Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Friday before the wind and dust set upon us I played archeologist out in the back yard. A dilapitated shed was removed before we ever saw the house and the number of rusty nails, nuts & bolts, pieces of broken glass and china seems unending. Apparently someone also used the area as their personal dump. There are remnants of an old carpet (only the stringy parts remain) and partially decomposed pieces of clothing and innumerable pieces of shredded plastic, probably bags or sheeting. I've also been told there was once a barn and a chicken coop somewhere on the block so there may be parts from those buildings. I keep hoping I'll find something cool, like an old medicine bottle or interesting buttons or maybe a tin can stuffed with money that hasn't dissolved. Yeah, for cash I think I'll keep on digging.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Gust Storm

Finally I'm able to get back to blogging. Our phone's been out since about noon Saturday after our neighbors' ancient oak tree was split by 60 mph gusts of wind and crashed into the street, downing power, cable and phone lines. A firetruck arrived about 3 minutes after three brilliant electrical arcs between two poles successfully fried the transformer. Our short street was blocked at both ends and the fire department requested we stay indoors since there were live wires dangling from the pole at the end of our driveway.

I can't remember having such high winds for such an extended amount of time. They started about dawn and never relented during the daylight hours. About 3 pm the DUST hit. The sky grew dark and orange as the dust grew thicker and thicker. I could taste the grit in my mouth and could literally smell West Texas when I opened the back door to peer out. Even the dog didn't want to be outside. The next day I learned it was the first time a Dust Advisory had ever been issued for North Texas.

My mom went to bed about 6:15 saying there was nothing she could do without light. About 7:30 the power company sent trucks to repair the electrical lines and a gang with chain saws and a front-end loader to clear away the tree. Today it seems like it was weeks ago. That's the trouble with time when you don't have a timepiece - it's a matter of personal interpretation.

Time spent at the dentist = Eternity minus ten. I had a root canal done today and lost all track of time. Now an eternity later it's time for lunch and to get ready for work.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

old-skool portable phone

yeh, it was portable if you were a weightlifter. Notice the guy in the back changing the batteries. Need I say its sales weren't much to write home about. But ya gotta start somewhere.

seriously, though, yesterday I made what may be my last trip to the Dallas house and was glad I brought my camera when I spotted this box. It looks like something by Calculator, but there was no tag visible. In the olden days I used to hear that this many drips was a sign of sloppy artwork but now that Dallas has a "Graffiti Czar" the cops are more busy looking for spray-paint artists than drug dealers so lightning-fast throwups are the norm.

Dallas graffiti is one thing I do miss.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

thru the looking glass

(better viewed large)

Which side of the glass do YOU prefer? Me? I don't know.

It's been weird this week. Great weather - finally sunshine and 70 degrees and flowers blooming but the buyers' inspection of the Dallas house turned up numerous deficiencies which sent my stress levels soaring. Never knew what a firetrap I was living in. And I don't know who has contrived to make buying or selling a house one of the worst experiences of your life.

The worst thing is that the showerpan leaks and has left rotted subfloor underneath so part of shower must be demolished and replaced. Other than that, the process seems to be moving forward and the house is to be appraised today. Maybe I will be making my last trip to the house this week.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

almost spring

I couldn't stand it. There wasn't much to do at work today so I stayed home and played at gardening. I raked up about 6 bags of leaves and cut back a bunch of English Ivy that's dragging down our 100-year-old cypress fence. Along the way I found these very tiny violet flowers that appear each spring. They're called corn speedwell and are part of the Veronica and Snapdragon families. I had to literally place the camera on the ground to get level with the little wildflowers.

Monday, February 19, 2007

ghost rider

I almost didn't go to work yesterday. The sun was shining, the temp was 65 degrees and I stopped at a traffic signal and saw the ghost of my youth pedaling furiously across the intersection. Of course we didn't have helmets or knee pads or elbow pads in those days. We didn't even have child-size bicycles. How is this kid ever going to learn about pain if she's not allowed to fall down and scrape the skin off her legs?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

towing enforced

Where was this Tow Truck during the last two elections when we really needed it?


A neighbor down the bock is a "Road Avenger." He drives a huge dark blue flatbed truck that roars up and down the street at 40 miles per hour. You do NOT want to be out walking the dog when this guy heads for work in the morning. It makes for a nice alarm clock at 7:15 a.m.

