Sunday, July 31, 2005

the golf

Colorful car owned by one of our freelancers. I thought he had painted it himself but he said it was originally a yellow car painted over by volkswagen, one of 175, as part of a commercial promotion. My brain can't remember the year, now.

If you follow the white lines of the parking lot straight back, the first patch of green is the field haunted by Pepe the skunk. Beyond it is a paved drive and another field used by Paco the skunk and the four miniature Pacos.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

no starbucks for me

Phoebe jumps onto my bed and I start into semi-comatose awakeness for a few brief seconds. I have been dead to the world in undreaming sleep for only four hours and I need at least three more, but this is her daily ritual. She circles the bedcovers to give my face a quick slurp and is gone. I don't mind too much. Dogs need their schedules. My daily rituals are what keep the fabric of my own life from unraveling during the hectic summer months.

The first and most important ritual of the day is tea. Two cups of water zapped for two and a half minutes in the microwave and dumped unceremoniously into a small blue willow teapot along with a bag of black chai tea and left to brew while I boot up my mac and check my e-mail. I love seeing the hot golden liquid flow from the spout of the teapot into my mug. Some milk and a sachet of saccharine and I have my tea. The first cup is usually the best one; it's still too hot to gulp and so I can savor it. By the time I get to the second one, it's cool enough I swallow it greedily in just a few great swigs; for the caffeine, not for the flavor.

Tea in other forms follows my day and week. Upon arrival at work I fill my two empty plastic Ozarka bottles with tap water and stuff a bag of herbal raspberry tea into each to steep until I begin working. It helps me drink the slightly soapy-tasting water that comes from the tap. On weekends I've begun brewing rooibois, diluting it with ice cubes and squeezing a lemon into it. It tastes exactly like traditional ice tea except it is just sweet enough so it doesn't need sugar. I recently learned rooibois has become very popular because it appears in "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series of books by Alexander McCall Smith. I've just received the first book of the series on CD so I can listen to it at work. We shall see about the rooibois!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

pack your stuff, turn in your badge,
turn off the lights

Note from my boss yesterday: Our daily list of "things to do." He didn't even have time to type it.

I've been given the day off but not for a good reason. It's more than 3 days that our proofing system has been down. In the printshop every minute the press is down is money lost. In pre-press the same goes for the imagesetter. Our onsite operation has only one customer and they're not the forgiving kind. The techs brought in a new worm drive and new laser heads for the XP and they still can't make it work, so they've retrieved our ancient proofer from the bowels of storage and are trying to make it live again. If it does, the next three days & nights will be a marathon of catching up. We'll know by Monday, I think, if we still have jobs.

thanks a bunch, kodak.

baby skunks



ARE EVERYWHERE! They are so cute - exact miniature replicas of the adults and just as deadly with their spray (so I hear). The ones we've seen are about six to eight inches long with bushy tails longer than they were. Sunday there were four of them rolling around on the east side of the warehouse in the field usually occupied by the adult I call "Paco". They scooted away in single file when they saw us but only went about 15 feet and started wrestling again like kittens or puppies. Last Thursday on the west side of the building along the bottom of "bluebonnet hill" we saw three more independent youngsters diligently digging for food. I've read that crickets and grasshoppers are a favorite food of skunks and crickets are especially plentiful right now. Grasshoppers are showing up but not in large numbers. June Bugs are also suddenly abundant.

Last night we saw a possum running as if for its life. We think there is a predator in the area, probably a coyote or bobcat. One night last week an adult skunk who saw us ran quickly for quite a distance before disappearing into some brush down the road. After we walked a little farther we saw a pair of eyes reflecting from "bluebonnet hill" that looked like something much larger than a skunk or opossum. IT watched US and then faded into the brush. spooky!

Photos are from Mary's Wildlife Page. She has more photos of skunks & opossums. The possums we see aren't nearly so cute.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Witnessing one corporation blatantly trying to screw another one was a shock. The aftermath is making life miserable for us drones who do production.

At the heart of the matter is this Kodak XP Proofing System. We had two ten-year-old Kodak proofers and Kodak convinced the powers-that-run-my-office this new one would be twice as fast with better quality. So we bought one. First we thought it was funny there was no documentation for the software. Then when something went wrong a few weeks after installation someone peering at the innards found a sticker dated 2002. We had paid for a new machine and received a three-year-old refurbished one. The installer 'fessed up and All Hell broke loose with the powers-that-run-my-office. Threats of lawsuits (according to the grapevine) convinced Kodak to replace the machine with the machine we had paid for.

I think they screwed us again. We haven't had the machine run for an entire week yet without something going wrong. There are only two technicians for the entire southwest u.s. so we often have to wait while they fly their guy in from Colorado or Oklahoma. Now that we're in the midst of our major summer crunch our "fast machine" has been inoperable for over 36 hours and the technician can't find the problem. We are steadily falling behind schedule. Our customer was understanding yesterday but today or tomorrow will be a different story.

