years. How can I distract him?

“One sole? Is that why I’m so low, cuz it’s been stomping on me?”
“There’s just one sole”
“I don’t want to talk philosophy.”
“This is not philosophy.”
“I don’t believe in that stuff”
“You don’t believe in philosophy?”
“I don’t believe in soles.”

Unfortunately, I do believe in music, and am now privy to the announcement that his new cd is Now Available at CDBaby.

Twenty minutes later I break away. I now MUST get back to my workstation. I am so distracted, I punch the button for Regular Dr Pepper instead of Diet.

“Where were you?” asks my boss.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

hooked on dp

A friend recently found a place in DeSoto that sells Dublin Dr Pepper and he was kind enough to give me a bottle of the sweet elixir. And I do mean sweet! This particular Dr Pepper comes from the Original Dr Pepper bottling plant in Dublin, Texas and they still use Imperial cane sugar, not corn syrup, to make the stuff. You can find more information on this historical Texas beverage at the TexasTwisted site or you might like the Wikipedia version of the story. You can even hear it from the horse's mouth, its own self. I drove through Dublin in May on my way to Big Bend and didn't realize the significance of the signs I saw everywhere: "Dublin Dr Pepper Available Here." I could've stopped and toured the plant, but I didn't realize it was there, and I was in a hurry to go south, to go west, to get away from civilization and into Big Bend.

I'm probably repeating myself, but I was was awestruck and amazed when I watched "In the Heat of the Night" some months back and I saw a classic tall bottle of Dr Pepper standing atop Rod Steiger's desk there in Sparta, Mississippi. That was 1967 and I wondered how much of a curiosity it was for non-Southerners to see a Dr Pepper. I don't really remember seeing Dr Pepper when I lived in the NorthWest in 1963. It wasn't until we moved to Dallas in 1964 that I learned to appreciate an ice cold Dr Pepper on a scorching August day with its beads of icy sweat rolling down that tall straight bottle.

I iced down my Dublin Dr Pepper in high anticipation of a sugar buzz and a wave of nostalgia.

It fell flat. I've been drinking Diet Dr Pepper too long, I guess. The regular stuff just doesn't have the bite I've gotten used to from artificial sweeteners. My tastes have changed. If you like your sugar straight out of the sugar bowl, though, this drink is for you.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

accidents will happen

I had an accident yesterday. My neck is stiff and my body feels it’s been dealt a few swift kicks. It’s othing serious but I’m provoked because, as is the nature of most accidents, I never saw it coming. You rarely see it coming.

Webster defines “accident” as (among other things) “an unfortunate event resulting from carelessness, unawareness, ignorance, or a combination of causes” or “an unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured.”

It is a misfortune, a mishap, a mischance, a collision, crash, wreck, smash-up, crack-up, pile-up, one of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” It is odd that so many associated synonyms contain the word “up” when you will most likely be “down” on the floor from a fall, as I was.

What happened was this: I was looking up and measuring some wall anchors attached near the ceiling when someone said, “But look over here at this one,” and I obliged, stepping several feet towards the indicated spot. Suddenly the floor disappeared from beneath my feet and then I was suddenly on the floor with my legs tangled among odd bits of a broken metal fan that had given its life in its effort to throw me over its shoulder and become the best kung fu fighter ever seen in these parts.

It was the oddest sensation. Did I lose consciousness? I don’t remember stepping on the fan; I don’t remember falling; yet no time seemed to have passed between me being upright and me being prone. I was walking and then someone was saying, “Don’t get up,” while my body of its own volition struggled to become erect again. It was then I felt pain in my arms and legs. I must have hurtled headlong and skidded against the industrial-type carpet because I have rug burn the entire length of one arm and leg. I was fortunate not to have landed on concrete.

My body was hurt. My pride was hurt. I walked away afterward and told everyone to leave me alone. I became very angry because there wasn’t anyone to blame.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

approach of the equinox

Cooler weather is on the way!

...At last, at long last, just when I think I can't take the heat, the heat that hits you like a blast furnace when you crack open a door to the outside, the heat that settles on your shoulders like a weighty backpack when you walk about, the heat that reflects from the sidewalk into your shoes, there's respite in sight. The night tells me the heat is getting tired. When I leave the warehouse at the approach of midnight the air is lighter than it was last week. The heat's not strong enough to stay attached to the ground once its ally, the sun, sets. The scent of wet earth from the sprinklers is audible now - the heat can't prevent it wafting toward your nostrils and infiltrating your sinus. The thermometer in my car mechanically confirms what my senses feel; it's ten degrees cooler than it was even at 2 a.m. in previous weeks.