Except That's NOT what time I want to wake up.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Vivian Refused to Check Her Fish at the Door

I've started following the collage themes posted at Scrapiteria, a Collage Collaboration. I thought it might get me out of my rut to try to follow along, as I really don't know what I'm doing, and these folks are pretty much masters at their craft. Besides, it's still cold outside and you know how much I don't like that!


I had a wisdom tooth pulled on Tuesday and stayed home from work that day. I stayed home Wednesday as well because there wasn't much to do at work and it was cold outside and I just didn't want to get out. I played indoors.

I found many of this collage's elements on walks around my Dallas neighborhood. A coffee-stained photo of a young lady dated Feb 14, 2005; Texas Lotto tickets (no winners); Camel Cigarettes poker chip; a torn check; a crushed beer bottle cap. The objects just seemed to capture what life is like for many people in the area.

I'm very much out of practice with all of my arts. Our "new" house isn't very warm and my office is still in a state of confusion from the move so I haven't puttered much this winter. I'm trying to get back in the habit, though.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

heart apparatus

I have valentine issues.

I had some leftover bits from the postcard I made for a valentine's day swap and this is what came out of it.

secret admirers

A couple of years ago I developed a crush on a co-worker who had recently divorced. Knowing that office romance can be difficult my head was hesitant to explore the situation but my heart was dying to proclaim my attraction. The attraction seemed to be reciprocated but I waffled. As Valentine's Day approached I thought I would explode if I didn't say something to my co-worker. I can't remember if it was Valentine's Day or the eve before, but I remember it was cold and it was raining a little as I left work that night. It was about 9 pm or so and I was the last person to leave. My car was the only one in the parking lot. As I approached it I noticed something on the windshield. It was a large cellophane bag full of potpourri. And not cheap potpourri either. It turned out to be the best-smelling longest-lasting potpourri I've ever had. There was no card, no note, no indication of who had left it on my car. I got very excited, thinking it was from my latest crush. But no, when I asked, he didn't seem to know anything about it. I was crestfallen but I asked my other co-workers, first my male friends, then my female friends, then a few other people. No one knew anything. I never found out where it came from. Still, it made for a really nice Valentine's Day.

Maybe it was payback for something I had done years before. In college I developed a crush on a guy who habituated the class ahead of mine. I would see him each Tuesday-Thursday as my class filtered into the classroom and his class departed. Several women in my class also had crushes on him and I learned his name. No one seemed to know for certain if he was single or married. Again, Valentine's Day approached. I had the guy's address and I thought it would be clever to send him an anonymous valentine just to make his day. I found a lovely romantic card with a single rose on it. I wanted to disguise my handwriting so I addressed the envelope using newspaper clippings. It looked like the proverbial "kidnap note" from old gangser movies, but I didn't think about that at the time. I had done collaged lettering for small art projects and it just seemed like a natural contrast - the pretty card concealed by the rough-hewn lettering on the envelope. At the last minute I printed a short message on an anonymous dot-matrix printer (I told you it was years ago!) with my phone number and paper-clipped it to the card, just in case the guy was available and mailed it. I had the satisfaction of then seeing him twice a week knowing he had had a wonderful valentine arrive in the mail. A year or more went by and I forgot about it until out of the blue I got the phone call I'd hoped for at the time. We talked and I found out what had happened to my card. I guess the guy was unusually paranoid because when he saw that collaged address (the kidnap note) and felt something solid inside the envelope (the paper clip) he thought it was a letter bomb. He put it in the trunk of his car and drove to the police station where he reported it to the bomb squad. They gingerly removed the thing and x-rayed it. The officer told him, "it's a paper clip." So he opened the letter there in the presence of the (probably highly amused) officers and sure enough, it was a pink paper clip with a phone number attached to a card of hearts and flowers. I don't remember what his reaction was but he did save the card and eventually called the phone number. Things didn't work out, by the way.

Monday, February 12, 2007

is that a real sky or is that a Sears sky?

It's raining today. No sun. Snow predicted for Wednesday. I'm impatient for spring.

I guess if I really need to look at a blue sky I could head over to the Studio at Las Colinas across the street from where I work and stare at this wall. This is where they shot the Chuck Norton TV series "Walker, Texas Ranger". I often wonder now how many skies on tv are just painted on the sides of buildings. Life mimics "The Truman Show".