Litigation is certain to occur.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Time Time Time - See what's become of me!

More to the point, what's become of my time?


Nando peered through the grimy kitchen window at the chain-link fence that was bothering him. He was a slightly built young man of twenty-three who almost looked muscular under his baggy clothes but if you looked closely you could tell whatever tone there was to his body came from leftover youth and not from working out. His name was really Fernando but people who knew him mostly called him Nando.

The house he dwelt in was a clapboard-sided two-bed one-bath that had been built in the 1940s when the neighborhood was young and solid working-class couples raised kids who went on to own bigger and nicer houses in newer neighborhoods that radiated ever more outward from the city’s core and the owners here, much like their abodes, gradually grew older and more decrepit. The owners died and were buried, the houses gained new lives as rental properties, and the neighborhood fell farther into disrepair until it became “the hood.”

This house had belonged to Nando’s grandmother, he thought. Sometimes he didn’t remember. His parents had rented it out after she died but when the last tenant left Nando had been allowed to move in. His folks didn’t want to throw him out onto the street but they didn’t want him at their house with their two teenaged children.

At the moment Nando was obsessed with the chain-link fence that encircled the back yard. His next-door neighbor, a thirty-something black man who had moved in only two months ago, had erected a six-foot wooden fence across the back of his yard that abutted the alley. Nando envied that fence. He couldn’t stop thinking about how nice it looked with the wide dog-eared pickets and golden brown stain. He thought it might be fun to throw a softball against the fence and hear it thud against the boards. He thought it would be convenient to throw his empty beer cans over the fence into the alley. Man, that was a nice fence, and he wanted one for his own yard.

Mr. Miller was playing a video game inside his house when he heard an odd metallic noise. It wasn’t exactly a “clang” nor was it exactly a “clink,” but something in between. Was it his water pipes? The gutter? He heard it a second time and then it became regular.




Mr. Miller opened his back door and saw his young Hispanic neighbor hacking at the chain-link fence with a machete. He was somewhat startled. He suspected the young man used drugs but he seemed harmless. He walked over to Nando, who continued to abuse the thick metal pole that constituted the fence’s top rail.

“Hey, bro, whatcha got goin’ on here?” asked Mr. Miller calmly.

“I’m gonna take down this fence and get me a new one,” replied Nando.

“The way you’re goin’ I think it’s going to take you a while.”

Nando did not reply and continued to hack, but the cadence slowed a bit.

“Well, good luck,” said Miller and returned to his video game.

The noise abruptly stopped and when Miller looked outside, the machete was on the ground and Nando had disappeared.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

he's a real scream

yes, it turns out the office mummy is quite a ham! It's tough having a cadaver on the premises when you just don't know what to do with it. Mummy sits on a stool an no one notices. Mummy perches on a cubicle and stares over the walls, preventing people doing their work. Mummy circulates among the cubes producing screams. It's only a matter of time before mummy gets locked away.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

The remnants of Hurricane Dennis have given us thunderstorms every day for the last six days. I was at work every day but yesterday so I finally got a front-row seat. I like thunderstorms but Phoebe does not. She wants to see what's going on but the crashes frighten her. I sat on the back steps until the sheets of driven rain pushed me back to just inside the doorway. Even there I was getting misted. The storm must have lasted 45 minutes as the lightning got closer and closer. If you count the seconds between the time you see the flash to the time you hear the crash there's a formula that'll tell you how far away it is. If you see and hear at the same time you're at the point of impact. Yesterday the noise was so loud my heart stopped. The impact was so fast I couldn't even flinch. The storm passed but about 9pm the power went out all over the neighborhood. Today I found more than 29,000 people were affected. Things are so dark and so quiet. Phoebe doesn't like thunder and she didn't know what to do about the black hole that our house became. She's uncomfortable around flashlights. I wasn't sure it would be safe to walk around the neighborhood in the dark so after enjoying the darkness for about 30 minutes I thought I'd take a short nap. It was at least 6 hours before my normal bedtime but I'm tired from extra hours at work. Phoebe jumped on the bed with me and snuggled up next to me and went to sleep. This is totally out of character for her. I guess she was a little freaked out. It was nice having my puppy there, though. We napped for about an hour and then we got up and I lit a candle. It was getting really stuffy inside the house even with the window open. The rain had cooled the temperature by 20 or 30 degrees but had left that oppressive humidity behind. The moon had risen; it was almost half full so it was quite a bit lighter outside, so we sat out there again. About 11:30 the power came on again.
Now I had light again I finished reading this book. It went really fast & I liked reading it. It's sort of a murder mystery narrated by the protagonist, an autistic fifteen-year-old. The character is a genius at math and at solving puzzles but finds it extremely difficult to live around people. I identify with characters like that.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

widget schmidget

DC has been using his newest "gas price" widget in Tiger to try to find cheap gas. You type in your zip code and it gives you the five lowest prices and their locations. So far he has been chasing phantoms; when he finds the gas station the price is no lower than it is elsewhere. He was going to try again yesterday on his way home from work. It's hard to believe someone's selling it for $1.80 when I can't see any for less than $2.19. I felt a small piece of luck fell my way on Tuesday when I filled my tank for $2.21 a gallon while I watched a tanker truck replenishing the station's supply. When I passed the same station in the wee hours following work the price had increased to $2.23.