Do the squirrels know one of their numbers has been killed by the yellow dog that barks at their taunts as they perch just out of reach in the trees? Their behavior seems less bold; they do not perch so low now, nor do they forage openly on the ground while the dog rests sphinx-like, calculating the distance as the red rodents inch ever farther from their escape route. For now the dog-taunters recede into the branches, invisible but for the half-eaten acorns they let fall to the ground. Soon, though, they will forget, I think, and the game will once more be afoot.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

dogs will be dogs

Phoebe’s dog dream came true; she finally caught and killed a squirrel. Sunday night she was unusually hyperactive and didn’t want to come into the house as she usually does. Midnight came and went and instead of curling up on the sofa and drifting into doggie sleep, she haunted the far corner of the back yard between the oak tree and the fence. Yesterday I found she’d been out there guarding her prize, a full-grown red squirrel, apparently killed by a forceful bite to the neck. I can’t say the squirrel didn’t deserve it; they sit out there and taunt Phoebe, almost daring her to try and catch them. I wonder if there’s an inborn enmity between dogs and squirrels. If you think of squirrels as rodents, which they are, it makes a little more sense. In the animal world dogs would be hunters and squirrels would be food.

We always wonder what kind of dog Phoebe might be. The baggy folds of skin around her neck, her color, her blue-spotted tongue and rough coat speak of possible Chow or Shar-Pei heritage. I thought some kind of Bull Terrier because of the broad forehead, thick neck, cat-like paws and her stare. If you’ve stared a Pit Bull in the face you know what I mean. And her neck and shoulders are incredibly strong for a dog her size. The long muzzle, upright ears and herding motions pointed to some kind of Shepherd in her genes. She looks a lot like a Finnish Spitz although the way her ribs show is indicative of a Greyhound or Whippet. Phoebe’s definitely a “mutt”, a “mongrel”, a “mélange” of Dog DNA. She’s a “yeller” dog, the color you get when you mix all the dog colors.

No one knows Phoebe’s past. I got her from a woman who spent much of her time and money rescuing dogs and finding homes for them. She found Phoebe wandering in her wooded Fort Worth neighborhood, nearly blind with eyes caked in gunk from entropion (inverted eyelids) and so skittish and frightened it took nearly an hour to catch her. This woman had Phoebe’s medical needs attended to and she now has “permanent eyeliner,” a dark scar lining the edge of each eye where the vet tucked the lower lids. She was about a year old and had obviously been abused. She would hide under the table when taken to adoption center and I probably wouldn’t have taken her had I known the extent of her neuroses. She’s been here about three years now and remains skittish, but she is a sweet dog and has never tried to bite anyone.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

gecko on the ceiling

I seem to find one of these critters either in my house or in the building at work almost every day. I guess they like air conditioning, too. Usually I try to catch them and bring them outside but I couldn't reach this little guy.

Here's an item called "Frequency, Duration, Intensity" about working to meet your goals. It's one of those ideas that's easy to say and hard to do. First you do the thing you want to do more frequently, go from once to twice a week, and keep increasing. Then you increase the duration, or time spent; start with ten minutes, go to fifteen, twenty, etc. And be sure you are focused on the activity while you are doing it. The author suggests you "avoid distractions" and "don't multitask." Easy to say. Hard to do.

Monday, September 05, 2005


After three days off I've caught up on some lost sleep even though I've been frazzled by frustration and anger and sadness for the folks of New Orleans. End of summer is always a bit of a letdown even though it means our long hours at work will be done with. I'm just tired of work, tired of the heat, and tired of the misery I see on tv. If our work schedule was a more gradual process it might be different but once we start accelerating it's like stomping down on the gas until the needle rattles and flies off the speedometer and we can't control the vehicle, and then just as suddenly someone stomps the brake pedal and we screech down the asphalt still out of control until we spin and slide and grind to a halt in a cloud of dust. Now all we can do is sit and wait for the dust to clear and wonder if we can open the door and walk away.

It's a holiday for many people today but I'll be working. We're now on 8-hour shifts and in one week will say "goodbye" to all our freelancers and go back to our regular schedule. It's not too soon for me although I will miss the night-time nature walks around the warehouse seeing Pepe and Paco and all the other skunks and bunnies and possums.

At least I've still got squirrels to watch in the daytime. They've become very active again and drive my dog, Phoebe, crazy. They sprawl on a limb just out of reach and stare at Phoebe's frantic efforts to reach them. It seems to me there are many more pecans falling than normally do at this time of year and green acorns of all varieties are falling, too. It's at least a month too soon. We are seven inches behind in rainfall, so maybe that's why.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

the refugees still need help!

Dallas Makes a Desperate Plea for Help

Many residents have escaped the hellhole at the Superdome but I’m afraid they are still facing a long hard road towards just getting a place to sleep. Texas cities are trying but we don't know what to do.