Sunday, February 11, 2007

cabin fever

My mom is going to drive me crazy if winter doesn't end soon. She's been poring over all these seed catalogs for the last few weeks, making lists, and ordering seeds and plants. It wouldn't be so bad but she has to tell me every single item she wants to order and ask me where she should plant it. I just want to rest my brain; I don't want to think about designing a garden that she won't plant. It won't really matter much where I want things planted. She will plant them where she wants. She's also got dozens of pots and tin cans in the sitting area with little seedlings growing out of some of them and mold or rust growing in others. I can barely move around to get to a chair so I can read the newspaper in the morning.

We're suppposed to get another "winter blast" this week, possibly with a bit of snow, and I'm hoping winter will just blow itself out this time around. I'm longing for sunshine that lasts more than a day or a few hours.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

finding a needle in a haystack

Here is part of my very messy office. It isn't so bad unless I am trying to find something I really need. Like today. I got a call from my realtor in Dallas who said someone has made an offer to buy my old house there. But I needed to find the old survey of the property or I might have to pay to have another one made. Not exactly small change. So I started with the grey filing cabinet back there in the left corner and went through every file folder and then started sifting through all the books, magazines and papers on my shelves looking for just one particular sheet of paper. I had been looking for this paper for two weeks so I wasn't sure I would find anything but I tried to stay positive. The little bit of sun we had this morning faded and it was getting a little chilly so I made a coffee cake and some strong coffee and my mom and I had a cheerful "tea time" about 2 pm. We are so happy someone wants to buy the house. I was rejuvenated by these thoughts as well as from sugar and caffeine and whaddaya know? I found that little piece of paper! Now it's safely tucked into a brown envelope so I can take it to my realtor tomorrow.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I started carrying my camera with me again. I've been missing a lot of photo ops by not doing so. I drove by an electrical box off LBJ Freeway with some great graffiti & stickerart that I meant to photograph. I couldn't quite figure out how to get to it and I was always too tired to stop and investigate and last week someone covered the art over with black paint. Sunday there was a fire at some apartments that backed up to the freeway and I kept thinking I could exit and photograph all the firefighters that were still hosing down the ashes. Probably I would not have been able to get that close, but I didn't have my camera anyway. So a few days later I decided my camera would be my traveling companion.

Yesterday I stopped in Plano on my way to work to shoot this '57 Chevy that's in front of Hooters. There was a lot of fog and mist in the air but it seemed appropriate for the orange. I may have to tweak the exposure a little in photoshop but it turned out pretty well without any editing.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


We're finally back to eight-hour days at work after about 6 weeks of nonstop overtime. Plus there were the weekly drives to Dallas to work on the other house. I thought I'd be less tired this week but I'm not. So I've done the logical thing and increased my caffeine intake. On top of the pot of chai tea I drink every morning I've added a shot of instant coffee courtesy of my mom. It's not "real" coffee but it does the trick. It's probably a good thing I don't have any decent coffee beans lying around or I'd be drinking pots of that instead of the tea.

I've continued listening to "Drugs and Behavior", the Psch 119 class from Berkeley, and one of the ideas that's been emphasized is that the only difference between a poison and a medicine is the dosage. Any plant stimulant (like tea or coffee) that you ingest is "poison". Part of the class centers on the metabolic effects of poisons and how we build tolerances to them. All I can say is I'm going to have a whopping headache when I disengage from my excessive use of caffeine.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

rodrigo y gabriela

Last week I kept switching from an old Supersuckers' CD to this more recent one by the Mexico City duo Rodrigo and Gabriela. They got their start in music by playing thrash metal in Mexico City in the mode of Megadeath and Slayer. When that didn't work out they buskered around Europe for a few years, just the two of them and their guitars, Rodrigo on lead and Gabriela on percussion, often creating new songs by ad libbing old metal songs with most folks none the wiser. They finally settled in Ireland where this album went to that country's Top Ten almost immediately on its release.

This album has no lyrics to get in the way of the wonderful instrumentals. I found it in the jazz section but don't let that classification put you off; it's a passion-filled collection of enlivening pieces. My favorite is "El Diablo Rojo" and their unique rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" is a wonderful homage to their metal roots.

You can find out more about Rodrigo & Gabriela at My Old Kentucky Blog (Scroll down to January 17) or at the duo's homepage, RODGAB.COM. You can also hear an interview with the duo as well some of their music at World Cafe at NPR.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

car chase

I watched two vehicles play a dangerous game on the freeway last night. As I drove north on US 75 a Scion entered the freeway from George Bush Turnpike. The road veers right & left due to ongoing construction and creates unusual blind spots for drivers, especially at night. The Scion didn't see the big Ford pickup traveling in the right lane and the truck had to quickly swerve into the next lane to avoid hitting the Scion.