Ed & I saw two possums last night near a pond we hadn't noticed before. We were just checking out a small stand of junipers and were crossing a soupy swath of turf when we saw the first possum. It seemed awfully scraggly and small - not fat like the other one we saw a few weeks back. Then we saw there was a large pond beyond the slight ridge we were climbing. Ed joked about alligators and suddenly there was something swimming in the dark water! I thought "cottonmouth"! We trained our flashlights on it and it came closer a few times but not close enough to see clearly. We could tell it was some kind of mammal, so we guessed "possum". We heard but did not see half a dozen or more turtles plopping into the water. We crossed the street and waded through some more watery muck to one of the canals and spotted a huge bird flying silently over the water. In the dark it looked as large as an egret, but was most likely an owl. Was it a barn owl or a great horned owl? Do opossums swim? Do skunks swim? Our night walks are giving my brain as well as my legs exercise as I try to research these creatures of the night.

We've decided 11-11:15pm isn't a good time for wildlife viewing because the tractor-trailer rigs are finishing their last run of the day and there's too much noise. Last night we realized 12:30am isn't good, either. There was so much traffic around the warehouse it must be when the shift changes. The pond was far enough from the road you didn't notice the cars much but our circuit around the warehouse was positively dangerous as we had to avoid 6 or 8 speeding cars. We only saw one skunk on the premises.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

fa male

HERE's how I feel.

LP told me yesterday everyone's collective tiredness was rendered into complete silence at the morning meeting. The only sound was the air conditioner. Ten more weeks.

Monday, July 11, 2005


Ed & I went out at midnight last night and saw three skunks. One was a farily large one on the northeast corner at the far edge of the field abutting our parking lot. We have seen a skunk only once before on this side of the warehouse. This one ran away as did the previous one so we think it may be the same individual. Most of the skunks just look at us and keep doing what they're doing. Last night we also saw two smaller skunks on the west side of the building where we usually see them. They were foraging in their "regular" locations.

I've now become extremely irritable. I'm always tired and we may be going to a six-day work week this week. Of course the extra money will be nice but as I do every year I question whether or not it's worth the loss of my sanity for two or more months.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

la gritona

My eyes and back are both too tired to spend much time sitting at the computer at home but I'm not having a problem reading, so that's what I'm doing. Maybe along with the audio books I'm listening to at work I'll get a massive injection of culture.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

skunk patrol

Ed & I are continuing our nightly excursions around the warehouse an hour or so past the witching hour - or should I say the skunking hour? Our chief companions are kildees and striped skunks. On the best nights we may see three skunks and an owl. Once we saw a possum, but it scurried up a tree and hid itself so well we gave up trying to find it with a flashlight. The skunks aren't usually afraid but we don't get too close to them either. One night a skunk was rooting in the dirt directly in front of a ground-level spotlight and I got about five feet away to get a good view but walked away without it noticing me. We have learned the owls tend to perch on top of the tall spotlights located in the parking lot or along the street, probably to get a good view of potential prey. We think they, or it, is a barn owl. We don't know if it's a single bird or if there are several. It's amazing how silently they fly. We've spotted another smaller bird that's probably an owl. We saw fewer skunks last week and thought maybe the weekend fireworks exhibitions might have disturbed them a bit. Or maybe they are trying to avoid us. We're going to schedule some walks before midnight to see if there's a bigger party then. Supposedly baby skunks are usually born in May and may stay with their mother for up to a year but the skunks we have seen have all been solo explorers and none of them seem small enough to be juveniles. I'm not finding much detailed information about skunks on the web and haven't yet found a book about skunks that's not written for children. Adults want to know, too!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Ed & I took a long break from work to check out the fireworks from nearby Pioneer Square in Las Colinas on Monday night. I toted my tripod through the dark field adjacent to the warehouse to experiment. The camera was not cooperative. Shutter lag increased tenfold so I couldn't snap the shots I wanted. I tried to anticipate but the shutter lag was never consistent. I was able to try some different exposures and got a few interesting shots. I think this was my favorite - a handheld shot after I got disgusted with the whole shutter thing.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

can't escape the weather!