I AM SO ANGRY! There's still no response from FEMA or other federal or state agencies for supplies to help Texas cities deal with the influx of refugees. No Coordination of resources. Bush’s Teflon buddy, Governor Rick Perry, follows in his mentor’s footsteps. He likes to talk but can’t produce results.

Excerpt from The Dallas Morning News posted at 1:30 pm Saturday
Full story Here

Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones, CEO of the local Red Cross, said the agency does not have enough cots even for those arriving at Reunion Arena, the city's primary evacuee center.

"We are certainly overwhelmed," she said. "We have no resources. If (another) city wants to open a shelter, we will pay for the food. This is an unprecedented event for our city, our state, for our nation. The focus is on keeping them safe and getting a roof over their head."

The state has also failed to make good on its promise of cots and blankets for the city's shelters, (Mayor Laura) Miller said.

"I'm amazed at the lack of help we're getting," the mayor said. "The state has done zero to help us, the governor has done zero to help us – besides coming here for a photo op."

Friday, September 02, 2005

wake for new orleans

The stronger swimmer reached the edge of the dry patch of land but the second, less proficient, was having to fight the swift, deep current to make headway. Suddenly they saw her throw up her hands, clutch wildly at the air and disappear beneath the water.

A work born of frustration: I need turn turn away from the unending stream of images before I get sucked in by the undertow.

Things will never be the same.


I'm sick from watching the destruction and hearing Dubya talking out of both sides of his mouth. It's sweltering here; it was still 91 degrees outside last night as midnight approached. It can't be much better in New Orleans, and without water... well... Somebody, please, get those people out!

I had to detour through town last night due to construction and in the nearly traffic-free area next to Love Field I saw Southwest Airlines billboard: "Just Say N'Orleans." The pun isn't funny, now.

About 3000 evacuees from the Superdome have arrived in Dallas with about 6000 more expected by nightfall and 15,000 still to come. The city's only been able to find space for about 10-12,000 people and I'm hoping other cities in the area will lend a hand. There are already tens of thousands that came here before the storm hit and were able to rent rooms in motels or hotels. It's ironic that a city who doesn't know what to do with its own homeless population should suddenly become home to such a vast number of displaced people.

Many evacuees interviewed by local reporters here say they won't go back and are already enrolling their kids in local school districts. The Dallas ISD said those kids could start attending classes on Monday, but I think someone forgot Monday is a holiday. It looks like the face of Dallas, and Texas, too, is going to change. No one expected this.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

new o'leans

I’m crying and lots of others are, too, for New Orleans.

I can’t stop thinking of Tim Henderson’s song, circa 1981, predicting the city's destruction. Here are some excerpts:

Atchafalaya, she’ll be comin’ on down
Ain’t no way to stop her, ain’t no high ground
There’s a swamp and a bayou ever’where around
And a couple small Cajun towns

Up a billion-dollar alley north of New Orleans
The Mississippi don’t come away clean

Lord, the Corps of Engineers, try to do good things,
Hell, tell it to the Cajuns when it floods next spring,
Cause the Corps ain’t God and they can’t turn the flow
The Lord made the Mississippi a long time ago
He’s still working.

Atchafalaya, she won’t rise slow,
Volunteers to the Levee,
Fool, you better not go!
Pack up and run with what you can save
Cause the river’ll be boing on your grandpa’s grave, tomorrow
The river’ll be boiling with snakes tomorrow

One of these days and it won’t be long - she’ll be a ghost town.

You can listen to the song here until Sept. 9

Monday, August 29, 2005

katrina's wake

The internet is running like a slug today, inching its soft body so slowly as to make one wonder if it's moving at all, yet leaving a thin trail of slime as evidence that yes, indeed, it most definitely has moved from here to there. Power's out in New Orleans and Biloxi, making me wonder if the center of the internet universe lies not in Los Angeles or New York, or in some exotic foreign locale, but in Mississippi.

I'd been hoping New Orleans wouldn't be washed away before I got a chance to see it. It still remains to be seen if Lake Pontchartrain will burst through its sea wall and flood the lower lying areas. I thought about my old friend who used to live near Canal Street and refused to leave the city when Hurricane Camille came barreling in. He and his landlord covered their windows with plywood, stockpiled food and water, and rode out the storm. I'm sure he would have done the same thing this time but I don't know that he's still on Canal Street, or even in Louisiana, though I suspect he may be if he isn't dead. Our sporadic communications, which had spanned more than ten years, stopped after the many months of not seeing an oh-so-typical tourist postcard with that familiar postmark suddenly became a year. I telephoned to check on him and found the number out of service. A note sent to his address was returned and no forwarding address was to be had. I'd like to think someday I'll get a postcard from Alexandria, or Lafayette, where he'd be in his element, saying he's doing fine.