The driver of the Ford pickup is pissed. "You sonofabitch!" He immediately speeds up, passes the Scion on the left, and cuts to the right directly in the path of the Scion. He then slows down so the Scion is riding his bumper. The driver of the Scion says, "What the hell??" and eases over one lane to the left. The Ford cuts quickly to the left in front of the Scion and slows down again. The Scion again attempts to move over and speeds up to try to get around the Ford. The Ford also accelerates and again cuts off the Scion. The Ford outweighs the Scion by at least 3000 pounds but it has enough power to more than compensate for any agility the smaller vehicle might have. I am going 65 mph and their speed is gradually increasing as they get farther and farther ahead of me. It's not yet 10 p.m. so there is still enough traffic that these two vehicles must also dodge several vehicles as they dodge one another. From Plano to McKinney is an almost straight 20-mile stretch of freeway so there is no telling how long they will play this game of russian roulette. Before I reach the city of Allen about ten minutes later the players are lost from sight.

As I watched this scene unfold I felt it could only end when one or another of the drivers was dead. It was scary. It's why I hate driving in Dallas. Some locals say there are two reasons they call LBJ Freeway a death-trap: 1) death 2) trap

Back in the 1980's the state of Texas promoted a "Drive Friendly" campaign by placing happy yellow signs along the highways and byways. You can still see a few of those old signs but they seem to be relics of a bygone era. Texas has become notorious for having worse drivers than California. It's odd how people can be so friendly in person and then turn into vicious sociopaths once they get in their car.

While the state's Drive Friendly campaign seems to have mostly given up the ghost, it still maintains a website to help people fight road rage. Go to for tips on what you can do about aggressive driving.

Monday, February 05, 2007

sincerest form of flattery

I hear Microsoft's recent release of its Vista operating software was met with less than enthusiastic reviews. One local mega-electronics store stayed open all night waiting for the invasion of loyal hordes and had about 15 customers who braved the night to examine the new packages. Some of these did not buy anything, saying Microsoft always had bugs and they planned to wait several months for them to be fixed. Folks, if Vista is anything like Internet Explorer, which is pretty much just patches held together with baling wire and spit, you'd be better off taking Consumer Reports' advice and buying a Mac.

"If dealing with a Vista upgrade is more than you want to tackle, there are other can go with Apple.....Buying a Mac will get you a brand that offers & excels in technical support and reliability."

Yes, PC's are cheaper, but this is a case of getting what you pay for. I've owned both PC's and Macs and I believe if you "use a Mac, you'll never go back." And I love my iPod.

Speaking of MP3 players, Bill Gates once dissed the iPod, saying he didn't know why anyone would carry both a phone and a music player. So I'm wondering why the Zune (which was supposed to make us forget about the iPod) doesn't include a phone in its package. Recently Advertising Age published its annual glossary of media technology and the Zune made the Top 10 for 2007. It says that Microsoft’s Zune brand now means something besides a digital audioplayer.

“ZUNE: Microsoft’s new music player. Also [slang]: a poseur; a wannabe. Usage: ‘Dude, you look like such a Zune in that shirt.' "

Which brings up the point that Vista is so Zune. It mimics what Apple has been doing for years. There's finally something resembling Mac's oh-so-cool Dock. There's a search window in the upper left corner instead of the upper right as Mac's is. You can add "gadgets" to your desktop, which seem to be very similar to Mac's "widgets." Not very original. Of course these items will SEEM original to people who have never had the pleasure to operate a Mac.

poor Microsoft. I'd feel sorry for them if they weren't making so much money by being so pervasive. In the meantime here's food for thought: What if Bill Gates had designed the iPod?

ps: No, I don't work for Apple. I'm just a fan.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

fat sunday

Today the masses collect in one another's homes to worship, huzzah and bow down to the Holy Pigskin that is National Football in the USA. They have been stretching their credit limits to the max and substantially boosting the National Economy in order to purchase food & party favors for their worship services and Wide Screen HiDef Digital Plasma HDTV's on which to view the Great Event. Inordinate amounts of cash have been illicitly changing hands in $5 or $10 increments as Football Squares are filled with initials, aliases and dreams that will most likely be unfulfilled. His majesty, the artist formerly and currently known as Prince will serve as royal entertainer. Spectacular advertisements are being readied for broadcast and Pepsi has created a silver jewel-encrusted can in an effort to best Coke's sales. Excited conversation wafts through hallways, break rooms and cubicles as fans joust with their team's strengths and weaknesses.