Hot! Hot! Hot! I found the "Hot Tamale" package on the parking lot at work and knew I had to use it for something. This collage wasn't what I had in mind, but think it works pretty well to convey the furnace raging outdoors.

gettysburg day

It's happy fourth of july holiday for most folks, I reckon, but for me the first few days of july take my mind back to a few hot summer days in 1863 when more than 50,000 soldiers wearing blue and grey were killed near a peach orchard in Pennsylvania. Last year I listened to an audio tour of Gettysburg called "on hallowed ground" and I recommend it for students of that battle, who like myself, have never been to that sacred place. I do hope to see it someday and hope the carnivals of entertainment planned for the surrounding area are kept hid from view. The movie "Gettysburg" was a pretty good rendition of one of my favorite books, "The Killer Angels," by Michael Shaara, but I think I'll go read a few pages right now, since my creativity level seems pretty low.

Friday, July 01, 2005

dreaming dog

When I was thirteen my family joined the hordes of Dallas' "white flight" and moved several miles to a new neighborhood inside the westerly edges of the city limit. It was a hastily constructed neighborhood, one of many developments springing up to house anglo families trying to escape the newly integrated schools closer to the inner city. We had never lived in a new house so it was exciting for my brother and me even though the house itself was somewhat shoddy and the neighborhood was sorely lacking trees and had only rudimentary lawns. There was a nicely-wooded park down the street with a small creek that afforded an occasional crawdad if you were patient enough to sit on the concrete drainage pipe for several hours with a scrap of bacon tied to a string.

There were two brothers named Bill who lived across the street and 6 or 8 houses up the block. We thought it was funny they were both named Bill but we didn't know much about divorce and the mixed families that resulted from second marriages. The only single parents you saw on tv in the sixties were single because their spouse had died like the dad on "My Three Sons" or "The Courtship of Eddie's Father." So sad. There were also single guys who inherited their nieces or nephews like the swingers on "Bachelor Father" and "Family Affair." There didn't seem to be any single moms though except for Diahann Carroll on "Julia." She was the first single mom I remember seeing (again as a result of death, not divorce) and also the first African-American woman to star in a tv show. I sometimes wonder at the messages these shows must have sent, as if being a single parent was cool if you were a white man but was only acceptable for women if you were black. And divorce was something reserved for movie stars.

The two Bills on Wisteria Street came to be called "Big Bill" and "Little Bill." Little Bill was younger and he was the mean one who harassed other kids and would take their bikes from them when he felt like it. Big Bill would rescue you from the clutches of his half-brother if he was around, but he disappeared from time to time so you couldn't rely on his help. You were better off just riding the other direction if Little Bill was outside. The Bills' family moved away after a year or so and I forgot about them until my friend Jean started dating Big Bill about ten years later.

Bill was a sweet guy, nice-looking, and he always had plenty of money. He took Jean out every weekend and sometimes during the week, too, and was almost like a dad to Jean's five-year-old daughter. They took family vacations on the beach at Galveston. This was quite a switch for Jean, whose deadbeat ex-husband had never earned enough money to move them out of Jean's grandmother's roach-infested house and who now never paid child-support and rarely bothered to even visit his adorable blond daughter. Jean and Bill were happy and had just become engaged to be married when Bill jumped off the edge of sanity and stripped away the facade of his life.

One morning when he should have been at work, Bill came to Jean's home, talking a mile a minute and pacing incessantly as he babbled about people coming after him. Worried, Jean phoned her brother, Des, who was also Bill's friend. It took about ten minutes for him to drive to Jean's. When Bill saw Des pull into the driveway, he ran from the house to his own car, shouting for everyone to keep away. At breakneck speed, he started his car and backed around his friend's car to get out of the driveway, throwing gravel in every direction in a frantic effort to leave. Jean's brother had been waving his arms shouting "it's me, let's talk" to no avail. In a few moments, Bill was out of the driveway and out of sight. They could still hear the car as its tires screeched on asphalt and hard concrete and suddenly there was Bill again in front of the house, the car flying up over the curb into Jean's front yard where she and her brother still stood. They now had to dodge the oncoming car and Bill dug deep circular ruts in the lawn with his tires as he spun around the yard two or three times and was then gone again. It would be almost 24 hours before they would see him again.

What no one knew then was that Bill was a manic-depressive, that he had gone off his medication, and that he had exacerbated his manic condition by ingesting a large amount of cocaine. He was spotted several times during the day in neighborhoods of his friends and family and finally corralled after the bulk of the cocaine had faded from his bloodstream. The truth about Bill's medical condition came out and he was institutionalized in a psych ward for three months. When he came out he wasn't the same. The medication that was supposed to level out his mood swings made him impotent and depressed. Jean felt helself pulling away from him though she hoped Bill would get back to "normal." One day Bill asked to borrow a handgun from his brother. A few days after that he turned the tv volume up loud in his house, walked into a closet in the back bedroom and shot himself.