A few months back I read A Confederacy of Dunces, a story at once comical, dark and strangely prophetic. It was written in the middle or late sixties, before New Orleans gained a major league football team, when it was teetering precariously between modernization and a Streetcar Named Desire. The protagonist of this story, Ignatius Reilly, is so repulsive I think I only kept reading to find out if he would get his come-uppance. I think Ignatius distressed me because absurd as he is, he is lifelike. He is manifest in myself and in people I see every day and that is truly disturbing.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

what would EEOC say?

Though I am unobtrusive and often overshadowed, my voice is poetic and lyrical. Dark and brooding, I see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying to impress other people. Though I make reference to almost everything, I've really heard enough about Michelangelo. I measure out my life with coffee spoons.

Apologies and thanks to The Blue Pyramid for so clearly delineating my psyche through “The Book Quiz.”, (I am “Prufrock and Other Stories” by T.S. Eliot). And thanks to Watcher Don for bringing these quick & easy quizzes to my attention.

It’s Quiz Time at work, too. We are playing the Sexual Harassment game, an annual event in which each employee logs in to a company website and plays a four-level game replete with animation and sound effects. In this game you are given a few paragraphs of information and then you are asked 5 or 6 questions about it which you answer via multiple choice. You learn a)how the EEOC defines sexual harassment b)what the company policy is toward harassment and c)what to do if you are harassed. In the 4th level you are given 15 questions you’ve just answered in random order. The goal of this game is to score 80% so you can print a certificate of completion to give to your supervisor. It’s so easy to score 100% that something is seriously wrong if you can’t score 80, but I don’t know what happens if you fail. Probably not much.

We might take this game more seriously if not for the sound effects and the fact that we take the identical test every year. The way it’s presented tends to make people think about the ways they COULD harass someone and it dredges up all the off-color jokes people have forgotten about. I had just got my certificate when one of our customer’s employees (who know nothing about our test) approached me and asked, “Did you hear what the pregnant Aggie woman said?” ---Long Pause: I know this is going to be inappropriate and would probably offend at least five different groups of people, so do I say something? This person is a long-winded former hippie who did too many drugs in the 60s and will probably want to get into a lengthy philosophical discussion, so I decide my desire to go about my business takes precedence and I wait for the punch line – “It’s not mine.”

Garrison Keillor pointed out a few years ago that people just don’t tell jokes any more, probably because of the aura of political correctness that dangles above our heads, and of course because of the harassment tests we must take to assure our continued employment.

I think the company needs to add another survey – one on dealing with difficult and annoying people in the workplace. You know, the person whose phone with the annoying ring tone always goes off during a meeting. Or the person whose personal problems have become common knowledge because they’re on the phone for hours at a stretch and their voice gets louder the longer they talk. Or the person who cranks up their headphones so much the music can still be heard in the next cubicle. Or the person who wears noxious cologne in such quantity it burns your nose and brings tears to your eyes. And last, but not least, overly sensitive critics like me who cannot fail to point out one of the above to at least one person every day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


When I was in college I used to especially like the back to school sales. It was a time to indulge myself by browsing through notebooks, pens, and highlighters, and picking up happy colors that would cheer me up during the hard work of the semester.
So now I'm obsessing about my materials and wondering what to buy for my back-to-art period. Much of my art is a science experiment. I don't have an art background so I don't know much about the interaction of different kinds of paper with various media. I'll buy some pens or paints and combine them with paper, glue, and rubber stamps, and hope the whole thing doesn't explode!

I especially like notebooks. I used to buy 8-1/2x11 spiral bound notebooks by the dozen when they were 25 cents each. Now I have notebooks in a myriad of sizes for everything, it seems. Too many to keep track of, let alone list here. But I want another sketchbook for art journaling and I'm still not ready to mutilate the hardback copy of "The Rubaiyat" that I bought a few months ago for that purpose. I've been mulling over options.

The small notebook in the photo is my garage sale bargain for 50 cents. It is 3-3/4 by 4-3/4 inches and I like it a lot because its small size doesn't intimidate me. At the end of a long day I usually have enough energy to jot down at least few notes and maybe add a few doodles or background color. The large spiral rings have allowed the pages plenty of room as they've expanded in thickness with collage and paint. I think the paper is 40-50 lb. weight; it's bright white and will take a light wash of acrylic without getting too wrinkled. The pressure marks from writing with ballpoint pen can sometimes be seen for several pages and gel pens almost bleed through the paper, but a background wash seems to prevent the worst of those problems.

The larger book is a 6x8 sketchbook of 80 lb. paper. It has a small spiral binding that doesn't appreciate the pages getting fat. I was intimidated by the larger size at first but I like that each page can hold so much more. I think 80 lb. paper may be a little too heavy, as I'm going to be experimenting with gesso, which will add more more weight to each page.