My friend at work wryly observed one such conversation: "If people would discuss the things that really matter with half as much passion, maybe they could get some real changes done."
(when was the last time you were invited to an election-watching party?)

My reply: "how 'bout that Obama?!"

Saturday, February 03, 2007

kill your television

I'm sitting in my living room staring at a toilet. Yes, a toilet. It's a Kohler "Cimarron" "comfort height" with elongated bowl in white. We bought it for the bathroom remodel and there's nowhere else to put it. It occurred to me that it was appropriately stationed next to the television.

I've been without decent tv reception since November when we moved to McKinney. Reception wasn't all that good in our Dallas neighborhood but we moved 40 miles farther from the main broadcasting antennas in Cedar Hill so now it's almost nil. There's a 15-foot tall antenna attached to the to the roof of the house but it's not connected to anything and I haven't found a bonded handyman yet who wants to go up there to deal with the problem. So I bought a set of powered rabbit ears to use in the meantime. They help but I still find that the most useless channels are the ones that come in the clearest. I'm not willing to PAY for tv so I'm learning to live without it. I've found I can watch my few favorite shows on my computer through the broadcast tv websites. It used to be that when I would come home late at night I would turn on the tv to unwind before I went to bed. When I was tired on the weekend I might channel surf for an hour just wasting time trying to get interested in something. Now I'm much more likely to do something creative or constructive.

There used to be some graffiti sprayed onto the bike trail near the southeast bridge at White Rock Lake that you couldn't miss if you walked, biked or skated the trail.




Friday, February 02, 2007

happy pills

I've been a chronic depressive since I was a teenager. No amount of counseling, exercising or socializing ever gave me the relief I got from smoking pot....until I got prescriptions for strange chemicals to swallow each day. Over the years I've taken Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Effexor, and I don't know what else. I hate taking them. I have side effects. They erode my creativity. I've quit more than once and each time I spiral into dark depression. I truly believe my brain's chemistry is out of whack but I don't know what's happening to it when it absorbs all these pharmaceutical-created concoctions. So I'm elated to have found a college course in podcast format from UC Berkeley called "Drugs and Behavior." David Presti, the professor who lectures, is an interesting and knowledgeable speaker. He delves into the social and political implications of drug use/abuse as well as the physical ones. He weaves history, religion, mythology and poetry into what I can only describe at this time as an epic story. Check out this series at: Webcast.Berkeley or find it on iTunes.

Before I forget, I want to suggest you check out the wonderful drawings and short stories at Tommy Kane's Blog.

I thought this bug-eyed mickey-mouse of his was an appropriate accompaniment to my drug story of the day. You can find it in Tommy's collection of his journals and art at:

spring's a'comin'

yes, according to the Great Groundhog of Pennsylvania, spring will be here in less than six weeks; i.e. he did not see his shadow. Now, here in Texas we generally depend on the predictions of Nonc Nutria from Lafayette, Louisiana since his latitude is nearer ours, but there has been no official posting from Acadiana today except to say the weather was predicted to be cloudy so it was expected Nonc would not see his shadow.

Phil's Prediction

Here in McKinney, we got a bit of snow overnight but it's already melting.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

look fast, it's gone

It snowed for about five minutes yesterday. The local tv weathercasters busted out their "Arctic Blast" banners again. That probably explains why there was so little traffic on the road last night. If I had turned on the tv I could have found some slim excuse to stay home from work. Pathetic, isn't it? I'm a kid hoping for a snow day. Common sense prevailed. I did not turn on the tv. The snow went away. I went to work. All that remains is the memory and this photo.

I've been thinking a lot about the human urge to "have the last word" in an argument. Every so often, usually in winter, I will surf the web looking for people I used to know. Usually I don't find them but about a month ago I found someone whom I once respected and on whom I had tremendous crush. We were friends for a time but it ended after an argument over something trivial. I apologized (even though I thought he was wrong) but met with a wall of obstinance. He would not answer my calls or respond to email. End of story. I felt bad until I found his blog recently and learned I was just one of many who met this response. I should be happy but I have this unrelenting fantasy of getting in the last word. I think about sending an email to the blog. Should it be anonymous or not? Should it be really evil or really nice? Should it be anonymous but hint at who I am? As long as I do nothing I can fantasize about "winning". If I do anything I will most likely "lose". I think as long as I think in those terms, I won't be satisfied.