I found this on sale, a notebook similar in size but bound on the long side instead of the short side, and in a 65 lb. weight paper, for under $3. This is a lot cheaper than what I've found in nearby stores. It will be a change for me to be working in a portrait format instead of a landscape format and I'm wondering how it will turn out.

In the meantime, I think I need to do some real world journaling.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

writing down the bones

I recommended this book to someone a few days ago and it occurred to me that it would be good for me to read it myself. Now that summer crunch seems to be coming to a close I want to delve into creative pursuits again, but I find my brain is confused with possibilities. I have so many things I want to do that I don’t know what I want to do. And ever-lurking in the darkness is the fear that I won’t be able to find my creative spark again. I feel disheartened. The truth is that I’m tired and will be so until my work schedule is cut back to a 40-hour week; my brain is running so fast my feet are left stumbling in the dust.

And so I cracked open this slim volume, to begin at the beginning, to return to the beginner’s mind, and immediately found solace in Natalie Goldberg’s prose. Although this book is aimed at writers, many of the ideas can be applied to everyday tasks.

“Every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before,” she says. “Each time is a new journey with no maps.... Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go."

Thanks, Natalie, that's what I'm going to try to do.

Friday, August 19, 2005

stamp mania

After the long hours I've been putting in at work I thought I deserved to treat myself to some new rubber stamps. I got this 8x10 unmounted sheet of miscellaneous doodles from Traci Bonkers Originals.

I've mounted individual rubber stamps before, but this is the first time I've attempted to do a whole sheet. I'm mounting them to EZ Mount foam cushion, which is a 1/8" thick piece of foam that is sticky on one side and smooth on the other. Once you've stuck the cushion to your rubber stamp the smooth side will stick to an acrylic block by static cling. It can then be "stuck" and "unstuck" many times to a single block, saving you the trouble of cutting individual pieces of wood for the stamps. In some ways it's not as convenient as a traditional stamp because your stamp isn't instantly ready to go, but it certainly saves money!

I had previously bought a pair of Kai scissors specifically for this task and I'm using them here. I've heard people say any strong pair of scissors will do the trick, but since I'm not sure what I'm doing I thought it would be nice to begin with the appropriate tool. One of the axioms you hear from carpenters or mechanics is "the proper tool for the proper job."

This photo shows the first few stamps I've cut away from the sheet. It's pretty tricky to get a smooth cut around the stamp and the foam cushion leaves a lot of sticky residue to the scissors, so I think I'll have to keep cleaning them if I want clean stamps. I tested 3 of the stamps and I'm really happy with the impressions I got! I've still got a lot of work "cut out" for me, though. I have a another smaller sheet of rubber that is an alphabet, something I've been wanting for a while, and the letters are much closer together than these doodles are. Patience will be required!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

late & early

The first pecans of the season have started falling. They are mostly green and small, about 1" long. These are what my mom calls the "misfits," the nuts that for whatever reason weren't meant to ripen. The main crop will fall in late October, I think. I can't seem to remember dates from year to year.

We've also had a pretty good crop of June bugs this last week. I've often wondered how they came to be named as their numbers usually peak in the month before or after June but rarely within the month itself. Perhaps in an ideal average summer they fly in June. Our summer this year hasn't been unusually hot or unusually wet. The official numbers say we're behind on rainfall, but the numbers come from DFW airport, which is in Grapevine, 30 or so miles from where I live. Hereabouts you can be in the midst of a toad-drenching downpour yet walk across the street to bask in sunshine on dry land.

Last night a family of kildeers appeared during our night walk. The parking lot resounded with their "KEET, KEET" noises and we watched 4 or 5 juveniles running to check in with the parent bird. It won't be long now before work schedules revert to non-summer hours and I'll probably have to give up my nighttime nature walks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

yerba mate

That's pronounced "mah-tay" and in my tiredness of late I forgot to mention this interesting plant from South America. I was introduced to mate about fifteen years ago by my favorite history professor, who had done a stint in Buenos Aires, and he told us about the "national drink of Argentina" and how great it was. It was pretty hard to come by here in Dallas but now many of the health food or organic stores carry it. The plant is native to Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay & southern Brazil and contains a substance that makes you feel good like caffeine without the jolt, keeps you alert, suppresses your appetite, and contains beneficial antioxidants. (It's in the same chemical family as caffeine but is technically not caffeine.)

Mate's chief drawback is that it tastes like dirt. I think the average North American would find it distasteful. I acquired a taste for it a few years ago, the year we were working twelve-hour shifts and I went for a month without a day off. I think there were 3 or 4 of us that were only hanging on because of mate. I found it was cheaper to buy it over the internet and used to get it from this place. You can watch their video about drinking mate. The above photo is the gourd I got for drinking my mate. I stopped drinking mate after that awful summer. I don't know if the connotation was too strong or if I just decided I didn't want to drink filtered dirt anymore. This year a co-worker found some orange-and-spice flavored mate in bags made by Celestial Seasonings, that "whore of tea", as my friend calls them. I tried it a few times and I have to say they did a great job of killing the taste while still allowing you to get that very subtle good feeling from it.

I have been told to expect two days off this weekend, but I heard that story last week, too. We've lost most of our freelancers; 2 kids went off to college, a high-school teacher left to prep for the new school year, and our remaining overage high-schooler will return to school next week. We're doing ok so far, so the worst must be over. At least I hope so. I want to get back to personal creative pursuits and my desk hasn't been clear for at least two months!

Monday, August 15, 2005

dog days

We spotted a coyote a couple of nights ago. We're thinking it may be what was attached to the eyes watching us from the wooded hill a few weeks back. We thought it odd that there weren't any other critters out and about but seeing the loping grey form heading toward a field told us why.

I took my camera out one early evening to shoot a few of the critter hangouts and realized the scenery is incredibly boring by daylight. It is only when night descends that it becomes alive. A brief rainstorm passed through last night and left a faint haze and a low cloud cover backlit by a quarter moon. We saw another small opossum running the length of the plastic construction fence, probably looking for a place to crawl under. It didn't find an opening and eventually turned and ran back, apparently still searching. Somehow all the fields were mowed in the same week, so there's not much ground cover left.

You can see this field next to the warehouse looks pretty barren but it must be a great source of food. This is Pepe's field. The trees way back on the left side are plantings that edge the parking lot. Earlier in the summer they were a symphony of mockingbird calls, but the birds have been silent for at least a month.

This is where we saw an owl swoop down to snatch its dinner from the concrete. We've kept an eye out for rodents but still haven't seen any. Usually there are at least 2 or 3 kildeers running around on the parking lot, pretending it's a beach, I guess.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

tired again

I don't know how I can keep making myself get up in the morning. I don't like to think about my condition if we stay on eleven-hour shifts. The almost continual napping I did yesterday only put a slight dent in my weariness. The naps were full of nightmares, too, and would have made for some great short stories. They were so vivid, so real, and in my dreamstate I told myself to take notes and remember, remember, remember. So of course my mind was blank when I awoke. I just had that queasy feeling of half-remembered turmoil and shouting.

I only have to work six hours today so maybe there's light at the end of the tunnel. I just don't know that it's not a freight train bearing down on me.

dogs have the right idea

naps, food, chasing squirrels.....
wonder why they sleep with their tongues hanging out?

The prospect of having a day off kept me going Thursday night, giving me something to look forward to, but I've spent most of today napping. The tension on the strings that control my puppet motions was removed and I collapsed into a useless heap. Just can't make myself move. I have rubber limbs. I'm just so tired. I don't know how K at work has gone 41 days without a break. I wouldn't be seeing straight at that point.

My back has also begun to complain vociferously. It took nearly a year to get over the pain of my herniated disc and only two months of ten-hour-plus-days to annoy it again. I'm popping aspirin or tylenol every four hours and increasing my stretching exercises in an effort to avoid another meltdown. I still have a few tabs of Lodine, a super-duper anti-inflammatory I'm to take only when in dire straits, and if that fails, I guess I can fall back on Darvocet to kill the pain. This is where hoarding medicine pays off. If I play my cards right I can dose myself for any occasion.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

energy solutions

I came across an article about restoring energy which I had hoped might help us at work. I don’t know what kind of world this person lives in but here’s my take on it(Her steps, My solutions).

1. Monitor the Symptoms & Determine the Solution - Symptoms - overworked & underpaid. Solution – win the lotto

2. Honor Your Body with Healthy Intake and Plenty of Sleep – we’re trying to get the company to pass out gas masks to filter the mold and pesticides spewing from the air ducts at work. We would order some clean air for North Texas, too, but they don’t ship to here. As for sleep, Our A1 Employees just loll back their heads and sleep at their work station

3. Exercise – our daily work is an exercise in frustration

4. Drink Lots of Water – also as much soda pop, coffee, tea, and any other caffeine-laced liquid that crosses your path

5. Eliminate Clutter – I need a bigger cubicle to do that

6. Handle Aggravations – Dump our Kodak XP and replace our outmoded computers and worn-out monitors. Hire freelancers who show up and who spend more time working than talking on the phone

7. Under Commit – tell that to our corporate bosses

8. Add Fun to Your Life Regularly – We often take time to laugh at people who have turned $500 statues into shrapnel by dropping them on the floor

9. Take Time for Spiritual Development – if only we had any spirit left

10. Accept Your Life as it is with Gratitude – it could be worse, right? and I'm looking at the winning lotto ticket here in my hand right now!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Kodak C.S.I.

The Great Yellow Father in Rochester has sent us two high priests to lay hands on the XP. It had run intermittently since its last breakdown, so we were hopeful it would get us through the summer. Thursday it went down for about 6 hours but they got it going until Saturday when it screamed as it did that last time. The technician was there until midnight and returned for 5 hours on Sunday. Now the priests have arrived with their holy water and incantations. We heard the crashing of demons as the great machine heaved itself and rocked on the concrete floor. Then silence. The pieces were put in and the lid closed but it does not run. We believe last rites may be adminstered today and then we're going to use a sawsall to cut a large hole in the wall and roll the damned thing through so it can crash down to the parking lot below. We would be pleased to allow the tractor-trailer rigs finish it off. It dragged us down all summer and we won't be sorry to have the drama end.

I'm tired, grumpy and jumpy. We all are. I'm down to sleep, eat, drive, work, drive, sleep. Writing in this blog and reading the daily comic strips are my main non-work activities. I'm still nature-walking at night but my senses are dulled. I see things that aren't there and I miss things that are. I need two days off so I can sleep.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

anyone for spinach?

I’m Popeye the Garbage Man,
I live in a garbage can,
I eat with the chickens,
I stink like the dickens,
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.

Would that a can of spinach could make the undead wake! I might try it. That slimy green glop my mom once shlorped onto my plate when I was little was one of the things that put me off the stuff early in life. It reminded me of the contents of the spittoons at one of my dad’s hangouts. One of my dad’s friends had a room, probably it was the living room, with only bare wood floors and a few chairs in it, and the spittoon in the corner. They’d chew tobacco and then spit in the general direction of the corner, often missing the can and hitting the floor or wall instead. I couldn’t understand how Popeye could swallow a whole can at once. It wasn’t until fifteen or twenty years later that I discovered fresh spinach – dainty crunch leaves best had uncooked or only dunked for a few moments in boiling water.

Someone erected a statue of Popeye in Crystal City, Texas, which calls itself “The Spinach Capital of the World.”

Oh, yeah, here are the real words to the Popeye song.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

ain't no cure for the summertime blues

I’ve reached the doldrums. I’m slumping. I’m tired of not knowing what day it is and not knowing when my next day off will be. I feel alienated from the world and from many of my co-workers. The XP is down again as we head into another “crunch” week and our freelancers are fading, as they usually do about this stage of the game. They pick their days and hours, a luxury the full-time staff can’t enjoy. I know I don’t have the worst part in this play but that doesn’t stop me feeling low. I will, however, suppress my most maudlin thoughts here.

I had to tell a young freelancer to stop wearing cologne to work. Rather, I asked him to stop, and hope that he will. Apparently it’s become politically incorrect to let people know their odors are offensive. People were laughing at this teenager behind his back and calling him “stinky boy” but I was apparently the only one who suffered burning sinuses and watery eyes from the fumes. Last year there was a guy who never took showers and no one knew how to tell him he stunk. Last year I was taking physical therapy for a herniated disc and during the last week my therapy overlapped with a woman who wore unbearably strong cologne. I already had to suffer the disgusting aroma of nicotine from my physical therapist so I asked a staff person if they could ask this other client to cool it with the cologne or to at least include in their list of guidelines that people refrain from wearing cologne during treatment. The staff person told me the doctors felt it was invasion of privacy or some such baloney.

I’ve just finished reading “The Bell Jar” and I suppose Sylvia Plath’s musings aren’t conducive to a happy frame of mind. I kept hearing references to Plath and then found out there will soon be a movie about her life starring Gwyneth Paltrow so I thought I’d read Plath’s work before I got the Hollywood version of her life. She apparently suffered from Bipolar Disorder and in the 1950’s the main treatment for depression was shock therapy or lobotomy. What witch doctors psychiatrists were. And may be yet; only now many therapists are mere hucksters for either religion or the drug industry. And don't let me get started about Doctor Phil!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Periplanta americana

I hate roaches! Those two-inch angular bodies with twitching antennae…..I absolutely will not tolerate them in my house. The two seasons when roaches invade my great indoors occur about the time of the first freeze in November or December and when it’s hot, which is pretty much May through September. They make themselves at home in the garage, which is next to the kitchen and is the main door of entrance/egress from the house. Then they sneak inside. I don’t know how they do it.

I see at least one and usually two or more when I pull into the garage in the wee hours of morning. That’s their preferred time. They hate light. I’ll see them in my headlights and then the overhead light comes on and they stop in their tracks until I slam the car door and head over to stomp them. Then they scuttle for cover and I’m too tired to chase them. I don’t like using ant&roach spray inside the house because it’s so toxic and smells so bad but the garage is a different matter. I’ve taken to leaving a big red can of Raid on my workbench and now I ease myself quietly out of the car, grab the can, take aim and PSSSSSSSST! Spray hits the roach and it scurries away but it’s probably doomed.

I have a two-stage reaction when I’m in the house and surprise. First I do a karate-style shriek which serves to broadcast my total disgust and also to kickstart my adrenaline. My preferred weapon is a rolled-up newspaper because I can wield it in tight quarters, especially corners, which is where the roaches usually head. I can also strike repeatedly which is a necessity because one blow usually doesn’t finish them off. In a pinch if I don’t have a paper I’ll use a shoe but rubber treads mean I may be striking the roach with only empty space. Stomping is also a possible alternative but you have to be very fast and extremely accurate and it usually isn’t effective on carpeted floors. I hate that crunching noise they make when you schmush them. And I hate their tan guts oozing out. But it’s better than having them crawling around the house. And finally I brush the seemingly lifeless body between pages of a paper and stomp that before depositing it into the trash can. This is a crucial final step because roaches will “play possum” (or maybe they become stunned) and then crawl away.

I used to hear that placing horseapples (fruit of the bois d’arc tree) around the perimeter of your house would deter cockroaches from entering. I did try it once at my old house but I never could find out if you were supposed to leave them whole, or cut them in half, and whether or not you were also supposed to smear the juice on the house’s foundation. I wasn’t able to acquire enough horseapples to encircle the house, as the number of bois d’arcs seemed to have dwindled so I just put them across the foundation where the main door was located. I don’t think it made a difference.

Thomas Henry Huxley (grandfather of Aldous) thought cockroaches were the archetypal bug. Here’s his take on them. And here’s some more fun facts about roaches.

Friday, August 05, 2005

more night critters

I feel so privileged to be able to observe the night life of so much wildlife this summer. I wouldn’t mind spending a lot more time observing the animals and learning more about their habits. Of course at night you can’t see very well and that makes it hard to positively identify particular species. We have yet to figure out if we’re seeing barn owls or great horned owls. I know there are barn owls in the area because I saw one as I headed home after a long night and my tired brain freaked as a ghosty face floating atop a street sign turned and stared right at me.

A few nights ago Ed & I saw an owl swoop down to snatch something in its talons from the parking lot. That was a pretty sight. It may have got a mouse but we’ve never seen any rodents on our nightly nature walk (unless you count bats). Last night we watched for several minutes as an owl swept back and forth across a recently mowed field and finally perched momentarily on a post within 30 yards of our position before heading for a rabbit hangout. We never hear these owls. They fly in perfect silence.

The more I watch these critters the more questions I seem to have and I’m disappointed at how little information there seems to be their life habits. For instance most of the info about skunks focuses on their spraying abilities; how far, how accurate, how to get rid of the smell. There’s only sketchy information about what kind of lives they lead. Supposedly they can live ten years in captivity but only live 5 or 6 in the wild. Behind foxes they are the most likely wild animal to contract rabies.

Opossums, on the other hand, are the least likely wild animal to contract rabies. We saw a juvenile possum a few nights ago. Most of the possums look pretty scraggly but this one was awfully cute. I was bad, I chased it to see if it would lie down and “play possum”, feigning death, but it headed for a tree. It looked so comical as it leapt onto the tree and started to slide back down; it couldn’t sink those extra-long claws into the bark. It ran to another tree and succeeded in climbing up to a crook about eight feet off the ground. It pressed itself close and looked like the veritable bump on a log; if you didn’t know it was there you would have been hard-pressed to find it. I could have reached up and touched it with my flashlight but I didn’t. I just got a good look and walked away.

I once did see a possum do its playing dead act. My dog, a whippet named Devo, had gone outside about 2 a.m. and began to bark at something between a tree and the garage. He was usually a quiet dog but that time o amount of calling or whistling would deter his racket so I went out for a look and there was a possum lying on the ground and stiff as a board. I thought Devo had surely killed it so I pulled him away and put him back in the house. I came back with a flashlight to examine the possum. I saw that it was breathing ever so slightly but could see no blood or obvious injury so I left it alone, but I was able to watch it from inside the house. After a few minutes I saw it lift its head, look around, and then faster than I thought possums could move, it ran to and clambered up the chain link fence to end up in my neighbor’s yard.

At the same time we’ve been watching all these fascinating creatures at night, on my way to work in the afternoon I’ve been watching bulldozers and backhoes scrape most of the vegetation from a large piece of land that lies across the street from the warehouse, maybe five to ten acres, and I can’t imagine how many animals are losing their homes. I know the turkey vulture that used to perch almost daily on the tallest mesquite tree there has disappeared. And last week for the first time this summer we saw four cottontail rabbits foraging in the brush adjacent to the warehouse parking lot.

These fields lie at the edge of the Blackland Prairie and where it’s still undeveloped is mostly tall grasses with some scrub trees with a lot of juniper and patches of prickly pear cactus. Not what most people would consider scenic but to me it’s preferable to the glass and concrete surrounding it.